Celtic Legends

Lari Ranta
SCMLA 2013 notes

Celtic legends of the Shae people.
1880s Andrew Lang and others wrote, using historical and archaeological evidences.

fairy revival:
They are shy but benevolent.
diminutive size
elven ears
This is a remarkable shift.

Scottish fairies were mischievous and malevolent.
Farthest from peaceful.
Fairies steal: things, women, children.
Fairies trap humans.

The deviations of Scot-Celt stories is from 1900.

land formation: hills, glens, knolls, etc
fairies were typed to the terrain

Scot fairies were tied to rugged mountains and dark moors.
Traveling within Scotland.
Lots of place names with Shae/Shee.

Ring forts:
folks put rocks around dangerous places

Fairies lured young men away with music and dancing.
Elves used bagpipes.
John Campbell wrote that “men ….unaware of the passage of time…”

subtext:
wastrel trapped in fairyland,
working is important

fairy as omen:
washer woman fairy
washing clothes of person going to die

banshee
before/after death

Rev. Robert Kirk, 1691
found no discrepancies in belief in fairies
“If one gets involved with fairies, death will follow.”

fairies enter human worlds commonly
good neighbors, good folk –>to keep problems of fairies away

fairy bull comes from the lochs in the highlands

Scots faeries become more dangerous the farther out or the nearer the water’s edge they are. Think kelpies.
7 girls drowned by the kelpie of the loch.

Selkies are forlorn and lonely.
Take heed of the mystery of water.

Human women were the most vulnerable.
Mothers and babies were kidnapped.
Faeries don’t want women to remember.
Fairy trades baby with newborn human.
fairy baby = brown and gray, hollow look in eyes, extreme facial features, little ability to communicate, often have SIDS

changelings were tested by
laying on hot coals
put the babes below the high water mark, cover them with stones and leave them there

So babies who didn’t look/act right would be killed by “testing” to see if they were changelings.

Fairies and ___ Disabilities (book or article?)
failure to thrive and mental/physical illnesses, congenital illness
These would be denied. It’s a fairy baby, so the blame doesn’t fall to the parents.

failure to thrive and delayed development were common changeling lore

infant mortality rate
did the climate and terrain explain why Scottish children were often changelings?
One there’s a blueberry patch and the son is lost. (Reminds me of the children’s book.)

Fairy stories explain the dangers of the land.

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