Anne Jefferies and the Fairies
A well documented and peculiar folktale involving a human’s alleged dealings with fairies, which was also widely publicised at the time, is that of Anne Jefferies of St Teath, Cornwall, England. The sources for the events in this particular fairy tale are a March 1647 letter in the Clarendon Manuscripts (documents dealing chiefly with English history from 1608 to 1689) and a printed letter from publisher Moses Pitt to the Bishop of Gloucester, written in 1696. Pitt was writing from experience as he was born in St. Teath and was the son of Anne Jefferies’ former master and mistress.
Anne Jefferies was born in St. Teath in December 1626, the daughter of a poor labourer. She was, by all accounts, a bright and curious girl though, in common with the majority of the population at this time, she never learned to read. West Country tales of fairies and pixies held a strong fascination for the girl and she often ventured out after dusk searching the valleys for the Good People and singing a fairy song:
‘Fairy fair and fairy bright;
Come and be my chosen sprite.’
Taken by the Fairies
When she was nineteen Anne went into service at the home of the wealthy Pitt family. One afternoon the girl was knitting in an arbour outside the garden gate when something so alarming happened to her that she fell to the ground in a convulsive fit. Anne was later found by members of the family and taken up to her bedroom where she remained ill for some time. When she finally regained consciousness the girl related an incredible story.
Anne said that she had been in the arbour knitting when she heard a noise in the bushes, then six tiny men appeared, all dressed completely in green, with unusually bright eyes. The leader of the fairy group, who had a red feather in his cap, spoke to her lovingly and then jumped onto her palm, which she placed on her lap. The little man then climbed up her body and began kissing her neck, which she apparently enjoyed. He then called his five companions who swarmed all over her body kissing her until one of them put his hands over her eyes and she felt a sharp pricking sensation, and everything went dark.
Anne was then lifted up into the air and carried off. When she was set down again she heard someone say ‘Tear! tear!’ and her eyes were opened. The girl found herself in a paradisiacal land of temples, palaces, gardens, lakes and brightly-coloured singing birds. The richly adorned people who lived in this magical land were human-sized and spent their time dancing and playing, and Anne herself was treated like royalty. She again met her fairy friend with the red feather in his cap, but whilst they were alone together his five companions arrived accompanied by an angry mob. In the ensuing struggle her fairy lover was wounded trying to protect her and the same individual who had blinded her before did so again. Anne was once more taken up into the air, this time with a great humming noise, and finally found herself back on the ground in the arbour.
There seem to have been various side-effects of Anne’s apparent visit to fairyland. According to Moses Pitt, after the incident she ate no food at their house as she claimed to be nourished by the Good People themselves. Apparently Anne soon began to exhibit powers of clairvoyance and healing, on one occasion healing her mistress’s injured leg by the placing on of her hands. Before long hordes of people from all over the country were visiting her for her cures. It was said that Anne could also foretell the identities of the people who would visit her, where they came from and what time they would arrive.
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