*Note: because this article touches on topics that I have expanded on in great detail in other articles, I have linked to related articles throughout the text so you can read more.
Our modern conventions tend to view the realms of fairies and witches separately. Witches have been viewed as evil, while fairies are seen as benevolent, cute, and kind. As scholars reevaluate witch trials and the confessions of those accused, we are coming to new conclusions on accused witches. One subject that has been discussed in the academic field of folklore, but has seemingly not seeped into the popular consciousness, is the connection between fairies and witches.
Tales of Changelings come up frequently in Celtic folklore. The term “changeling” refers to a human being, usually a child but sometimes an adult, who has been taken by the fairies and replaced by a look-a-like. Technically, the changeling is the look-a-like, while the real person is thought to be held captive by the fairies. This topic is briefly discussed in my article “Ten Reasons Fairies are Scary."
Changeling stories come up often in folklore. So, for this edition of the Archivist’s Corner, I have decided to let the folklore speak for itself. Here is a selection of some folkloric accounts of changeling tales from books that are in the public domain. Both books are available for free download on ProjectGutenberg.org.
Celtic folklore is rife with tales of the Fae. According to the lore, to avoid angering the fairies you should always refer to them by a euphemism, such as “the Good People.” The fairies can be friend or foe, though in Celtic folklore they are more often known for their trickery than in neighboring Germanic lore, where elves are quite helpful. Germanic lore did make its way to Lowland Scotland with the Anglo-Saxons. The stories of helpful Scottish brownies, who do chores around the house are analogous with other Germanic domestic elves such as the German kobold and Scandinavian Tomte. Fairies could travel in groups, known as trooping fairies, or be solitary figures, such as the leprechaun.
The Fairy Flag is an heirloom passed down in the McLeods of Dunvegan family for generations. It is held in the Clan’s ancestral home, Dunvegan Castle. This castle has been in the possession of Clan McLeod for over 800 years, making it Scotland’s oldest castle continuously inhabited by the same family.