Fairy Glamor

Glamor is the word for the magical abilities that are always attributed to faeries. Much of it stems from the faerie’s own mutable nature. Although always very small naturally, most faeries can change their form to appear any size or shape. There is usually some clue that lets a careful observer tell that a creature might be a faerie in disguise. For instance a horse might have that spark of intelligence in its eyes that an animal just shouldn’t have. Faeries masquerading as humans usually have some exaggerated feature or abnormality, such as pointy ears, a long nose or club feet. A faerie may of course try to hide such features. Certain faeries are known to prefer certain forms, the Hyter sprite for instance, commonly takes the from of a sand martin.

Although often portrayed in their natural forms as possessing wings, these appendages are not needed by faeries to fly. In addition to being of highly mutable nature, they are also in their normal form quite insubstantial as well. By letting themselves become almost gaseous in consistency, a faerie can float through the air with ease. Taking it even farther, faeries can become so insubstantial, that they are nearly impossible to see. Humans who are busy with much more important concerns are not likely to see a faerie
in its true from, and if they do, will probably just catch sight of  something out of the corner of their eye, and then lose it again. Most animals being much more alert and perceptive than humans are not as easily fooled by the wee folk. Dogs, cats, and horses will often become agitated by the presence of invisible faeries. Humans are able to see invisible
faeries when they apply a special ointment to their eyes, this ointment is made only by faeries who will be quite upset by its misuse.

Some faeries possess an even stronger glaymor. They are able to affect objects other than themselves. Many of these are trickster faeries, who use these abilities to create mischief. These abilities most often include illusions, which can distract or confuse men. Faerie food and gold are not to be trusted for they are rarely what they seem.

Many faeries us glaymor as a means of instantaneous transport. Just before departing a place many faeries are heard to utter “Horse and Hattock”, or some other magical phrase, occasionally including the destination as well. Bold mortals are sometimes able to tag along with the faeries by repeating the same cry. They may however end up in an unusual place (in many stories the King of France’s wine cellar seems to be the final destination for partying faeries).

Ointment – The salve, sometimes an oil and sometimes an oinment, by which human eyesight penetrates the Glamour which fairies can cast over it, and see things as they really are. It also penetrates the spells which cause invisibility. We are told most about it in stories of the Midwife to the Fairies. The first version of the tale is told in the 13th century writings of Gervase of Tilbury in the account of the Dracae of Brittany. Early as it is, it is the complete story: the fetching of a human midwife at night to an unknown house, the ointment given her to anoint the eyes of the newborn child and the strange enlightenment that follows her casual use of it on one of her own eyes; and as it followed, as in all the later stories, by the innocent betrayal of her forbidden vision and the blinding of the seeing eye. There are dozens of such stories with slight modifications, but Professor John Rhys in CELTIC FOLKLORE VOL. I, gives what may well be the complete story, the tale of Eilean. The fairy ointment occurs in another, slightly different story, Cherry of Zennor (q.v.). In this story in Hunt’s collection a country girl seeking service is engaged by a Fairy Widower as nursemaid to his little boy, and one of her duties is to anoint the eyes of
her charge every morning. Her master is amorous and friendly and she is very happy with him, until curiosity about the strange things that happen in her new home leads her to use the ointment on her own eyes, when she sees all sorts of things going on around her, her master as amorous with the midget fairies at the bottom of the spring as he ever was with her. Jealousy leads her to betray herself, and her master regretfully dismisses her though he does not injure her sight. It is clear from the story that the fairy master’s first wife was a mortal, which suggests that the ointment was needed only for hybrid fairies, for whole fairies by their own nature could see through the glamour.