The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, , at sacred-texts.com
DURING the years 1907-9 this study first took shape, being then based mainly on literary sources; and during the latter year it was successfully presented to the Faculty of Letters of the University of Rennes, Brittany, for the Degree of Docteur-ès-Lettres. Since then I have re-investigated the whole problem of the Celtic belief in Fairies, and have collected very much fresh material. Two years ago the scope of my original research was limited to the four chief Celtic countries, but now it includes all of the Celtic countries.
In the present study, which has profited greatly by criticisms of the first passed by scholars in Britain and in France, the original literary point of view is combined with the broader point of view of anthropology. This study, the final and more comprehensive form of my views about the 'Fairy-Faith', would never have been possible had I not enjoyed during many months the kindly advice and constant encouragement of Mr. R. R. Marett, Reader in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Exeter College.
During May 1910 the substance of this essay in its pan-Celtic form was submitted to the Board of the Faculty of Natural Science of Oxford University for the Research Degree of Bachelor of Science, which was duly granted. But the present work contains considerable material not contained in the essay presented to the Oxford examiners, the Right Hon. Sir John Rhy^s and Mr. Andrew Lang; and, therefore, I alone assume entire responsibility for all its possible shortcomings, and in particular for some of its more speculative theories, which to some minds may appear to be in conflict with orthodox views, whether of the theologian or of the man of science. These theories, however venturesome they may appear, are put forth in almost every
case with the full approval of some reliable, scholarly Celt; and as such they are chiefly intended to make the exposition of the belief in fairies as completely and as truly Celtic as possible, without much regard for non-Celtic opinion, whether this be in harmony with Celtic opinion or not.
As the new manuscript of the 'Fairy-Faith' lies before me revised and finished, I realize even more fully than I did two years ago with respect to the original study, how little right I have to call it mine. Those to whom the credit for it really belongs are my many kind friends and helpers in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, and many others who are not Celts, in the three great nations--happily so intimately united now by unbreakable bonds of goodwill and international brotherhood--Britain, France, and the United States of America; for without the aid of all these Celtic and non-Celtic friends the work could never have been accomplished. They have given me their best and rarest thoughts as so many golden threads; I have only furnished the mental loom, and woven these golden threads together in my own way according to what I take to be the psychological pattern of the Fairy-Faith.
I am under a special obligation to the following six distinguished Celtic scholars who have contributed, for my second chapter, the six introductions to the fairy-lore collected by me in their respective countries:--Dr. Douglas Hyde (Ireland); Dr. Alexander Carmichael (Scotland); Miss Sophia Morrison (Isle of Man); the Right Hon. Sir John Rhy^s (Wales); Mr. Henry Jenner (Cornwall); Professor Anatole Le Bras (Brittany).
I am also greatly indebted to the Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter, Principal of Manchester College, for having aided me with the parts of this book touching Christian theology; to Mr. R. I. Best, M.R.I.A., Assistant Librarian, National Library, Dublin, for having aided me with the parts devoted to Irish mythology and literature; and to Mr. William McDougall, Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy in the University of Oxford, for a similar service with respect to Section IV, entitled 'Science and Fairies'. And to these
and to all the other scholars whose names appear in this preface, my heartiest thanks are due for the assistance which they have so kindly rendered in reading different parts of the Fairy-Faith when in proof.
With the deep spirit of reverence which a student feels towards his preceptors, I acknowledge a still greater debt to those among my friends and helpers who have been my Celtic guides and teachers. Here in Oxford University I have run up a long account with the Right Hon. Sir John Rhy^s, the Professor of Celtic, who has introduced me to the study of Modern Irish, and of Arthurian romance and mythology, and has guided me both during the year 1907-8 and ever since in Celtic folk-lore generally. To Mr. Andrew Lang, I am likewise a debtor, more especially in view of the important suggestions which he has given me during the past two years with respect to anthropology and to psychical research. In my relation to the Faculty of Letters of the University of Rennes, I shall always remember the friendly individual assistance offered to me there during the year 1908-9 by Professor Joseph Loth, then Dean in that University, but now of the College of France, in Paris, particularly with respect to Brythonic mythology, philology, and archaeology; by Professor Georges Dottin, particularly with respect to Gaelic matters; and by Professor Anatole Le Bras, whose continual good wishes towards my work have been a constant source of inspiration since our first meeting during March 1908, especially in my investigation of La Légende de La Mort, and of the related traditions and living folk-beliefs in Brittany--Brittany with its haunted ground of Carnac, home of the ancient Brythonic Mysteries.
W. Y. E. W.
Jesus College, Oxford
All Saints' Day, 1911