Celticsprite’s Blog

Faerie Lore : Lake Fairies – The Legend of the Meddygon Myddfai – -The Wife of Supernatural Race
January 3, 2012, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts
On previous posts I have discussed about the celtic belief in lakes, rivers, and wells, believes later christianized and concealed under the characters of Saints deeds and sancutaries .
There is a large amount of legends regarding the origin of lakes in several celtic countries, and in some of them, we can find the folk type of a fairy dweller, maybe remnant believes on ancient deities, or rather the Goddess herself.
Welsh lore attracts me a lot on this subject, I revisit once again the character of the Gwragedd Annwn (sing: Gwraig) the Welsh lake fairies, (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) , which pleases me most. Click here for my previous related post.
Illustration by Willy Pogány as featured on “The Welsh Fairy Book”
by W. Jenkyn Thomas – New York, F. A. Stokes [1908]

The legend of the Meddygon Myddfai again introduces the elfin cattle to our notice, but combines with them another and a very interesting form of this superstition, namely, that of “the wife of supernatural race”. A further feature gives it its name, Meddygon meaning physicians, and the legend professing to give the origin of certain doctors who were renowned in the thirteenth century. 
The legend relates that a farmer in the parish of Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, having bought some lambs in a neighbouring fair, led them to graze near Llyn y Fan Fach, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake, on whose shores they often made excursions. 
Sometimes he pursued and tried to catch them, but always failed; the enchanting nymphs ran before him and on reaching the lake taunted him in these words:
Cras dy fara,
Anhawdd ein dala;
which, if one must render it literally, means:
Bake your bread,
‘Twill be hard to catch us;
but which, more poetically treated, might signify
Mortall, who eatest baken bread,
Not for thee is the fairy’s bed!
One day some moist bread from the lake came floating ashore. The farmer seized it, and devoured it with avidity. The following day, to his great delight, be was successful in his chase, and caught the nymphs on the shore. After talking a long time with them, he mustered up the courage to propose marriage to one of them. She consented to accept him on condition that he would distinguish her from her sisters the next day. This was a new and great difficulty to the young farmer, for the damsels were so similar in form and features, that he could scarcely see any difference between them. 
He noted, however, a trifling singularity in the strapping of the chosen one’s sandal, by which he recognized her on the following day. As good as her word, the gwraig immediately left the lake and went with him to his farm. Before she quitted the lake she summoned therefrom to attend her, seven cows, two oxen, and one bull. She stipulated that she should remain with the farmer only until such time as he should strike her thrice without cause. 
For some years they dwelt peaceably together, and she bore him three sons, who were the celebrated Meddygon Myddfai. One day, when preparing for a fair in the neighbourhood) the farmer desired her to go to the held for his horse. She said she would, but being rather dilatory, he said to her humorously Dos, dos, dos,’ i.e., ‘Go, go, go,’ and at the same time slightly tapped her arm three times with his glove.
… The blows were slight–but they were blows. The terms of the marriage contract were broken, and the dame departed, summoning with her her seven cows, her two oxen, and the bull. The oxen were at that moment ploughing in the field, but they immediately obeyed her call and dragged the plough after them to the lake. 
The furrow, from the field in which they were ploughing to the margin of the lake, is still to be seen–in several parts of that country–at the present day. After her departure, the gwraig annwn once met her three sons in the valley now called Cwm Meddygon, and gave them a magic box containing remedies of wonderful power, through whose use they became celebrated. Their names were Cadogan, Gruffydd and Emion, and the farmer’s name was Rhiwallon. Rhiwallon and his sons, named as above, were physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dynevor, and son of the last native prince of Wales. They lived about 1230, and dying, left behind them a compendium of their medical practice. ‘A copy of their works is in the Welsh School Library in Gray’s Inn Lane.’ [‘Cambro Briton,’ ii., 315]
Related Source:
“British Goblins – Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions” by Wirt Sikes – [1880]

Faerie Lore : Lake Fairies – "The Elfin Cow of Lyn Barfog"
August 12, 2011, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts
On previous posts I have discussed about the celtic belief in lakes, rivers, and wells, believes later christianized and concealed under the characters of Saints deeds and sancutaries .

There is a large amount of legends regarding the origin of lakes in several celtic countries, and in some of them, we can find the folk type of a fairy dweller, maybe remnant believes on ancient deities, or rather the Goddess herself.
Welsh lore attracts me a lot on this subject, I revisit once again the character of the Gwragedd Annwn (sing: Gwraig) the Welsh lake fairies, (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) , which pleases me most. Click here for my previous related post.

Illustration by Willy Pogány as featured on “The Welsh Fairy Book”

by W. Jenkyn Thomas – New York, F. A. Stokes [1908]

Llyn Barfog (Lake of the Bearded One) is the scene of the famous elfin cow’s descent upon earth, from among the droves of the Gwragedd Annwn. This is the legend of the origin of the Welsh black cattle, as related to Wirt Sikes in Carmarthenshire:

In times of old there was a band of elfin ladies who used to haunt the neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, a lake among the hills just back of Aberdovey. It was their habit to make their appearance at dusk clad all in green, accompanied by their milk-white hounds. Besides their hounds, the green ladies of Llyn Barfog were peculiar in the possession of droves of beautiful milk-white kine, called Gwartheg y Llyn, or kine of the lake.

One day an old farmer, who lived near Dyssyrnant, had the good luck to catch one of these mystic cows, which had fallen in love with the cattle of his herd. From that day the farmer’s fortune was made. Such calves, such milk, such butter and cheese, as came from the milk-white cow never had been seen in Wales before, nor ever will be seen again.

The fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn (“The Stray Cow” – which was what they called the cow) spread through the country round. The farmer, who had been poor, became rich; the owner of vast herds, like the patriarchs of old. But one day he took it into his silly noddle that the elfin cow was getting old, and that he had better fatten her for the market. His nefarious purpose thrived amazingly. Never, since beef steaks were invented, was seen such a fat cow as this cow grew to be.

Killing day came, and the neighbours arrived from all about to witness the taking-off of this monstrously fat beast. The farmer had already counted up the gains from the sale of her, and the butcher had bared his red right arm. The cow was tethered, regardless of her mournful lowing and her pleading eyes; the butcher raised his bludgeon and struck fair and hard between the eyes; when lo! a shriek resounded through the air, awakening the echoes of the hills, as the butcher’s bludgeon went through the goblin head of the elfin cow, and knocked over nine adjoining men, while the butcher himself went frantically whirling around trying to catch hold of something permanent. Then the astonished assemblage beheld a green lady standing on a crag high up over the lake, and crying with a loud voice:

Dere di felen Emion,

Cyrn Cyfeiliorn-braith y Llyn,

A’r foci Dodin,

Codwch, dewch adre.

Come yellow Anvil, stray horns,

Speckled one of the lake,

And of the hornless Dodlin,

Arise, come home.

Whereupon not only did the elfin cow arise and go home, but all her progeny to the third and fourth generations went home with her, disappearing in the air over the hill tops and returning nevermore. Only one cow remained of all the farmer’s herds, and she had turned from milky white to raven black. Whereupon the farmer in despair drowned himself in the lake of the green ladies, and the black cow became the progenitor of the existing race of Welsh black cattle.

This legend appears, in a slightly different form, in the ‘Iola MSS.,’ as translated by Taliesin Williams, of Merthyr: [Llandovery, published for the Welsh MSS. Society, 1848.] ‘The milk-white milch cow gave enough of milk to every one who desired it; and however frequently milked, or by whatever number of persons, she was never found deficient. All persons who drank of her milk were healed of every illness; from fools they became wise; and from being wicked, became happy. This cow went round the world; and wherever she appeared, she filled with milk all the vessels that could be found, leaving calves behind her for all the wise and happy. It was from her that all the milch cows in the world were obtained.

After traversing through the island of Britain, for the benefit and blessing of country and kindred, she reached the Vale of Towy; where, tempted by her fine appearance and superior condition, the natives sought to kill and eat her; but just as they were proceeding to effect their purpose, she vanished from between their hands, and was never seen again. A house still remains in the locality, called Y Fuwch Laethwen Lefrith (The Milk-white Milch Cow.)’

Related Source:

“British Goblins – Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions” by Wirt Sikes – [1880]

>Faerie Lore : The Fairie’s Dancing Place
April 20, 2011, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts


Hereby I share with you the tale of “THE FAIRIES’ DANCING-PLACE” as retold by William Carleton. Posted from the book “IRISH FAIRY TALES” EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY W. B. YEATS – ILLUSTRATED BY JACK B. YEATS – LONDON – T. FISHER UNWIN – 1892

Lanty M’Clusky had married a wife, and, of course, it was necessary to have a house in which to keep her. Now, Lanty had taken a bit of a farm, about six acres; but as there was no house on it, he resolved to build one; and that it might be as comfortable as possible, he selected for the site of it one of those beautiful green circles that are supposed to be the play-ground of the fairies. Lanty was warned against this; but as he was a headstrong man, and not much given to fear, he said he would not change such a pleasant situation for his house to oblige all the fairies in Europe.

He accordingly proceeded with the building, which he finished off very neatly; and, as it is usual on these occasions to give one’s neighbours and friends a house-warming, so, in compliance with this good and pleasant old custom, Lanty having brought home the wife in the course of the day, got a fiddler and a lot of whisky, and gave those who had come to see him a dance in the evening.

This was all very well, and the fun and hilarity were proceeding briskly, when a noise was heard after night had set in, like a crushing and straining of ribs and rafters on the top of the house. The folks assembled all listened, and, without doubt, there was nothing heard but crushing, and heaving, and pushing, and groaning, and panting, as if a thousand little men were engaged in pulling down the roof.

‘Come,’ said a voice which spoke in a tone of command, ‘work hard: you know we must have Lanty’s house down before midnight.’

This was an unwelcome piece of intelligence to Lanty, who, finding that his enemies were such as he could not cope with, walked out, and addressed them as follows:

‘Gintlemen, I humbly ax yer pardon for buildin’ on any place belongin’ to you; but if you’ll have the civilitude to let me alone this night, I’ll begin to pull down and remove the house to-morrow morning.’

This was followed by a noise like the clapping of a thousand tiny little hands, and a shout of ‘Bravo, Lanty! build half-way between the two White-thorns above the boreen’; and after another hearty little shout of exultation, there was a brisk rushing noise, and they were heard no more.

The story, however, does not end here; for Lanty, when digging the foundation of his new house, found the full of a kam[1] of gold: so that in leaving to the fairies their play-ground, he became a richer man than ever he otherwise would have been, had he never come in contact with them at all.


[1] Kam—a metal vessel in which the peasantry dip rushlights.

>Faerie Lore : "A Vision of the Dead"
January 21, 2011, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts


Posted from the bookWonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend” by Donald Alexander Mackenzie – Illustrations by John Duncan – Frederick A Stokes Co., New York – [1917] – (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!)

Readers may ask how the stories of ancient beliefs happen to be preserved in Christian times. One reason is because they are connected with place names; another because certain of them were recorded centuries ago by early writers. One of the early Scottish collectors of old legends and poems was Sir James MacGregor, Dean of Lismore, who lived in the sixteenth century. His manuscript volume is still in existence, and the most of it can be read without difficulty. It is called “The Dean of Lismore’s Book”.

CHAPTER IX – A Vision of the Dead

There once dwelt in Nithsdale a woman who was enabled by fairy aid to see the spirits of the dead in the Other World. This was how it came about. One day she sat spinning wool in her house. Her baby lay in a cradle beside her, listening to the soft humming sound of the spinning wheel and her mother’s sweet song. Suddenly a rustling, like the rustling of dead leaves in the wind, was heard at the door. The woman looked up and saw a beautiful lady, clad in green and carrying a baby. She entered, and smiling sweetly, spoke and said: “Will you nurse my bonnie baby until I return?”

The woman answered: “Yes, I shall do that.”

She took the baby in her arms, and the lady went away, promising to return. But the day went past and night came on, and still she did not come back for her child. The woman wondered greatly, but she wondered even more next morning when she awoke to find beside her bed beautiful new clothes for her children, and some delicious cakes. Being very poor she was glad to dress her children in the new clothes, and to find that they fitted well. The cakes were of wheaten bread and had a honey flavour. It was a great delight to the children to eat them.

The lady did not return that day or the next day. Weeks went past, and the woman nursed the strange child. Months went past, and still the lady stayed away. On many a morning wheaten cakes with honey flavour were found in the house, and when the children’s clothes were nearly worn out, new clothing was provided for them as mysteriously as before.

Summer came on, and one evening the lady, clad in green, again entered the house. A child who was playing on the floor stretched forth her hands to grasp the shining silver spangles that adorned her gown, but, to his surprise, his hands passed through them as if they were sunbeams. The woman perceived this, and knew that her visitor was a fairy.

Said the fairy lady: “You have been kind to my bonnie baby; I will now take her away.”

The woman was sorry to part with the child, and said: “You have a right to her, but I love her dearly.”

Said the fairy: “Come with me, and I shall show you my house.”

The woman went outside with the fairy. They walked through a wood together, and then began to climb a green hill on the sunny side. When they were half-way to the top, the fairy said something which the woman did not understand. No sooner had she spoken than the turf on a bank in front of them lifted up and revealed a door. This door opened, and the two entered through the doorway. When they did so, the turf came down and the door was shut.

The woman found herself in a bare chamber which was dimly lighted.

“Now you shall see my home,” said the fairy woman, who took from her waist-belt a goblet containing a green liquid. She dropped three drops of this liquid in the woman’s left eye, and said: “Look now.”

The woman looked, and was filled with wonder. A beautiful country stretched out in front of her. There were green hills fringed by trees, crystal streams flashing in sunshine, and a lake that shone like burnished silver. Between the hills there lay a field of ripe barley.

The fairy then dropped three drops of the green liquid in the woman’s right eye, and said: “Look now.”

The woman looked, and she saw men and women she had known in times past, cutting the barley and gathering fruit from the trees.

She cried out: “I see many who once lived on earth and have long been dead. What are they doing here?”

Said the fairy: “These people are suffering punishment for their evil deeds.”

When she had spoken thus, the fairy woman passed her hand over the woman’s eyes, and the vision of green hills and harvest fields and reapers vanished at once. She found herself standing once more in the bare, dimly-lighted chamber. Then the fairy gave her gifts of cloth and healing ointments, and, leading her to the door, bade her farewell. The door opened, the turf was lifted up, and the woman left the fairy’s dwelling and returned to her own home.

For a time she kept the power of seeing the fairies as they went to and fro near her house. But one day she spoke to one of them, and the fairy asked: “With which eye do you see me?”

Said the woman: “I see you with both my eyes.”

The fairy breathed on her eyes, and then was lost to sight. Never again did the woman behold the fairies, for the power that had been given her was taken away from her eyes by this fairy to whom she had spoken.

Faerie Lore: Fairy Music & Fairy Gifts
November 27, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts, Fairy Music
Posted from the book “The Fairie Faith in Celtic Countries” by W.Y.Evans-Wentz 1911. Get your kindle version here!

Bean chaol a chot uaine ‘s na gruaige buidhe, ‘the slender woman of the green kirtle and of the yellow hair,’ is wise of head and deft of hand. She can convert the white water of the nil into rich red wine and the threads of the spiders into a tartan plaid. From the stalk of the fairy reed she can bring the music of the lull of the peace and of the repose, however active the brain and lithe the limb; and she can rouse to mirth and merriment, and to the dance, men and women, however dolorous their condition. From the bower could be heard the pipe and the song and the voice of laughter as the fairies ‘sett’ and reeled in the mazes of the dance. Sometimes a man hearing the merry music and seeing the wonderful light within would be tempted to go in and join them, but woe to him if he omitted to leave a piece of iron at the door of the bower on entering, for the cunning fairies would close the door and the man would find no egress. There he would dance for years–but to him the years were as one day–while his wife and family mourned him as dead.

‘My grandmother believed firmly in fairies, and I have heard her tell a good many stories about them. They were a small people dressed in green, and had dwellings underground in dry spots. Fairies were often heard in the hills over there (pointing), and I believe something was there. They were awful for music, and’ used to be heard very often playing the bagpipes. A woman wouldn’t go out in the dark after giving birth to a child before the child was christened, so as not to give the fairies power over her or the child. And I have heard people say that if fairies were refused milk and meat they would take a horse or a cow; and that if well treated they would repay all gifts.’

Faerie Lore: Fairy Music & Fairy Gifts
November 5, 2009, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts, Fairy Music
Posted from the bookFairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry” – Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888] (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!)

THE PIPER AND THE PUCA. Recopilated by DOUGLAS HYDE. Translated literally from the Irish of the Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta.

In the old times, there was a half fool living in Dunmore, in the county Galway, and although he was excessively fond of music, he was unable to learn more than one tune, and that was the “Black Rogue.” He used to get a good deal of money from the gentlemen, for they used to get sport out of him. One night the piper was coming home from a house where there had been a dance, and he half drunk. When he came to a little bridge that was up by his mother’s house, he squeezed the pipes on, and began playing the “Black Rogue” (an rógaire dubh). The Púca came behind him, and flung him up on his own back. There were long horns on the Púca, and the piper got a good grip of them, and then he said–

“Destruction on you, you nasty beast, let me home. I have a ten-penny piece in my pocket for my mother, and she wants snuff.”

“Never mind your mother,” said the Púca, “but keep your hold. If you fall, you will break your neck and your pipes.” Then the Púca said to him, “Play up for me the ‘Shan Van Vocht’ (an t-seann-bhean bhocht).”

“I don’t know it,” said the piper.

“Never mind whether you do or you don’t,” said the Púca. “Play up, and I’ll make you know.”

The piper put wind in his bag, and he played such music as made himself wonder.

“Upon my word, you’re a fine music-master,” says the piper then; “but tell me where you’re for bringing me.”

“There’s a great feast in the house of the Banshee, on the top of Croagh Patric tonight,” says the Púca, “and I’m for bringing you there to play music, and, take my word, you’ll get the price of your trouble.”

“By my word, you’ll save me a journey, then,” says the piper, “for Father William put a journey to Croagh Patric on me, because I stole the white gander from him last Martinmas.”

The Púca rushed him across hills and bogs and rough places, till he brought him to the top of Croagh Patric. Then the Púca struck three blows with his foot, and a great door opened, and they passed in together, into a fine room.

The piper saw a golden table in the middle of the room, and hundreds of old women (cailleacha) sitting round about it. The old woman rose up, and said, “A hundred thousand welcomes to you, you Púca of November (na Samhna). Who is this you have brought with you?”

“The best piper in Ireland,” says the Púca.

One of the old women struck a blow on the ground, and a door opened in the side of the wall, and what should the piper see coming out but the white gander which he had stolen from Father William.

“By my conscience, then,” says the piper, “myself and my mother ate every taste of that gander, only one wing, and I gave that to Moy-rua (Red Mary), and it’s she told the priest I stole his gander.”

The gander cleaned the table, and carried it away, and the Púca said, “Play up music for these ladies.”

The piper played up, and the old women began dancing, and they were dancing till they were tired. Then the Púca said to pay the piper, and every old woman drew out a gold piece, and gave it to him.

“By the tooth of Patric,” said he, “I’m as rich as the son of a lord.”

“Come with me,” says the Púca, “and I’ll bring you home.”

They went out then, and just as he was going to ride on the Púca, the gander came up to him, and gave him a new set of pipes. The Púca was not long until he brought him to Dunmore, and he threw the piper off at the little bridge, and then he told him to go home, and says to him, “You have two things now that you never had before–you have sense and music (ciall agus ceól).

The piper went home, and he knocked at his mother’s door, saying, “Let me in, I’m as rich as a lord, and I’m the best piper in Ireland.”

“You’re drunk,” said the mother.

“No, indeed,” says the piper, “I haven’t drunk a drop.”

The mother let him in, and he gave her the gold pieces, and, “Wait now,” says he, “till you hear the music, I’ll play.”

He buckled on the pipes, but instead of music, there came a sound as if all the geese and ganders in Ireland were screeching together. He awakened the neighbours and they all were mocking him, until he put on the old pipes, and then he played melodious music for them; and after that he told them all he had gone through that night.

The next morning, when his mother went to look at the gold pieces, there was nothing there but the leaves of a plant.

The piper went to the priest, and told him his story, but the priest would not believe a word from him, until he put the pipes on him, and then the screechin

“Leave my sight, you thief,” said the priest.

But nothing would do the piper till he would put the old pipes on him to show the priest that his story was true.

He buckled on the old pipes, and he played melodious music, and from that day till the day of his death, there was never a piper in the county Galway was as good as he was.

Faerie Lore: Fairy Gifts
July 16, 2009, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts

Posted from the book “The Welsh Fairy Book” by W. Jenkyn Thomas (1908) (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!) Illustrations by Willy Pogány – New York, Stokes [1908]

The Fairy Reward

IANTO LLYWELYN lived by himself in a cottage at Llanfihangel. One night after he had gone to bed he heard a noise outside the door of the house. He opened his window and said, “Who is there? And what do you want?” He was answered by a small silvery voice, “It is room we want to dress our children.” lanto went down and opened the door: a dozen small beings entered carrying tiny babies in their arms, and began to search for an earthen pitcher with water; they remained in the cottage for some hours, washing the infants and adorning themselves. Just before the cock crew in the morning they went away, leaving some money on the hearth as a reward for the kindness they had received.

After this lanto used to keep his fire of coal balls burning all night long, leaving a vessel of water on the hearth, and bread with its accompaniments on the table, taking care, also, to remove everything made of iron before going to bed. The fairies often visited his cottage at night, and after each visit he found money left for him on the hearth. lanto gave up working, and lived very comfortably on the money which he received in return for his hospitality from the Fair Family. His income from this source was more than enough to keep himself in comfort, so lanto married a wife.

Betsi–that was the name of her whom lanto thus honoured–did not bother about the way in which he got his money before she married him, but after the knot had been tied she became very curious. lanto refused to tell her, and this of course made her more inquisitive than ever. “I don’t believe you get it honestly,” she said. lanto denied by wood, field and mountain that there was anything dishonest about his means of livelihood. She gave him no peace, however. “Nine shames on you,” she said, “for having a bad secret from your own dear wife.” “But,” remonstrated lanto, “if I tell you, Betsi bach, I’ll never get any more money.” “Ah,” she said (she had already had her doubts about lanto’s nightly preparations of fire and hot water), “then it’s the fairies.” “Drato,” said he, “yes, the fairies it is.” With that he thrust his hands down in his breeches pocket in a sullen manner and left the house. He had seven shillings in his pockets up to that minute. When he went feeling for them, thinking that a glass of beer and a pipe of tobacco at the inn would not be amiss after such a matrimonial squabble, he found they were gone. In place of them were some pieces of paper, no good even to light his pipe. From that day the fairies brought him no more money, and he had once more to eat his bread in the sweat of his face, which is a more scriptural but less pleasant method of earning a living than gathering up fairy money.