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FAIRY (Fr. fee, faerie; Prov. facia; ...

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 134 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FAIRY (Fr. fee, faerie; Prov. facia; Sp. hada; Ital. fata; med. Lat. fatare, to enchant, from Lat. fatum, fate, destiny), the common term for a supposed race of supernatural beings who magically intermeddle in human affairs. Of all the minor creatures of mythology the fairies are the most beautiful, the most numerous, the most memorable in literature. Like all organic growths, whether of nature or of the fancy, they are not the immediate product of one country or of one time; they have a pedigree, and the question of their ancestry and affiliation is one of wide bearing. But mixture and connexion of races have in this as in many other cases so changed the original folk-product that it is difficult to disengage and separate the different strains that have gone to the making or moulding of the result as we have it. It is not in literature, however ancient, that we must look for the early forms of the fairy belief. Many of Homer's heroes have fairy lemans, called nymphs, fairies taken up into a higher region of poetry and religion; and the fairy leman is notable in the story of Athamas and his cloud bride Nephele, but this character is as familiar to the unpoetical Eskimo, and to the Red Indians, with their bird-bride and beaver-bride (see A. Lang's Custom and Myth, " The Story of Cupid and Psyche "). The Gandharvas of Sanskrit poetry are also fairies. One of the most interesting facts about fairies is the wide distribution and long persistence of the belief in them. They are the chief factor in surviving Irish superstition. Here they dwell in the raths," old earth-forts, or earthen bases of later palisaded dwellings of the Norman period, and in the subterranean houses, common also in Scotland. They are an organized people, often called " the army," and their life corresponds to human life in all particulars. They carry off children, leaving changeling substitutes, transport men and women into fairyland, and are generally the causes of all mysterious phenomena. Whirls of dust are caused by the fairy marching army, as by the being called Kutchi in the Dieri tribe of Australia. In 1907, in northern Ireland, a farmer's house was troubled with flying stones (see POLTERGEIST). The neighbours said that the fairies caused the phenomenon, as the man had swept his chimney with a bough of holly, and the holly is " a gentle tree," dear to the fairies. The fairy changeling belief also exists in some districts of Argyll, and a fairy boy dwelt long in a small farm-house in Glencoe, now unoccupied. In Ireland and the west Highlands neolithic arrow-heads and flint chips are still fairy weapons. They are dipped in water, which is given to ailing cattle and human beings as a sovereign remedy for diseases. The writer knows of " a little lassie in green " who is a fairy and, according to the percipients, haunts the banks of the Mukomar pool on tha Lochy. In Glencoe is a fairy hill where the fairy music, vocal and instrumental, is heard in still weather. In the Highlands, however, there is much more interest in second sight than in fairies, while in Ireland the reverse is the case. The best book on Celtic fairy lore is still that of the minister of Aberfoyle, the Rev. Mr Kirk (ob. 1692). His work on The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, left in MS. and incomplete (the remainder is in the Laing
End of Article: FAIRY (Fr. fee, faerie; Prov. facia; Sp. hada; Ital. fata; med. Lat. fatare, to enchant, from Lat. fatum, fate, destiny)
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