Faerie Folklore: The Changeling

Twin Changelings
Twin Changelings
The Opposite of what The Changeling Would Look Like
The Opposite of what The Changeling Would Look Like
A Grotesque Changeling
A Grotesque Changeling

Faerie Folklore: A Not-So-Pretty Fairy Tale

In today's culture, we see fairies parading about with wings and cute little sparkly outfits. We think of Tinkerbell and pixies and we smile...we delight in fairy tales and the innocence and child-like memories that the fairies bring to us. But what were the fairies of ancient times really like? Were they as beautiful and as kind as mainstream culture today tells us to believe?

In fact, the ancient peoples of Europe, specifically the Celtic people, believed in the "wee folk" or the "fae", but they not only believed in them...they feared most of them. The faeries gave the ancient people reasons to fear them, as they were mysterious and many times more than mischievous. When things went bad with the peoples' crops, many of them would blame the fae or the wee folk.

And when children were born deformed or ugly, the ancient people believed that these children were actually not children at all...but were "changelings". Changelings were believed to have been the offspring of the faerie folk, in many cases children of the trolls, that were used to replace a stolen human child. Many people believed that the faeries wanted to raise human children as their own and use them for their evil will, while others believed that the faeries would switch out the human child for the changeling because they wanted their faery offsprings to be raised in lavish, classy human homes.

There is much faerie folklore surrounding the belief in the changeling, and much of it was believed so adamantly that in one case a woman was murdered, as her husband believed her to have been a changeling. This happened in 1895 in Ireland!

Ireland is still filled with believers in the faeries, and some are even still wary of the changeling. It is said that a new mother or a new bride or a couple who is young and vibrant is most at risk for having their baby stolen and replaced with the changeling. Before Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, the changeling was thought to be nothing more than a grotesque baby of the wee folk, but as Christianity began to rise in Europe...the view of what the Changeling was changed. So did the faerie folklore in general.

Before Christianity, the people of Ireland and elsewhere throughout Europe saw faeries and the wee folk as sort of older, ancient spirits...a race that was forced into hiding when the humans began to take over the earth. But when the Church converted many "Pagans" to their strict and staunch religion, faeries were turned into "demons" and "devils". So you can bet that the Changeling was also turned into a spawn of Satan.

How did one get their own child back after the devils had stolen the child and given the poor soul a Changeling? Some said that if you threw the changeling into the fireplace, that the Changeling would jump up and out of the chimney and the human child would be returned to its mother. The Church used the faerie folklore to scare the people into conversions, and claimed that any child who wasn't baptized would be at particular risk for being stolen by the faeries. If the child was baptized, then the faeries or "devils" couldn't steal it.

In other countries such as Scotland and England, the people believed that adults could be kidnapped by the faeries, as well as the children. If a person was caught in the path of a faerie ride or raid during one of the Pagan holidays, they were at risk and most likely going to be carried away by the faerie folk. In many cases these faeries were the Elf people...and they enjoyed kidnapping humans and whisking them away into a party that lasted forever. Once the human was returned to the normal realm, years and years have passed by and many times the human's family was long gone.

Is the changeling a real thing? Did the faerie folk replace human children with their own distorted offspring in a time when the faeries roamed the earth and mischief ran rampant? Or was this all silly superstition, created by imaginative minds and lack of excuse for imbred or diseased children? We may never know...


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Comments 22 comments

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 10 months ago from the Ether Author

sublimegurl439 - I'm happy you came back to read and comment! Your coven sounds very interesting. For a long time I looked for a coven that followed a faery path but could never find one here on the east coast. Thanks, again!


sublimegurl439 profile image

sublimegurl439 10 months ago from Granite Bay, CA

I know this is an old hub, but I came across this when I was reading up on Changelings. I really like the way you wrote this.

I am actually in a Pagan coven and our traditions are of The Sidhe (Shee) or the Tuatha De Danaan. Our coven considers ourselves to be Changelings. We might all be in human bodies this life, but each one of us are different creatures who's real form is up in the astral plane.

I don't normally use hub pages much anymore, but this hub is great.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Nell - Wow! I'd never heard of the small people from Flores but now I'm going to have to check that out for sure. Thanks for sharing. I've always found the lore of the changeling intriguing...and terrifying in the same breath. Myth usually stem from some form of reality...whether modern day realists want to believe it or not. :)

Thank you, reikieffect and suzettenaples!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I love faery stories and their lore, especially in literature. (A Midsummer Night's Dream) I was a Brownie when I was young. (before becoming a Girl Scout) and Brownies were based on Brownie faeries in Britain from the old days. I have always enjoyed the Brownie faery stories and still have my Brownie beanie, even today.


reikieffect profile image

reikieffect 4 years ago

Pretty interesting kitty! Even the discussions are great. Up !!!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, how did I miss this one? changlings have always been one of my favorite myths, legends, or even reality! and I always think that maybe these myths started by ancient tribes maybe doing this, changing their children with a human, if you think about it homofloresiensis have been discovered! the little people on the isle of flores! voted up, shared and facebooked!


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

AP - Hey, I was just thinking "Hmm...I haven't heard from AP in awhile, maybe I should pay him a visit?" Nice to see ya! Yes, it definitely elicited a response. And you're right...Ireland isn't the only place to believe in the wee folk...there are beliefs in races of faeries all over the world. I agree...there's much more to the changelings than meets the eye...Thanks so much! :) Have an awesome holiday season!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Pretty interesting subject that's elicited quite a response Kitty. Your very knowledgeable on the faeries and it shows. Here's someone who has read enough about them to know not to laugh. They're certainly not exclusive to Ireland. The Europeans were right in seeing them as ancient entities in my humble opinion. Can't help but think there may be more to the Changelings than meets the eye though. Good history and topic Kitty.


KelsieGriggs profile image

KelsieGriggs 4 years ago from Provo Utah

I'm sorry Kitty I don't understand what you are meaning about your comment about Phoenix. But thank you for understanding! :)

Kelsie


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

No worries. And people from Phoenix are Phoenicians.


KelsieGriggs profile image

KelsieGriggs 4 years ago from Provo Utah

When I noticed what the comments were saying, I pointed out that you may have lacked information which may have been the reason for such judgemental opinions of the Irish. You were in no way disrespectful or anything of the sort, I just felt a bit more information may have prevented such harsh judgements however this is your story and you wanted to focus on the changeling part and I understand this so please don't presume that from my comment I think you are purposely portraying the Irish in a bad light. This is not what I was saying at all. Yes it is a simple story and it amazes me still that such simplicities in this world tend to create the largest arguments. I am dealing with this on a hub of mine as well so I completely understand your general way of sharing information about changelings and the large arguments that brew along with it. Please don't take my comment as more than what it was meant which was only to point out the judging comments and perhaps how you may have written it in a way that people percieve these judgements. Thank you Kitty.

Kelsie


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

If you've been a follower of mine, you would know that I am half Irish and am deeply in love with the Irish history and culture, and am also a Pagan who incorporates Celtic beliefs into my spirituality. Please don't presume that from this hub that I am portraying the Irish in a bad light. It is simply a story, one that I felt was interesting and a wee bit frightening. Thanks!


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Thanks, Paradise. You're the sweetest, as always. :) Blessings.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

As always, you captivated me completely with the stories of faeries and changelings.


KelsieGriggs profile image

KelsieGriggs 4 years ago from Provo Utah

Kitty,

Please don't take what I meant as misinformed as unintelligent. That is no way how I meant what I said. I was simply stating that I felt you didn't give enough information with this specific aspect. You mention some information as to before Christianity however I feel like a lot of information could have been put in to avoid the sort of reaction of the Irish being ignorant as per one of the comments above. I in no way meant you were ignorant so please reread my comment with an open mind and understand I was just stating my opinion as to how I felt the Irish were portrayed simply by not including information. Thank you again Kitty for another great hub! Another intelligent hub! ;)

Kelsie


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Kelsie - Let me start off by saying, thanks for reading my hub. Secondly, I never meant to portray all faeries as "changelings"...this is merely one small tale in a sea of tales and legends of the fay from Europe and all over the world. I've actually been studying and researching faeries for the past eleven years, and I work with faery magick. That in no way makes me an expert, but I like to think that I know enough about them that I don't come off sounding misinformed or unintelligent in the matter. If you're interested in reading more of my hubs on faeries, check out some of the following:

http://kittythedreamer.hubpages.com/hub/Faery-Magi...

https://exemplore.com/magic/How-to-Invite-Faeries-...


KelsieGriggs profile image

KelsieGriggs 4 years ago from Provo Utah

Kitty,

Great Hub thank you for this perspective! I feel, and especially after reading some of the comments above that you failed to portray the entire picture of the fairies in Ireland specifically. In Ireland, Fairies were more than changelings, this was a belief actually held by the Christian Irish at the time when in actual Celtic religion before Christianity, Fairies were considered as much a part of magic as were witches and goblins as well as good luck amulets and love potions. Fairies were a race of people who dwelled underground and yes were mischievous bunch however were also regarded as more than changelings. They had royalty and many folklore involves love stories and many human characteristics. I hope this helps to open the picture of yes, the simple minded tinkerbell theory. Thank you for the great hub and pictures! :)

Kelsie


ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 4 years ago

Thanks for reading the dad article, I'm headed over to respond to your comment there. How funny that you said you like the picture. Someone, a man, who reads what I write JUST asked me to change back to the picture where I'm wearing my hat. :-). SMH. But thank you. And okay, I'll give the Irish a break, I love them. They talk so fast in the rural areas. So strange. We are so the opposite in the US. The more rural, the slower the speak...


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

SJ - I love your new picture! You look gorgeous! I know...sad, right? He must've been a little bit whacky though...so let's not judge all Irish folks on his incident. ;) Thanks for reading...and I'm sure you do know some changelings! LOL.

leann - Me, too! Thanks for reading & enjoying.

Melissa - Thanks! Tinkerbell is a far cry from what faeries were believed to be back then.


Melissa McClain profile image

Melissa McClain 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Love the hub! Very interesting and challenges the modern view of fairies as all Tinkerbell types. Voted Up!


leann2800 4 years ago

I love faerie folklore. Thanks for sharing your explanation of changelings. The pictures are awesome :)


ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 4 years ago

Hi Kitty! Interesting and up from me. OMG 1895!!!! That's ridiculous. No disrespect to Ireland, but COME ON!!! Alright, I'm okay now. I know you love the Faerie culture, and I'd never thought of them being associated with anything evil, ever. Very, very interesting. You know what, now that you mention it, I might just know some changelings....:-)

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    kittythedreamer profile image

    Author Nicole Canfield (kittythedreamer)1,897 Followers
    428 Articles

    Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.



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