[From Manx Quarterly, #12 June 1913]


Dr W. Y. Evans Wentz, who secured a literary degree at Rennes and a science degree at Oxford for a thesis proving that fairies actually exist, contributed an entertaining article to the " Daily News" recently on " The Fairy - Faith." " Off and on," he says, " during the course of five years, I have lived with the Celtic peasantry in their own pretty straw thatched cottages. I have wandered with them into strange places where the fairies are said to dwell, and I am now obliged to admit that when in those places I have felt invisible presences all about me."

Dr Wentz believes that social psychology has shaped the fairs — faith everywhere, and that psychical research is tending to make a belief in certain kind of fairies scientific. He tells us of the different sizes and species of fairies, and explains that the fairy world is the invisible world on every side of us and everywhere in infinite space. He refers to the Sidhe (pronounced " slice "), a divine race seen in quiet and mystic centres, chiefly in the West of Ireland; the Irish leprechaun , with his fondness for playing tricks on mortals ; the Scottish brownie, who is usually quite as full of fun, and his cousin, Robin Goodfellow. in England; the "Little Folk" in the Isle of Man, who are never more happy than when singing and dancing in the moonlight; the Tvtwyth Teg or " Fair folk" in Wales; and the Cornish pixies, who equally with their brothers in Brittany, the "Corrigans," enjoy misleading travellers belated after nightfall.

Dr Wentz, in referring to the " little folk," writes as follows :—

I have often thought that very much. if not all, of the weird phenomena, to-day well-attested by eminent psychical researchers, such as the movement of physical objects without known agency, the tossing about of plates and cups and saucers or other household furnishings. showers of stones in or outside of houses said to be haunted, and many more similar meaningless happenings, are due directly to the mischievous little fairies of this order. which mediaeval mystics called elementals, on account of their dwelling in the different elements of nature — the air, the earth, the water, the fire. A Manx farmer. for example who was on such very familiar terms with the "Little Folk " that they used to come into his house on the moonbeams and through the keyholes to sing to him in his bachelor solitude, once, when they were visiting him, insulted them by making some, thoughtless remark, whereupon they lifted a big basin of water from the floor, and, emptying its contents over his head, nearly drowned him.

Very few Manx people are ignorant of what ,Dr Wentz would call the " conduct of the little folk," and what more materialistic- people would dub the "fairy superstition." The faculty, or supposed, faculty, of the fairies was to bring good fortune to those, who served them well. Until comparatively recently Manx people used, before going to bed, to leave bread and cheese outside their houses for the fairies to feast on, and there are many weird stories in circulation of the wrath that was visited upon those who disregarded the fairies. Some of the older people even yet religiously appease the fairies o' nights.

We quote another extract from the article:—

Another order of fairy beings. the "Good People" in Ireland and in Scotland, are as large as men and women. And to not a few of the wisest Celtic mystics a distinct species of fairies, embodied fairies. These mystics and seers like the Druids of old, tell us that to he born is to come from the fairy-world into this world ; and they believe that we are born over and over again into human bodies until we become perfect enough, by virtue of experiences of every kind, to live with the "Sidhe" in the fairy world for ever.

Dr Wentz, in conclusion, hopes he has made it clear that, in spite of scepticism. there probably are actual fairies and a fairy world in which they live; but we are afraid he is advocating this belief too late in the history of time.

During a visit to the Isle of Man, Dr Wentz, who, by the way, is an American, gained much useful information on this subject from Archdeacon Kewley, Mr T. C. Kermode, H.K., and Miss Morrison, of Peel, and Mr J. H. Kelly, of Douglas.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002