If a healthy child suddenly droops and withers, that child is fairy-struck, and a fairy doctor must be at once called in. Young girls also, who fall into rapid decline, are said to be fairy-struck; for they are wanted in Fairy-land as brides for some chief or prince, and so they pine away without visible cause till they die.
The other malign influences that act fatally on life are the Wind and the Evil Eye. The evil power of the Wind is called a fairy-blast; while, of one suffering from the Evil Eye, they say he has been “overlooked.”
The fairy doctor must pronounce from which of these three causes the patient is suffering. The fairy-stroke, or the fairy-bleat, or the Evil Eye…
Who are the Fairy Doctors?
“A Fairy doctor- is someone that has within them the ability to communicate with the fairy folk. People would often enlist the help of a fairy doctor when they suspected they were having difficulties with their Good Neighbors. The fairy doctor would tell them how to appease the fairies,”-X
They are those that receive power and guidance from fairies, in which they use to aid those in the affairs of fairies. Typically, it was used for healing. They dealt with three main ailments: fairy-struck, fairy-blast, or the Evil Eye.
- Fairy-struck: when someone is struck by an unknown fatigue, illness, or distance. It is said that they are fading from our world, “ for they are wanted in Fairy-land as brides for some chief or prince, and so they pine away without visible cause till they die,” (X)
- Fairy-blast: It is described as “The evil power of the wind”- “prescribe for the “fairy blast” (when the fairy strikes anyone a tumour rises, or they become paralysed. This is called a “fairy blast” or a “fairy stroke”),” -X
- The Evil Eye: “they say he has been ‘overlooked’,” (X). A malevolent look that is believe to be able to cause injury or misfortune for the person at whom it is directed at. In this case, it means “Evil Eye” as in from fairies.
The fairy doctors are generally females. Old women, especially, are considered to have peculiar mystic and supernatural power. They cure chiefly by charms and incantations, transmitted by tradition through many generations; and by herbs, of which they have a surprising knowledge.
They were healers that were approached to help when one was believed to be suffering from the act of the fair folk. It is also noted that they also aid in advice giving for those wishing to deal or interact with fairies as well.
“Witches and fairy doctors receive their power from opposite dynasties; the witch from evil spirits and her own malignant will; the fairy doctor from the fairies„ and a something—a temperament—that is born with him or her. The first is always feared and hated. The second is gone to for advice, and is never worse than mischievous,” -(X).
There are also interesting notes and quotes from the various sources about how they were “repaid” for their services
- “…he must take no money for the opinion given. He is paid in some other way; by free gracious offerings in gratitude for help given,”– X (similar to how brownies act)
- “If a potion is made up of herbs it must be paid for in silver; but charms and incantations are never paid for, or they would lose their power. A present, however, may be accepted as an offering of gratitude,” – X
- A deal or trade is made (much like the fair folk do)
- A favor is owed in exchange for their services
From what I’ve seen, it depends on what sort of fairies the fairy doctor works most closely to.
If the said doctor works closely to various house fairies like brownies or hobgoblins, they will desire gifts instead of payments, “Typically, brownies prefer to not be paid for tending to their homes. They like being given gifts and treated as fellow members of the home,” (X)
Fairy Doctors and Witches
Witches and fairy doctors receive their power from opposite dynasties; the witch from evil spirits and her own malignant will; the fairy doctor from the fairies„ and a something—a temperament—that is born with him or her. The first is always feared and hated. The second is gone to for advice, and is never worse than mischievous…
Great is their knowledge of herbs and spells. These doctors, when the butter will not come on the milk, or the milk will not come from the cow, will be sent for to find out if the cause be in the course of common nature or if there has been witchcraft. Perhaps some old hag in the shape of a hare has been milking the cattle. Perhaps some user of “the dead hand” has drawn away the butter to her own chum. Whatever it be, there is the counter-charm. They will give advice, too, in cases of suspected changelings, and prescribe for the “fairy blast”
It seems fairy doctors are closely related to witches when it comes to their practices.
From this, I believe that fairy doctors are fellow practicers of witchcraft (much like the Cunning folk).
They’re painted in brighter colors compared to witches (at least within the articles I read), “All these things go on merrily. The spirit of the age laughs in vain, and is itself only a ripple to pass, or already passing away.
The spells of the witch are altogether different; they smell of the grave. One of the most powerful is the charm of the dead hand. With a hand cut from a corpse they, muttering words of power, will stir a well and skim from its surface a neighbor’s butter,” (X)
Compared to witches, fairy doctors are more fairy oriented, and they focus more on the interactions and dealing of fairies, while witches focus on more general witchcraft meant to aid in what they desire.
Fairy Doctors and Religion
It is noted throughout a few of the different sources that they often pray. I believe that a fair portion of them were Christian, especially considering the time the particular fairy doctor was alive (or when the piece was written).
However, I also noted that a few of them didn’t specify their religious beliefs and practices. Thought that was interesting to point out.
It makes me believe that fairy doctors could follow any particular belief they chose.
Stories and famous Fairy doctors
Hakushaku to Yōsei (伯爵と妖精?, “Earl and Fairy”)
- a series of novels (there is a manga and an anime too!) about “the adventures of 17-year old Lydia Carlton, nicknamed the “Fairy Doctor” due to her interest and understanding of fairies. Her life takes a 180-degree turn when she meets Edgar J.C Ashenbert, the “Legendary Blue Knight Earl” and his crew on a sea voyage to London. Edgar hires her as an advisor during his quest to obtain a treasured sword that was supposed to be handed down to him by his family,” -Wiki
Irish Fairy and Folk Tales
- Gathered by the renowned Irish poet, playwright, and essayist William Butler Yeats, the sixty-five tales and poems in this delightful collection uniquely capture the rich heritage of the Celtic imagination. Filled with legends of village ghosts, fairies, demons, witches, priests, and saints, these stories evoke both tender pathos and lighthearted mirth and embody what Yeats describes as “the very voice of the people, the very pulse of life.”
“The impact of these tales doesn’t stop with Yeats, or Joyce, or Oscar Wilde,” writes Paul Muldoon in his Foreword, “for generations of readers in Ireland and throughout the world have found them flourishing like those persistent fairy thorns.” -Google books
Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland: By Lady Francesca Wilde
- a nice book that contains a bit of information on fairy folklore and fairy doctors as well
- This book talks about various charms and cures used by fairy doctors of Ireland.
Biddy Early, of County Clare in the west of Ireland
- one of the most famous and well-known fairy doctors, “Biddy Early (c. 1798 – 1874) was a traditional Irish healer who helped peasants. She acted against the wishes of the local tenant farmer landlords and Catholic priests and was accused of witchcraft,” –Wiki
- Do you remember the time John Kevin beyond went to see Biddy Early, for his wife, she was sick at the time. And Biddy Early knew everything, and that there was a forth behind her house, and she said, “Your wife is too fond of going out late at night.” – Source
I had written this a while ago, but I wanted to add it to this blog in case anyone is curious about what exactly a fairy doctor is.