Before Alexa and Google Home devices to remind us when to complete our errands and chores, there were lucky people who had house fairies who helped with chores around the house. The house elf finished the woman of the house’s leftover cleaning, cooking, and mending. Wouldn’t that be nice to have a fairy in your home helping you finish your chores while you sleep?
Depending on the region, there are different types of house elves and house fairies and different names for each. The Scottish have the Brownie, which is 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 should you piss them off. 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 resides in Scotland, but some say the Scottish immigrants brought the Brownie 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 finishes her chores. The Brownie is helpful on the farm. He brings in food and firewood, and is 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. Attract them to your home with offerings of bread, honey, sweet cream, cakes and ale. Folklore says to never give clothing to a Brownie (or any house elf) as they will take the gift and leave. JK Rowling uses this bit of lore in her famous novel series. 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.
Similar to the Scottish Brownie, the Irish Bean-tighe (pronounced ban-tee) is one of the benevolent Irish house fairies that looks after a nice family. 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 her name sounds similar to the Beansidhe (banshee). Both creatures are linked to the old Irish families. But in opposition to the ominous 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 watch over the children at night. 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 the 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.
Sure, the first “source” to talk about the Irish house fairy, the bean-tighe, was WY Evans-Wentz. Here’s the excerpt from his book The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries:
The Bean-Tighe.—‘The Bean-tighe, the fairy housekeeper of the enchanted submerged castle of the Earl of Desmond, is supposed to appear sitting on an ancient earthen monument shaped like a great chair and hence called Suidheachan, the “Housekeeper’s Little Seat,” on Knock Adoon (Hill of the Fort), which juts out into the Lough. The Bean-tighe, as I have heard an old peasant tell the tale, was once asleep on her Seat, when the Buachailleen or “Little Herd Boy” [Pg 82]stole her golden comb. When the Bean-tighe awoke and saw what had happened, she cast a curse upon the cattle of the Buachailleen, and soon all of them were dead, and then the “Little Herd Boy” himself died, but before his death he ordered the golden comb to be cast into the Lough.’
Modern “fairy authors” such as Morgan Daimler claim this story by Evans-Wentz doesn’t refer to a fairy at all but simply the “woman of the house” or may even be a mistaken identity for a bean-sidhe (banshee) instead. I tend not to question folklorists who have long since been dead and of whom also traveled the countryside collecting their stories and anecdotes. And of whom graduated from such esteemed universities like Oxford. I also tend to go with their word over modern bloggers who are self-proclaimed “experts” on the field of fae and Irish language. But that’s just me. You can make up your own mind.
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. Some believe he is a Brownie gone bad. If you have a Brownie in your home and do not treat him well, 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 also torments the household, particularly picking on the children. They 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 (pronounced boo-box) are Welsh solitary house fairies that live in Welsh homes. They are 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 tiny men who wear red hats and loincloths. Keep them 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. Other names for the bwbachs are cottagers and booakers.
House fairies (and fairies in genereal) are traditionally known to enjoy a good drink, and wine is no exception. The Monaciello is an Italian house fairy who enjoys a good drink so much that he will move into your wine cellar. He will protect your wine cellar when given wine offerings regularly. His name means “little monk” because he wears a red monk’s hood. The monaciello is always drunk, but typically very 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 and is another of the house elves. He drinks a lot of wine and lives in wine cellars; 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.
Similar to the Scottish brownie, the kobold is a German sprite who helps with the chores. The name kobold has a few translations, the most believable being “the one who rules the house”. Kobolds are short, ugly beings who are depicted with large ears, hairy bodies, and large noses. They sometimes wear a cloak or dress in a suit and a large-brimmed hat. Unlike brownies, kobolds love hearing thank you and receiving gifts, particularly of clothing and food. In comparison to the brownie, the kobold will turn into a mischievous, malevolent creature if he or she feels they aren’t appreciated.
It’s midnight. Someone calls your name from down the hall. You peak from your bedroom …September 23, 2023