British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Caerlaverlock

Caerlaverlock

Now known mainly for its castle, Caerlaverlock was once a haunt of fairies. In 1810, R.H. Cromek writes of a story about a fairy changeling:

A beautiful child, of Caerlaveroc, in
Nithsdale, on the second day of its birth,
and before its baptism, was changes, none
knew how, for an antiquated elf of
hideous aspect. It kept the family awake
with its nightly yells; biting the mother's
breasts, and would neither be cradled or
nursed.

One day the mother had to be away from home. She left the infant in the charge of a servant girl, who sat grumbling that she couldn't get on with her household chores. The baby then spoke, telling her that he would do her work if she would loosen the band that kept him in the cradle. When she did as he asked, he leaped up, and all the jobs around the house were completed with amazing rapidity.

'What'll we do wi' the wee diel?' wondered the mother when she heard what had happened, but the servant girl knew what to do. At midnight they covered the chimney top and barred every opening into the house. They blew up the embers until they were glowing hot, and the maid, undressing the infant, tossed it in the fire.

It uttered the wildest and most piercing yells, and, in a moment, the Fairies were heard moaning at every wonted avenue, and rattling at the window boards, at the chimney head, and at the door. 'In the name o' God bring back the bairn, ' cried the lass. The window flew up; the earthly child was laid unharmed on the mother's lap, while its grisly substitute flew up the chimney with a loud laugh.

The fairies were known to be given to taking beautiful and healthy babies. Families once took the precaution, when a pretty child was born, to consecrate it to God and pray for its protection. Other safeguards were bibles, crosses made of straw, and steel pins stuck into the pillow, although Cromek adds that such measures could provoke spiteful revenge:

When the mother's vigilance hinders the fairies from carrying her child away, or changing it, the touch of fairy hands and their unearthly breath make it wither away in every limb and lineament, like a blighted ear of corn.