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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Christian Symbols to Protect from Fairies

The relationship between the Good People and the sacred objects and words of Christianity are complex. Some fairies are utterly unbothered by the symbols and ritual actions of the new religion, some are very concerned about their own place within Christian cosmology, while others seem to violently abhor anything relating to the 'new' religion. Those who show an aversion to these symbols and prayers can naturally be warded off using them.

 Some examples:
-Redcaps were known to fear very little, but some of the few things that could ward against them included Christian sacred objects and prayers, specifically the sign of the cross or the sound of bible verse being read aloud.
- In the ballad of Alice Brand the Elf King wants to be rid of two trespassers to his wood but because they are Christians he cannot act against them, so he must send someone under his sway who is not affected by such things.
- A brownie who was well known in a particular area was driven off forever when a well-meaning priest attempted to baptize him. The moment the holy water struck the brownie's flesh the fairy shrieked and fled never to be seen again (Briggs, 1976). In another anecdote a brownie was upset by the homeowner reading the Bible (Wilby, 2005).
- In one area of Scotland fisherman at sea would never say the words "church or manse or minister" to avoid offending the spirits and possibly endangering themselves (Wilby, 2005).
- In some versions of the ballad of Tam Lin, Tam Lin advises Janet to make a compass [circle] around herself with holy water while she waits for the Fairy Rade on Halloween; this renders her invisible to their sight and senses until she moves out of the circle.
- Signing a cross three times over a fairy captive or human-turned-fairy would release them from Fairy or break any magic holding them
- Baptism was a common protection for infants against fairy abduction, and Robert Kirk notes that it was a regular practice in Lowland Scotland for a Bible to be kept in the room of a woman in childbirth to ward against fairy intrusion.

Wilby suggest in her book that this avoidance of Christian symbols and prayers - which is not universal even in the Celtic countries - is likely rooted in the animosity that the Church itself created with its attempts to demonize the Fair Folk. Briggs, for her part, suggests that the cross is actually an older symbol, predating Christianity, that represents the liminal space of the crossroads where the fairies have less power and could be used either as a physical object or as a motion to ward them off. In either case the equal armed cross has been noted to be efficacious against Themselves in some circumstances, and would often times be combined with the use of iron by crossing two nails or opening a pair of scissors and hanging them up. Christian prayers, the sounds of church bells, and holy water are also mentioned as protections or things that will frighten off some fairies, although we should emphasize some.

Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
Acland, A., (1998) Alice Brand
Wilby, E., (2005) Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits
Kirk, R., (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies


  1. I don't think all the Good Folk have problems with iron. They once stole a pair of scissors from me (literally right out of my hand!) because I didn't want to take the wood for a sacred fire that THEY wanted me to take, After looking for the scissors for over an hour, I had to apologize, and when I did, the scissors appeared right at my feet. (I took the wood THEY wanted me to take.)

    1. I agree :) iron only works on some of them - but it's one of the main protections recommended.

  2. When we first bought our land I had a dream in which I was told to ring no bells nor hang any bells (wind chimes that make their sounds by the wind are permissible). I am careful to never use bells in any rituals here. --- niniann