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The Secret Commonwealth

If you weren't on Twitter last night, I was live-tweeting my reading of a rather peculiar book, "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies" by Robert Kirk, which was written in 1691 and printed by Andrew Lang (of the Fairy Books) at the behest of Sir Walter Scott.

But I storified it for your amusement!


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I love your annotated tales and storified reads.

Thank the gods SOMEONE back in the 1600s realized not everything is witchcraft and yes, some people really do see fairies!

The birdcall mimicking = demon calls is an interesting twist. Hadn't heard that before.

If anyone is interested, I couldn't find a copy on any of the big sites - Project Gutenberg or archive.org - but I did manage to find a smaller site that had converted it to PDF, Epub and Kindle:

Available for free or at the donation amount of your choice.

(The book is public domain, so this is all legal.)

That version also has the long S's (with cross strokes so they look even more like F's).

Long S is evil: "Some have Bodies or Vehicles ƒo ƒpungious, thin, and delecat (?), that they are ƒed by only ƒucking into ƒome fine ƒpirituous Liquors"

Oh man thanks! I'm snatching this up for future writing reference this stuff is gold.

Grabbed and Donated! Thank you!

After reading your storify I emailed you a loan copy of "John George Hohman's Pow-Wows; or, Long Lost Friend" a book of 1820 Pennsylvania Dutch spells, charms, and remedies. That I think you will find either amusing or horrifying. I sent it to the Keven and Ursula Eat Cheap address.

Oh dear, I'm not sure if that address has an account! I'll check w/Kevin...thank you for the thought!

Sing at the table,
Whistle in bed,
and the Devil will get you
By the hairs of your head!

Source: My grandmother

Oh, the many ways I love you.

That's a wonderful bit of lore you put up.

The Doppleganger part makes me wonder if this guy can see multiple time streams... ???

I think I need to find a copy of this for future research purposes. Wow.

That's some good shit there.

You need to read how to Goblin Proof your Chicken Coop...

Misread "until one of us faints" as "until one of us farts". That would work.

Dang I'm going to have to download that. I love folklore and general olde-timey superstition and tales. You've heard about the demon possessed apple on the bridge right? The apple that screamed?

This is not ringing any bells...

" On the edge of the Hasli bridge there was seen for two hours an apple from which came so great and confused a noise that people were afraid to pass by there, although it was a much used way. Everybody ran to see this thing, though no one dared to go near to it; until, as is always the case, at last one man more bold than the rest took a long stick and knocked the apple into the Thiou, a canal from the lake of Annecy which passes under the bridge; and after that nothing more was heard. "

This was in Savoy? I think? 1585, The french demonologist Henri Boguet was the guy who passed that story around. All I can say is thank God for that brave brave soul where would the poor people of Annecy be without him and his stick. It's in the book Strange Histories if you're interested, a bit of a dry read but worth it I think because it's chock full of delightfully weird anecdotes

Maybe it was the poison apple from "Snow White" having an attack of conscience?

In this case an apple a day kept everyone away huh?

I read a fantasy novel some time ago in which the protagonist has this book and gains second sight by following the instructions, and subsequently has adventures with faeries.

I love it! Have you heard of "An Encyclopedia of Fairies" by Katharine Briggs? It's a wonderful resource on fairies/folklore of the UK and Ireland, and is much easier to read (it was published in the 1970s). It includes an entry on Robert Kirk and "The Secret Commonwealth".

Late to the party and off topic, but the thing with witches taking milk has always fascinated me in a professional sense. Because they're talking about mastitis. Mastitis is a very common infection in milking cows and we didn't have a cure for it until antibiotics (there's some very good bits in James Herriot describing people blowing up the cow's udder with a bicycle pump.) Some of the "witches stole my cow's milk" stories describe the symptoms, such as swelling, heat in the udder, stringy clots combined with watery milk, and of course the cow not giving milk any more, *really* accurately. And it must have been so inexplicable and of course, if you happened to be relying on that cow for your food source, panic-inducing, at the time. And now it's just a mild annoyance where you give the cow a shot and throw her milk out for a few days.

(Not that running off to stick pins in the local Old Lady No One Likes or doing any of the various witch repelling tricks would actually cure mastitis, but then, there wasn't a lot they could do that would be more effective....)

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