The Big Study

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Very Olde Critters Again

(Still in Leprecat pp. 2-3 ... and whatever follows. "Trying to mop up the pre-1900s" I guess is the best way to characterize my frazzled approach to this.)


Well, it's a fine bunch of folks we have here.

ISLE of SKYE, UK 1870s.  The story comes from Katherine Briggs who, along with writing her many charming books about the fairy world, also did the field work of actual interviewing. In this incident it was the wife of one of the participants (deceased) that told her husband's encounter. 

When I began collecting these reports, it was a powerful hunch that the northwestern islands of Britain would be, along with Wales, the best shot one would have to have one's own encounter. Now, after looking into this case, places like the Isle of Skye scream "Faery" at a glance. The event to be described did not occur in quite so wild a place as the above pictured, but all of Skye seems touched with Faery green.

... see what I mean?

In a village on the island a young boy (the witness referred to previously) and his sister were being watched after by their grandmother, as their mother had to be away at the next village. A third child joined them and also another elderly woman dropped by to visit the grandma.  As the playtime wore on, the children were behaving somewhat "negatively" (tired and ornery)  outdoors. Grandma felt that she had to intervene before this got out of hand. And so did her visitor.

This visitor happened to be not just any visitor, but was what was then called a "Wise Woman." She might have been suspected of being a witch in former less-sane times, and she had "The Second Sight." She went to the children and asked them if they would like to see something unusual. And of course they would.

Hand-in-hand, the four of them went for a walk down a path and across a glen (maybe one of Skye's famous Fairy Glens), and sat down on the grass beside a stream. Shortly, across the stream there was a fire burning. It was dusk, and the fire seemed bright, and then, all around it, fairies appeared and began to do their circling dance. The Little People (their size is not described) were dressed all in green and their dance was enthusiastic ("merry"). 

I suppose that after a while the vision went away and the Wise Woman and the children went back home. The children returned to the site with others the next day but there was no sign that there had been a fire. The young boy, when older, and he a minister, told his wife that he felt that the only reason that they saw the fairy circle dance was because the Wise Woman was there and they all held hands. Whether that is true, who can say? 

But it is a pretty decent case.


ISLE of MAN, 1884.  This one, I believe, is a bit of a gem. 

This tale was gathered by a lawyer who was visiting the Isle of Man, and following his passion for collecting folklore. He was a member of The Folk-Lore Society and was happy to write up the report in their journal in 1902. The incident happened in 1884, and the interview was taken by the lawyer three years later with the prime witness. That is a pretty good beginning in the credibility department (since our reporter also vetted the witness to a degree and thought the man "sober and honest.")

The story: The witness was a postal carrier. His typical job was to drive his horse-drawn cart from a central office around the small towns nearby and to collect the mailbags for their later delivery. This job was a late night affair, covering hours around midnight and the early morning period. 

He was well into his route and had many mail packages on board. He was due back at his home area at 1:30am but did not arrive until 5:30. Here's what happened: coming into his home stretch, only six miles from home, he came across a troop of fairies in the road. This troop was dressed sharply in red uniforms and many carried lighted lanterns. Whether they were offended by the entry of the mailman and his horse, or whether they were just looking to make mischief, they swarmed upon the cart, attacking the man and grabbing and throwing the mail bags all over the road. They began dancing around the bags riotously, and pushing the helpless postman around when he attempted to make them stop. 

This physical harassment went on for four hours, only ceasing when the Sun began to cast some dawn light at the horizon. It took the exhausted postman some time to regain his wits and he then began to retrieve his mail and go on with his route. With this the story ends. 

Hmmmm .... a good well-known witness, interviewed by an intelligent interviewer, neither or whom added any dazzling fairytale-like details to the story. In fact, this is a posterchild for the typical believable tale: an astonishing interaction which some other reality, which has the feel of an accidental intersecting of two lines of reality, and which contains no "profundity", or messages, or moral. 

A good one, I think.

.... neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet .... but watch out for that Gloom of Night stuff. 


St. Ives, Cornwall. c. the late 1800s. 

The source of this story seems good, or at least probably good. Here's what I think that I know: The primary publication of this is in a book by AKH Jenkin. Cornwall and the Cornish, published in 1933. The prime witness is named as an old lady named Mrs Rebecca Noall, who had died in 1927. Jenkin was not the interviewer, but got the story from a lady named Mrs JH Hodge. Hmmm.... a tougher nut to crack than ideal.  I still think that the chain of investigation is OK; here's why: 

Jenkin had just finished a book on the history of Cornwall mining  and it was considered a good piece of work. He wanted to follow that up by a book on Cornish folklore (this book.) The locals seem to have felt that he was a good scholar, and the Introduction was written by a famous local lawyer and politician, Isaac Foot, who was also an expert in mining. Mrs JH Hodge was a member of a very well-known entrenched St. Ives family, and her husband (I believe) wrote a piece on folk culture in the regional journal of the time. Either Rebecca Noall or a relative also wrote such a piece. The picture that I get is one of a trusted author getting information from a good folklore source. 

So, with some confidence, the Tale: It was common in the day that many of the girls of Cornwall worked jobs late into the evening. Rebecca was no different. Her father usually came by at eleven or midnight or so to escort his daughter back home. Thus father and daughter were walking back to their home when the following occurred. 

At a lonely spot on one of the streets, they saw approaching a troop of Little People. These were marching on both sides of them, in precision as in some ceremony. They were arm-and-arm and dressed alike in scarlet cloaks with tall peaked black hats. They proceeded "with the greatest decorum and dignity." Rebecca's father whispered to her that she should remain absolutely silent and show no sign of recognition. Thus the trooping fairies passed "safely" by, and father and daughter went safely home. 

Again, seemingly a good one. Good witness (and apparently multiple); fine closeness of encounter; good if not full detail (ex. no specific size stated but "small"); and the feeling of an accidental intersection of lives. (with no grandiose message nor moral.) 

Can't help it --- I like it.


I've run out of the original group of three illustrations, but let's go for another anyway. 

Mouth of the Bush River, Ulster, Northern Ireland, c. early-mid 1800s. 

This one is difficult to tie down as far as the story collector is concerned. Although seen in Elizabeth Andrews' Ulster Folklore (1913), the source is really the 1858 Ulster Journal of Archaeology Volume 6. The collector is unnamed due to a very puzzling (to me) and unhelpful cultural habit of authors remaining anonymous.
(I couldn't even find a set of initials.) The author says that he went to Ulster on the request of the editor of this journal to do just this sort of tale retrieval, so maybe it's OK. The witness was then an old man, but one of the two primary witnesses and the tale vivid and oft-told. 

The incident: There is a small village near the mouth of the Bush River (about six houses only) where lived farmers who also fished for salmon in the nearby Bush. Two young men were as usual looking after cattle grazing, and it was around dawn. They'd just gotten up to see after the cattle. The river was extremely high, far higher than almost any other time and in full flood. The whole atmosphere was violent with wind pushing tides up the mouth of the Bush with violence. 

"We stood looking at the wild picture before us, when all at once we saw the tall figure of a man standing on one of the pillars in the middle of the Bush, with a long grey cloak on him .... " Who did they think that he was?

There is a legend in this area of a giant from pre-mediaeval times who came to Ireland to fight with another giant of a man, Finn MacCoul. When Finn defeated his adversary, he invited another local giant to a feast, the Grey Man of the Path. I don't know a lot about this character, but he seems to present an awesome figure (7 to 9 foot tall) and a supernatural danger. 

This being, standing in the river on a stone pillar (which was under water), and facing into the tempest, was what the two young men thought they saw.  One was scared witless by the vision; he cowered. The other was shocked but still called out. The being didn't move at all. Somewhat later, it moved, but not yet to face the witnesses. The cowering witness demanded that they leave "Come away, Aleck, we're too long here!" 

They went home shaking. Both felt that they had seen the giant Grey Man. 

Did they see a folklore giant? If so, it's our first in this run of stories.


Till next time, folks.

Monday, March 30, 2020

More Old Critters

New Old Critters? A Scattered Smattering without Patterning

 GAIRLOCH, SCOTLAND throughout the mid-18th century. 

This story is unusual in that it portrays an entity which persisted in its locale for several years, being seen by many people, many times. Its name was "The Gille Dubhe of Loch a Druing." Some of that name is decipherable: Gille Dubhe means a Black-haired Lad. Sometimes that is expanded to include "servant" and even nature servant. Not a bad name for a nature gnome. The Loch a Druing would seem to hold promise, but it seems only to mean the Lake of Druing (which is probably a Norse-Viking word.) We'll make life simple and just call this fellow Gille. 

Gille was a (generally) friendly sort of nature spirit who was dressed entirely in clothes made of leaves and moss "sewn together" somehow. He had black hair and a ruddy complexion. His height is not given, but the tales seem to indicate the height of a child, and it was children that he preferred to interact with. In fact, though seen by many, the only person that he would converse with was a little girl. 

This little girl had been lost in the woods as a very young child, and Gille had rescued her and led her home. When she grew up, she married a member of the Mackenzie clan. In a mental state which can only be classified by me as utter insanity, this clan decided that Gille was some sort of local menace (NO such information adheres to the story as to why) and set up a family expedition to kill him. (Another of humanity's endless list of "finer moments.") FIVE chieftains marched to the Loch with guns ready to blaze away. 

We don't have much on the end of the story. The "Lords" (inject the words "Human Garbage" ... sorry, I just can't abide this sort of crap) after satiating their bellies with a feast, strode to the Loch. The Gille Dubhe was not found, and never again seen. (With any luck, maybe they got frustrated about their waste of time and began firing upon themselves ...but that is too much to hope for, I suppose.) 


nr. Paris France, c. 1860. 
This story comes from a different type of source than most of these: THE REPORT ON SPIRITUALISM by the London Dialectical Society (1873). Maybe that has something to do with its different nature (in my opinion) or maybe not. 

The tale is told from the perspective of a witness who lived alone (though with a servant) in a small house and garden near Paris.  One day, the reporter saw in the garden what appeared to be a very small (4-foot tall) hunched-over woman wearing a hooded cloak, but one either stained or faded that the original color could not be determined. Something about the cloak (indescribable apparently) added to the oddity of the old woman's presence. 

The witness had been recently much pestered by uninvited vendors and ran down to her door to tell her to go away. When arriving in full view of the garden area in a very brief time, there was no sign of the "intruder." (So far the tale has little mystery to me.) 
 A few months later, the exact same sequence of events occurred. The witness was convinced that this was supernatural. 

One year later, a servant was working in the garden and heard soft steps behind her, though the warning gate-bell to the garden had not sounded.  There facing her, now much closer than the incidents of the mistress of the house, was the same small, oddly clad and hunched-over old woman. The wraith stared and smirked at the servant, then seemed to move backwards and disappear. (Well, now that gets my attention ... finally.) The servant then continued to have visitations by this "whatever" several times over a few months. 

 Other poltergeist phenomena  occurred plus some mediumship attempts, none of which seem very strongly related to the original claims ... but perhaps so. 

This case has little in it that feels like Faery at all. It's like a repetitive apparition or even a "haunting." But it has worked its way into the fairyworld claims literature. There are many VERY similar things which get reported alongside Faery cases from Celtic areas also. For me it's like the close encounters with Balls of Light cases which get reported to UFO researchers --- interesting, yes; but almost certainly NOT what we're talking about when we say "UFOs." This "apparition?: Interesting, yes; Faery, no. 

Love the instant disappearance, though.  
Pentrevoelas, Wales. mid-1800s

This encounter was collected by the Reverend Elias Owen for his book Welsh Folk-Lore (1887) which was a Prize Essay at the National Eisteddfod (read: great big prestigious meeting in imitation of the Olde Druidical poetry and writing contests.) Owen says that he doesn't remember how far back it was when he collected this story, but it was from a respected old man who had told and re-told it for years always with insistence that it happened exactly so. 

I'm going to insert Owen's own writing from my copy of his book, below. In this case I think it's right (for some reason.) 

(Maybe I'm just being a lazy typist ...........)

 This incident has lots of the things that make me smile, so I should be more wary, I suppose. It has fairies making music and singing with the best sorts of sounds, small people dressed all alike and trooping along accompanied no less by spotted dogs, earnestly entreating the witness to "come away" with them, which he mightily resisted. If the witness had just brought the local priest and his wife and mother along --- perfect. But no wife, no padre, so ... 

There is one other thing that I'd like to mention here. Owen seems like he's trying to do his best, but in one surprising (to me) thing he doesn't have his act together (at all.) You can see a hint of this just below the red box which off-sets the case. Owen is saying there that he recalls a similar tale collected by Rhys. Reading the thing (on his next page) Rhys' story isn't similar at all. 

Well, who cares? 

I do, at least a little. Rhys' tale is an obvious "fairy tale" type of story --- full of running away with the fairies and subsequent happenings containing "morals to the story." It is utterly on the other side of that divide that any serious open-minded reader of these things sees. One side: "tales for teaching morals around the peat-fired flames." The other: "the crossing of two paths without a writer's agenda." Rhys has the first; Owen has the second. MOST of Owen's collected stories are type ones. In fact, it feels (again maybe it's just me) that Owen is one of those "too modern men" who collects but doesn't think there is anything but some looser definition of "culture" resident in them to be preserved. If so, that makes me sad. 


Wemyss Castle, Fife, Scotland.
1863. Can we possibly have here an encounter with a Faun? 

Well, let's see. The story comes from an edgy sounding title: Ghosts I Have Seen (1919) by Violet Tweedle --- I don't like the author's name much either, but I'm way off base on that. 

The story as we have it: The way that this tale is written, it would appear that the "interview" telling the story was delivered by the witness who was Royalty or near royalty --- I don't have Ms. Tweedle's book, and the case excerpts that I have just miss being clear as to whether the witness was some prominent lady, like Lady Grosvenor of Wemyss Castle. (who I believe this was). Whoever, the Lady involved was VERY prominent and had a multi-person audience, among which was the interested Ms Tweedle. Now, finally, the tale:

While a child, she and a friend were playing outside the castle in a large and formal garden. There was an attending nurse, but that person was apparently bored and walked away from the two girls who were probably happy to be free of her. Then, however, there came a rustling in nearby bushes. Out of that area came "a huge creature, half-goat, half-man." He crossed the road directly in front of them walking unhurriedly. Then he plunged into the woods beyond the road and was lost from sight. 

The girls then erupted into a frenzy of screaming, which brought the wayward nurse back running. Telling their story, they were promptly chastised for making up nonsense. Getting her charges up to return to the castle, they crossed that road. The young Miss (later Grosvenor, I think) pointed out that their were TRACKS left there, AND they showed cloven hoofs. Then everyone resumed screaming and ran back to the castle. 

Well, THAT's a jolly old British tale which breaks the ice on the many other kinds of Faery-World creatures that we've been told about but have not seen much of. And another thing: the prime witness here says that she was strongly encouraged in this to tell her Faun encounter by the "Grand Duchess" who had just told her own mind-boggler --- an encounter with a CENTAUR which I have yet to find and read.

 Maybe that's enough to keep the peat-fire burning for now. 

Till next time.  

Sunday, March 29, 2020

LEPRECAT pp.two and three, pt. b

                      LEPRECAT: off into the Woods again


1. This case is from the Reminiscences book by the famous author Sabine Baring-Gould. The exact date was not given, but the children were children, so early 19th century. The exact location wasn't given either, but Baring=Gould is famous enough so that should be easy enough to find out. 

There is not much to the story (this is normal for almost all of the credible cases --- the incident is almost accidental, and it is not complicated. It is brief, and it merely happens and goes away without any great  fanfare nor "message.") The children were out at play, when they were confronted by a classic dwarf or gnome. It was dressed with a red cap, green jacket, and brown breeches. It simply stared at them, and the children thought it might be hostile to their presence. They went and told their parents. (these children also saw Little People on one other occasion. ) The famous parent believed them. 

Bare bones but also to me believable. This minimalist encounter could almost be the poster child for what passes as normal in this business. 

2. Llanddeniol, Wales. c. 1850. This incident was personally reported to the "investigator" by the witness himself. (always a welcome feature,  and often hard to come by.) 

 Just to show everyone what an individual case page might look like in the Leprecat, here's the one for this incident. Note that, like almost all such things, the material that you have to work with is limited. (and that's why collecting a LOT of it is necessary.) 

The story:  The witness, John Jones, was a servant on a farm and 18 years old at the time. That particular day, he left for town to pick up a suit of clothes at the tailor's. The suit was not quite ready, so by the time he received it, it was late in the day. He decided to make the walk back even though it was night. It was well moon-lit and he didn't mind the pleasant walk across the intervening moor. 

Into the moor, he saw behind him what looked to be two boys following. Thinking that they meant to frighten him, he kept watch, but soon they turned away. They then "began to jump and to dance, going round and round as if they followed a ring or a circle just as we hear of the fairies. They were perfectly white and very nimble." 

John Jones felt that he was watching something supernatural and never believed that these two dancers were human beings. In this, his view was shared by everyone at the house and farm, where the unanimous view was that he had seen the fairies. 

Generally I like the tale. Simply told by the primary source, and with just enough strangeness (the all-white coloration)  to make it anomalous. It would have been better if he could have gotten closer to see the details, but we rarely get all we want.

The Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, c.1850 ... ah, and it's a wild old tale from Ireland we have here, for sure, for sure. (We'll see just how romantic you are with this, and if you're a right companion on this green romp we are about.) 

The story:  Lady Augusta Gregory and William Butler Yeats went into the Wicklow Mountains to interview a couple of very advanced age who had an astounding story to tell. This story was well-known and oft-told by the couple. 

They had recently married (then about 60-70 years ago) and were living in a small place in the rural village of Ticnock. The couple had experienced the Little Folk previously --- the husband by sight and sound (music) and the wife (who was more afraid of the fairies) only by hearing their music and drumming. Things changed when they had the almost ultimate Close Encounter.

It was winter and the husband found a smaller than usual "little person" abandoned in the snow. Fearing for it, he picked the little fellow up and brought him inside. He had a red cap, and was cloaked in red in clothes "just like a highlander." He had a checkered coat and long socks. The only non-red part of his attire were tan shoes. His height was 15 inches tall. 

The farmer sat him on the bureau where he stayed the entirety of his time with them (the two disagreed about how long, but between one and three weeks.) They couldn't say for sure (not observing this) but they felt that the little fellow must have slept just there on the bureau where he was originally placed. 

Husband and wife both fed him bread and milk, but the wife was too afraid to do but leave the food near him, while the husband went as far as to feed him with a spoon. His demeanor throughout was "very friendly" though he spoke little. The little being was very childlike in appearance to begin with but seemed to slowly age or "roughen" as days went by. 

Maybe the most astonishing claim by the witnesses was that the "boys" from the local pub would sometimes come up to the house to look at him. They'd try to make fun, but the farmer wouldn't let them harm him. The drinkers would claim that surely the farmer would reap some fortune in bounty due to this hospitality. The farmer grunted that if there were riches to be had "I never got them." 

One day the farmer spotted another of the Little Folk who he reckoned from appearance was a girl, though slightly larger than his guest. She was not as brightly dressed, being clad more in gray. That evening he told his wife that he saw her. The little fellow on the bureau then jumped up shouting "That's Geoffrey-a-wee that's coming for me." He then lept off the dresser and out the door never to be seen again. It's amusing to think that all the farmer was wondering about this was why his guest called the other "leprechaun" Geoffrey when "she" should have had a girl's name. (It is actually little things like that which make the listener feel like the reporter is telling the tale as it truly happened --- rather than a smoothed over fairy tale.) 

Lady Gregory doesn't critique her sightings but just goes to the next one. It would be VERY interesting to know what she and Yeats thought of this one. This one pushed you --- it has most of what you want in a story: two original witnesses interviewed by well-known persons, and having an apparently verbatim Q&A transcript. (you NEVER get this in this field.) But WOW what a story. 

This is my hang-up, I admit. I'm too far from those times and those environments. I don't mind (at all) the quick and impersonal accident of a stumbled-upon interaction along a rural dirt road or a forested way. But this is right next to the skin. If this story is true, it's game over as far as whether beings such as this are real. Their detailed characteristics are still to be explored --- but they are no longer hypothetical. So, what should I, and you, do? I'm, for the moment, taking the "conservative" way (though I suspect that it's just The Chicken's way) and nervously keep walking in these enchanted woods. I'll claim that it's the Way of the Scientist, and whistle as I walk. 

Till next time --- Watch The Skies for the UFOs, sure; but Watch the Bushes for Something considerably closer. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

LEPRECAT 1, page two

Leprecat One, page two. (plus)

A bunch of Strange Critters indeed.

We have a variety of heights here from near-human to a mere six inches tall. Lots of apparently classic gnomes in the country, plus a small number of what seem to be apparitions rather than The Little People we are chasing. I have 16 of these (and other incidents of 19th century date) that are crudely illustrated via cartoons, so let's look at those. Among them (later) are two cases eerily similar which create a mystery for me. Let's just plow in. 

 Ah,  two not-so-friendly characters and a neutral. 

1. Lochan-nan-Deaan, Scotland.  The Story: The lake had an old tradition going back centuries. It was said to be the abode of a blood-thirsty "water spirit" which in olden times had demanded sacrifices. Such practices being, if ever, well into the past, the local men did not fear any of that. The lake was also said to be bottomless, but few believed it. Curiosity being what it is, many of the men of two nearby villages decided to drain the loch to discover if the remains of skeletons would be uncovered there. Arriving there with spades and mattocks to carve a way for the loch's waters to flow away, they had no sooner begun when their labors were interrupted by a loud screaming. 

This had erupted from a little "man" of gnomish dimensions who had burst up through the loch's surface.  The violence of his appearance and yelling scared everyone so that they dropped shovels and picks and began to run. The gnome exited the water, seized upon the implements, and threw them into the loch. He then almost burst the air with a thunderous roar as he plunged back into his loch, while the waters roiled in a blood-red swirl as he disappeared beneath them. Well .... that loch wasn't drained that day. 

I don't have the primary reference on this incident but the book pictured was nearly time twinned to it and has an apparently good telling.

Mackinlay's Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs is a superb source by the way. But if you go to it looking for Nessie, you won't find her there --- plenty of incidents of Waterhorses and Kelpies though.

The Primary source for the Lochan-nan Deaan incident comes from a well-known Scottish folklorist at the time, the Reverend Walter Gregor. Gregor was going throughout (mainly) NE Scotland interviewing and saving Scottish heritage for a series of studies printed in early numbers of the Folk-Lore Society. This one comes from The Folk-Lore Journal of March 1892, which I sadly do not own. One of you might go there and see if Gregor's writing sounds as if he interviewed anyone closer to the encounter himself, or if this was just local common knowledge. 


Truro, Cornwall. 1810.  The story: This is a single witness claim. The reporter was a tailor of good repute and a well-known man. He was a friend of the writer-of-the-case's grandfather. He left the grandfather's home at around dusk to begin his walk home. He had to walk past the local graveyard and then the old church. As he came to the stile in the church fence, suddenly a troop of Piskies (pixies to us moderns) appeared. Startled he froze for the moment. The piskies were about a foot-and-a-half high, and composed a whole line of trooping fairies (as the Irish would say.) 

They were dressed alike with red cloaks and tall lumped-over sugarloaf hats. (black.) They moved in single file on the run. Descended a bank, ran up a hedge, and disappeared into the churchyard and the gloaming. Regaining his nerve, he climbed the fence and hurried after ... but no further sign of the troop was to be seen anywhere. Later he told everyone that he saw of the experience, and repeated this as true for many years. 

I don't have the original source but it is available online as the rather obscure journal, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Records. A researcher well-known to that society, one H. Michell Whiteley, was the "modern" reporter. 

I don't know about you folks, but this one seems pretty good to me.  

Lostwithiel, Cornwall,  1816.  The story: this is a single witness claim. A well-known farmer in Lostwithiel had a pony which he liked a great deal and so would allow it to roam free outside the barn during good weather. During one stretch he began to notice that the pony seemed to have taken ill. At morning, the animal would look utterly exhausted but seemed to get better as the day went on. The next day: the same thing ... and on. Consulting with neighbors, the opinion was that the animal was being afflicted somehow by piskies.

The farmer decided to stay out of sight that next evening and keep watch. That evening the pony was assaulted by five little beings no more than a half foot high. These creatures were what I would call boggarts rather than proper members of the Faery folk, resembling small hairy dark ape-men, rather than a "self-respecting" well-clothed Coballos or gnome. The things were naked and wild. When on their feet in the field, they merrily attacked one another in wrestling modes, trying to toss each other on their backs. The winner of this free-for-all got the privilege of jumping on the pony, dancing on it and harassing it and "singing very obscene songs" while its defeated comrades howled obscenities back, terrifying the pony further ... until it galloped crazily around the field finally collapsing to the ground. 

The farmer and his local farrier decided that it was not wise anymore to allow the pony outside at night, and left it behind closed barn doors "protected" from piskie intrusions by placing pieces of the elder tree over those doors. 

Well, that was fun. I have no idea what to make of it. The story type is not unusual for the old people to tell, except that the piskies here are much cruder and smaller than "normal." The big problem is the source. The incident, quoted by AK Hamilton Jenkin in his Cornwall and the Cornish, comes originally from a Cornish newspaper which is WAY beyond my scope to obtain and read. Why bother? Because it is only by reading a bunch of this publication that I could even guess as to its level or seriousness. Did they print just anything? Could random folks just write a letter? I have no idea, therefore I have no idea of the credibility. 

But it was (despite the crudity) a great deal of fun, and I'd kind of like it to be true ... but ... deep Gray Basket. 

Lets call it a day. Tomorrow or the next I'll try at least three more encounters of the 19th century ... and maybe a little more light might dawn. 

Peace and Health.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Did Henry Hudson See American Fairies??


This is one of the more attractive claims of a famous person contacting dwarf-like people. It is a claim which appears all over the internet. Did it happen? 

Here's the story as claimed: Henry Hudson was on early sailing missions to the New World, and ends up cruising the eastern seaboard and go up the to-be-named Hudson River looking for a passage to the "Northwest" and a shorter path to the Orient. While going up the Hudson, he and his crew allegedly encountered the North American version of the European dwarves. 

The claim is that Hudson and his men during the 1609 expedition encountered many native peoples along the Connecticut coast and day-by-day up the River. These people were sometimes friendly sometimes not. As the River narrowed, headway became basically impossible, and Hudson sent men on shore (he had done this previously) to see what he could learn. At the last stop, he encountered a dwarf people playing music, dancing around a fire, and drinking. They were small (c.2-3 feet tall) and dark complected, and quite hairy, especially regarding facial hair. After merry-making to no practical end, Hudson and his men turned back down river and ultimately returned back to Europe. The claim was that anyone could read this material in Hudson's own trip diaries.

Well, Great, eh? 

The trouble with this is that I can't find any source for the story which is credible. I ploughed through all of Hudson's diaries line-by-line and right up the river --- nothing.

I had a very bad memory which excited me about this thing before I dipped into it. I thought that it was a Janet Bord case, and so felt extremely confident that the research was good. But the excellent Ms. Bord was NOT the claim author. Who then was? 

I went to the internet hopefully. I looked at ten resources (it might have really been more.) The claim was all over. 8 of the ten came to the same source: some essay by a person named S E Schlosser. This person writes the tale in fine detail, leaving the reader to believe that this is definitely in Hudson's notes. I don't like to call names, so I'll leave it there. THE ALLEGED REFERENCE DOES NOT (TO MY READING) EXIST. 

The other two references go back to a legitimate source: Charles M. Skinner. MYTHS and LEGENDS of OUR OWN LAND. 1896. In THAT book there is still no listing/description  of a Henry Hudson interaction, but rather a linking of interactions with fairies with Rip Van Winkle, who is clearly a fiction character. Still, try as I might to coalesce the Rip Van Winkle tale with the Henry Hudson story (the resource clumsily smears the two awkwardly and obviously fictionally),  I can't see this as an excuse for the previously mentioned sloppy claims.

Good Lord I hate this sort of thing. Is there any way to save this post entry? I think that we can. I have, by an odd piece of good fortune, two somewhat unusual resources which could help.  The first is below: 

This is just a serendipity. In this volume of the Bureau of Ethnology is a long study by a great ethnologist named Frank Speck. Here he was (early in the 1900s and the late 1800s) studying a remnant of Native American persons in the New York and Connecticut region. One of the people he extensively interviewed was a very old woman, who was perhaps "the last of the Mohegan-speaking people." (Speck thought so)

Speck's passion was the preservation of the cultural histories and languages of "disappearing peoples." Finding the last surviving speaker of a language was the ultimate in his quest. That speaker was Fidelia Fielding.

 She lived alone on her small plot of land, tending her gardens and bemoaning the state of the world as she saw it. She kept a rudimentary diary in her near-extinct language, and, simplistic as most entries were, it was for me fascinating. This grand old lady had a direct and clear-eyed view of things and was willing to write bits of that down. 

It was, however, not in her diary, but in interviews conducted by Speck, that she informed him about the Little People who had frequented this area in older times. 

Speck was quite interested in all of this, and had collected other such tales from Native Americans of slightly different linguistic stocks living nearby. Perhaps, just perhaps, these memories of "dwarf indians" living or appearing nearby and even in these Hudson River locations reflect something about the Henry Hudson claims which began this post. 

I'm going to post Speck's map of the local remnant linguistic areas below, which show the various types of people reporting, and note that beyond the map to the northwest are areas of forested hills quite near and like the Catskills today, which abut the Hudson River valley. Then I'll try to describe these dwarves.

What were these creatures like? According to Mrs. Fielding, they were like "little indians" about the size of small boys. They were dark complected and hairier than local indians. They cared about nature. They would sometimes interact with humans, but usually did not want to. When they DID want to, it was to get some favor. If granted, they gave something back in return. In these latter ways, they were astonishingly like British gnomes or what Agricola would have called Coballos of the rural and forested areas. She called the dwarves "makiawisag" in the Mohegan language. Best translation?: The Little Boys or The Little People.

Can we say much more? Mrs. Fielding, although she cited actual people who had lived around her plot, stated that the people who had personally seen these little indians had passed away, and no one had probably seen the creatures for several decades. (including of course herself --- Mrs Fielding said that the only fairy-like thing that she perhaps had seen was a Will-o-the-Wisp like light which had moved slowly and mysteriously in the hills nearby.) But, maybe, there are other sources not in this volume.

John Roth is a marvel and a huge storehouse of Native American fairy lore. If you are interested in these matters, you should own a copy of his book. 

Roth classifies cultural groups as do the professionals, and then lists however many little people (and other related folklore) references he has been able to find --- which are always MORE than anyone can delve into. Under "The Algic of Southern New England", Roth not only lists the Mohegan culture and its neighbors, but also has (already) heard of Speck's talking with Mrs. Fielding. There is probably little that is factual that he does not know. 

It turns out that there are many folktales of Little People up and down the coast, and they differ in detail. This was interesting, but it gave me problems: did makiawisag equate to any of the others? I can't solve it. But I'll BS a try and then you can dive in and do better. 

If I was making my best guess as to a compromise appearance of these entities, it would be:
two to two-and-a-half feet tall, dark-complected Native American appearance, but stockier (i.e. more dwarf-like), clad in well-made skins, sometimes only to the waist, facial dark hair, perhaps slightly slimmer than British gnomes, living in hills or old stone pile/fort areas underground, not unkind but not particularly friendly either. 

Many of the other legends picture different looking beings, but I'm trying to center around Mrs. Fielding's opinions here, and add small amounts of cohering detail from elsewhere. THUS:
the following drawing is my cartoon pictorial for her makiawisag.

  ... and what else you should know is that this is another person's rendition of Little People from the American Central Great Lakes and Pacific coast areas. 

Is there any chance that Henry Hudson saw some beings like this? Who knows? There doesn't seem to be any real evidence for that claim. But might the ancestral neighbors of Mrs. Fielding have seen them? THAT is a lot more believable once all the rest of the more modern sightings come in. 

OK. Done again. Harder than I'd planned  ... again. At least this had a happier ending than the last. I might begin to do smaller and smaller chunks of this so I don't burn out. I'll post Leprecat page #2 next time and see if there is anything there worth writing/thinking about. 

Till then ... Bless and Keep you all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Walker Between The Worlds???

Today let's take a look at the so-called Minister of Fairyland, the reverend Robert Kirk, a Scottish denizen of the 17th century. The above is supposedly a draft scribble for the title page of his famous-to-come essay entitled THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH. The essay or mini-book supposes to reveal almost any detail about the Fairy World that an inquirer would desire. This book has risen to rock star status, I'd say even Cult status, among fairy-world aficionados. 

My intuition was that this was a bit too good to be true, even if my essential attitude is to root for these things. I decided NOT to read Reverend Kirk's work until I'd done a LOT of work with Little People encounter cases, so I'd have something to compare with the details of the famous book. So for seven or eight years (or however long I've been chasing Faery world incidents) I didn't crack the pages. Now, several hundred cases in, it's time. 

What do we know? 

To my reading, we don't really know a lot about Robert Kirk. He was obviously intelligent, and driven to learn about folklore matters in his area. He wrote copious notes in small journals. It is believed that in one of these journals the original book was written, but, again to my reading, we don't have the exact journal containing the whole thing --- though some of his rare journals do exist and a few seem to have original notes related to this book. 

Kirk seems to have been one of those ministers who was strongly affected by the double-whammy of witch trials and demonology, and the upsurge of atheism in the London and Edinburgh environs. His researches appear to be driven by a desire to oppose these trends --- note that in all of this he is almost exactly a clone of Richard Bovet, who lived almost coincidentally to Kirk. Well, OK. None of that is really germane to what we're doing here. Despite the vague origins of Kirk and the written book, what matters is whether the contents add anything to our studies. 

What's in the book?? 

Despite being primed for a stunner of a read, I could barely get through the pages. Why? It's probably MY problem, but I couldn't feel that any of the text was anything but some guys telling Kirk stories that he swallowed whole. 

I hope that I'm not coming across flippantly on this --- those of you who know me know that's not my style and I'm one of last guys to shake my head negatively on these anomalistic claims. But I cannot find anything in this book which impresses me as good evidence ... of anything.

Why? I'll give a short list:
1. Kirk tells us that he is basically sold on his informants. Kirk himself seems not to have his own direct experiences. His informants are entirely of one type. So far this is not necessarily a problem.
2. Every informant tells Kirk that he has not acquired his information in any "normal" way. He has not seen nor heard any of his information in a normal state of consciousness. This is the point at which I begin to get really nervous. 
3. These informants go into trances or ecstasy. While in these altered states these reporters said that they could see into the Fairy World, see many things that the rest of us could not, even if we were standing right beside them. These sessions of "Second Sight" into the alternate reality included complete interactions ... particularly verbal communication and revelations of esoteric truths. 

.... uh .... OK .... this is getting hard to relate to, and essentially impossible to regard as evidence. 

Let's take "evidence" first: This sort of claim is not only second hand but complicates itself by asking us to believe in a second debatable anomaly: Clairvoyance.  I am not put off generally by "clairvoyance" (I've had persons in my own family who occasionally "see around corners." But they cannot do it on call).  I have seen no studies of clairvoyance which suggest that anyone can simply carry the talent into any moment.... particularly in vividly interactive detail like a living episode. 

These tales sound like the claims of modern day trance-control mediums or like the UFO claimants called the contactees. I've read many of these trance sessions in these other fields and never would this technique be honored by investigators as a proper evidentiary technique. 

Why not? The claims are always conveniently out of reach of any of the rest of us simple mere mortals. 

But surely I'm prejudiced. Surely it is the content of these revelations which should be judged to the good or ill. OK. I'll keep giving this "the benefit." What about content? 

The drawing above from an old English chapbook shows a fair number of elements of the fairy faith. There are the circle-dancing folk in their tall hats, the fairy residence "under the hill", the Old Green Man in the tree representing the force and cycles of Nature, and a fairy mushroom. 
Even though bits of such ideas occur in Kirk, there is one huge problem. Kirk's informants say that "we" cannot see these things --- only those with second sight. My library of 300 folklore books begs to differ --- wildly. 

Kirk's informants tell us that the fairies are significantly superior to us in every way, and they are not physically substantial but made of some sort of condensed air-like spirits. Almost none of the reported encounter cases in my Leprecat indicate anything vaguely hinting that. Well, maybe Kirk's clairvoyants see a different class of fairy than the rest of us do. 

If so, we'd have the following: Unnamed believe-me-or-not tale-tellers weaving stories which don't really match what the rest of us think we've experienced, printed in a book by an almost unknown writer with very large emotional reasons for wanting to present evidence for a Spirit-filled anti-atheist creation. 

OK. Maybe I'm overstating. I'm VERY unconvinced though. There's a big difference between the case of Bovet and Kirk. Bovet goes to real "ordinary" people, interviews them, names them usually, and receives multiple witnessing or support, while getting details that match hundreds of other tales. Off-center or not, I'll take Bovet every time. 

I apologize for this entry. I'm probably off in some major ways and I don't like skewering sacred cows, but .... even the "celebrated" story of Kirk coming back in Spirit form to state that he didn't die but is now with the fairies is based upon the flimsiest of fairy silk. 

I promise to do better the next time. We have plenty upon which to base a picture of a world of Faery as a respectable concept. You've seen cases already. More to come ... next time?

I'll leave you with a piece of very good writing (fiction) by a gentleman named Kevan Manwaring, who captures better than Kirk the romance of the Minister of Fairyland,

" I sit in the near-dark of my chamber, gazing at the black mirrors which surrounded my bureau. They seem to catch the available light, gradations of black-upon-black, like Dr Dee’s scrying glass. I might as well be a necromancer, for do I not dabble with fallen angels, with invisible spirits and occult powers? Within my own parish I would have been burnt as a witch, were such a thing still common. The terrible executions stopped half a century ago, but the crime of witchcraft is still a capital offense. I doubt most would look mercifully upon my research into the secret commonwealth. In my defence I would argue that the existence of the Subterraneans, and of esoteric communications between mortals, is proof of the celestial hierarchy and God’s glory. All my efforts have been to this one aim in this, in a secular and corrupt age. "  


Monday, March 23, 2020

LEPRECAT 1c ... "last"(?) really old stuff?

Still (happily) with the Olde Folks ..... 

Today let's try a few individual cases, take on the Enigma of Robert Kirk (I'll fail there), ask a question about Wings and Fairies (I'll BS profusely there), and exhibit extreme confusion about the claim that Henry Hudson saw Little People on his trip up the Hudson River looking for the Northwest Passage. 

Hmmm... that seems WAY too much to bite off, but let's at least start. (Yes. folks, I'm really just creating as I type these things --- I say "being spontaneous", a less kind person would say "winging it." Know at least that I have a couple of foot-thicknesses of notes and 300 folklore books nearby, so at least there's that.)  :=}


Forfarshire/Angus Scotland, c. mid 1600s.

I may or may not have located the original of this claim. I first saw it in FATE Magazine, which, surprisingly, often has good things in it, but still is not the finest of reference points. FATE was reprinting a piece of work by HT Wilkins, also often OK, but not the finest source. Then there was someone named Charles John Tibbitts, in 1889 (Folklore and Legends of Scotland.) Better, but the two renditions did not exactly cohere. Finally, writing in the Edinburgh Review of 1818, under the pen-name of Agrestis, someone in a landed house in Angus, laid claim to this story. His telling agreed with Tibbits and not Wilkins ... so this is from what I believe is the original source. 

Agrestis says that he wants very much to help preserve the folklore of the olde times which is vanishing. He says that, among others, he has interviewed a very old woman, who for all her life, wished to do the same. His sittings with her were, apparently, in the mid-1700s, but that would still make the story a century old when she told it. This tale is therefore a memory of the local people, rather than a claim of original firsthand experience. But, here it is:

At a farm which adjoined that of the old woman's family, there was a farmer's work-hand who had the unprepossessing name of John Smith. One day he was sent to fertilize a field by casting turf upon it, upon which job he labored all day. A small stony hill or Crag stood nearby, called Merlin's Craig. From behind this hill walked a small woman, only about a foot and a half tall, and obviously one of the little people. ... a perfectly formed woman clad in a green dress and red stockings. She had long blonde hair. 

The lady was angry. John had been cutting out sections of turf in one area to haul them to the field to be fertilized, but to her, his actions were tantamount to carving off the roof of her and her family's house! John was stunned and fearful. She ordered him to place all his "divots" back where they belonged. This he promptly did, and raced back to the farmhouse. There he told the farmer what had happened with the expected incredulous response. John was ordered to re-fetch the divots in a cart, and bring them back to the farm. Reluctantly, this he did.

Nothing happened to John Smith nor the farmer in subsequent days, and the incident was nearly forgotten. But just a year from that day, John left the farm after work to return to his own home. He carried with him a "stoup" (flagon, stein, bottle) of milk as he went. But John Smith did not arrive. Instead he was absent some significant time (months? years? the story teller could not remember how long.) Finally he reappeared, the stoup still in his hand. 

He told the following story: 
On approaching Merlin's Craig that fateful day, he became ill, and slumped to the ground. He fell asleep until perhaps midnight or later, he was awakened by a crowd of male and female fairies dancing in a ring. He was given a pretty girl as a partner and he, feeling cured, joined the dance. They danced together three times 'round the Faery ring, and away somewhere a cock crowed. The fairies (knowing that this presaged dawn) rushed with him towards the Crag, whereupon a doorway opened and all rushed in. 

He met there the older blonde fairy woman that he had originally encountered. She informed him that the turf above her house that he had cut away had recovered and was again green. She forgave him on the promise that if he would say nothing of his time spent underground with the fairy people, they would release him. He swore an oath to this (which he kept for some time, but not eternally apparently) and found on his release that much time had passed (though the stoup of milk was still fresh in his hand.)

John Smith never walked close to Merlin's Craig again, and another laborer (a shepherd) when approached by these people (having fallen asleep and awakened by their dancing) refused to go with them. He was only saved by having a copy of The Lord's Prayer in his hat, which he grabbed and held tightly. 

Well, a great story. Not sure what else can be said. We don't have an interview with the witnesses nor anyone who directly knew them. We don't even have the real name of the reporter to the Edinburgh Review. This is a Gray Basket story. It's not simply a Throwaway Story. Proper exploratory behavior here is to set it aside and see if the rest of the exploration casts any light on it. These Little People are behaving "properly" for their alleged character, and are friendlier than we have been led to believe. You would not build your hypothetical house on cases like this, but lay them nearby in the Idea Field nevertheless. 


 Shetland, Zettland, Orkneys, c. 17th century. 

A writer-scholar named John Brand made trips all over Scotland during the late 1600s and early 1700s collecting general data on the culture and economy of the areas. He laid special emphasis on the antiquities and the folklore. 

As he did so, he came across many people willing to tell him about the Little People. The primary entity mentioned (alongside many tales of Mermaids and Merpeople) were the Brownies. These folk-folks were often distinguished by their antics within the homes of the peasantry, doing mainly "good works." I cite no specific case here because Brand doesn't talk about the subject that way.

The following is Brand's language --- Quote:
"Not above forty or fifty years ago, every family had a brownie, or evil spirit, so called, which served them, to which they gave a sacrifice for his service; as when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof, and sprinkled every corner of the house with it, for Brownie’s use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone which they called "Brownie’s stane", wherein there was a little hole into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to Brownie. They also had some stacks of corn, which they called Brownie's Stacks, which, though they were not bound with straw ropes, or in any way fenced as other stacks used to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not able to blow away straw off them."

So it's hard to know (feel?) what to make of such. I don't have the original source but I DO have a set of Brand's similar work. In these volumes he talks of similar matters concerning folkloric entities and it is easy to believe that he did in fact do the actual interviewing of many people. The other thing that you can get from the three volumes is that Brand is no lightweight. He's a serious intellectual and a good observer. The stories are astounding, that's for certain, but it's equally certain that Brand thought that the people were telling him what they truly believed. (I won't go into the Merpeople stories --- I covered that topic way back in the blog years ago.)

But it is SO hard for moderns like ourselves to consider. Is that their problem or ours? 


John Beaumont (Visions or real world?): somewhere in England c. 1700AD. 

Beaumont wrote a thesis on Spirits, Genii, Apparitions and the like based upon information that he culled from classical writers, witch trials, and his own experiences. Much of this material seems very dream-like or otherwise non-normal consciousness. But he DOES seem to claim to have seen (several times) a kind of creature that one would only call members of the Little People. 

His words: "(these people) being of a brown complexion, and about three feet in stature; they had both black loose network gowns, tied with a black sash about their middles, and within the network appeared a gown of a golden color, with somewhat of a light striking through it; their heads were not dressed with topknots, but they had white linen caps on, with lace on them ... on over it they had a black lace network hood." 

Beaumont claimed to see these fairies dancing circle dances, singing and holding hands. He asked them about their nature and was told that they were superior to us, and were creatures who lived in the air. 

Well, if any of that were true, Beaumont should have either been talking to the aerial fairies or Sylphs (of which there are almost no reports at all,) or he was talking to the typical Agricola style coballos of the forest, field, and rural nature --- and they lied to him (as they are want to do.) 

A pretty weak case though ardently told. Janet Bord saw it this way as well. 


 Newborough, Wales c. mid to late 1700s. 

I acquired a bit of a treasure not long ago  entitled Y CYMMRODOR. This was a run of the journal of the CYMMRODORIAN Society of London in the 1870s and 1880s. LOADED with Welsh cultural and folkloric matters. 

Blundering aimlessly through it, I discovered in Volume 7 (1886) a fairy encounter tale. 

This event had occurred about a century back to the lady who lived in the house nearby to the reporter's informant. It was a well-known and very local set of incidents. It was a Brownie type of tale, but in this case the Brownie (a little woman) lived outside the house not in, and each week would bring the lady a freshly baked loaf of bread. This was in exchange for the borrowing of the lady's bread-baking griddle that the lady herself ordinarily used. 

This unusual barter continued as long as the lady agreed not to watch how the fairy went away, so as to perhaps discover her residence.  Of course, the lady finally gave in to her curiosity and peeked. That ended the Brownie barter, sadly for all. The lady said that her peeking revealed that the Brownie (the informant being Welsh used the Welsh term meaning the Good People, or the Tylwyth Teg) went directly to the nearby lake and pliunged beneath the waters. 

 Perhaps a slightly better case, and surely charming.  

Well, I've done it again --- completely gassed out. 

I'll get back on the horse in a couple of days, and stare Robert Kirk and Henry Hudson in the eyes then.    Till then, may the Wind be always at your back.