House Fairies and Elves: The Brownie, Monaciello, and More!
House Elves and Other Creatures
Before modern times, before we had Alexa and Google Home devices to remind us when to complete our errands and chores, there were lucky people who had an elf or other fairy creature who helped out with chores around the house. When the woman of the house would go to bed at night, the house elf would get to work helping to finish the cleaning, cooking, or mending that she wasn't able to get to during the day. Wouldn't that be nice to have a creature in your home helping you finish your laundry, cooking, and dishes while you are asleep?
Depending on the country and region, there were different types of house elves and fairies and different names for each of them. The Scottish people had the Brownie, which is probably the most well-known of the house elves. There's the Clurichaun and Beantighe in Ireland, and the Moniacello in Italy. Some are beneficial to have in your home, while others might wreak havoc. Read on to learn more.
The most well-known and loved house elf in folklore is the Scottish Brownie. The Brownie is a small male creature, between one and two feet tall, who takes up residence in a deserving family's home. The Brownie is said to reside mostly in Scotland, but some say the Scottish immigrants brought the Brownie over with them to the United States and Canada in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. The Brownie's temperament is mild and he is rather helpful with chores around the house. When the woman of the house goes to bed, he has been known to finish her chores. The Brownie is said to be helpful on the farm by bringing in food and firewood when needed, and is also theorized to be a shapeshifter who shifts into the form of a rooster to crow in the morning. Others believe the rooster is actually a friend of the Brownie's and crows to tell him when to go to bed (although humans believe the rooster crows to wake us up in the morning). The Mother Goose Rhyme "I Had a Little Rooster" demonstrates the belief in the Brownie taking on the form of the Rooster.
The Brownie enjoys a family who is kind and hard-working, and typically takes up residence in a warm nook or cranny like an undisturbed cupboard or high shelf. They can be appeased and even attracted to one's home by leaving out offerings of bread, milk, honey, and ale. Folklore says to never give clothing to a Brownie (or any house elf) as they will take the gift and leave. This fun bit of lore is reflected in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. Harry Potter gives Dobie a sock, thereby granting Dobie his freedom from servitude to the Malfoy family. It is very good luck to have a Brownie living in your house, not just for the fact that they help with chores, but also because they keep bad spirits away and bring abundance to the family.
The Bean-Tighe: The Irish Brownie
Similar to the Scottish Brownie, the Irish Bean-tighe (pronounced ban-tee) is a benevolent house elf that will look after a nice family's hearthside. The main difference between the Brownie and the Bean-tighe is gender. The Bean-tighe is described as being a small elderly female creature who wears tattered old-fashioned dresses and has a wrinkled face. Her name translates to "woman of the house", and you may have recognized that it is similar to the Beansidhe (banshee). This is because both creatures are linked to the old Irish families. But in opposition to the rather frightening Beansidhe, the Beantighe is friendly and warm. She is a housekeeper and watches over the animals and children in the house.
The Bean-tighe loves a warm fire and kind-hearted humans, and she will even watch over the children at night. Some Irish folklore tells of mothers getting up in the middle of the night to check on the children and found the children had an extra blanket covering them or a window open/closed to adjust the temperature in the room. This was most assuredly work of the Bean-tighe. The Bean-tighe loves cream and berries, and therefore should be offered such. Other tales tell of old Irish women who were careful not to keep their homes too clean, for fear of being accused of having a Bean-tighe. During the Witch Trial era, if you were thought to be a friend of the fairies', you were often accused of witchcraft. If you are of Milesian descent, the Bean-tighe will be more likely to take up residence in your home, but she has been known to help those who call to her.
The Boggart was a Scottish house elf that you did not want in your home. His other names are hobgoblin, goblin, boogie man, and gob. They are similar in appearance to the Brownie; however, in a more distorted form. The Boggart is not friendly and enjoys destroying a household rather than helping one. Some believe he is a Brownie gone bad. If you have a Brownie in your home and do not treat him well, it is believed he may turn into the Boggart. Boggarts will eat the wood that makes up a home, like a large termite, and destroy the foundation of a home if not exorcised. Another theory is the Boggart could also be a relative of the Ballybog (a peat bog fairy).
The Boggart is said to torment the household, particularly taking fun in bothering the children. They are known to steal the food from a child's plate and try to smother them in the middle of the night. This is where the image of the Boogie-Man originated.
Bwbachs: The Welsh Cottager Fairy
Bwbachs (pronounced boo-box) are Welsh solitary house fairies known to reside in Welsh homes. They are said to be protective of the house; however, they do not help out with chores and can become a nuisance. Their mischievous nature lends them to chase off anyone who they feel threatens the household, which could include friendly neighbors, friends, and even family members. They are always seen as male and wear red hats and loincloths. They can be kept happy by leaving offerings of food (traditionally bread) and keeping the house warm. To distract them from running off your houseguests, keep the milk and bread out and stoke up the fire. They are also known as cottagers and booakers.
The Monaciello and Clurichaun: Wine Cellar Elves
Fairies are traditionally known for enjoying a good drink, and wine is no exception. In Italy there is a fairy creature known as the Monaciello, who enjoys a good drink so much that he will move into a wine cellar. Luckily, his main objective is to protect the wine cellar, though offerings of wine should be given to him on a regular basis. His name translates to "little monk" and is such because of how he dresses - in a red hooded cloak. Whenever seen, the Monaciello always appears to be drunk but almost always friendly. Folklore tells stories of the Monaciello guarding a wine cellar, but also guarding a sacred treasure. If you can steal the Monaciello's hood, you can take his treasure.
The Clurichaun is a cousin of the Leprechaun in Ireland. He looks exactly like a Leprechaun except for the fact that he wears red. He resides in a wine cellar of his choosing and is often seen in a drunken manner; however, he is never sloppy and always well-groomed. His job, which he's taken upon himself, is to watch over the wine cellar and make sure there are no leaks or wine going bad. Give him a bit of your wine on a regular basis, and he will remain happy and friendly. Ignore him or mistreat him and he will empty your wine stock and leave the cellar in a catastrophic state. Folklore tells of the Clurichaun singing old Irish songs and protecting against wine thieves.
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© 2018 Nicole Canfield