Fantasies from Evil Spirits? Faeries in the Medieval Imagination

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The Fool with Two Demons / Master of the Ingeborg Psalter

Fantasies from Evil Spirits? Faeries in the Medieval Imagination

 “There are also others who say that they see women and girls dancing by night whom they call elvish folk, or faeries, and they believe that these can transform both men and women or, by leaving others in their place, carry them to elf-land; all of these are mere fantasies bequeathed to them by an evil spirit.”

 - From an English sermon c.1390.

This opinion from an unknown Wycliffite preacher at the end of the 14th century, sums up well the orthodox ecclesiastical view of faeries, and people’s belief in them, during the late Middle Ages. In order to counter an evident vernacular belief in faeries, the Church’s official line was that the faeries were the result of delusions orchestrated by the Devil and his evil minions for various nefarious purposes. This was (from 1184) reinforced by The Inquisition, which could include questions in its commissions about any interactions with the faeries, aimed at weeding out heretical beliefs and punishing the perpetrators.

‘Wycliffite Preacher’, English 14th century

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