Tuesday, 1 June 2010

On the Little People

ome years ago, I stayed in the Foret du Cranou (Forest of the Fairies) in Brittany. While I was there, I had a number of odd experiences, including a lucid dream in which I was inside a goblin shop that I knew to be in somewhere in the Forest. I was talking to the shop keeper when one of my cats, Jack, came in. I realised he had come because he missed me, but I didn't want him to be hurt crossing the roads back, so I walked him home and the dream ended. Sadly, two years later, almost to the day, Jack was killed by a car on my lane.

Recently, while I was writing in the Museum of Witchcraft, I found the following description by Pomponius Mela, of the Korrigan, the Breton little people:
[The Korrigan are the] oracle of the Gallic God. His priestesses, holy in perpetual virginity, are said to be nine in number. They are called Gallicenae, and are thought to be endowed with singular powers, so as to raise by their charms the winds and seas, to turn themselves into what animals they will, to cure wounds and diseases incurable by others, to know and predict the future.

For years I wondered whether my dream was connected to Jack's death. Secretly I worried that he might have been taken by the little people, as he was a gorgeous cat and I could understand someone wanting him. Now I wonder whether instead the dream was a premonition: Jack's death was so sudden, perhaps the Korrigan were trying to prepare me.

After reading Pomponius Mela's words, I made the following notes:

These ones who catch us, teach us, punish us for our ignorance, dance with us; who live underground, in the dark places, in wells; who swim up to us, or who hide in wait; who sit for years alone.

Their power is so much greater than ours. We blunder about, seeing through our one good eye, stuttering. They ask us questions we cannot answer. We grope to complete rhymes that are beyond our skill. We play with words we've never heard before, or try to repeat songs that are beyond our hearing.

Did they make us? If so, why? Are we their dolls, or their students? We who move in circles, around supermarkets, roundabouts, one-way systems and ring-roads. Are these the dances they taught us at night in the fields? Are we endlessly driven to repeat them?

At the few holy wells that aren't yet blocked, do they still hear our wishes? Do they grant them, or keep them, as we keep money, stuffing them into their pockets to save for later?

And what if we created them? What do they give us, poor ragged, jagged-toothed beasts, poor goblins? What is it in their laughter, their cruelty, their dancing, that we desire?

And if we are their students, why try to teach us? What does it mean that they come into our dreams to prepare us for the worst? Can they change anything? Can they influence the future? Are the truly powerful things also the smallest, the seemingly least significant?

This post has taken me a long time to write. I have felt awkward discussing goblins and Korrigan. I'm quite embarrassed and my notes are full of questions because I don't want to commit to anything too pointy-eared.

Finally then, to return to something safely literary, here's Christina Rossetti's thoroughly creepy Goblin Market.


  1. I love that you discuss the pointy-earedness! The Korrigan remind me of a similar norse tradition from the eddas, the nine great seeresses who roamed the earth, journeying where needed, always invited but never summoned to tell of the future in the frozen north.They were part woman part goddess created by the Norns, like us but closer to the source of the great World Ash Tree where past, present and future are one.Perhaps they did guide or warn you, perhaps you are of their blood and both eyes opened in that magical place. Jack was beautifulxxxxxx

  2. "I don't want to commit to anything too pointy-eared."
    ~ brilliant!
    I concur, and you do it delightfully Sian :)
    I vote we begin a campaign for reclaiming raggedy strange and definitely not pointy-eared little people!

    R :)

  3. Such wonderful writing has been going on here during my absence from the land of Blog! I really relished both this piece on the Little People and your musings and poetry from the Witchery museum in Boscastle. Brava! (And much love...)

  4. You've captured something in your notes...or maybe it captured you! Lovely- could read a lot more of this.

  5. I could read a lot more too!
    I look forward to every new posting of yours heralded by your drawings - are they small drawings? I can't tell. Always thrilling to see each new one appear on my favourite sites collection.
    I do admire your brave and lovely writing.
    I was also grateful for Christina's life raft in a scary sea of pointy-eared -ness.

  6. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

    S x