Friday, March 31, 2017

HGB Ep. 193 - Legend of the Faeries

Moment in Oddity - Mother Ludlam's Cave
(Suggested by: Rachel Thomson)

There is a small grotto in Surrey, England that has many local legends told about it. This grotto is known as Mother Ludlam's Cave. Early stories claim that monks found the cave and the spring inside, which was used for drinking water. It was thought that the spring had healing properties and was named Lud after the Celtic god of healing. The most interesting story related to the cave is the legend of Mother Ludlam. Mother Ludlam was a white witch who would help out the local townspeople. She would lend them whatever they needed, but it was always with the stipulation that it had to be returned in two days. Villagers would approach the cave and ask Mother Ludlam for what they needed and when they returned home, that item would be sitting on their front stoop. One man borrowed a cauldron. He forgot to return in within the two days and Mother Ludlam flew into a rage. She went seeking him and when he found out, he took the cauldron and hid in Frensham Church. That is one version of the story. The most told tale is that it was not a man who came to borrow the cauldron, but the Devil himself. Mother Ludlam saw the Devil's hoofprint and she refused to give him the cauldron, so he stole it. It is said that as he ran, he leapt over the ground forming hills that are known as the Devil’s Jumps near Churt. He finally dropped the cauldron (or kettle) on the last one which is called “Kettlebury Hill” today. Mother Ludlam retrieved the dropped cauldron and hid it in the Frensham Church where the Devil wouldn't look for it. These sound like fun legends about a real cave, but the cauldron actually can be seen to this very day at Frensham Church and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Johann Sebastian Bach is Born

In the month of March, on the 31st day, in 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany. Bach began school at the age of seven. He studied Latin and received religious studies in the Lutheran faith. His faith would influence his future musical career. Tragedy struck for him at the tender age of ten when both his parents died and he found himself an orphan. There would be a silver lining as his older brother, Johann Christoph, took him in and raised him. Christoph was a church organist in Ohrdruf and he taught Bach how to play. Bach lived with him until he was fifteen. He went away to a school in L√ľneburg where he had won a spot because of his beautiful soprano singing voice. His voice changed later and Bach decided to switch to playing instruments. He chose the violin and the harpsichord. Bach became a composer, but during his lifetime, he was more known for his organ playing than his composing. Some of his famous compositions include "Toccata and Fugue in D minor," "Mass in B Minor," the "Brandenburg Concertos" and "The Well-Tempered Clavier." He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.

Legend of the Faeries (Suggested by Vicki Luther and Amy Harris Martinez)

A belief in Faeries has existed for centuries and stretches all around the world. Early stories of faeries originate in medieval Western Europe and this is where we get the term "Fairy Tales." The roots of the oldest tale of fairy creatures comes from a folktale named “The Smith and the Devil.” Some fairy tales are thought to be up to 6,000 years old. Stories of faeries traveled with the colonists to America and are still strong in Appalachian and Ozark lore. There are many theories as to what faeries may be and because of this, they take many forms in folklore. And while most people believe that faeries are not real, the belief in these creatures is very real. And there are tales that go beyond superstition and leave open the possibility that faeries may just exist. Join us as we explore the folklore about these fascinating beings and examine some of the tales that are told about them!

When it comes to appearances, most of us grew up with the image of a cute little winged pixie that was little more than a human butterfly. Ask someone what a fairy looks like and they most likely will describe Tinker Bell from "Peter Pan." But faeries come in a variety of forms and are generally much larger than the six inch image most of us have. The smallest faeries are described as little more than balls of light, similar to fireflies, but these orbs of light can be as large as two to three inches in diameter. They are referred to as Will o' Wisps many times. Then there are the "gnome-sized" faeries, equated with little people, that run between two and three feet tall and they like to wear the color red and green. Human-sized faeries are not as common and usually appear more shadowy in somber colors, occasionally wearing cloaks. All sizes have been described as winged, but faeries do not necessarily all have wings. They have fair skin, which can come in a variety of pastel coloring. All faeries are thought to be magical creatures.

There are many theories as to the origins of faeries. There are beliefs that they have descended from the ancient race of elves and so they have a similar look, but with the upgrade of being able to fly. Elementals are spirit creatures of air, water, fire and earth and there are some that believe that faeries are really elementals. It's important to note that some spiritual practices see elementals as branching out into pixies, sprites, devas, elves, brownies, leprechauns, gnomes, merfolk, kelpies, hobgoblins and faeries. Even more interesting is that there are those who classify faeries as these individual creatures, making faeries the top classification. So pixies are really a race of faeries, as are leprechauns and so on. Perhaps because of the wings, faeries are thought to be a type of angel. Early Christian beliefs held that if someone died without being baptized, then they would become a faery creature. It was taught that the fallen angels that went with Lucifer became faeries when God stopped them in mid-flight on their way to Hell. They were told to stay right where they were, which is why some are in the air, some are in the water and some are in the earth. These accounts are found in Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian folklore. Others think they are souls caught between heaven and Hell in some kind of limbo. And still other tales claim that faeries are the offspring of demons and angels coming together. 

These beliefs in early Christianity were adapted from pagan beliefs, which is where faeries have their true origins. All branches of the Celtic families adopted stories of faeries and those beliefs spread to the British Isles and on to France and Germany. The Welsh had a matriarchal society and they called faeries "The Mothers" coming down from the Mother Goddess they worshipped. Faeries in their lore were always depicted as females living in Fairyland, which was also known as the Land of Women. An interesting incorporation of faeries in the pagan pentagram, makes faeries seem to be a spirit type elemental. The five points of the pentagram are air, water, fire, earth and spirit, with faeries being the spirit incarnate. One of the reasons why it is rare to see a faery is because of this spirit nature and the idea that they live in a different world or what we might term in our modern language, a different dimension. This dimension is sometimes referred to as the land of Tir na nog which is the Land of Eternal Youth. The veil between these worlds seems to be thinner at twilight and this is when these creatures are most likely to be seen. If a human tries to pass into Tir na nog and actually accomplishes this feat, they will never return, at least not alive.

As we covered on our episode about Icelandic folklore, Icelanders are superstitious about elf rocks where they believe elves live. Those rocks are not to be moved. Other countries have similar beliefs about faery domiciles, which makes sense when considering that elves and faeries may be one and the same. The Irish have burial mounds they call sidhe, which means fairy mound, because they believe faeries live in these mounds. Hundreds of these still dot the Irish landscape. So the Irish believe that faeries are connected to the deadlands and that they can go back and forth from earth to heaven to the underworld. This is interesting when thinking of faeries as spirit beings. At Samhain, faeries leave their fairy hills according to Irish lore.

The purpose of faeries really depends on the faery. Some are mischievous imps leading travelers astray in the woods, while others are helpful and bring food for those lost in the woods. If you awaken with tangled hair, those could be elf-locks that a faery has twisted into your hair as you slept. They occasionally help themselves to small items. Consumption was blamed on faeries in some places as it was thought that they were keeping these people awake all night, mostly dancing and such, and the lack of sleep was wasting them away. Most faeries were thought to be hard workers, but shy and diminutive in stature. It is thought they raised animals to be of smaller stature as well. Brownies, for example, were welcome around farms and the house because they were happy to help with chores. There is historical evidence of little people races in Europe and the British Isle, which could be what spawned stories of faeries.

There is a sinister side to faeries though, that involves changelings. Many of you have probably heard of changelings. These are faery babies that have been substituted for human babies. You may not know; however, why faeries exchange babies. Female faeries have great difficulty in carrying babies and even more difficulty giving birth. If they manage to carry a baby to full term, it is generally deformed in some way. There is actually a genetic reason for this because faery races are small in number and so inbreeding is common. They bring these sickly and deformed faery babies into the human world and exchange them for a healthy human baby. They are then taught the faery ways and strengthen the blood lines. Adult humans can be exchanged with a changeling too. It is rare, but has happened according to lore. These humans are trapped with faery magic for a length of time to help them forget their former lives. Then they are used to produce healthy faery babies. (This seems similar to tales of aliens using humans for breeding purposes.) The changeling left behind usually gives itself away because of its ill tempered nature.

There are things that humans can use to keep faeries away. Faeries do not like iron, particularly if it is cold iron that has yet to be heated for shaping. Steel is an alloy of iron and is said to weaken faeries, although it is not toxic to them like iron. Charms made from salt, herbs like rosemary, St. John's Wort and dill, gravesoil and rowan wood weakens faeries. Planting a rowan tree near the door works best. Newfoundland folklore claims that bread can keep the beings away. Holy water can make them ill and if you know the faeries real name, you have power over them, which is similar to a belief that knowing a demons name gives one power over them. Horseshoes are not just a symbol of good luck, they apparently are a faery deterrent, particularly if made from iron. A row of iron nails would be hammered into the headboard of a bed where a new mother would lie down with her baby and Scotland held the belief that if the father's pants were hung at the foot of the bed, it would frighten the faeries. Wrapping the baby in the father's shirt would have the same effect. And remember that a faery is like a vampire in that it cannot enter your home without being invited.

In Thailand, they have a fairy-like creatures that they call Naree Pon. They are said to be a combination of plant and animal. They stand less than three feet tall and have female bodies with a camouflage coloring to their skin. Locals sometimes refer to them as the Thai Flower Pod Women. In Buddhist folklore, the Naree Pon come to Buddha as he meditates and they distract him. This happens mostly during the day, as they hide in the trees at night. The legends also describe the Naree Pon as fruit on trees that become alive after falling from the trees and live for a week. After the week is over, their bodies whither into little carcasses that can be held in the hand. A temple outside of Bangkok has a couple of them on display. They have unusually long arms and a plant-like structure on their heads. Syfy’s Destination Truth went out in search of them on an episode, but did not find any.

One of the events that caused many to lose faith in faeries were the hoax photos that came out in the early 1900s known as the "Fairies of Cottingley Glen." There were five photographs in the collection that were captured by two cousins named Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. The girls appeared in the photos with these tiny human-like creatures who had period style haircuts, wore flowing gowns and had large wings on their backs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the authenticity of the pictures wholeheartedly. He published two of them with a piece he wrote for "The Strand" in 1920. He then authored a book about the Cottingley Fairies and his belief in them named "The Coming of the Fairies." City News wrote of the story in 1921, "It seems at this point that we must either believe in the almost incredible mystery of the fairy or in the almost incredible wonders of faked photographs."

Now, we have referred to these photos as a hoax, but Harold Snelling, who was a fellow spiritualist and also an expert on photographic retouching, said, "These dancing figures are not made of paper nor any fabric; they are not painted on a photographic background — but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during the exposure." Snelling reprinted and retouched the negatives to get crisper images. Those images looked even more real than the originals. He and Doyle agreed that the girls were too young to pull off such a hoax. The two girls grew into women and they were hounded several times in iradult lives to tell the truth. They were always very evasive with their answers until they were older women in their 70s and 80s. They professed that "the fairies in the photographs were actually drawings Elsie had made, cut out and set in place with hatpins." They traced them from "Princess Mary's Gift Book" and placed cardboard behind them that was fastened with zinc oxide bandage tape. Frances wrote in 1983, "I'm fed up with all these stories... I hated those photographs and cringe every time I see them. I thought it was a joke, but everyone else kept it going. It should have died a natural death 60 years ago." What is fascinating about this story is that although the women admitted the pictures were a hoax, they maintained that they really saw faeries and interacted with them. And this, they both maintained until their deaths. In the 1980’s, Ronnie Bennett, a forester in Cottingley Woods, came forward with a fairy encounter he had while working there: "When they showed themselves about nine years ago there was a slight drizzle around. I saw three fairies in the woods and I have never seen them since. They were just about ten inches tall and just stared at me. There is no way the Cottingley Fairies is a hoax."

William Blake was a poet and an artist and apparently, a believer in faeries. It is said that he had the following conversation with a woman:
"Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam?" said Blake to a lady who happened to sit next to him.
"Never, Sir!" said the lady.
"I have," said Blake, "but not before last night."
And he went on to tell how, in his garden, he had seen "a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared".
The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan Castle is a very interesting story. Dunvegan Castle, on the isle of Skye, is the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan. The family came into possession of the flag, when the Fae wrapped the infant MacLeod in it when he was at the point of death. The family was told that they could wave the flag two more times when they were in distress and the Fae would come to help. The second time it was waved was at a battle in Waternish in 1520 and it was used to rally MacLeod's men. The flag was later cut into small pieces and carried by the MacLeod Warriors during World War II. The soldiers believed the flag would give them magical protection. Those who carried a piece of the flag were said to have come home alive. What is left of the Fairy Flag is preserved under glass on a wall at Dunvegan Castle. There is still one more wave of the flag left.

William Butterfield was the keeper of Ilkley Wells in West Yorkshire, England and he claimed to have a fairy encounter in 1815, “As he drew near the wells he took out of his pocket the massive iron key, and placed it in the lock; but there was something “canny’ about it, and instead of the key lifting the lever it only turned round and round in the lock. He drew the key back to see that it was alright, and declared, “It was the same that he had on the previous night hung up behind his own door down at home. Then he endeavored to push the door open, and no sooner did he push it slightly ajar than it was as quickly pushed back again. At last, with one supreme effort, he forced it perfectly open, and back it flew with a great bang! Then ‘whirr, whirr, whirr’, such a noise and sight! All over the water and dipping into it was a lot of little creatures, all dressed in green from head to foot, none of them more than eighteen inches high, and making a chatter and jabber thoroughly unintelligible. They seemed to be taking a bath, only they bathed with all their clothes on. Soon, however, one or two of them began to make off, bounding over the walls like squirrels. Finding they were all making ready for decamping, and wanting to have a word with them, he shouted at the top of his voice—indeed, he declared afterwards, he couldn’t find anything else to say or do—”Hallo there!” Then away the whole tribe went, helter skelter, toppling and tumbling, heads over heels, heels over heads, and all the while making a noise not unlike a disturbed nest of young partridges. The sight was so unusual that he declared he either couldn’t or daren’t attempt to rush after them. He stood as still and confounded, he said, as old Jeremiah Lister down there at Wheatley did, half a century previous, when a witch from Ilkley put an ash riddle upon the side of the River Wharfe, and sailed across in it to where he was standing."

Janet Bord wrote "Fairies: Real Encounters with Little People." She reported that in 1968, contractors in Donegal would not cut down a gnarled tree that stood in the way of a new road they were building because it was believed that the tree was a fairy tree. One of the contractors said, "There is something uncanny about it.The roots are not more than a couple of feet below ground - yet it defied a hurricane seven years ago." There are multiple stories of people getting sick after cutting fairy thorns and putting up buildings across fairy paths. People living in homes blocking a  fairy path would open their windows at night so that the faeries could pass through and then the occupants would not become ill. A girl became lost in 1935 on Lis Ard, which was a fairy fort in County Mayo. There was a gap to the outer bank that she should have been able to pass through, but some kind of external force kept her from passing. This force turned her round so that she was walking back into the fort. She tried again and again, but it was as if there was an invisible wall and it felt hostile to her. Later, the barrier disappeared and she was able to leave. Bord also writes of an impossibly tiny shoe found in Ireland and a large group of tiny people seen playing in a Fairy Bog in Wales.

A Somerset farmer's wife  claimed in 1962 that she had lost her way at Berkshire Downs and was put on the right track by a small man in green who appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared after pointing her in the right direction. A woman in Cornwall also claimed to see a small green man with a pointed hood and pointed ears as she was making her way to the ferry. Her daughter saw the same creature and they made a mad dash for the ferry, totally terrified.

Danica wrote, "I do believe in fairies. My daughters and I rented a trailer in El Cajon, California in 2010. One morning we were all eating breakfast in the kitchen, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a fairy floating in the air. It was a female about three feet in height sprinkling gold dust all around her. At the same time, my oldest daughter said, 'Mommy , mommy, there is a fairy sprinkling gold dust everywhere over by the window.' My daughters and I also experienced some other unexplained phenomena in that trailer. It was getting a little too scary for us. We only stayed living in that trailer for 10 days and moved out as quickly as we could. I think my daughters and I somehow attract the unexplained, paranormal, whatever you want to call it, because we have encountered several more experiences with the paranormal that were scary. Thankfully, it has been almost a year that we have not encountered anything. We have seen things that no one would believe. Prayer and faith have kept us safe."

Did faeries actually exist? Is it possible that they still exist today? Most of the former Celtic nations of Brittany, Germany, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have people who believe that faeries still exist. There is a theory that they are rarely seen because they are a dying breed. Still others reason that the creatures are disappearing because we fail to believe in them. Do you believe in faeries? That is for you to decide!

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