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Popular Superstitions of the Highlands
Of their Passions and Propensities of the Fairies


The ingenious reader must not suppose that, because the fairies were once angelic, they have continued so in this corrupt world to the present day. They will be found to exhibit in their conduct as signal proofs of degeneracy from their original innocence and worth, as their mortal contemporary man; and, as may be concluded, this degeneracy has entailed upon them those passions and infirmities, from which they were, no doubt, once on a time exempt.

The fairies are remarkable for the amorousness of their dispositions, and are not very backward in forming attachments and connections with people that cannot with propriety be called their own species. We are told it is an undeniable fact, that it was once a common practice with both sexes of the fairy people to form intimacies with human swains and damsels, whom they would visit at times and in places highly unbecoming and suspicious; and these improper intimacies not unfrequently produced, as may be well believed, their natural consequences. It exposed the fairy-females to that indisposition to which, before their fall, they were no doubt strangers—we mean the pains of child-birth, which, it seems, they suffer in common with their earthly neighbours. To the more sceptical part of our readers, the idea of fairy fruition may appear somewhat incredible. In order, however, to remove any doubt on the subject, we submit the particulars of a fairy accouchement, which took place, no doubt, "a considerable time ago," in the wilds of Cairngorm.

"A considerable time ago there was a woman living in the neighbourhood of Cairngorm in Strathspey, by profession a midwife, of extensive practice, and esteemed, indeed, the best midwife in the district. One night, while she was preparing for bed, there came a loud knocking to her door, indicating great haste in the person that knocked. The midwife was accustomed to such late intrusions, and concluded, even before she opened the door, that her presence was too much required at a sick-bed. She found the person that knocked to be a rider and his horse, both out of breath,

and most impatient for her company. The rider entreated the midwife to make haste, and jump up behind him without a single moment’s delay, else that the life of an amiable woman was lost for ever. But the midwife, having a great regard to cleanliness and decorum, requested leave to exchange her apparel before she set out; a motion which, on the pert of the rider, was met with a decided negative, and nothing would satisfy the rider but that the midwife would immediately jump up behind him on his grey horse. His importunities were irresistible, the midwife mounted, and off they flew at full gallop. The midwife being now seated, and fleeing on the road, she began naturally to question her guide what he was—where he was going—and how far. He, however, declined immediately making any other reply to her questions than merely saying, that she would be well rewarded, which, however consoling, was far from being satisfactory information to the midlife. At length the coarse they pursued, and the road they took, alarmed the midwife beyond measure, and her guide found it necessary to appease her fears by explaining the matter, otherwise she would, in all probability, prove inadequate to the discharge of her duty. ‘My good woman,’ says the fairy to the midwife, ‘be not alarmed; though I am conducting you to a fairy habitation to assist a fairy lady in distress, be not dismayed, I beseech you; for, I promise you by all that is sacred, you shall sustain no injury, but will be safely restored to your dwelling when your business is effected, with such boon or present as you shall choose to ask or accept of.’ The fairy was a sweet good-looking young fellow, and the candour of his speech, and the mildness of his demeanour, soothed her fears, and reconciled the Ben-Ghlun, in a great measure, to enterprise. They were not long in reaching the place, when the midwife found the fairy lady in any thing but easy circumstances, and soon proved the auspicious instrument of bringing to the world a fine lusty boy. All was joy and rejoicing in consequence, and all the fairies in the turret flattered and caressed the midwife. She was desired to choose any gift in the power of fairies to grant, which was instantly to be given her. Upon which she asked, as a boon, that whomsoever she, or her posterity, should attend in her professional capacity, a safe and speedy delivery should be insured them. The favour was instantly conferred on her, and all know to this day, that Muruch-na-Ban, the man-midwife, possesses, in no inconsiderable degree, the professional talents of his great-grandmother."

Before concluding this chapter, we owe it, in justice to both the human and fairy communities of the present day to say, that such intercourse as that described to have taken place betwixt them is now extremely rare; and, with the single exception of a good old shoemaker, now or lately living in the village of Tomantoul, who confesses having had some dalliances with a "lanan shi" in his younger days, we do not know personally any one who has carried matters this length.


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