Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The belief that faeries kidnapped mortal children and left a faery substitute in their place is a recurrent theme in folk legend. Various reasons were given for the practice: the theft of beautiful, golden-haired children was to improve the faery stock; abducted mortal children could be used instead of faery children as a tribute to Hell; or the could be set to work as servants.
When a child was born, every effort was made to prevent a faery abduction. The threat was at its greatest until the baby was christened or sometimes, just until it sneezed, and numerous spells or charms were employed to ward off faery kidnappers.
In some households, every cupboard and drawer would be locked '... for it care is not taken the faeries will get in and hide in the drawers and presses.' A live coal might be placed in the baby's first bath, while, when dressed, the infant was turned three times heels over head, blessed and then turned upside down and shaken three times.