Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review Volumes 32 and 33.djvu/241

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Mingling of Fairy and Witch Beliefs.

powers possessed by both are the same—invisibility and shape-shifting, as well as that of taking the substance of food-stuffs from their rightful owners—the toradh, as it is called in Gaelic, the essence of milk or corn or of an animal. Both steal children or exchange them for their own kind, and both are apt to extract the soul or heart of a man, leaving him with none or with a fairy or demon soul, or a heart made of straw. Both do serious injury to horses or cattle, riding them by night to exhaustion, twisting their manes or tails, or shooting at them with a deadly invisible arrow—the elf-bolt, the flint arrow-head of neolithic man, ylfagescot and haegtessan-gescot, the elf-shot and witch-shot of early Anglo-Saxon formulae. The times of their activity are the same, especially May-eve, Midsummer-eve, and Hallowe'en, as well as certain days of the week. Fairies travel through the air in an eddy of dust or a whirlwind. Witches do the same, no less than demons, ghosts, and other eldritch folk in all parts of the world. Fairies delight in dancing and feasting by night: these formed great part of the occult joys of the witch-Sabbat, and the dances of both are probably an imaginative exaggeration of actual orgiastic folk-dances. The intruder on fairy or witch revels was likely to fare badly. He must pipe for them until he could pipe no longer, or, drawn into the whirling dance, he capered till he fell exhausted, awaking next morning to find his nocturnal companions gone, and himself often witless. Greater dangers sometimes befell him. Yet if he accidentally or with presence of mind uttered a sacred name or formula, the revel and the feast vanished and left "not a wrack behind." The circles or rings in the meadow ascribed popularly to the fairies' round dances, were sometimes also supposed to be caused by the similar dances of witches and demons. Many other parallels might be cited, but as a final one we may point to the story, embodied by the Ettrick Shepherd in his Witch of Fife, and told both of witches and fairies in different