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Late Pixy Accounts from Devon November 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

Here is some late pixylore from a collection written in 1982. The author is the very fine Theo Brown, an outstanding folklorist. We’ve tried here to quarry experiences of those known by TB rather than the normal Devon folklore fodder, which can be found in ‘all’ the books.

1) Pixies present a difficult problem. What on earth are they? On the one hand, like fairies, they are usually said to have existed long ago but not now. On the other hand we still occasionally hear of people seeing them in modern times. My own mother used to seem them when she was young, but only when she was alone and in a rather dreamy, disassociated mood. I well remember when we were camping at Postbridge in the 1920s she reported seeing a strange figure wandering at the top of Drift Lane. It was tall and thin and dressed in green, rather indefinite garments. What struck her was its air of melancholy. She had seen pixies on other occasions when as a very young woman she had walked round the cliffs surrounding Watcombe Bay, near Torquay. Then she had recently come from London.

2) It is not only superstitious countryfolk (if there are any!) who see pixies: the most sophisticated townies can be confronted with these mysterious beings. A friend of mine, a brigadier’s wife used to see them on Dartmoor quite frequently, especially in the little valleys round the edge of the moor, where tiny streams trickle down between moss-covered rocks. She was sure they avoided the forestry plantations.

3) The late Mrs Rosalind Heywood’s The Infinite Hive contains a most thought-provoking passage, inspired by her experience during a visit to Okehampton on the northern side of Dartmoor. She did not see pixies, but, she said, she became aware of a single consciousness expressed through visible things; as she wrote ‘Also through myriads of invisible entities which form the inner life of the wild… I know that I have brushed the fringe of a group consciousness as real as my own, though one from which ‘civilised’ man has cut himself adrift, so that it shrinks from him as an invader, coarse, vulgar and arrogant, imperceptive and cruel’. To begin with, Mrs Heywood felt that these beings hated her, but when she came to understand their viewpoint she felt a deep peace and harmony.

4) Pixies appear to have something in common with poltergeists, especially in ‘pixy riding’ which still occurs. A cousin of mine at Chudleigh Knighton ran a small riding stable. She told me that many a time she had gone to the stable in the early morning and found the ponies’ manes all knotted and tangled quite inexplicably, and the ponies themselves exhausted and sweaty. The stable doors had been used by humans.

5) I woman I met about twenty years ago told me that when she first visited Devon her hostess took her for a drive around the edge of Dartmoor. Pretty soon they lost themselves in a maze of lanes. Not a signpost could they spot and after a while they lost all sense of direction. At length the driver stopped the car, got out, turned her coast inside out and struggled back into it, remarking to her astonished passenger: ‘Now we’ll soon find our way’, and they did, at once.

Any other late pixies? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com