Friday, March 6, 2015

Fairy Mischief and Kindness in Italy

Article by Ty Hulse

When human cities expand into the fairies wilderness trouble begins brewing.

A team of workers was repairing the road to Irsina, along the Bilious (Italian Coast). During the hottest time of the day came the workers entered one of the many caves of the valleys to sleep. Tired the workers started to doze off quickly, however, there was a monachicchio (small fairy like being) hiding in the cave. When they fell asleep the monachicchio came out and grabbed the workers noses, tickled them with straw, threw rocks about, poured cold water on them, hid their shoes, and caused all manner of mischief.

Knowing they could gain control over the  Monachicchio if they got his red hat They tried to catch him, but he was faster than a cat, more cunning than a fox, and try as they might they couldn't catch him. So they tried taking turns keeping watch while the rest slept, but they still couldn't keep the  Monachicchio from teasing them.

Finally they sent for the engineer, he came with a shotgun. The  Monachicchio laughed at him and made fun of him. The engineer shot the  Monachicchio but the bullet ricocheted off him, and nearly hitting the engineer in the head. The  Monachicchio began, laughing as went bounding about the cave filled with mad joy.

The engineer and all the workers fled in horror. Since that time no workers dare to sleep in the caves around Irsina.

Irsina - Southern Italy

The fairies of Italy are very often wild sprites, living in nut trees, in caves, in forests, etc.Thus they have animal features, some look like monkeys, or have cat like features, or the faces of rats, squirrels, etc. However, they are prone to creep into human homes and barns where they cause mischief for those who live within. In fact in Naples laws were passed in the 1600's which allowed people to leave their apartments without paying rent owed if they claimed that a fairy known as a Munaciello was haunting the home.

There were a number of methods of keeping these spirits away, people would keep the Buffardello out of their homes, for example, by putting up brooms or hanging juniper branches. The broom is especially interesting as a method for keeping fairies out because before they even ruled an empire the Romans would use brooms to drive away the troublesome spirits of nature as well (perhaps as a way of showing the power of civilization over that of the wild).

As wild spirits the Italian fairies are often hunters, some will drink blood (most often from animals but perhaps on rare occasion from people as well). Like cats they love to tease their victims and are known to ride cows about until they are exhausted, tying their hair into knots, etc.

There is a story which takes place in Via dei Tribunali in which a student rents an apartment that is discounted for the fairies which live within it. Soon after he moves in the fairies begin to cause mischief but he ignores them no matter what they do. Eventually this drives the fairies so crazy that they agree to make him wealthy if he'll just acknowledge them.
 Via dei Tribunali

So while it's true that these fairies would cause no end of trouble. Running up and down the stairs, breaking dishes, hiding objects, jumping on sleeping people's chests, pinching their noses so they wouldn't be able to breath and so would freak out, tickling feet, pulling off blankets, and more. The fairies could also be kind.

Many would hide coins and other objects of value around the house for the family to find. They would bring prosperity to the poor, and protect families from other dangers. It's always possible to try to befriend this spirit by leaving it food, by keeping the house clean and harmonious, or by talking and pleading with it. In one tale a woman tells some of the spirits how she and her child are starving and soon after she finds loaves of bread left for her, and her harvest that year is the largest it's ever been.

Often these spirits would fall in love with maidens, would whisper in their ears and follow them about, teaching them secrets, helping them with their tasks, etc.

Others loved to play with children, which was both good and bad, for they would protect the children from harm but would sometimes try to kidnap them to keep them for themselves