LEPRECAT Page ONE
Well, let's start this thing.
Leprecat is a crude compilation of cases that I've come across rather randomly. Some of these have been courtesy of a wonderful collection by Janet Bord, some from smaller collections by people like Diarmuid MacManus, some from Simon Young's Fairy Census. These things were and are high grade ore --- I resoundingly recommend them. Other sources have come almost one case at a time. Old folklore books. Old stories skewered away in lost literature; and new claims scattered throughout the Internet. My point is that I don't take these as some sort of professional scholarly creation and neither should you. It was done for adventure and fun, and I'm happy to share it with you. ... Maybe we'll even learn something as we go.
The first page (above) has the very old cases in the catalog. I've bumped into others since making that page. Let's describe some of what's on that page, and then include some of the other stuff. Let's do it like eating popcorn. You can't go wrong with that.
Chippenham England 1633. This is a story attributed to John Aubrey, a very famous intellectual and well-connected person in the 17th century. Aubrey was disturbed by the growing arrogance of the intelligentsia of his age towards the ideas of the peasantry and the simpler people, and what we today might call "anomalous happenings."
Although this exact case doesn't appear in any of his formal writings (many other similar things do), it IS included in a later biography as a story told by him and passed down orally by him and then others who knew him best. It could even have been that this tale was discovered in some scribbles in his many unpublished notes.
The incident: When Aubrey was an older schoolboy, the Curate of his school told him of the following encounter with the fairies: It was near dawn, and the curate was walking over the downs alone when ahead he came suddenly upon a fairy dance. The fairies were numerous and dancing vigorously in a circle, making music and odd loud reveling noise.
This revel left him immediately stunned. He thought afterwards that he might have been "enchanted" and unable to run. He did not describe their clothing but said that their stature was that of "pygmies" or small people. Let's say that about 3-to-4 feet would be a reasonable guess. The Little People were not exactly happy about being disturbed or intruded upon. They rushed around him, making odd buzzing type hummings, and he dizzily fell down. They continued to harass him until the Sun rose, and repeatedly pinched him as he lay. With the Sun, he found himself suddenly alone. All about him was the trampled down grass of a fairy revel.
The case has some obvious interest. If it was told to John Aubrey by his Curate, then it has some substantial credibility. It is not unlike the picture of a fairy revel (circle dancing) that was commonly expressed by the rural people of that and later times. It interests me as well due to the claim that these creatures were not extremely small --- the three to four foot tall "fairyfolk" seems to me at this early stage to be "right" for these sorts of entities.
But we're only one case in. Let's go on.
This incident had two witnesses, a clergyman and his wife. They were alone in their home when they encountered an entity, like a "small man" at their door. They labeled the small man with the Scandinavian term for most Little People, "Troll." The Troll had a dark complexion and rough old gray clothes.
He pleaded with the two humans to aid him and his wife, who was very pregnant, and about to deliver her baby without help. The wife and the minister were deeply moved by the story, and she agreed to go to serve as midwife for the Little People.
The trip was remarkable as, once outside, she and the troll were "carried by the wind" to the troll house. The wife did her good service overnight, and the baby was delivered. The trolls were truly grateful for the selfless service, and upon returning her home, the minister and his wife found a quantity of silver left, apparently in appreciation for the charity.
Keightly seemed to think that this was too good to be true, and dismissed the story as some form of lie. This is almost angering to see, as one would have wished better from Keightly. The reason that I type this, is that Jacob Grimm had the actual affidavit of the minister and his wife swearing that their report was true. Keightly ignored this, or didn't see it.
The affidavit to Jacob Grimm raises this report to at least some reasonable trust. The "trouble" is, of course, for both Keightly and ourselves, that the intensity of the interaction described is just too much for "moderns" to accept. Even in this short story, if these details really happened, our whole view of (limited) material reality would have to expand radically or explode.
The third case on the paper above ... I have no cartoon. But that gives me the opportunity to say this about the illustrations: I'm just doing the best that I can with these things. Almost NO reports have REALLY good descriptions of the beings. Why is this ? I have no real idea. I believe however that the Old People just knew what these creatures looked like and there was no need for a lot of describing. As later cases come in, we get an age of VERY poor interviewers, almost hit-and-run story-grabbers. And in recent times no one cares to take the time. This, by the way, drives this old UFO researcher crazy. But onwards ....
Isle of Man, c. 1720-1730. The case comes from Janet Bord, quoting British government agent, George Waldron. I had not run across the original source yet, but I trusted Janet Bord completely on this, and I assumed that a professional British administrator is a trustworthy source. Then with some digging I found it: AW Moore, FOLKLORE of the ISLE of MAN, 1891. This (irrationally) always makes me feel better.
The witness was the neighbor of Waldron. He had been a dismissive skeptic until he saw the fairies himself. Walking in a field, the neighbor saw a number of "schoolboys" playing in a field. As this was a school day, he walked towards them to reprimand them on their playing hooky. He was riveted upon his targets when, at twenty paces away, they simply disappeared before him. There was nowhere in this field to hide. ... it must have been the Little People.
Cae Caled, Wales 1757.
OK. Full disclosure. This is the sort of case that I really like.
This report comes from several sources and the oldest seems to be Elias Owen's Welsh Folklore (1884.) Owen's book is a treasure house of fairy lore. One wonders why it isn't better known. Many of the materials in it seem more "fairy tale" like, but reports of encounter cases also sprinkle all about. In this case, Owen informs us that he has received not only the autobiography of the witness involved, but is reading the witness' hand-written notes describing the incident, lying there just on his desk.
Owen labels the case: The Elf Dancers of Cae Caled.
The Reverend Edward Williams, then just a child, was playing in a field with three other children, one being his older sister. After a time of normalcy, the four saw not far away a frenzy of dancing small persons. These people were all dressed in red uniforms, with red cloths or scarves for hats. They were smaller than adults, and about the children's size or slightly smaller. "Dwarfs" or "Grim Elves", but surely the Little People. "Dancing with Great Briskness", the elves or gnomes moved so quickly that it was hard to see small details clearly. There were seven or eight couples in their dance. These being no group of local dancers (such as visiting May or Morris Dancers), the children became very alarmed and rose to flee. One "grim elf" (Williams' words) spotted them, and with angry face began to run after them.
The children barely made it to the fence and got through the stile. Williams was the smallest and the last, just eluding the grasp of the Grim Elf. (I categorize these beings as "gnomes" as Williams says that the closest one had an "ancient, swarthy, and grim complexion." The gnome stopped on its side of the fence, and the children ran home and told their story. The adults believed them enough to go together to the field to investigate --- of course finding nothing.
For me, a rocking good report: good witness, good detail, multiple witnesses, good context, no elaboration nor braggadocio. If I could myself read the actual handnotes for this case, I'd be largely sold.
I've run out of steam for this entry. In a day or two, I'll try again.
Peace --- and may The Elfin Road Rise Up To Meet You on this St Paddy's Day.