Tuesday, 5 July 2011

An Appin Fairy Story

Glencreran, Appin
A fairy story, collected in 1883 by Alexander Carmichael probably from his namesake, Mary, who was then aged around seventy-one and who resided in and probably belonged to Druim a’ Bhuic in Glencreran, has all the classical ingredients of this genre. In the story, the man, from Blar nan Laogh, Ach-nan-Con, Appin drags his wife by the ankle through a fire and discovers the fairies had replaced her with the trunk of an oak tree ‘black stoc daraich’. The story states that the fairies are keen to take women for their milk in order to feed their fairy children. A summary of this story may be given as follows as a foiled abduction of a woman. The fairies are forestalled in their attempt to steal her (usually she is heavy with child and, of course, indicating a liminal status) and they leave a wooden image of her behind which would have been put in her place. It may also be of interest to note that urine or in Gaelic maistir – presumably human as well as animal – has apotropaic qualities and which could be used to avert any danger that fairies posed for they are said to take great offence at strong smells. Presumably, then, a fairy waulking or luadhadh would be out of the question!

The fairies carried her away from her
lea[baidh]-shiula. There was a man in Blar
nan laogh Ach-nan-con, Appin.
He went to Duror for whisky. In ret[urn]ing he
laid down the jar & made water. This
Chuala e “ocaid” eir sgioblachadh
a bhreacain. He looked down & saw his own
wife whom he carried home – & plac[ed]
in the barn. When he went in his
own mother & his wife[’s] moth[er] were
in great distress about his un-returned
wife. He cau[gh]t her by caol nan cas
& dragged her thro[ugh] a large fire & she was
a black stoc daraich in the door.
This was what the sith plac[ed] in his
wife[’]s bed when they carried her away.
He placed his wife in her bed. She
was deliv[ered] before he left. That is why they
are so keen to take women for their
milk to feed the clann nan sith.
Urine stops fairy cantrips.
‘Is meirg a leigeadh uc[hd] ri tailean.’
When the old black fairy was thrown in the
glumag was by the woman. When
the tailor told her he was a fairy
when he made the fuarag.

References:
Black, Ronald (ed.), The Gaelic Otherworld (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 19–20.
CW120/82, ff. 28r–29r.
Image: Glencreran, Appin © Copyright Alan Partridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]