Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fairies in America

At the time of the American War of Independence, a native of Tiree... wishing to escape from his Fairy love, enlisted and was drafted off to the States. On landing he thanked God he was now where the hag could not reach him. Soon after, however, she met him. "You have given thanks," she said, " for getting rid of me, but it is as easy for me to make my appearance here as in your own country."

(For those of you keeping track this means that a man fought the American's during the Revolutionary War in order to escape a fairy lover - Writing Prompt - Tell the story of someone who is protected by their fairy lover during a war, even as they are trying to get out of the relationship)

There are many Scottish tales of fairy women following men to the America's. Indeed the fairies were so entwined with human civilization that they came to America in droves. This was especially true of house fairies, and ancestral spirits such as banshees, but even the fairies of the mounds came to America. As a resault any given city in America would have whatever fairies existed in Europe, Asia as well as in America before the immigration. This creates an interesting situation for writers in which Russian Domovi might encounter Scottish Brownies, or Saxon elves may have to share hills with Japanese Tengu.

In one case a fiddler returning from a wedding encounters a woman dressed in green, a Scottish fairy, who ultimatly gives him and his decendents the gift of being great musicians. This is very similar to many artists and craftsmen in Scotland who receive their gifts from the people of the hills.

Another Scottish Fairy to come to America was the Bauchan which would constantly wrestle around with a particular mortal like an overly aggresive and rambunxious teenager. At the same time he was clearly attached to the human for he would help him gather wood, or retrieve lost items for him. After the man moved to America he found the Bauchan waiting on shore for him to arrive.

The French Lutins also came to America, Quebec especially is filled with tales of the little fairies tying knots in horses manes, helping out and causing trouble in the barns and homes, just as they did in France. Another Lutin, known as the Nain Rouge is a creature believed to have originated in Normandy France, which now acts as a harbringer of doom in Detroit. Like most Lutin he appears as a tiny child with red fur boots, most often before some sort of disaster.

Death potents are among the most likely spirits to follow anyone. People in America would see grey and black dogs, would hear the crying of banshees, etc.

A banshee followed the O'Gradys to Canada where it was heard crying one night. Next day it so happened that the gentleman and his eldest son went out boating. As they did not return, however, at the usual time for dinner, some alarm was excited, and messengers were sent down to the shore to look for them. But no tidings came until, precisely at the exact hour of the night when the spirit-cry had been heard the previous evening, a crowd of men were seen approaching the house, bearing with them the dead bodies of the father and the son, who had both been drowned by the accidental upsetting of the boat, within sight of land, but not near enough for any help to reach them in time.

For those who study fairy lore it shouldn't come as any surprise that the fairies of people's homelands would find their way to America. Fairies after all have come to build a symbiotic relationship with humans. Humans provide fairies with food, with goods that they struggle to get a hold of, and with many other benefits it's difficult to place our fingers on. Fairies provide humans with luck, with insperation, etc.

Then there are simply the fairies who fell in love with humans. In the French tale of "The Fee and the Sailor" a young man from Plevenon met an ocean fairy while out fishing. She fell in love with him and ultimatly gave him a magic wand when he went off to California to search for gold.

Many of the beings we now think of as house fairies from the Welsh Bwca to the German Puk, and yes even the Scottish Brownie were once wilderness fairies which while often connected to a household instead of a family, will still follow many families from one home to another in many tales. What's more, many fairies were the spirits of the dead or of people who found themselves lured into fairyland. Thus we should expect that these spirits would exist in anyplace where their human descendents can.

A lot of the difference comes down to interpritation. In America ghost activity is detected by objects vanishing or turning up in places that no one would have put them. Sounds of knocking and footsteps. There are also scratches, bite marks, or other physical manifestations of an attack without any apparent attacker. Finally people will catch glimpses of strange figures.

Once upon a time such manifestations would have been interpreted as the munacillo in Southern Italy, as a domovoi in Russia, etc. We've just forgotten so much of our heritage that we started looking for more 'scientific' explinations about two centuries ago. Since then people have stopped believing in ancestral and nature spirits who share our homes and have started beliving in phantams which haunt them. So perhaps what we often think of as ghosts are really fairies, which would mean we are dealing with them all wrong. Instead of trying to get rid of them or help them resolve unfinished business, perhaps one should leave them a bowl of milk and see what happens.