The Secret Life of Brownies
The Real Truth about the Scottish Brownie
Brownies are good-natured little fellows, related to the household spirits of the hob species, under the leprechaun order.
They can work diligently for farmers but are better known within houses. Do you think you may have a Brownie in your home?
They appear only at night to perform kind and helpful deeds and to enjoy a little harmless prank or two while weary households sleep.
The Scottish Brownie
You don't hear much about the Brownies nowadays. (A lot of this has to do with the Brownie's aversion to having his photograph taken). But it's a terrible shock to find that brownies are not known everywhere and this increase the fears held for their extinction!
Brownies, as you know, are originally from Scotland and the Outer Isles. But they are not seen much in this hurried century. Although there is much anecdotal evidence that has them following emigrants to Canada and Australia, they are not found elsewhere, and there is uncertainty about their ultimate survival in these troubled times.
It seems this very useful chap has become rare among the Highland mountains although at one time he was the common resident of every family of rank in those countries.
If you have a Brownie, treat him well. He could be the last of his kind!
Family Farmhouse Brownies - Every family had one
Once every family had a Brownie
It is said that in the old days, before the Land Clearances, every family had their own Brownie.
When families churned their milk a bowl was placed by the back door, when they baked their bannocks a small piece was laid aside, and when they brewed their ale a dribble of wort was poured into a saucer. All of this was done to honour and please the Brownie.
For if you had a happy Brownie pleased with your offerings, he would work all night (a great deal of work, the old people said) and lustily clean up your kitchen and shine your hob so that in the morning the sight of the gleaming would dazzle your eyes.
A very obliging fellow to be sure, and one most welcome around the house.
The Elusive House Guests
“No person, except those gifted with second sight, could see the Brownies; but from the privileged few, principally old women, who were thus enabled to now and then catch a glimpse of their goblin guests, correct information regarding their size and color is said to have been gained.” Sir Walter Scott
Do you have a Brownie in your Home?
First ask yourself if you have Scottish antecedents. Was one of your ancestors evicted from the family holding during the Land Clearances? For many a Brownie left when the family left, and sailed across the ocean with them.
In some way that is beyond our ken, the Brownie will choose one member of the family to faithfully serve. What is remarkable is that a Brownie can leave a particular family branch and go across to a completely different branch.
So, you can never be certain if a Brownie has suddenly transferred to your household from that of your cousin to the 4th degree.
If this is the case, you will begin to notice strange and mischievous activity in your house.
More on Scottish Customs
You don't hear much about Scottish customs, it's not somehow fashionable. not like the traditions of Ireland, for example, which have worldwide attention.
In this delightful book you'll find a wide range of folkloric traditions and the customs of ordinary folk.
Author, Margaret Bennett, is widely regarded as Scotland's foremost authority on Folklore.
Strange and mischievous activity in your house
Have you suddenly started losing combs, pens and spoons? These little pranks are an innocent pastime of the Brownie.
Do you hear the repeated swoosh of a broom and the clatter of laundry buckets at night? Have you noticed your kitchen stove is polished?
If this is happening to you, very likely a Brownie has moved into your establishment, for although he is rarely seen, he can often be heard cleaning and scrubbing.
Leave out some oat cakes made on the griddle and a dish of cream at night. If you forget, the Brownie may disarrange rooms and furniture, and make an untidy clutter while you lie in your bed!
Brownies like Oatcakes from the Griddle
Scottish history isn't just about Robert Burns and Braveheart. In fact, it's far more complex than you might think
The eerie and puckish world of fairies, ghosts, and spirits as recounted by William Butler Yeats. In this collection Yeats tells of his own experiences with the uncanny supernatural world. A classic from 1902
Keep the Brownie contented
Just to be sure, leave out some supper for the Brownie.
My great grandmother told me to place a mug of a milk and the occasional bun on the table to keep the Brownie contented. I do this as I know Brownies keep a home neat and tidy. If I were a modern-thinking new-age sort of person I would say that the Brownie clears a house of negative energy, for I am sure that a Brownie does this to my own home.
Although he hasn't been inclined to wash any dirty dishes that I've left on the bench.
A Word of Caution
Don't ever make the mistake of confusing a Bogle with a Brownie!
Like the Boggarts of Yorkshire, a Bogle is more wicked than mischievous, and sometimes modern day Scots (who have forgotten their childrens' tales) will mistake them for poltergeists.
Always beware of Bogles!
What do you think, are Brownies still with us?
Do you believe in the Brownie?
© 2008 Susanna Duffy