[From William Cashen's Folk-Lore, 1912]



THE Manx people believed that the fairies were the fallen angels, and that they were driven out of heaven with Satan. They called them

"Cloan ny moyrn"

The Children of the pride (or ambition).

They also believed that when they were driven out of heaven they fell in equal proportions on the earth and the sea and the air, and that they are to remain there until the judgment. They also said that they fell as thick as a shower of hail, and that they continued to fall for the space of three days and three nights. Whether they took their idea from Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' or whether Milton himself took his idea from the Manx people, certain it is that the Manx people believed that before "Paradise Lost" was translated into Manx. The prayer they used when walking in the night-time was

"Saue Jee mee voish Cloan ny moyrn,"
God save me from the Children of the pride.

They believed that the fairies had no power to hurt anyone who was on an errand of mercy or charity. It is related that one of the early Manx Wesleyan preachers, having occasion to cross the mountain one moonlight night, was met by a fairy who asked who should be saved. When the preacher answered and said that none would be saved, but such as had flesh and blood, then he went away wailing and saying

"Cha vel ayrn erbee ayms ayns Chreest,"
I have no share in Christ.

There are many fishermen here to this day that declare that they have seen the fairy herring fleet lying before their nets, with their lights upon the water, and the buoys or floats of their nets, and fully expe6ted that when the day broke they would see numbers of boats around them, but when the day appeared there were none there, to their very great surprise. There was sure to be a shoal of herrings where the fairy fleet was seen, and the boats that shot their nets there were certain to have a good fishing. The Manx fishermen believed that the fairies, besides fishing on their own account, made barrels, and cured the herrings they caught. A cave on the sea-coast under Cronk-yn-Irree Laa is called Ooig-ny-Seyir, Cave of the Carpenter, where the fishermen have heard them, times without number, making barrels. They were always sure to have a good fishing in the Big Bay when they heard the fairies making barrels. That season always turned out well.

The fairies differed from the bugganes and other evil things in that the fairies might be in any place, and at any time, and would not covet a full-grown person, but only infants and children, whereas the buggane, lhiannan-shee and so on, kept to well-defined places beyond which they were not to travel, and bugganes appeared in quite different forms, — some as tall men without a head, others lying in the road like a heifer, apparently without head or tail, others like a large collie dog with a white collar on his neck. Besides, they did not care at all about children or young people. All fairies, bugganes, ghosts and spirits of every sort would vanish at the cock crowing, — particularly bugganes and ghosts. Sometimes the fairies stole women. There is a tale about a Ballaleece woman who was captured by the fairies; and, soon afterwards, her husband took a new wife, thinking the first one gone for ever. But not long after the marriage, one night the first wife appeared to her former husband and said to him, and the second wife overheard her: "You'll sweep the barn clean, and mind there is not one straw left on the floor. Then stand by the door, and a company of people on horseback will ride in, and you lay hold of the horse I am on, and don't let it go." He followed the directions carefully, but was unable to hold the horse; the second wife had put some straws on the barn floor under a bushel.

The Lhiannan-Shee was a Spirit-Friend. It was believed that if she got near enough to a man to breathe his breath or to lay her hand on him he would be in her power until death. I have heard a man relate that he once saw the lhiannan-shee. He was in the mountain pulling ling when he saw coming towards him a beautiful woman clad in golden-yellow silk. The man jumped into his cart, whipped his horse and fled for his life. He turned his head to see if she was following him, but she was standing stock-still in the ling wringing her hands.

There were giants too. Peel people used to say that it was a woman who carried in her brat the stones from Creg Malin to build Peel Castle: while she was carrying one of the largest stones her apron-string broke. This stone, they said, lies where it fell in Peel harbour. When I was a lad a great storm bared a large stone which was pointed out to me by my old skipper as the stone. I saw the marks of keels of boats cut into it; there were a lot of other red sandstones about it which were said to be part of the woman's bratful of stones.

I have heard a somewhat similar story of a giant who was engaged in making a footpath to Scotland. He went from Glenaspet with a creel on his back. The bottom fell out of the creel, and the earth which was let loose formed Cronk Lannag at Ballalough. There is another story of a giant who flung a boulder from Peel Castle after his fleeing wife. The stone with the Giant's finger-marks still lies poised on the Vaish Hill. The long mounds outside the wall of Peel Castle are supposed to be the graves of giants.

The Manx people firmly believed in ghosts. They believed that if the ghost was troubled in any way he would come back to where he had lived. If the person when living had hidden money or any other thing, or if he or she had died through foul play, he would come back. Care had to be taken in making the shroud that no knot was put upon the thread in the making of it, as, if it was, someone would have the unpleasant work of unloosing it. Many are the stories of men having taken a ghost and put it to rest. A Peel fishing-boat was lost off the Calf about fifty years ago, and a certain man, being anxious to know how it had happened, and where the souls of the departed had gone to, expressed a wish to meet the ghost of one of the men that were drowned. One day he felt an unusual fear come over him, and, looking round, he saw the ghost of his friend close beside him. His fear increased so much that he had not the power to question the ghost, but he signified a desire that he should come to him in the night-time, when he was in bed, believing that he would be stronger when he would have the company of his wife. That night, as the clock struck twelve, he heard a noise, and immediately the ghost of his friend stood beside the bed. His wife had fallen asleep in the meantime, and he found it impossible to waken her. However, he had to make the best of the situation, and while speaking to the ghost he found that it was not alone, but that there were two at least, if not three, in company with the one he was speaking to. After they went away he was able to waken his wife quite easily, but what he heard and what he was told he never let any person know. This same man was known in this neighbourhood (Peel); he was considered a truthful man, and a man above reproach.

At a place near Peel, about sixty years ago, there was a young man came by his death, as many thought, through foul play. A certain house and people were so troubled with his ghost that they had to get a Roman Catholic priest to lay the ghost ; for the Manx people believed that a priest of that faith had more power over a spirit than any other minister. Many persons yet alive remember the priest being brought there, and how, walking backward, and reading out of a book, he put the ghost to rest and consigned him to the Red Sea, after which they got rest.

Many other stories can be told of a like nature, The priests could send the ghost to the Red Sea, from whence it was supposed there was no return. They could also consign it to go between the bark and the tree, but that would only last for seven years, at the end of which time it was liable to come back again. No ghost could cross a newly-ploughed field ; neither could a ghost cross a line drawn with iron or steel. You could not injure a ghost with a knife by shoving it from you; you had to cut backwards to do so. Any man on a road where he was afraid of ghosts always carried his knife with the blade pointing behind. The spirit of a person would sometimes come home to his or her family while the person was alive or recently dead. This might perhaps happen when a man was in great distress at sea. If his spirit appeared wet, he was drowned; if dry, he was only in danger. It might be that a man, without being in any danger, but only anxious about his house, would be seen about the house or crossing a field, or entering a house. It appears that the man in such a case was not usually conscious that his spirit had departed from him for a time, though sometimes it might happen in times of great anxiety that he would be conscious of something unusual having taken place.

The Scaa Goanlyssagh, the Malicious Ghost, was the revengeful spirit of a living person that had an ill-feeling against some other person or persons, whom it would haunt in the night, when they were in bed. It would torment, nip and pinch them, and give them no rest. But if the tormented person knew who tormented him he could get relief by calling out his or her name. Sometimes the tormentor was a disappointed lover, sometimes merely a spiteful person, and sometimes people were tormented in this way without any apparent reason.

A Scaa Goanlyssagh could cut the clothes off a person, just as if they were cut with a pair of scissors, and without the operation being seen or felt. It could also cut clothes even though they were locked in a drawer. It differed from a witch in so far that it had no power to do real injury to the person it tormented. I knew a girl that stayed sometimes in the neighbourhood where I lived. I remember that all the farm lads and men living in the neighbourhood used to go to the house at night with dogs and sticks. When stones would be thrown down the chimney and through the door they would all run out with dogs and sticks and hunt all around, but find nobody, neither could they account for the disturbance. They tied the girl's hands and placed a watch over her, but still the disturbance continued the same. And when she left the neighbourhood the house got to be as quiet as before she came to it.

The Arc-Vuc-Sonney, the Pig of Plenty, was an apparition that was sometimes seen to cross a man's path on a fine moonlight night in the form of a young pig. As long as a person could keep it in sight and follow it, it led him to good luck, but the moment he took his eye off it, it vanished. It was considered fortunate even to see it. But if the man who saw it was lucky enough to catch it, his fortune was made. If a fisherman saw one in the beginning of the fishing season he was sure to be lucky.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002