What do fairies smell of? December 23, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Beachcombing knows that not everyone appreciates his endless posts on fairies, but here is – he promises – the last one for 2011. He might even wait a week before he starts again in 2012.
Anyway, apologies apart, he recently stumbled on a rather beautiful book about Yorkshire in the late nineteenth century, one that offered up a page or two on the gentry. The passage begins with some fairly bog standard stuff about how there is still the memory of fairies among the commoners (240).
A correspondent from the borders of the North and West Ridings tells me of the strong belief in fairies that existed among the people of his district when he was a boy. It seems he used to talk to an old inhabitant who, as he confessed, had often ‘seen the fairies. Figures of men and women gaily clad, of full size, and in rapid confused motion, he said he had often watched in early summer mornings. He used to tell of an unbelieving horse-dealer who had stayed the night with him. At dawn the old farmer saw the fairies, as he had so often done before, and called up his guest, who, unbeliever though he declared himself to be, hurried out as he was, very lightly clad, and sat so long on a wall watching them that he caught a rheumatism that he never was cured of.
But what about this strange coda that Beachcombing finds quite unaccountable.
By the way, a young woman, into whose house this same gentleman once went, told him that she had never seen fairies (though her relations often had) but she had smelt them. On his asking what sort of odour he was to expect so that he might be similarly favoured, she went on to enquire if he had ever been in a very crowded ‘place of worship’ wherein the people had been congregated for a length of time. Such was the description; a very different one had been looked for; but it is the unexpected which happens.
When Beachcombing first read this he assumed that the mention of the ‘place of worship’ was taking us towards Romanism and incense. But imagine what a crowd of Yorkshire yeoman – in the era before baths – smelt like after having been in a ‘very crowded place of worship… for a length of time’! The fairies presumably smelt then of body odour?!? Perhaps that rather horsey, sweat-soaked tweed smell rather than the knock-out stink of amonia, but really…
The author, a gentile nineteenth-century vicar is having none of this though.
It was supposed that the young woman who was such an adept at scenting out the fairies was in reality trying to give an idea of the gushes of hot air one sometimes comes across on broken ground during summer time.
Any ideas on what the fairy sniffer was smelling? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
27/12/2011: This from Mish M ‘I don’t think of that part of the world being particularly volcanic, but perhaps there was some kind of *event*?… That led to sulphurous steam to seep out? Or perhaps there are some hot springs in the area.’ Thanks Mish!!!!