..although an innocent baby held in the arms is thought in Cornwall to protect the holder from mischief caused by ghosts and witches, it has no power over [spriggans], who are not supposed to have souls.Bottrell being quoted on p183/4 of
This legend took place under Chapel Carn Brea on the old road from Penzance to St. Just in Penwith. The mother, Jenny Trayer by name, was first alarmed on her return one night from her work in the harvest field by not finding her child in its cradle, but in a corner of the kitchen where in olden days the wood and furze for the general open fires was kept. She was however too tired to take much notice, and went to bed, and slept soundly until the morning.
From that time forth she had no peace; the child was never satisfied but when eating or drinking, or when she had it dandling in her arms.
The poor woman consulted her neigbours in turn as to what she should do with the changeling (as one and all agreed that it was). On recommended her to dip it on the three first Wednesdays in May in Chapel Uny Well, which advice was twice faithfully carried out in the prescribed manner. The third Wednesday was very wet and windy, but Jenny determined to persevere in this treatment of her ugly bantling, and holding the brat (who seemed to enjoy the storm) firmly on her shoulders, she trudged off. When they got about half way, a shrill voice from behind some rocks was heard to say,
Thy wife and children greet thee well."
Not seeing anyone, the woman was of course alarmed, and her fright increased when the imp made answer in a similar voice:
"What care I for wife or child,
When I ride on Dowdy's back to the Chapel Well,
And have got pap my fill?"
After this adventure, she took the advice of another neighbour, who told her the best way to get rid of the spriggan and have her own child returned was "to put the small body upon the ashes pile, and beat it well with a broom; then lay it naked under a church stile; there leave it and keep out of sight and hearing till the turn of night; when nine times out of ten, the thing will be taken away and the stolen child returned."
This was finally done, all the women of the village after it had been put upon a convenient pile "belabouring it with their brooms," upon which it naturally set up a frightful roar. AFter dark it was laid under the stile, and there next morning the woman "found her own 'dear cheeld' sleeping on some dry straw" most beautifully clean and wrapped ina piece of chintz.
"Jenny nursed her recovered child with great care, but there was always something queer about it, as there always is about one that has been in the fairies power - if only for a few days."
Cornish Folk-Lore. Part III. [Continued]
M. A. Courtney
The Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. 5, No. 3. (1887), pp. 177-220.
Posted by Rhiannon
3rd April 2007ce
Edited 3rd April 2007ce