Briggs Katharine Mary - An encyclopedia of fairies

Author : Briggs Katharine Mary
Title : An encyclopedia of fairies Hobgoblins, brownies, bogies, and other supernatural creatures
Year : 1976

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Preface. The word 'fairy' is used in various ways. There are a number of slang and cant usages of the word, varying from time to time, which are beside the point for this book. In fairy-lore, with which we are dealing here, there are two main general usages. The first is the narrow, exact use of the word to express one species of those supernatural creatures 'of a middle nature between man and angels' - as they were described in the seventeenth century - varying in size, in powers, in span of life and in moral attributes, but sharply differing from other species such as hobgoblins, monsters, hags, merpeople and so on. The second is the more general extension of the word to cover that whole area of the supernatural which is not claimed by angels, devils or ghosts. It is in this second, later and more generalized sense that I have often used the word in this book. Exception might be taken to this use. The word 'fairy' itself is a late one, not used before medieval times and sometimes then with the meaning of mortal women who had acquired magical powers, as Malory used it for Morgan le Fay. The French fai, of which 'fairy' is an extension, came originally from the Italianfatae, the fairy ladies who visited the household at births and pronounced on the future of the baby, as the Three Fates used to do. 'Fairy' originally meant 'fai-erie ', a state of enchantment, and was transferred from the object to the agent. The fairies themselves are said to object to the word, and people often think it better to speak of them euphemistically as 'the Good Neighbours', 'the Good Folk', 'the Seelie Court', 'Them Ones', or, more distantly, as 'the Strangers'. Throughout these islands many names are used for the fairies, the 'Daoine Sidh' in Ireland, the 'Sith' in the Highlands, the 'pisgies' in Cornwall. In the Lowlands of Scotland the Anglo-Saxon 'elves' was long used for the fairies, and Fairyland was called 'El fame', but these names had limited and local usage, whereas the name 'fairies', however distrusted by the believers and debased by nineteenth-century prettification, was recognized everywhere. ...

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