“We call them faerie. We don’t believe in them. Our loss” – Charles de Lint
Should you find yourself invited into the supernatural social scene of Irish faeries, there are some protocols to follow. Firstly, know your faerie taxonomy. Your average Seelie Court faerie is all about mischief, mayhem, and generally having a good time. The Unseelie Court faeries are nasty, brutish, and short, generally filled with malevolent attitudes towards humans and would happily see you dead. Sadly, one does not usually get to choose whether they’ll party with the faeries, rather they choose you. Now, faeries are known to lay on quite a spread of victuals and offer an open bar at their revelries, but you should under no circumstances partake. This is undoubtedly easier said than done, and it helps to have a few friends willing to enlist a local wise woman to intervene paranormally when you are spirited away, but alas sometimes you’re just going to have to look out for yourself. Consider the cautionary tale of retired London schoolmaster Dr. Moore.
The good Dr. Moore, no doubt tired of the 17th Century London education scene, decided around 1678 to purchase and retire to a bucolic estate in the County of Wicklow, Ireland. Along with his pals Richard Uniack and Laughlin Moore (no relation), he set out for his newly acquired property, lodging for the night at an country inn at Dromgreagh, near Baltinglass, a place he was familiar with as he had grown up nearby, but had not returned to in thirty–four years. Obviously over drinks, he regaled his companions with memories of his childhood.
He had been often told by his mother, and several others of his relations, of spirits which they called Fairies, who used frequently to carry him away, and continue him with them for some time, without doing him the least prejudice; but his mother being very much frighted and concerned there at, did, as often as he was missing, send to a certain old woman, her neighbour in the country, who by repeating some spells or exorcisms, would suddenly cause his return. Mr. Uniack used several arguments to dissuade the doctor from the belief of so idle and improbable a story, but notwithstanding what was said to the contrary the Doctor did positively affirm the truth thereof (Ritson, 1875, p338-342).
One might easily assume that Dr. Moore was telling tall tales for the amusement of his friends to pass the time in companionable conversation about local folklore, except that it appears the faeries heard he was back in down and invited him (or rather compelled him) to attend a reunion kegger.
During the dispute, the Doctor on a sudden starting up, told them he must leave their company, for he was called away. Mr. Uniack perceiving him to be raised off from the ground, catches fast hold of his arm with one hand, and entwined his arm within the doctor’s arm, and with his other hand grasped the Doctor’s shoulder; Laughlin Moore likewise held him on the other side; But the Doctor was lifted off the ground. Laughlin Moore’s fear caused him presently to let go; but Mr. Uniack continued his hold, and was carried above a yard from the ground, and then by some extraordinary unperceived force was compelled to quit. The Doctor was hurried immediately out of the room, but whether conveyed through the window, or out at the door, they being so affrighted none of them could declare (Halliwell-Phillipps, 1841, p170-173).
It’s darned hard not to be “affrighted” when an invisible force drags your buddy out of your arms and floats him out into the night, despite your best efforts. Kudos to Uniack and Laughlin Moore for at least giving it the old college try despite the obvious supernatural nature of events transpiring. Having discovered themselves outclassed, Dr. Moore’s friends sought the aid of an expert. This just goes to show, a friend may hire you a lawyer, a good friend will help you bury a body, a best friend won’t ask why there’s a body, and the truest friend will struggle vainly against preternatural entities on your behalf.
The two gentlemen being greatly surprised at the strangeness of the accident, and troubled for the loss of their friend, called for the innkeeper, to whom they related what had befallen their companion. He seemed not to be much terrified thereat, as if such disasters were common thereabouts, but told them that within a quarter of a mile there lived a woman, who by the neighborhood was called a wise woman, and who did usually give intelligence of several things that had been lost, and of cattle that were gone astray, and he doubted not but if the woman were sent for she could resolve them where their friend was, and by what means conveyed away. They forthwith sent a messenger for the woman, who being come, Mr. Uniack demanded if she could give them any account of a gentleman, one Dr. Moore, that had been spirited out of their company about an hour before. The woman told him she could, and that he was then in a wood about a mile distant preparing to take horse; that in one hand he had a glass of wine, in the other a piece of bread; that he was very much courted to eat and drink, but if he did either he should never be free from a consumption, and pine away to death. Mr. Uniack gave the woman a cobb, and desired her to use some means for preventing his eating and drinking. She answered, He should neither eat nor drink with them: and then struck down her hand as if she were snatching at something. When she had thus done she often repeated a spell or charm in Irish, the substance whereof was: First she runs his pedigree back four generations, and calls his ancestors by their several names: then summons him from the East, the West, the North, and the South, from troops and regiments, especially from the governor mounted on the sorrel horse. And after having repeated the charm she gave them an account of the several places the doctor should be carried unto that night. At first from the wood to a Danes Fort about seven miles distant, where there should be great reveling and dancing, together with a variety of meats and liquors, to the eating and drinking whereof he should be very much importuned, but promised she would prevent his doing either. And from that fort he was to be carried twenty miles farther, where there would likewise be great merriment, and then to the Seven Churches; and towards daybreak should be returned safe to the company of his friends, without any damage or mischief whatsoever: and so took leave of Mr. Uniack and Mr. Moore (Ritson, 1875, p338-342).
As a rule of thumb, if any non-human critter offers you food and drink, be they faerie or alien, politely decline. Breaking bread with the boogeyman never ends well – your either being fattened up as the next course, you outright wither and die, or get stuck eternally in whatever wacky dimension such creatures hail from (a particularly common theme in Irish faerie lore). The particular faeries of Dr. Moore’s acquaintance didn’t seem to take too much offense at the safeguards the contracted wise woman put in place to prevent just such an occurrence, as Moore was dutifully returned to the inn the next morning.
About six o’clock the next morning Dr. Moore knocked at the door, and being let in desired meat and drink might be provided for him, for that he was both hungry and thirsty, having been hurried from place to place all that night: and after having refreshed himself discoursed of the manner of his being taken away; that it seemed to him there came into the room about twenty men, some mounted on horseback, others on foot, and laid hold on him: that he was sensible of Mr. Uniack’s and Mr. Moore’s endeavours to have kept him, and of the force they used, but it was all to no purpose, for had there been fourty more they would have signified nothing; that from the house he was carried to a wood about a mile distant, where was a fine horse prepared, and as he was about to mount a glass of wine was given him and a crust of bread, but when he offered to eat and drink they were both struck out of his hand. That from thence he went in the same company that had taken him away to a Danes Fort, about seven miles from the wood; that he imagined himself to be mounted on a white horse, whose motion was exceeding swift, and when they came to the fort their company multiplied to about three hundred large and well-proportioned men and women; he who seemed to be chief was mounted on a sorrel horse; that they all dismounted and fell to dancing, and that it came to the doctor’s turn to lead a dance, which he did remember the tune he danced unto. That after the dancing there appeared a most sumptuous banquet, and the governor took him by the hand and desired him to eat; which he several times attempted, but was prevented by something that still struck the meat out of his hand: and so gives an account how from thence he was carried to the several places the old woman had mentioned the night before; and that about break of day, he found himself alone within sight of the inn. Mr. Uniack was so curious as to go seven miles out of his way to see the Danes Fort, and the doctor was his guide; who traced the path he had travelled the night before so exactly, that if his horse went but a yard out of the track, he would presently turn him into it again; and that upon view of the fort, he found the grass so trodden down, and the ground beaten, as if five hundred men had been there (Cother, 1678, p4-6).
In 1678, this was printed up as a pamphlet entitled “Strange and Wonderful News from the county of Wicklow in Ireland, or, a Full and True Relation of what happened to one Dr. Moore (late Schoolmaster in London). How he was taken invisibly from his Friends, what happened to him in his absence, and how and by what means he was found, and brought back to the same Place”, purportedly dictated by Richard Uniack and Doctor Moore himself, in the presence of a Doctor Murphy, and Mr. Ludlow, one of the six clerks of the High Court of Chancery, November 18, I678. William Shakespeare once warned us, “The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve; lovers to bed; ’tis almost fairy time”, and somewhere in centuries of redaction, we probably lost the concluding line, “and I hath got to get my groove on”.
Brand, John, 1744-1806. Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar And Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, And Superstitions v2. A new ed., with further additions. London: George Bell, 1877.
Cother, John. Strange and wonderful news from the county of Wicklow in Ireland, or, A full and true relation of what happened to one Dr. Moore (late schoolmaster in London), how he was taken invisibly from his friends, what happened to him in his absence, and how, any by what means he was found, and brought back to the same place. London: Printed for T.R., 1678.
Halliwell-Phillipps, J. O. (James Orchard), 1820-1889. The Archaeologist And Journal of Antiquarian Science v1. London: J.R. Smith, 1841.
Ritson, Joseph, 1752-1803, William Carew Hazlitt, and J. O. (James Orchard) Halliwell-Phillipps. Fairy Tales, Legends And Romances Illustrating Shakespeare And Other Early English Writers: to Which Are Prefixed Two Preliminary Dissertations; 1. On Pigmies. 2. On Fairies. London: F. & W. Kerslake, 1875.