History Witch: Uncovering Magical Antiquity

Want to know about real magic from history? This is the place. Here we explore primary texts and historical accounts from the past.

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Dangerous Fairy Women

Anyone acquainted with the long history of fairy encounters from the most ancient to Thomas of Erceldoune to now knows, as Graham Joyce would tell you, to be wary of the EDFF (extremely dangerous fairy folk). You wouldn't call them fairies either, if you had any sense. Be polite to the Gentry.

Yet in the past there were many men foolish enough to try to summon them as lovers.

It's one thing if you happen to run into one under a hawthorn tree (keep your wits about you and don't promise anything you don't intend to keep), but to deliberately entangle yourself is truly living on the edge. I've been enjoying Richard Firth Green's Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church and among the many disparate threads he weaves together is a selection of texts where men are desperate enough to try to summon these legendary lovers through necromancy. This mix of misogyny and lechery shows up in several examples, perhaps inspired by the fascinating fairies and elf queens of the romances.

Reginald Scot, for example, records a spell beginning, "I conjure thee Sibylia, O gentle virgine of fairies..." by means both Christian and fae "to appear in that circle before me visible, in the forme and shape of a beautifull woman" who naturally will "faile not to fulfill my will" the quite unmagical need to "have common copulation with me" (108).

Green notes several spells of a similar concern edited by Frederika Bain, "arranging for sexual liaisons with fairies" who had to appear in the "forme and shape of a bountyfull maide & virgine" in a "grene gown & bewtyfule [appar]elle & most fayreste to be holde" but most importantly to "fayle not to fullfyle my wile".

The clerk who wrote this spell down claimed to have had success "diverse times" (109), but given the power and wrath of fairy ladies, I wonder what became of him afterward... 

 [Image: The Riders of the Sidhe - John Duncan (1866–1945)]

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K. A. Laity is an all-purpose writer, medievalist, journalist, Fulbrighter, social media maven for Broad Universe, and author of ROOK CHANT: COLLECTED WRITINGS ON WITCHCRAFT & PAGANISM, DREAM BOOK, UNQUIET DREAMS, OWL STRETCHING, CHASTITY FLAME, PELZMANTEL, UNIKIRJA, and many more stories, essays, plays and short humour. Find out more at www.kalaity.com and find her on Facebook or Twitter.


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