Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Folklore Snippets: Fairy Hills

Robert Kirk, born about 1644, was the seventh son of a Scottish minister and became a minister himself, well known for translating the psalms into Gaelic and evangelising in the Highlands. He was extremely interested in the supernatural folklore of the areas, which like many of his time he felt were supporting evidence for the supernatural elements of Christianity, and is probably the only folklorist whose own death produced a legend!

He is said to have collapsed and died whilst walking on a fairy hill in his parish of Aberfoyle, and to have appeared after his death to one of his relatives to say that he was not dead but a prisoner in Fairyland. He gave instructions that he would appear again at the christening of his posthumous child, and asked his cousin to save him by throwing a knife over him and thus breaking the spell. Kirk duly reappeared when the company was at table, but his cousin was so astonished he forgot to act, and Kirk vanished, never to be seen again.

Here is the fairy hill in question...


Doon Hill, Aberfoyle - from the churchyard where Kirk is buried.  Photo http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/robert-kirk-part-2-aberfoyle-church.html


Here’s an extract from his book,  The Secret Common-Wealth, 1691
(Pub. by The Folklore Society 1976)

There be manie places called Fayrie hills, which the mountain-people think impious and dangerous to peel or discover, by taking earth or wood from them; superstitiously beleiving the souls of their predecessors to dwell yr. 

And for that end (say they) a Mote or Mount was dedicate beside everie Church-yeard, to receave the souls, till their adjacent Bodies arise, and so become as a Fayrie-hill. They using bodies of air when called abroad. They also affirm those Creatures that move invisibly in a house, and cast huge stones, but do not much hurt, (because counter-wrought by some more courteous and charitable spirits that are everywhere readie to defend men Dan 10, 13) to be Souls that have not atteaneed their Rest, thorough a vehement desyre of revealing a Murther, or notable injury don or received, or a Treasure that was forgot in their Lyftime on Earth, which when disclos’d to a Conjuror … the Ghost quite removes. 

In the nixt Countrey to my former Residence about the year 1676, when there was some scarcity of grain, a marvellous illapse and vision struck the imaginatione of two Women in one night, living at a good distance from one other, about a Treasure hid in a hill called Sith bhruaich or Fairie-hill. The appearance of a Treasure was first represented to the Fancy and than an audible voice named the place where it was, to their waking senses. Whereupon they both arose and meeting accidentally at the place, discovered their design, and jointly digging, found a Vessel as large as a Scottis-peck full of small peecs of good money, of ancient coyn; which halving betwisxt them, they sold in dish-fulls for dish-fulls of meal to the Countrey people, varie many of undoubted credit saw, and had of the coyn to this day: but whither it was a good or bad Angell, one of the Subterranean people, or the restless soul of him who hid it, that discovered it, I leave to the examination of others.



1 comment:

Sue Bursztynski said...

I've found this book on-line, but not a downloadable version, alas! Great blog, by the way. I've subscribed.