Underground, Overground

ar elves

In this post I look at one of the places with which fairies are often associated- ancient sites– and then consider exactly how they are linked to these monuments.

Barrows and Standing Stones

There is a very longstanding link between faeries, megalithic structures and ancient burial tumuli.  Its exact nature, nevertheless, is a little hazy.  It’s not always clear if the faes are merely present at these sites from time to time (usually to dance) or whether they actually reside at- or under- them.

For example, at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, the faeries have been seen dancing- but also disappearing down a hole by the King Stone- implying that they were accessing their underground home by that route.  The Hurle Stane, near Chillingham in Northumberland, was a well-known site of faery assemblies.

On the Isle of Arran, faeries meet at the various stone circles on the island, but are especially closely linked to the megalithic complex at Machrie Moor: one of the stone circles here is a double ring called Fion-gal’s Cauldron Seat.  A faery or brownie was said to live below it- who was propitiated by pouring milk into a hole in the side of one of the stones.

suidhe core fhionn
Suidhe Coire Fhionn, Machrie Moor

It isn’t just single or grouped standing stones, though.  Prehistoric barrows also have very strong faery associations.  The round barrow at Carn Gluze, St Just, Cornwall, is the place of faery dances and burning lights at night.  A long barrow at Butcombe in Somerset is called the Fairy Toot; another barrow in the same county at Stoke Courcy is known as the Pixies’ Mound and another on Beaulieu Heath in Hampshire is called the Pixies’ Cave.  All these names strongly imply that our Good Neighbours were known to live beneath the mounds.  I have very often noted the presence of faes beneath natural ‘knolls’ or ‘knowes,’ so it makes sense for them to take up residence in man-made features too.  Many such sites are recognised in Scotland, too, often being sitheans (places were the sith people live).  Examples are found at Fowlis Wester, Perth (a barrow and stone circle), Carmylie, Forfar and at Kinross.

Part and parcel of this group of ideas is an instinctive respect- even reverence- that many people have had for ancient sites in their vicinity.  An Elgin man called Andro Man was accused in 1649 of setting up a standing stone and taking off his bonnet to it.  He insisted to the kirk presbytery that it was merely a boundary marker, but they made him break up the monolith all the same.  What’s most impressive about this case is how very late an expression of respect for menhirs this was.  Older beliefs were still found amongst rural populations until comparatively recently, though.  George Tyack, in his 1899 book on The Lore and Legend of the English Church, noted a belief on the Isle of Man that, if you pastured your sheep amidst a ‘druidic’ circle, the flock was bound to succumb to disease.  In his Second Manx Scrapbook, Walter Gill mentioned standing stones at Germans and Michael on the island that are called ‘white ladies’ and which were white washed to emphasise their ghostly significance.  ‘White ladies’ are most commonly spirits associated with springs and streams, so this is a fascinating merger of ideas.

The reason for treating stones respectfully is simple: if you fail to, the fairies using or living at the sites will have their revenge.  In British Goblins, Wirt Sikes tells the story of a Dark Age inscribed pillar standing on a tumulus at Banwan Bryddin, near Neath, which was removed by Lady Mackworth to adorn a grotto she was constructing in the grounds of her home.  Her workmen were unhappy over this, because the mound was well known to be a faery site, but the Lady had her way.  Soon after the grotto was completed, a terrible storm raged over the Neath Valley and a landslip completely buried her expensive new grotto.  The tylwyth teg had spoken.

AR fairy market

Faery Hillocks

As I have described, the faeries took up residence in barrows and other ancient sites found in prominent and/ or raised places- hillforts and other enclosures- because they were already familiar with living in distinctive or isolated hills.  Take, for example, a conical hill with a flat top near Strachar called Sian Sluai, the fairy hill of the host (sluagh); the home of the fairy queen at sith-chaillin near Fortingal, Perth; the many sioth-duns (fairy hills) around Buchanan, Perth, or the conical knoll called Harry’s Hill (Tom Eanraic) near Ardesier in Inverness, where the fairies met at night and where changeling children would be left overnight, in the hope of retrieving the stolen human baby.

Across Britain, in fact, fairies have been seen dancing on hills and disappearing into hills.  It is wholly unsurprising, therefore, to discover that many of the healers who were accused of witchcraft in Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries made their contact with the faes in hilly places.

Katharine Jonesdochter of Orkney in 1616 described how she saw the trows “on the hill called Greinfall at monie sindrie tymes.” Thomas Leys of Aberdeen, and his lover Elspeth Reid, told their 1597 trial that they knew of a hill where they could raise a spirit in any likeness they chose.  Katherine Ross said in 1590 that she “wald gang in Hillis to speik to the elf folk.”  John Stewart of Irvine regularly met with the fairies at Halloween on top of two hills near to the town (1618).  Isobel Haldane, from Perth, was carried from her bed one night to “ane hill-syde: the hill oppynit and scho enterit in” (1623).  Katharine Caray wandered amongst the hills of Caithness “at the doun going of the sun [and] ane great number of fairie men mett her” (1616).

From what we can tell, the faeries lived in prehistoric sites on hills; I’ll give a few examples from Wales.  The Iron Age hill fort known as Bryn y Pibion is definitely a faery dwelling, as it features in a ‘midwife’ story; the headland of Dinllain, defended by ancient earthworks, was a place for fairy dancing, after which they would raise a sod of earth and descended underground.  Another midwife attended a fairy birth here too.  Fairies gathered at the hillfort of Moeddin dressed in green to celebrate Mayday and, lastly, the prominent rock known as Ynys Geinon was connected to Craig y Nos castle by an underground passage, which the fairies reached by descending a golden ladder.

Conclusion

To conclude, therefore, we seem to have a double conjunction of associations.  The faeries were drawn to and lived beneath ancient stones and mounds; if those were also raised on hills- so much the better, as with the barrow called the Fairy Hillock at Carmylie in Forfar, which stands on the top of a hill.

A nation underground- subterranean fairies

Rackham Kensington Gdns
Arthur Rackham, from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

In this post I want to return to the question of fairy dwellings and fairyland.  Fairyland is very often conceived of as a place below the ground surface; here I want to examine that in considerable detail.

The idea of a subterranean Faery is something that has long been embedded in both folklore and literature.  For example, in a masque presented for Queen Elizabeth by the Earl of Hertford in 1591 we are introduced to the monarch:

“I that abide in places underground,/ Aureola, the Queene of Fairy land…”

Much later, the Duchess of Newcastle imagined that “The Fairy Queen’s large Kingdome got by birth/ Is the circled centre of the Earth,” a place bejewelled with all the gems and ores we might anticipate to find in a mine.

Without doubt, this hidden realm would be a place of mystery.  John Aubrey in the late seventeenth century wrote that:

“Some were led away by fairies, as was a Hind riding upon Hackpen… So was a shepherd of Mr Brown of Winterbourne Abbas… the ground opened and he was brought to strange places underground.”

I want to go too to those strange places, to discover the way and to see what’s there.

How to get access

It’s very widely accepted that fairyland is subterranean, but that raises a host of problems.  How deep is it?  Where are the access points?

It’s also very widely believed that one very common location for fairy dwellings is under small hills.  This is especially common in Scotland, where many small mounds are called ‘fairy knowe’ or ‘knolls.’ An alternative name for the trows of Shetland is the ‘hill men.’ These hills may be natural mounds or they may be prehistoric burial tumuli.  Neolithic barrows are regarded as fairy homes from Yorkshire right up to Sutherland and including the Isle of Man.

Either way, the fairies aren’t buried very deep and getting in presents less challenges.  Very few people ever simply pick up a spade and start digging (wisely, as it’s very likely to have serious repercussions).  More often they wait for a door to reveal itself: this may happen at special times of year such as Halloween or perhaps because there’s a special celebration taking place within the hill and the doors are thrown open to let out the heat and noise.  The simple and direct approach was employed by one poor East Yorkshire man in the story of the White Powder.  He was instructed simply to walk up to the door of the mound and to knock three times to be granted entry and led into the presence of the fairy queen.

In some people’s opinion, fairyland is a good deal deeper than the thickness of some turfs.  Its location therefore won’t be at all obvious and it follows that the ways in will be equally well concealed.  For example, the pixies of Dartmoor are believed to live beneath the bogs that cover that landscape.  This is an excellent strategy for keeping unwelcome visitors away, although there is some suggestion that rabbit holes on the moor may be a way in to this particular wonderland.  There are a lot to try though…

Normally, the road to fairyland is a lot better concealed and a lot more forbidding.  A variety of entrances have been identified:

  • beneath river banks- this is known especially in Wales, as in the story of Elidyr, who is taken by two little men under the hollow bank of a river;
  • under standing stones- this perpetuates the prehistoric link seen with barrows and is a legend linked with various sites including the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. In the Welsh tale of Einion and Olwen fairyland is accessed by an oval stone and then by a path and stairs, which are illuminated by a whitish-blue glow radiating from the steps themselves;
  • beneath Roman ruins- the remains of a military encampment high on Mellor Moor near Blackburn were said to be the ruins of a fairy city that had sunk beneath the ground due to an earthquake. The disappeared metropolis was still inhabitable, though, and church bells could sometimes be heard ringing beneath the turf;
  • under lakes- a fairy woman was seen to come and go from beneath the waters of Llyn Rhosddu on the Isle of Anglesey;
  • in a well- in Cornish fairy tale of Cherry of Zennor the girl Cherry is employed as a maid in a house that might itself be in fairyland, but she also sees her fairy master dancing when she looks down into a well in the garden;
  • behind waterfalls- the queen of the Craven fairies is reputed to live concealed behind Jennet’s Foss, near to Malham;
  • in cliffs- another inaccessible route into faery is from a cave in a cliff face. Cornishman Richard Vingoe entered fairyland this way at a spot near Land’s End.  Many hours of walking eventually led him to a “pleasant looking country”;
  • through deep caverns- Gervase of Tilbury, in his Otia Imperialia, described how a swine herd lost a pregnant sow and decided to look for her in the Peak Cavern near Peveril castle in Derbyshire. He wandered a long way until he emerged into a new country.  At Cwm Mabus near Llanrhystyd in Wales there are caves called Craig Rhydderch where the tylwyth teg are said to live and at Llanymynech near Oswestry is Ogo Hole, another entrance to faery;
  • the place called by the Scots ‘Mirryland’ or ‘Maidenland’ is said to be beneath a mountain;
  • in one Welsh account from 1860 a man called John Davies of Aberayron joined a fairy dance on Cilcennin Hill and spent the whole night with the tylwyth teg.  The revel was only disturbed the next morning by an old woman following the sound of music- at which the fairies all disappeared down some steps leading underground;
  • down long tunnels- the Green Children of Woolpit followed a long tunnel or passageway until they came out into the Suffolk landscape.

Whatever the exact route in, it is often long and dark.  The journey to faery may take several days (forty in the case of Thomas the Rhymer) and may involve difficult passages of wading through deep waters.  In the story of Cornish maid Anne Jefferies, she is snatched up and carried through the air, whirling through space with a sound like the buzzing of a thousand bees in her ears.  The fairy tale of Cherry of Zennor in one sense makes its fairyland real by presenting it as a pleasant manor house and gardens, but it is reached by a route very like the underground passages- Cherry is led down long lanes, shaded by high hedges and is carried over several streams before, after much travel, she and her fairy master arrive at their destination.

it’s worth lastly noting that tunnels sometimes provide the access from the human world to fairylands that are also on the earth surface.  These are frequently seen in Wales, where passages lead out onto an isle in a lake or to an offshore island in the sea.

How do we see?

Given that fairyland is far below ground, how do we see anything once we’re there?  Is Faery the “darksome den” that Golding described in his translation of Ovid, or is it bright? This is one of the greatest puzzles, but the sources are quite uniform in telling us what the conditions are, even if they don’t explain them to us.

The Green Children described a place without a sun, but where there was a “degree of light like that which is after sunset.”  In the poem Huon of Bordeaux we are told that it is the gold and silver with which the buildings are constructed that illuminate the place.  In the story of King Herla, faery is entered through a cave in a high cliff and (more reasonably) is lit by many torches.

Elidyr described the fairyland he visited as “obscure, not illuminated with the light of the full sun.”  Rather, the days were cloudy and the nights very dark without either moon or stars.  It’s cool and dim in fairyland.  The visitor to Faery in the story of the White Powder also reported that the light there was “indifferent, as it is with us in the twilight.”  Perhaps because of this dinginess, the people of ‘St Martin’s Land,’ where the Green Children were born, were all of a green tinge.

In contrast, Sir Orfeo’s fairyland, reached after a journey of three miles or so starting beneath a rock, was “as bright so sonne on somers day.”  Likewise, after a long dark passage, the land under the Peak District was bright and open.  Equally, the swineherd described by Gervase of Tilbury found that the place he reached was enjoying its summer, and that the harvest was taking place, whereas he had left winter behind him on the earth’s surface.

What do we see?

The fairyland found underground is largely indistinguishable from the land left behind on the surface.  There are pastures, fields and orchards, where crops grow, sheep graze and fruit and flowers grow in abundance.  There are birds in the air and woods full of game.  The land may be quite level, an open plain without hills but threaded by rivers running between lakes.  The fairyland visited by Einion and Olwen fairyland was a fine, wooded, fertile country extending for miles underground and dotted with mansions and with well-watered, lush pastures.  An early nineteenth century account from Nithsdale tells of a ‘delicious country’ with fields of ripening corn and ‘looping burnies’ reached by a door halfway up the sunny side of a fairy knoll.

There are palaces and castles, like any medieval royal city (although in Faery these may be made from precious metals and gems) but there are ordinary civic amenities too.  Thomas Keightley recalled a conversation with a young woman in Norfolk who told him that the fairies were a people dressed in white who lived underground where they built houses, bridges and other edifices.  Proof of this comes from a commonly told Welsh story of a man who’s reproved by a hitherto unknown fairy neighbour for pouring his household slops down the other’s chimney.  Invited to place his foot on the other’s, the human sees that, far beneath his front yard, there is a street of houses he had never seen before.  These are just ordinary fairy cottages deep beneath an ordinary Welsh farmer’s cottage.

Some of the later British descriptions moved away from rolling verdant countryside to focus upon the dwellings of the fays.  For example, in the case of the ‘White Powder,’ the man visited the court of the fairy queen “in a fair hall.”  On the Isle of man, a traveller crossing Skyhill at night was taken inside the hill, where he saw a large hall with a grand feast in progress.  Likewise the so-called ‘Fairy Boy of Leith’ (account published 1684) told of visiting the fairies under a hill between Edinburgh and Leith and there enjoying music and feasting.  He entered through “a great pair of gates” and found “brave, large rooms as well accommodated as any in Scotland.”  Aberdeen man Andro Man, arrested on suspicion of witchcraft in 1598, told his interrogators that when he entered the residence of the fairy queen, he had noted in particular their “fair coverit” tables.

According to some Scottish stories, we may also see the start of three roads: the thorny road of the righteous to heaven, the broad road of the wicked to hell and a bonny looking road finally leading to Faery.  These ‘ferlies’ (wonders) are described in the old Scots  ballads Thomas the Rhymer, Young Tamlane and The Queen of Elfland’s Nourice.

There is an interesting last detail in the story of Anne Jefferies.  When she first encounters the fairies in her Cornish home, they are ‘the little people’ only a few inches tall, but in Faery they are all of normal human size (or else Anne has shrunk).  The fairy master in Cherry of Zennor looks tiny when seen at the bottom of the well  in the garden but resumes his human dimensions when he returns to the house.

Getting home again

This can be as hard as getting into fairy in the first place.  Some people, we must confess, never make it back to where they started.  The Green Children, dazzled by the heat and light of the surface, became bewildered and were completely unable to find the entrance to the passage from which they emerged.

For others the process can be relatively straightforward, albeit with longer term implications.  Richard Vingoe was led to a carn near Nanjizel where he emerged into the air.  He was so exhausted by the journey that he slept for a week and, if fact, was never the same again.

Elidyr was able to come and go from his faery, visiting his mother as he wished, until he tried to steal a golden ball from his fairy friends.  He was pursued and the ball was recovered, after which he could never find again the entrance in the river bank, even though he searched for a year.

kensington-gardens_41
Arthur Rackham, from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Conclusions

In many respects fairyland underground is a mirror image of our earth surface world- and this includes the climate.  Of course, there are also traditions that make it less homely and familiar, such as those which view it as some sort of land of the dead and those which treat it as far more magical and strange.

Fairies- explaining the unexplained

loaf

A ‘fairy loaf’- a fossil sea urchin

“The naturalists of the Dark Ages owed many obligations to our fairies, for whatever they found wonderful and could not account for, they easily got rid of by charging to their account.” (Brand, Popular antiquities, vol.2 p.285)

In earlier times fairies were regularly used to explain phenomena for which we had no scientific theory, such as fairy rings, fossils and archaeological artefacts.  This tendency was exacerbated by the habit of applying the word ‘fairy’ to anything that was mysterious and/ or small.  A good example might be old clay pipe stems, which readily became ‘fairy pipes’- even in places where they had been manufactured- Broseley in Shropshire for instance.  This is a curious testimony to the power of mythology over factual knowledge.

mudlark_fairy_pipe_15May2015

A sample ‘fairy pipe’

There is a particular fitness to this tendency, because of the convention that fairies themselves are small and, perhaps, delicate, but why link the faeries with ancient monuments such as fortifications and burial mounds?  This has been done across Britain, from Shetland to Penwith in Cornwall.  Very commonly, these sites are rural, frequently remote and of great antiquity; they were built for purposes unknown by persons unknown and this inevitably has invited speculation.  How they were built is likewise unknown and this can enhance the aura of mystery or miraculousness.  The physical and imaginative distance separating us from these structures makes it easy to see them as products of Faerie.

Cissbury

Cissbury Ring hillfort

The kinds of sites that have been given names linking them to fairyland include barrows, standing stones, hillforts, flint workings and- even- Roman ruins.  Some examples of the folk lore associations follow:

  • Iron Age hillforts– in Sussex the fairies are known to dance at Torberry Hill and Cissbury forts;
  • the motte and bailey at Pulborough in the same county was the scene of a fairy funeral; and,
  • the ancient flint mines and earth works at Harrow Hill in Sussex have been identified by the some as the fays’ last home in England;
  • barrows at Batcombe and Stoney Littleton in Somerset are known as ‘fairy toots.’  In the same county fairy gold is buried at Cadbury hillfort and fairy pipes are found at Dolbury camp.  At the barrow called Pudding Pie Hill in North Yorkshire it’s said that if you run around it nine times and then stick a knife in the top, you will hear the fairies inside;
  • Hoarstones stone circle in Shropshire is a fairy ring in which six fairy women dance on moonlit nights;
  • burial cists on Shetland are ‘trow haunted’- they are places where the “peerie [tiny] Hillmen” will be encountered;  brochs as well as standing stones on the island are the same;
  • at the Roman sites at Bolitree and Kenchester in Herefordshire are also haunted by fairies and fairy money (Roman coins?) have been found there.  In one case a Roman mosaic pavement that was discovered in the county was promptly covered over again for fear of offending the fays.  In Oystermouth (Ystum Llwynarth) on Gower during the 1860s local people would not collect tesserae, the fragments of a Roman mosaic floor, found in the churchyard of All Saints church for fear that the fairies would haunt or torment them.

stoney littleton chamber

Stoney Littleton barrow- the ammonite fossil at the entrance

It’s particularly curious to note the Norman motte at Pulborough amongst these prehistoric monuments.  It must have been reasonably apparent that this site was a castle, yet a veneer of age and mystery seems to have been enough to attract the fairies.  In the remainder of the cases, the fay link is likely to have been engendered by several clear associations:

  • many of these sites were underground or the material came from beneath the soil.  As it’s well-known that fairyland is subterranean- a place of the dead perhaps- it made eminent sense to assume that they were fairy lairs;
  • fairies are well known to give money to their favourites and sometimes the coins are of unknown origin. Heavy Roman and Celtic currency would very obviously have been mistaken for fairy gold;
  • as the fairies have their own monarchy and court, they will need suitably grand locations to inhabit.  The ruins of old forts and palaces that we can see in the mortal world presumably have a supernatural form where the fairies dwell in feasting and revelry;
  • if fairies are the ancestral spirits of the land- its original inhabitants, perhaps- then all old burial sites and ceremonial structures must be their responsibility; and,
  • there is an age-old association between the fays and buried treasure and fairy gold is frequently related to ancient sites.  That at Dolebury sinks deeper of you try to dig for it.  In contrast, at Bury Ditches fort near Clun in Shropshire a pot of gold was buried by fairies, attached to which is a thin gold wire to help guide seekers to the treasure.  Intriguingly, on Blea Moor on the Pennines there once lived the Lile Hob.  This being was linked to buried treasure known to be in the area; when three silver armlets were discovered on the Moor, the hob disappeared forever.

Further reading

In a world lacking a truly historical sense and without the science of archaeology, the known world of the fairies was readily at hand to explain features and finds that otherwise were wholly without a place in the world as it was then conceived and understood.  They gave structure and sense to our predecessors and at the same time enchanted the land around them, giving its significance and even a sense of the sacred. They represented the spirit of the land- a potent source of imagery.

See too my postings on fairies and the past and fairies and megaliths.

Fairies and megaliths

Landscape of the Threshold 1962 by Cecil Collins 1908-1989

Cecil Collins, ‘The landscape of the threshold,’ 1962

There is a longstanding association between the fairies and barrows and megaliths, not just in Britain but across Europe.  In earlier ages the fairy label was habitually chosen for these unexplained monuments.  It may just have been a name- for instance, the Fairy Toot, in Somerset, Elf Howe near Folkton in Yorkshire, Fairy Knowe on Orkney, the Pookeen stone circle (the place of fairies/ pucks) at Clodagh, Co. Cork or the Fairy Stone (La Grand Menhir Brisee) in Brittany- but not infrequently fairies would be regarded as being more actively involved in the making of a site. The Champs les Roches stone rows in Brittany were made by fairies dumping stones they had been carrying; similarly,  Tregomar menhir was dropped by a passing fairy.  The allee couverte at Coat Menez Guen bears the marks of fairy fingers on two of its stones.

The extent of the fairy associations could vary:

  • music and dancing- at Athgreany stone circle in Co. Wicklow the fairies play their pipes there at midnight; the fairies are also said to dance around the Hurle Stane in Northumberland.  Numerous Dorset tumuli are remembered as ‘music barrows’ where, if you sit at midday, you will hear fairy music within- for example at Bottlebrush Down, near Wimbourne and also at Ashmore, Culliford Tree, Bincombe Bumps and Whitcombe;
  • healing- the healing powers ascribed to the unusual holed stone arrangement at Men an Tol, Penwith, derive from the pisky linked to the site; and,
  • dwellings: under stones- most commonly, ancient stones are sites of supernatural habitation, in one way or another.  Passage graves are dwellings themselves- for example in Brittany at Barnenez, La roche aux fees and at La grotte aux fees, which they deliberately wrecked; a Cornish fogou near Constantine was called ‘the pixie house’ and in Ireland several stone circles are classified as lios, fairy forts, for example Grange in Limerick and Lissyviggeen in Kerry.  The Irish legend is, in fact, that after their defeat by the invading Milesians, the fairy tribe of the Tuatha De Danaan retreated into an enchanted kingdom beneath raths and stones- such places as Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth in the Boyne valley now being their abodes.  Ancient stones marking the access to fairyland are a common account throughout the British Isles- a hole or stairs beneath a menhir would lead to the faery realm-see for example my earlier post on fairy dwellings.  The Humberstone in Leicestershire is a fairy dwelling, as too is St John’s Stone in Leicester itself.
  • dwellings: under burial mounds- various ancient burial mounds are recalled in folk memory as the fairies’ homes: examples are to be found on Cley Hill in Wiltshire, at Cauldon Low and Long Low in Staffordshire (upon both of which the fairies were also known to dance,  at the latter on Christmas Eve) and at Hob Hurst’s House, Deepdale and Monsal Dale in Derbyshire.  It may be noted in passing that some of the stones linked with the fairies are in fact the remaining internal elements of tumuli- the so-called cromlechs such as Pentre Ifan in Wales and (it has been suggested) Men an Tol in Penwith.

Given the supernatural link to stones and tumuli, it was inevitable that people would invest the sites with magical powers.  We have seen the curative properties of Men an Tol; conversely in Ireland and Scotland interference with or damage to stones was avoided through fear of fairy revenge.  In Ireland the belief persists that disturbance could lead to crops or the home burning; in the Highlands Rev. Kirk recorded a prohibition upon taking turf or wood from a sithbruaich (a fairy hill).

Standing stones themselves have also been invested with spiritual power.  Whether this is ascribed to their siting upon ley lines, or to fairy residents, it is still an element of our beliefs about standing stones.  This posting is illustrated with a painting by English neo-romantic artist Cecil Collins, one of several works of his in which stones are anthropomorphised (see too Hymn, 1946 and 1956).  These figures could well represent the fairy dwellers within the stones.

Further reading

An expanded version of this posting is found in my book British fairies (2017); for further reflections on the use of fairies in interpreting and accommodating the past, see my post on fairies explaining the unexplained.