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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Elementals, Nature Spirits, Fairies, Ellyllon

Elementals, Nature Spirits, Fairies, Ellyllon

An elemental is a being first appearing in the alchemical works of Paracelsus. The basic concept of an elemental refers to the ancient idea of elements as building blocks of nature. An elemental is a creature (usually a spirit) that is attuned with or composed of one of the classical elements: air, water, earth and fire. The elements balance each other out through opposites. Water quenches fire, fire boils water, earth contains air, air erodes earth.

Elemental or nature spirits never knew life as we know it as they originated from another realm of existence. Today’s society finds it very difficult to believe in the typical Victorian fairy, but it has not always been that way.

In the Middle Ages, the learned defined it as a divinity or unknown force, which had a fascinating effect on the other divinities and on men and events. The French word fée has a similar origin and resulted in the English words fey and fairie which, as time went by, suffered spelling variations from fayerye, fayre, faerie, faery, and fairy. According to its etymology, it is a fantastic being pictured as a woman known to have magical powers. For the Saxons, the word faerie refers to the world of fairies as an entity, being a geographical location.

The world of fairies is a mixture of a mysterious enchantment and extreme caution should be exercised to penetrate into this world, as nothing is more irritating to fairies than several human beings curiously moving around their extraordinary dominions, like spoiled tourists. Location of these elementary beings has varied throughout time and cultures. For the Irish, sometimes it was found in the horizon; for others under their own feet; on other occasions, on hills, or in a magical island on the high seas or under the ocean.

Welsh Fairies

The Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys of Wales and correspond closely to the English elves. The English name was probably derived from the Welsh el, a spirit, yielding elf, an element. There is a whole brood of words of this class in the Welsh language, expressing every variety of flowing, gliding, spirituality, devilry, angelhood, and goblinism. Ellyllon (the plural of ellyll), is also doubtless allied with the Hebrew “elilim,” having with it an identity both of origin and meaning. [Pughe's 'Welsh Dictionary.' (Denbigh, 1866)] The poet Davydd ab Gwilym, in a humorous account of his troubles in a mist in the year 1340, says:

Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant
Ellyllon mingeimion gant.

There was in every hollow
A hundred wrymouthed elves.

The hollows, or little dingles, are still the places where the peasant, belated on his homeward way from fair or market, looks for the ellyllon, but fails to find them.

Their food is specified in Welsh folk-lore as fairy butter and fairy victuals,ymenyn tylwyth teg and bwyd ellyllon, the latter the toadstool, or poisonous mushroom, and the former a butter-like substance found at great depths in the crevices of limestone rocks, in sinking for lead ore.

Their gloves, menyg ellyllon, are the bells of the digitalis, or fox-glove, the leaves of which are well known to be a strong sedative.

Their queen, for though there is no fairy queen in the large sense, 
Ellyllon is the fairy-king. There is a queen of the elves, none other than the Shakespearean fairy spoken of by Mercutio, who comes:

In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the forefinger of an alderman
['Romeo and Juliet,' Act II,. Sc. 4]

Shakespeare's use of Welsh folklore, it should be noted, was extensive and peculiarly faithful. Keightley, in his Fairy Mythology rakes the bard soundly for his inaccurate use of English fairy superstitions. But the reproach will not apply as regards Wales.

From his Welsh informant Shakespeare got Mab, which is simply the Cymric for a little child, and the root of numberless words signifying babyish, childish, love for children (mabgar), kitten (mabgath), prattling (mabiaith), and the like, most notable of all which in this connection is mabinogi, the singular of Mabinogion, the romantic tales of enchantment told to the young in bygone ages.

The Tale of Rowli Pugh and the Ellyll

In the Huntsman's Rest Inn at Peterstone-super-Ely, near Cardiff, sat a group of humble folk one afternoon, when I chanced to stop there to rest myself by the chimney-side, after a long walk through green lanes. The men were drinking their tankards of ale and smoking their long clay pipes; and they were talking about their 
dogs and horses, the crops, the hard times, and the prospect of bettering themselves by emigration to America. On this latter theme I was able to make myself interesting, and acquaintance was thereupon easily established on a friendly footing. I led the conversation into the domain of folk-lore and this book is richer in illustration on many a page, in consequence. Among others, this tale was told:

On a certain farm in Glamorganshire lived Rowli Pugh, who was known far and wide for his evil luck. Nothing prospered that he turned his hand to; his crops proved poor, though his neighbours' might be good. His roof leaked in spite of all his mending. His walls remained damp when every one else's walls were dry, and above all, his wife was so feeble she could do no work. His fortunes at last seemed so hard that he resolved to sell out and clear out, no matter at what loss, and try to better himself in another country--not by going to America, for there was no America in those days. Well, and if there was, the poor Welshman didn't know it.

So as Rowli was sitting on his wall one day, hard by his cottage, musing over his sad lot, he was accosted by a little man who asked him what was the matter. Rowli looked around in surprise, but before he could answer the ellyll said to him with a grin, “There, there, hold your tongue, I know more about you than you ever dreamed of knowing. You're in trouble, and you're going away. But you may stay, now I've spoken to you. Only bid your good wife leave the candle burning when she goes to bed, and say no more about it.” With this the ellyll kicked up his heels and disappeared.

Of course the farmer did as he was bid, and from that day he prospered. Every night Catti Jones, his wife, (until recently, Welsh women retained their maiden names even after marriage) set the candle out, swept the hearth, and went to bed. And every night the fairies would come and do her baking and brewing, her washing and mending, sometimes even furnishing their own tools and materials.

The farmer was now always clean of linen and whole of garb. He had good bread and good beer. He felt like a new man, and worked like one. Everything prospered with him now as nothing had before. His crops were good, his barns were tidy, his cattle were sleek, his pigs the fattest in the parish. So things went on for three years.

One night Catti Jones took it into her head that she must have a peep at the fair family who did her work for her and, curiosity conquering prudence, she arose while Rowli Pugh lay snoring, and peeped through a crack in the door. There they were, a jolly company of ellyllon, working away like mad, and laughing and dancing as madly as they worked. Catti was so amused that in spite of herself she fell to laughing too, and at sound of her voice the ellyllon scattered like mist before the wind, leaving the room empty. They never came back any more but the farmer was now prosperous, and his bad luck never returned to plague him. 

Thank you, my dear friends, for dropping by to visit the Fairy Lady. I have enjoyed your company.
And please be happy and smile 
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