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American Fairies


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BaronIveagh's picture
BaronIveagh
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I'm not sure if they count

I'm not sure if they count as fairies or spirits but I once had an encounter with the 'Brown Men' of the forests of Pennsylvania.  I'm not too clear on the mythology of them, I was told that they were the spirits of dead hunters.

I was tending the fire at my father's hunting camp when I became aware of someone standing next to me.  It was a man in non-descript brown cover-all like clothing, though I didn't really pay much attention to him, assuming him to be one of the hunters.  What did strike me was that he was stareing very intently at the opposite hillside.  I tried ot strike up a conversation with this person as we were awaiting the arrival of another group and he suddenly vanished as I spoke.

The next day the deer herd was in exactly the spot he was looking.

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SJMcKenzie
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There was certainly fairy

There was certainly fairy belief in the Maratimes where Gaelic was still spoken. Much of it concerns animals and people rather than places. I'm guessing there was some in the Appalachians, too.

Over HERE there is an article on fairies in Newfoundland, for example...(p336 onwards).

But not so much elsewhere, even though the belief was alive and well during settlement.

The only reason I can think of is that so much of the fairy lore was place-based - i.e. centered on a fairy hill or loch - that when the clearances / potato famine moved the rural populations to the U.S. and Canada, those people did not have any terrain to identify as being 'fairy places', so the beliefs either died out or became more personalized and less a part of a local tradition. Individual people might still have belived, but their belief was no longer shared in the community in the same way it had been in Ireland and Scotland.

Also I think beliefs like that can be fostered by rural remoteness and isolation. When you think about it, if everyone in your village knew that a certain hill was a 'fairy hill' you would grow up believing it easily enough too, if they were the only people you ever really saw.

But if lots of people moved, and you were suddenly mixed in with other people from all over the place, different villages, different dialects, then such beliefs could get diluted pretty quickly.

Anyone name me a fairy mound in the U.S.? There must be one in Nova Scotia somewhere.

http://celtlore.wordpress.com

Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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Thats a great link,

Thats a great link, thanks.   I suppose we should consider that Britain has long history of being settled and many remnants of the stone age survive, with monuments and burial chambers etc.  With little knowledge of archeological science I dare say some folklore grew up trying to explain how these monuments came to be there.  Such as stone circles being maids that have been turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath etc.  I maybe wrong but I don't think America and Canada had similar monuments.

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Daniel Parkinson
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Ian Topham wrote:I maybe
Ian Topham wrote:

I maybe wrong but I don't think America and Canada had similar monuments.

There are native American sites: Serpent Mound, Ohio, for one, and there are remains of medicine circles, and other mounds although I am no expert on American sites. I suppose the difference(in context to topic) is really time frames of settlement by other cultures.

 I also remember reading that people had had strange experiences on Serpent Mound but I don't recall details.

Mauro
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And another thing...

Ian hit one thing right one the head. We pretty much know that Europe (and Britain) was populated by waves of migrants and invaders, mostly coming from the East. Differently from what happened in parts of Asia the previous inhabitants weren't wiped out by the newcomers but usually mingled freely with them or were incorporated into their society in a subordinated capacity. Thus we can say that the mound and stone circle builders didn't simply disappear overnight. Their genes lived on.
So why did people forget why their direct ancestors built a stone circle and invented fancy stories about them?
Professor Arnold Van Gennep, one of the greatest anthropologists of all times, pondered this question for most of his life. In the end he came to the conclusion, still unchallenged, that if an oral tradition isn't written down it will die out in two hundred years. A good example of his theory are the Celtic religions in Roman-conquered areas: Roman authorities banned worship of the ancestral gods on pain of death. The people lived on (in many cases to this day) but quickly forgot their old deities. Then one day a farmer's plow would turn out an old bronze idol and a legend would begin...

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"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


Caitlin
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Cheers from the other side

Cheers from the other side of the pond.

I just got and started reading in Katharine Briggs' Encyclopedia of Fairies. It says some fairies did migrate to the New World along with certain humans.

Some of the migrants were Puritans, and the book shows how they saw the fairies as devils. That and their strict religious laws probably helped a lot to diminish fairies.

Immigrants also came from various parts of Eastern and Western Europe, Africa (slaves), the Caribbean islands, and China (railroad builders in slave-like conditions). In the old days, it would have taken many years to meld such a variety of beliefs into anything slightly cohesive. Or they just fizzle out under conditions incapable of supporting them, and it seems this is what's happened. Next comes technology to help homogenize the non-belief just as it homogenized the language so that there's minimal dialect across the USA.

Cheerio,
Caitlin

Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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Hi Caitlin, welcome to the

Hi Caitlin, welcome to the forum.  I'll have dig out my Katherine Briggs books again:).  I think the belief set of the earliest settlers, being Puritans would have done a lot to supress tales of fairies etc.

THis is slightly off topic here.  I recently was directed to a link concerning vampires in Canada, where local folklore was kept alive as the community was settled and created by Polish immigrants. 

http://www.pararesearchers.org/index.php?/2008072948/Folklore-Mythology/The-Vampire-in-Ontario.html

So are there pockets of America or Canada settled by an indentified ethnic group that have maintained their identity and folklore?

Caitlin
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Ian Topham wrote: So are
Ian Topham wrote:

So are there pockets of America or Canada settled by an indentified ethnic group that have maintained their identity and folklore?

The Amish sort of fit that description, but they do not comprise an ethnic group per se and their Anabaptist beliefs have much in common with the Puritans. Indian reservations are about as close as you'll get. You could probably also add conquered territory, like Hawai'i and Puerto Rico.

Before the rise of multiculturalism, the USA was described as a "melting pot" where immigrants would eventually assimilate into the American culture. The first generation might never fully assimilate, but they probably would by the third generation. A very small percentage strongly insist on calling their ethnicity "American". But it is not so much as to disavow their ancestry as to recognize they're 200-400 years removed from its point of origin.

While assimilation does have both good and bad aspects, multiculturalism -- at least as practiced here -- demands societal fragmentation. Illegal Mexican immigration coupled with their high birth rate may well lead to a distinct subculture in the future.

Caitlin

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Urisk
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Oh just recalled something...

I remember reading that a family in Scotland was plagued by a nasty little faerie-type. Eventually they'd had enough and decided to emigrate (Probably at the times of the Clearances), only to find that it had followed them to America.

Something's in the back of my head  saying that it was called a Bogaboon, but I'd have to verify that when I can get access to all my folklore books.

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BaronIveagh's picture
BaronIveagh
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I can say that a great many


I can say that a great many cultures continue to thrive in the US in various ways.  At the moment I'm camped out in a very interesting area, the Allegany reservation, where, yes, there are still indians in the forest, and quite a few of them still practice certain aspects of thier traditional culture.

However, I must agree that groups that are somehow isolated or cut off tend to develop more distinct cultures and cultural belifes then ones that are constantly mixing.  (This is why outer space may yet prove the salvation of human culture.  Assuming we get off the planet before everything goes to peices on us...)

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