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Thomas Keightley - The Fairy Mythology - The Brownie



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Fairy Mythology - Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries by Thomas Keightley  [1870]

In the mountains near Brecknock, says Davies,  there is a small lake, to which tradition assigns some of the properties of the fabled Avernus. I recollect a Mabinogi, or mythologic tale, respecting this piece of water, which runs thus :-

In ancient- times a door in a rock near this lake was found open upon a certain day every year. I think it was May-day. Those who had the curiosity and resolution to enter were conducted by a secret passage, which terminated in a small island in the centre- of the lake. Here the visitors were surprised with the prospect of a most enchanting garden stored with the choicest fruits and flowers, and inhabited by the Tylwyth Teg, or Fair Family, a kind of Fairies, whose beauty could be equalled only by the courtesy and affability which they exhibited to those who pleased them.

They gathered fruit and flowers for each of their guests, entertained them with the most exquisite music, disclosed to them many secrets of futurity, and invited them to stay as long as they should find their situation agreeable.

But the island was secret, and nothing of its produce must be carried away. The whole of this scene was invisible to those who stood without the margin of the lake. Only an indistinct mass was seen in the middle; and it was observed that no bird would fly over the water, and that a soft strain of music at times breathed with rapturous sweetness in the breeze of the morning.

It happened upon one of these annual visits that a sacriIegious wretch, when he was about to leave the garden, put a flower, with which he had been presented, in his pocket; but the theft boded him no good.. As soon as he had touched unhallowed ground the flower vanished and. he lost his senses.

Of this injury the Fair Family took no notice at the time. They dismissed their guests with their accustomed courtesy, and the door was closed as usual. But their resentment ran high. For though, as the tale goes, the Tylwyth Teg- and -their garden undoubtedly occupy the spot to this day, though the-birds still keep at a respectful distance from the lake, and. some broken strains of music are still heard at times, yet the door which led to the island has never re-opened,-and from the date of this sacrilegious act the Cymry- have been unfortunate.

Some  time after this an adventurous person attempted to draw off the water, in order to discover its contents, when a terrific form arose from the midst of the lake, commanding him to desist, or otherwise he would drown the country.

These, Tylwyth Teg are, as we see, regarded as Fairies, but we think improperly; for diminutive size is an attribute of the Fairies in-all parts of the British isles, and Mr. Owen (in his Welsh Dictionary, s.v.)  expressly says that such is not the case with these beings.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps