American Fairies

American Fairies

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32 Responses

  1. Mauro says:

    American Fairies…
    The American W. Evans-Wentz was the last chronicler of the fairy-faith in Gaelic countries. He toured Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany etc extensively and tried as hard as he could to talk with the last surviving eyewitnesses in first person. As is often the case with American folklorists and historians he did a very time-consuming but absolutely wonderful job.
    Talking about the North American continet proper I have no hints of proper fairy stories in the Gaelic and Celtic way but there are some interesting  traditions.
    Most Indian Nations have very detailed histories about "Little People" and "Stick Indians".
    The first are very similar to our fairies: they are a very advanced race of beings of small stature (two feet on the average) with a very developed culture, the ability to shapeshift (Evans-Wents writes how a fairy-man told an Irish witness "we can make the old young, the big small and the small big") and the power to work wonders. Like our fairies they are terrible and very revengeful if wronged but will show benevolence if well treated, for example by teaching a kind child the secrets of herbal lore. The Amaypathenya of the Mojave Nation are a good example of this.
    The "Stick Indians" are another case. They are mischievous beings who will throw sticks (hence their name) and stones to unwary travellers and hunters or will poke sticks inside the log huts used by trappers to scare occupants. They are never or very rarely seen and most Nations consider them more human than spirit: they are said to be the degenerate descendants of broken tribes, social outcasts and outlaws who were exiled to the wilderness by tribe elders or heroes of yore.
    Among "whites" there are some very curious traditions. I remember hearing from a New Jersey man that the woods in his area were home to a "tribe" of degenerate human beings who, through inbreeding and isolation, devolved into a group of savage, midget sized albinos. Of course they are very wary but will devour the occasional traveller…
    I am pretty sure there are traces of this on the Internet, though I hear shades of Lovecraft’s "The Lurking Fear" here.

  2. Ian Topham says:

    I had know idea there were
    I had know idea there were native American fairy types.

    • Daniel Parkinson says:

      Ian Topham wrote:
      I had

      [quote=Ian Topham]I had know idea there were native American fairy types.[/quote]

      I think most cultures have (had) a belief in supernatural beings of one type or another – perhaps the Celtic/European ones have been more widley recorded, and we have a better written record. I have no idea how well recorded and documented the beliefs of the various American Indian tribes are.

  3. Columbine says:

    I’ve heard various things about something called a Windigo. Sometimes it’s cited as Canadian, other times from Algonquin mythology, but it’s basically a nasty spirit version of a sasquatch that eats people or in some variations, cattle.  There’s a wiki article on them: but i can’t say for sure how accurate it is. All the versions i’ve ever heard however basically boil down to something big, aggressive and greedy for flesh.

    there’s another site here:

  4. Ian Topham says:

    Here’s another source on the
    Here’s another source on the Wendigo.  I had come across this creature in RPG’s but hadn’t realised it was originally based on a piece of folklore.

    [quote]From Book of THoTH Website:
    In the mythology of the Algonquian-speaking tribes of Native Americans, the Wendigo is a malevolent supernatural creature. It is usually described as a giant with a heart of ice; sometimes it is thought to be entirely made of ice. Its body is skeletal and deformed, with missing lips and toes.

    The first accounts of the Wendigo myth by explorers and missionaries date back to the 17th century. They describe it rather generically as a werewolf, devil, or canniba.

    The Wendigo was usually presumed to have once been human. Different origins of the Wendigo are described in variations of the myth. A hunter may become the Wendigo when encountering it in the forest at night, or when becoming possessed by its spirit in a dream. When the cannibalistic element of the myth is stressed, it is assumed that anyone who eats corpses in a famine becomes a Wendigo as a result. The only way to destroy a Wendigo is to melt its heart of ice. In recent times, it has been identified with Sasquatch or Bigfoot by cryptozoologists, but there is little evidence in the indigenous folklore for it being a similar creature.

    Perhaps this myth was used as a deterrent and cautionary tale among northern tribes whose winters were long and bitter and whose hunting parties often were trapped in storms with no recourse but to consume members of their own party. It could be indicative of starvation that the Wendigo is said to consume moss and other unpalatable food when human flesh is unavailable. Its physical deformities are suggestive of starvation and frostbite, so the Wendigo may be a myth based on a personification of the hardships of winter and the taboo of cannibalism.

    Actual Wendigo murder trials took place in Canada around the beginning of the 20th century. The anthropologist Morton Teicher has described the alleged clinical condition of believing oneself to be a Wendigo, which he calls Windigo Psychosis..

    In some stories a Wendigo will follow a lone wanderer for a long time. When the prey becomes suspicious and turns around the Wendigo always manages to get out of sight by hiding behind a tree. After a while the followed person starts to become hysterical and runs until he makes an error. The Wendigo then strikes. If someone actually survives a Wendigo attack they get the Wendigo-fever: after a night of nightmares and pain in their legs, Wendigo-fevered people strip themselves naked and run into the forest screaming.

    The most comprehensive resource on the Wendigo is John Robert Colombo’s anthology. It contains stories and poems on the Wendigo, many inspired by Blackwood’s.

  5. Matt.H says:

    Not strictly fairies, but
    Not strictly fairies, but it’s interesting how black dog myths seem to crop up on both sides of the Atlantic. On the American side some of these date to before colonisation, making it difficult to argue that it’s just cultural cross-pollination.

  6. Urisk says:

    I believe there is an evil being called the Manitou which can change itself (or a person, depending on the story) into a wolf.

    • Daniel Parkinson says:

      Urisk wrote:I believe
      [quote=Urisk]I believe there is an evil being called the Manitou which can change itself (or a person, depending on the story) into a wolf.

      I am sure there was a film of this name from the 80’s, which involved parts of the myth, there was definitely a native American theme but I can’t recall much about it.

  7. Mauro says:

    According to some folklorists…
    … most Nations have figures similar to the legendary Sasquatch/Bigfoot, among which the Wendigo is surely one of the most popular.
    According to John R. Columbo (Manlike Monsters on Trial) the Wendigo is not really a demon or a "mysterious beast" but a personification of the psychological compulsion to eat human flesh, particulary during a famine. Columbo personally believes this not to be 100% true, but to have been used in the past by tribe elders as an excuse to exile or execute outcasts or other indesiderable characters. In recent decades "turning Wendigo" has been used in Canada as a colloquialism to describe the panic brought on by fear of being lost or otherwise ill equipped to deal with the harsh Canadian enviroment.
    The Iroquian Nations also have a tradition of fierce and malevolent "Stone Giants" which are somewhat similar to the Wendigo and are now aknowledged to be the personification of the hardships brought on by winter.

  8. Columbine says:

     "Manitou" is more usually the Algonquin word used to describe the spirits, and is something akin to ‘qi’. 

    There was an episode of the X-files which featured something like a wendigo which they called a ‘manitou’, though. 

  9. BaronIveagh says:

    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.

    Summum Nec Metuam Diem Nec Optima

  10. SJMcKenzie says:

    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.

  11. Ian Topham says:

    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.

    • Daniel Parkinson says:

      Ian Topham wrote:I maybe
      [quote=Ian Topham]I maybe wrong but I don’t think America and Canada had similar monuments.[/quote]

      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.

  12. Mauro says:

    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…

  13. Caitlin says:

    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.


  14. Ian Topham says:

    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.

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

    • Caitlin says:

      Ian Topham wrote:
      So are

      [quote=Ian Topham]
      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.


  15. Urisk says:

    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.

  16. BaronIveagh says:

    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…)

    Summum Nec Metuam Diem Nec Optima

  17. mhodder says:

    Haven’t seen any sure evidence
    I’m a transplanted Brit, family’s from Cornwall and Devon, been living here in North America since the late 50’s but have gone back and forth many times since. There are places in the UK where one feels the presence of the old folk. There are places in N. America where fairies should be found, special places that would make wonderful homes for them but that are very plainly unpopulated by fairie. I suspect that this continent is, in most of its parts, just too young, hasn’t been lived in long enough for the barriers between realities to begin to wear thin enough for passage. There are some exceptions, sasquatch, Ogopogo, the spirits of the Anasazi in the southwest being the best known, but there are no fairie here, I’m afraid. The land, at times, feels sterile in their absence.

  18. Ian Topham says:

    Hi mhodder, welcome to
    Hi mhodder, welcome to Mysteriousbritain ๐Ÿ™‚ 

    • mhodder says:

      Thanks and reconsiderations
      Thanks, Ian. This seems an interesting place to be for a while.

      I’ve begun reading Evans-Wentz on the fairy faith and found a point he made to be quite illuminating. Fairie seems to manifest wearing the cultural, psychological and environmental clothing of the area in which it is seen. I wonder, then, if I haven’t seen fairie sign here in the northeastern part of the USA because I’ve been expecting it to look like the fairie of Celtic Europe? I’ve decided to keep an open eye for fairie sign that doesn’t come like what I’ve been used to. I don’t know what shape it might take, the land here is young, not long settled, and somewhat wild. I suspect the fairie of this part of North America has a very stange look and might even be a bit frightening.

  19. SteffaOR says:

    Colonial faeries

    There is always the theory that Jung put forward, that Gods and other mythical beings are a product of the collective consciousness and could therefore manifest as whatever a Folk group considered normal, so it would be perfectly plausible for the Vikings who landed in Vinland to transplant their Wights and trolls, for the pilgrims to take their pixies and sprites and for the Native americans to have their wendigos all in the same land, that then raises the question, once the Folk who brought their ideas of Faerie with them have gone e.g. the Vikings back to Scandinavia do they leave vestiges of their ideas behind?

    • mhodder says:

      American gods?
      Interesting. Suggestive of Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods. Perhaps it takes a while for a people to impress the psychic landscape with their fairies, gods, monsters, etc. before they "stick" and can continue on their own when the originators leave. I believe A. Huxley suggested this. The Norse weren’t here long and didn’t settle in more than a handful of places. They seem to have frightened the Dorset people (I think it was) enough to enter into the latter’s mythology and monsters with which to threaten little children who misbehaved. Where colonials settled and stayed for a few centuries, as in the urban centers along the east coast, they left an impress that manifests as ghosts, like the Headless Horseman. I suspect there are strong psychic imprints from the French in Montreal and Quebec. But outside the settled areas, especially in the wilder countryside of Maine and New Hampshire, there don’t seem to be imprints that manifest in European styles like fairies, piskies, goblins, and so on. If the native Abenaqui left any behind them it may take an Abenaqui to feel their presence. This is all very interesting and makes one think.

  20. SteffaOR says:

    American Gods
    American Gods was certainly part of my thinking, an impressive book. the thought of Allfather Odin, Perun and Anansi all on the go is a novel one to say the least and really exemplifies the Jungian archetype.

    • mhodder says:

      None here?
      I enjoyed American Gods like few other books I’ve read recently. Gaiman seems to make the point that there are no gods around this country that come from the culture(s) that manifested the All-Father, for example. The ones he created came from the land, itself, and were supremely powerful in their own bailiwick. I found this an intriguing suggestion.

  21. Seannachaidh says:

    “Cousin It” was based on a

    "Cousin It" was based on a Shetland folk tale.

    I remember reading that "Bigfoot" was a noa name for the bear with the first nations in Canada.  "Watch out for the Bigfoot".  Not hard to see it turning into a monster myth very quickly.

  22. seacatte says:

    Re: American Fairies
    It’s been awhile since someone posted to this thread, but I’ve got a tidbit.

    The Nunnehi are "little people" in Native American Cherokee legends that are sort of fairy -like. Here is are websites with sources on the Nunnehi.

    Here’s also a link on a mound sacred to the Cherokees:

    If ever the Brits are looking for similar folk legends and lore across the pond, look first in the Appalachian region of the US. There’s tons of myths and lore (partly because it was settled in the 1700s by the Scotch-Irish and Scottish and they brought their lore with them). There’s also many wonderful Native American legends all across the Americas (, some have come to be accepted by everyone as local legends.

  23. Ian Topham says:

    Re: American Fairies
    Thanks for the great links seacatte, I can see I will be reading more about Cherokee myths and legends now.  I would also like to welcome you to teh Mysterious Britain website.

  24. Venus Magick 777 says:

    Re: Not strictly fairies, but
    Where can I find out info about the black dog myths you

    Venus Magick 777
    my 3-mail is

  25. Ian Topham says:

    Re: American Fairies
    You can find the Black Dogs on site here

    Welcome to the website Venus Magick ๐Ÿ™‚