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Popular Superstitions of the Highlands
Origin and Genealogy of Fairies

THOUGH the ghost is confessedly entitled to no small degree of consideration from his intimate connection with our own species, no one will pretend to deny, that the fairy is a character whose greatness of descent renders him equally interesting and respectable. The genealogy of the ghost can no doubt be traced back to the earliest ages of the world, and it is pretty certain that he has been amongst the first of its inhabitants,—still, on the score of antiquity, he cannot pretend to compete with the fairy, who, it seems, existed long before the world itself. The origin and descent of the fairies, which had so long proved such knotty subjects of controversy in other quarters of the kingdom, are points which have been finally settled and disposed of in these countries. No doubt now remains, in the minds of those who have bestowed any attention on the important subject, of their being those unhappy angels whose diabolical deeds produced their expulsion from Paradise. In support of this rational theory, the wise men of the day never fail to quote the highest authority. Scripture, they say, tells us, those angels were cast down; and although, indeed, it does not mention to what place, sad experience proves the fact, that the Highland mountains received an ample share of them. Here, wandering up and down like the hordes of Tartary, they pitch their camp where spoil is most plentiful; and taking advantage of the obstinate incredulity of some of their human neighbours, contrive to make themselves perfectly comfortable at the latter’s expence. To dispel any doubt that may remain on the mind of the reader as to the soundness of this doctrine, we present him with the following particulars:

"Not long since, as a pious clergyman was returning home, after administering spiritual consolation to a dying member of his flock, it was late of the night, and he had to pass through a good deal of uncanny ground. He was, however, a good and a conscientious minister of the gospel, and feared not all the spirits in the country. On his reaching the end of a lake which stretched alongst the road-side for some distance, he was a good deal surprised to have his attention arrested by the most melodious strains of music. Overcome by pleasure and curiosity, the minister coolly sat down to listen to the harmonious sounds, and try what new discoveries he could make with regard to their nature and source. He had not sitten many minutes when he could distinguish the approach of the music, and also observe a light in the direction from whence it proceeded gliding across the lake towards him. Instead of taking to his heels, as any faithless wight would have done, the pastor fearlessly determined to await the issue of the phenomenon. As the light and music drew near, the clergyman could at length distinguish an object resembling a human being walking on the surface of the water, attended by a group of diminutive musicians, some of them bearing lights, and others of them instruments of music, on which they continued to perform those melodious strains which first attracted his attention. The leader of the band dismissed his attendants, landed on the beach, and afforded the minister the amplest opportunities of examining his appearance. He was a little primitive looking grey-headed man, clad in the most grotesque habit he ever witnessed, and such as led the venerable minister all at once to suspect his real character. He walked up to the minister, whom he saluted with great grace, offering an apology for his intrusion. The pastor returned his compliments, and without farther explanation, invited the mysterious stranger to sit down by his side. The invitation was complied with, upon which the minister proposed the following question: "Who art thou, stranger, and from whence?" To this question the fairy, with downcast eye, replied, that he was one of those sometimes called "Doane Shee, or men of peace, or good men, though the reverse of this title was a more fit appellation for them. Originally angelic in his nature and attributes, and once a sharer of the indescribable joys of the regions of light, he was seduced by Satan to join him in his mad conspiracies; and, as a punishment for his transgression, he was cast down from those regions of bliss, and was now doomed, along with millions of fellow-sufferers, to wander through seas and mountains, until the coming of the great day; what their fate would be then they could not divine, but they apprehended the worst. And," continued he, turning to the minister, with great anxiety, "the object of my present intrusion on you is to learn your opinion, as an eminent divine, as to our final condition on that dreadful day." Here the venerable pastor entered upon a long conversation with the fairy, (the particulars of which we shall be excused for omitting,) touching the principles of faith and repentance. Receiving rather unsatisfactory answers to his questions, the minister desired the "Sheech" to repeat after him the Paternoster, in attempting to do which, it was not a little remarkable, that he could not repeat the word "art," but "wert," in heaven. Inferring from every circumstance, that their fate was extremely precarious, the minister resolved not to puff the fairies up with presumptuous and perhaps groundless expectations. Accordingly, addressing himself to the unhappy fairy, who was all anxiety to know the nature of his sentiments, the reverend gentleman told him, that he could not take it upon him to give them any hopes of pardon, as their crime was of so deep a hue as scarcely to admit of it. On this the unhappy fairy uttered a shriek of despair, plunged headlong into the loch, and the minister resumed his course to his home."

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