Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review Volumes 32 and 33.djvu/243

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
231
Mingling of Fairy and Witch Beliefs.

spirits as either angelic or demoniac. Fairies, elves, brownies, water-sprites, forest and woodland folk, were certainly not angels ; therefore they must be demons. To the orthodox theologian the world was full of such demons ; and it mattered not what the folk called them. In all the writings of the mediaeval period they are demons, pure and simple. Many of the ecclesiastical or semi-ecclesiastical authors of that age, Etienne de Bourbon, Caesarius of Heisterbach, Gervase of Tilbury, Giraldus Cambrensis, must have been folk-lorists without knowing it, for they sought far and wide for stories illustrating the doings of the demons. Their pages are full of these highly entertaining stones, and in many of these it is not difficult to recognize elfin beings masquerading as demons through no fault of their own. Fairy-land and its denizens had become a real part of Satan's kingdom of darkness. It was therefore inevitable that in course of time, and especially after the witchcraft prosecutions began in the fourteenth century, the folk themselves should more or less accept a view of their own creations which was imposed upon them by their spiritual pastors and masters. They did not accept it wholly, but in so far as they did, and in so far as the common aspects of the beliefs in fairies and witchcraft also aided, the common ban under which both were placed would inevitably tend to mix both together in their minds. The theological view of both matters was quite clear and straightforward, and both fairies and the mediaeval and post-Reformation witches were regarded as of Satan's train.

In a letter of 1787 Burns speaks of the numerous tales current in Scotland, and told him by an old woman in his childhood, "concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towns, dragons, and other trumpery," and describes the effect which these still had upon him in his later years as well as upon his poetry. Scotland has, in fact, always been a