A number of documents from the sixteenth century include spells for conjuring up fairy women for sex. This may strike us as shocking and surprising, but the fact that a several separate texts have survived suggests that it was an activity in which a number of magicians were interested.
Spells to gain power over human women are known, as are spells to control spirits; the combination of the two activities is therefore not wholly unpredictable, especially given the well-known desirability of faery women to which I have made reference in numerous other postings.
There seem to be a number of motivating factors involved in these conjurations. Undeniably, possession and control over a supernatural beauty for the purposes of sexual enjoyment are top of the list, doubtless intertwined with a very male attitude to females and towards being able to boast about your magical (and sexual) skills. Once conjured, though, the fairy women could provide other benefits, because they had supernatural knowledge that could enrich the magician. In this, they can be rather like faery brides- though as will become clear, those casting the spells discussed here don’t seem to have been interested in any sort of long-term relationship.
Balancing this, nonetheless, it is very clear that the risks inherent in such operations were well known and that the need for careful management of the interaction- and fairly prompt dismissal of the faery- were fully appreciated.
The spells are surrounded by the typical precautions that many magicians employed: chalk circles may be drawn; the magus will have bathed and abstained from alcohol or sex for a period of time beforehand; clean linen will be laid on a table bearing a candle and (in this particular instance) on the bed; incense or other perfumes will be employed. A wand or a crystal ball may also be required to assist in the ritual, and the proper day of the week, point in the lunar cycle and time must be observed.
The fairy is then summoned, invoking a variety of holy names and images that are meant to subdue and constrain the spirit. The king and queen of fairies may also be called upon to assist, through their powers and virtues and through the faith and obedience owed to them by the individual fairies, so that they rank equally alongside the Trinity and the Virgin Mary. Given the date- and that all of this is post-Reformation- is doubly surprising. Given that all these Christian trappings are being deployed just to have sex with a supernatural might be regarded as triply surprising.
Three separate magical operations have been preserved. The first is to be found in Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft of 1584. After the ritual preparations, the magus sits in a circle and proceeds as follows:
“… then beginne your conjuration as followeth here, and saie: I conjure thee Sibylia, O gentle virgine of fairies, by the mercie of the Holie-ghost, and by the dreadfull daie of doome, and by their vertues and powers; … and by the king and queene of fairies, and their vertues, and by the faith and obedience that thou bearest unto them… I conjure thee O Sibylia, O blessed and beautifull virgine, by all the riall words aforesaid; I conjure thee Sibylia by all their vertues to appeare in that circle before me visible, in the forme and shape of a beautifull woman in a bright and vesture white, adorned and garnished most faire, and to appeare to me quicklie without deceipt or tarrieng, and that thou faile not to fulfill my will & desire effectuallie. For I will choose thee to be my blessed virgine, & will have common copulation with thee. Therefore make hast & speed to come unto me, and to appeare as I said before: to whome be honour and glorie for ever and ever, Amen.”Discoverie of Witchcraft Book 13, c.8.
This may have to be repeated as many as four times until Sibylia appears, but Scot assures us she will, after which she must be bound by the holy names not to leave or become invisible until she is given leave to do so. Then, as Scot describes, she is asked by the conjurer “to give me good counsell at all times, and to come by treasures hidden in the earth, and all other things that is to doo me pleasure, and to fulfill my will, without anie deceipt or tarrieng; nor yet that thou shalt have anie power of my bodie or soule, earthlie or ghostlie, nor yet to perish so much of my bodie as one haire of my head.”
The other spells all resemble Scot’s, more or less. A second is to be found in a manuscript in the British Library. It recommends performing the spell on a Friday and that the magus should draw two touching chalk circles, in one of which is “a faire bed with new washed shetes, swet and well smyllinge.” A clean table stands in the other circle, on which is fresh water and bread. The virgin spirits Michel, Chicam and Burfee are then summoned to appear and to obey the magician’s will. One of them is commanded to lie on the bed.
A Latin incantation is repeated three times, after which the three faery women will appear, bearing food and wine. Nonetheless, the magician is warned:
“eate not with them. But thou shalle se oneof them that is fayrest and she shall make ye no chere. Then pryvily put thy sceptre to the hight of hir face and stand in the circle and kisse hir and say to hir… I conjure you, virgin, by the sceptre and the truth by virtue of which you have come here that you hasten to give to me a ring of invisibility and to approach this bed without delay and lie down nude by that venerable name which you discern in my sceptre… and, unless you make every assuagement you can without fraud or harm or illusion or bodily wound, that you do not depart from me until I desire to give you the licence and loose you by my own volition…”
The magus is warned to take the ring from the faery before lying down with her, otherwise he will not be able to receive it (it seems because he will no longer be pure). The other faeries are sent away then, after which the man is advised to “go naked to bede. Ly on the righte side of the bed and she on the lyfte sid of the bed and do what yow wilt. But aske note whether she be a Spirit or a woman, for then she well spaeke no mor to the. And she shall do thee no harm. Then lycans hir in the mornyng to go and she will com agayn when thou callst hir.”
The third magical operation is set out in a manuscript now to be found in Folger Library in Washington. It is very similar to the others, except that it is a lot more detailed and is concerned with conjuring the presence of “the seven sisters of the fairies,” who are called Lilia, Hestilia, Fata, Sola, Afrya, Julia and Venulla.
There are four spells. The first summons the sisters into the magician’s presence and constrains them to bring him treasure as well as to give him information as to the location of buried treasure and how to destroy any beings guarding that. They are also all required to “have bountiful copulation” with him as he chooses, without having any power over his body or being able to delude him.
The second spell enables the conjurer to call one of the fairy virgins to his bed whenever he wants to have pleasure with her. The ritual requires chalk circles and a freshly made bed and summons a “bountiful maid and virgin before me in a green gown and beautiful apparel, who will not fail to fulfil my will and desire effectually.” She is ordered to “Come quickly” because he wants carnal copulation with her.
The third spell deals with the faery once she has appeared. She is required to lie down on the bed “quietly and gently without fraud, hurt or guile” and without doing any harm to him, as well as departing when she’s told to do so. When the faery is present, the man is advised (once again) to lie down on her left-hand side and to do whatever he pleases (or can). The magician is reassured that, now she has been bound, the faery is just a woman and that he need not fear her. Even more importantly, he’s assured that he will never have encountered “so pleasant a creature or lively a woman in bed.” The magician is then advised that, having “fulfilled thy will and desire with her, thou mayst reason with her of any manner of things thou desirest to and in all kind of questions you list to demand of her.” As we see again, physical pleasure can be combined with the acquisition of wisdom and material wealth. Even so, the man is warned not to ask her any questions about herself, or to speak to anyone else about their contacts- or to otherwise disclose them. However fantastic the sex, great self-control must be exercised in this respect.
The fourth spell sends the faery back where she came from, there to rest until the magician fancies seeing her again.
A number of elements in these texts should be very familiar to readers: there’s the allusion to the danger of consuming faery food, the link between faeries and buried treasure, the need to keep quiet about the benefits derived from association with a faery and, lastly, the distinguishing green robe that she wears (albeit briefly, of course…)
The spells are at the same time both risibly adolescent and depressingly chauvinist. On the one hand, there’s the emphasis placed upon the fairy being a virgin: Scot, for example, is particularly concerned with conjuring “the blessed virgins,” the fairies Sibylia, Milia and Achilia and, interestingly, the British Library manuscript is also concerned with a trinity of faery virgins. I presume that the deflowering of the faery is part of her subjugation to the human magus. Alongside this repeated emphasis upon her purity, the faery lover is still guaranteed to be the best lover he will ever have gone to bed with: “For beauty and bounty neither queen nor empress in all the whole world is able to countervail her, for I have diverse times proved her and had her with me.” Even so, there is an odd note of bathos, too- an admission of reality perhaps- when the author of the text states that the magician will be able to do “with her whatsoever you please or canst do…” It seems that aspiration may run ahead of performance for those possibly too young or too old…
Sources & Further Reading
If you’d like to know more about these conjurations, you can consult the original texts which are reproduced as follows:
Reginald Scot: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/60766/60766-h/60766-h.htm
The British Library manuscript, Sloane 3850, ff.143-166 is discussed in a journal article: https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/opuscula/article/download/36310/29268/0
The Folger Library manuscript MS Xd 234 is also in an article:
I have also included the texts in the appendix to my most recent book, Love and Sex in Faeryland.