Some examples of wayfarers led astray
OF all the superstitions connected with the pixies, that, already remarked upon, of wayfarers being liable to be led astray by them, seems to be the one which has longest continued to keep a hold upon the country-people. There are many now in our villages, who while they would not admit that they believed in the pixies' doings, yet are full of instances of folks having missed their way in the most mysterious manner, and are more ready to incline to the idea that supernatural agencies were at work, than to seek the actual causes of such mishaps.
Two instances occur to me at the moment, of villagers of Brent having lost themselves in a neighbourhood with which they were thoroughly acquainted, and being unable for a very long time to discover their road. One of these was on his way homeward from Ugborough, which is some three miles distant from Brent, and somehow found himself at fault in the lanes near Sandowl Cross, wandering about in them during the greater part of the night. The other was merely proceeding from the village to the hamlet of Aish, only half a mile away, and got mystified in the same manner. Now positively they say that if this was not the work of the pixies, they are unable to account for it. The roads were known to them, but by some means they constantly took the wrong turning, and seemed to be entirely at fault. We had better perhaps, be not too inquisitive about the matter; the true cause may not be far to seek. I mention the circumstance in order to show that the belief in this liability to be drawn away from one's path by supernatural means is not yet extinct.1
1 While these sheets were passing through the press, an instance of superstitious belief was reported in the Western Daily Mercury, of 6th June, 1890. It appears that a few days previous to that date, some labourers were engaged in ripping bark in a wood at a short distance from Torrington, in North Devon. When the time arrived for them to leave their work, one of them separating himself from his companions went to another part of the wood, in order to fetch a tool which he had left there. As he stooped to pick it up, a most strange feeling came over him, and he felt himself utterly unable to regain an upright position. Around him he heard peals of discordant laughter, and became seized with the conviction that he had fallen under a spell of the pixies. In this uncomfortable predicament he averred that he remained for the space of five hours, and was even then only able to crawl away on his hands and knees. Not knowing in what direction he was proceeding, he fell at length into a stream, and on pulling himself out of it, recognized his whereabouts, and made the best of his way home. Here he was remonstrated with by his wife for not having turned his pocket inside out, a charm which could not fail to counteract the magic power of the pixies. It is stated that a man named Short--a tailor--was a few years since pixy-led in the same wood, and continued under the spells of the goblins until morning.