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.

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