Fairy Tradition in Britain

The Fairy Tradition in Britain
by Lewis Spence

“I should add, however, that, particularly on the occasion of Samhain, bonfires were lit with the express intention of scaring away the demonic forces of winter, and we know that, at Bealltainn in Scotland, offerings of baked custard were made within the last hundred and seventy years to the eponymous spirits of wild animals which were particularly prone to prey upon the flocks – the eagle, the crow, and the fox, among others. Indeed, at these seasons all supernatural beings were held in peculiar dread. It seems by no means improbable that these circumstances reveal conditions arising out of a later solar pagan worship in respect of which the cult of fairy was relatively greatly more ancient, and perhaps held to be somewhat inimical.”

― Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins


Spence, Lewis The Fairy Tradition in Britain (Rider 1948). LS was by any standards a strange writer. He dedicated, for example, years of his life to proving the existence of Atlantis with reference to Irish and Mexican mythology: don’t do it, Lewis! Of all his meanderings, his work on fairies has survived best. There is though here a misfortune. It is his other fairy book on Fairy Origins, a stimulating but eccentric monograph, which is endlessly reprinted. Whereas The Fairy Tradition, perhaps the best general introduction to the fairies, is rare. In Spence’s mind this was his ‘source’ book. And while The Fairy Tradition is never tedious the sheer bulk of information can rather clog up your brain. Still there is nowhere else where you can get such a concentration of information in so few pages.

―Beach Comber’s The Triumph of the Dilettantes: Top Ten Fairy Books