Thursday, March 12, 2009


(Often pixies are only visible as points of light)
I originally conceived of this post being part of my month-long celebration of all things Irish/Celtic. Since then I have discovered that - with the exception of modern times - the legend of the pixie is unique to Britain. However, I'm going to include them in this month's celebration anyway, because although they may not be Irish - at least in origin - they are definitely Celtic.

Pixies (also piskies, pisgies, pigsies and west country fairies) are mythical creatures of folklore, considered to be particularly concentrated in the areas of Devon, Somerset and Cornwall in southern England, suggesting a Celtic origin for the belief and the name.


Though pixies and faeries seem to have much in common, and are often viewed as interchangeable, they are two distinct species. In folklore pixies and fairies are antagonists and fought a huge battle at Buckland St. Mary, Somerset. The pixies were victorious and still visit the area. The fairies are said to have left after their loss.

Some adherents find pixies to have a human origin or to “partake of human nature” in distinction to fairies whose mythology is traced to immaterial spirit forces.


Pixies are said to be nearly ageless and uncommonly beautiful, though there are some called pixie who have a distorted and strange appearance. There is a debate as to whether or not pixies have wings.

Pixies are usually described as having green eyes, pointed ears and slanted eyes. In art they are often depicted wearing a green outfit and pointed hat. These are Victorian Era conventions and not part of the older mythology.


In fact, legend has it that pixies generally go unclothed, though they are sensitive to human need for covering. They do have a weakness for bits of finery, and a piece of ribbon appears to be highly prized by them.

In Devon, pixies are said to be “invisibly small, and harmless or friendly to man.” Others say they are no larger than a human hand but can change their size at will. In yet other legends and accounts they are presented as having near human stature.


There are as many discrepancies as to the origin of pixies as there are conflicting descriptions.

Some believe them to be the earliest inhabitants of England. One British scholar took pixie myth seriously enough to state his belief that “pixies were evidently a smaller race, and, from the greater obscurity of the … tales about them, I believe them to have been an earlier race.”


The pixies of Dartmoor in Devon are fond of music and dancing. They dance in the shadows of the standing stones, or gambol on the edges of tumbling stream. Their bells can be heard deep in the heart of the many tors on the moor.

Those who believe that pixies are benign in nature say they are helpful to humans, sometimes helping needy widows and others with housework (which links them with other household elves such as brownies.) Pixies are said to reward consideration and punish neglect. By their presence they bring blessings to those who are fond of them.

Pixies bless the land. They are forest creatures whom other wild creatures find alluring and nonthreatening. They love humans, taking some for mates.

However, pixies are also seen as being malicious tricksters who enjoy playing pranks on people.
They may steal humans' belongings, or throw pots and pans after kitchen girls. Pixies are drawn to horses and love to ride them across the moor for pleasure, twisting their manes to spur them on. They steal the horses or Dartmoor ponies at night and bring them back before dawn, leaving only the tangled ringlets in the manes as evidence.

Some pixies are said to steal children or to play their favorite trick - leading humans astray. Sometimes pixies may confuse mortals so thoroughly that they never recover and wander aimlessly through the countryside singing or talking a mysterious language. This condition is known as being "pixie-led". If one felt the onset of a pixie spell, one could foil a pixie by turning their coat inside-out.


The term "pixie-led" has been transformed into the modern word pixilated, which has nothing to do with computer images at all but instead means: behaving as if mentally unbalanced, very eccentric, whimsical, prankish, bemused, intoxicated or drunk.

Those who deliberately follow pixies often vanish without a trace. For example, a farmhand at Rowbrook, along the River Dart, is said to have been lured down towards the river by mysterious voices, calling his name: ‘Jan Coo.’ He was never seen again.

"OLI" by Liselotte Ericksson

Pixies are “great explorers familiar with the caves of the ocean, the hidden sources of the streams and the recesses of the land.” Some are said to exude pixie dust, which is left in their footprints.

Pixies can be repelled by objects made from silver as contact with the metal can harm them, another trait they share in common with the fairies of the British Isles.

"AN EVENING EXCURSION" by Liselotte Ericksson

Farmers can stay in good terms with pixies by leaving buckets of water out at night for pixie mothers to wash their babies, leaving out a pitcher of milk for them to drink, and keeping the hearth swept clean for pixies to dance on at midnight.

Before the mid 19th Century pixies and fairies were taken seriously in much of Cornwall and Devon. Books devoted to the homely beliefs of the peasantry are filled with incidents of pixie manifestations.
Even within living memory, some rural families left small gifts, such as bowls of food or saucers of milk, for the pixies in order to placate them. But according to one Cornish author by the name of Drew, the pixies' contact with “normal humans” had diminished by the early 19th Century. “The age of Pixies, like that of Chivalry, is gone. There is, perhaps, at present hardly a house they are reputed to visit. Even the fields and lanes which they formerly frequented seem to be nearly forsaken. Their music is rarely heard.”

"ACORN PIXIE" by Anne Stokes

However, in some regions, belief in pixies has endured into contemporary times. During the construction of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, anything that went wrong was blamed on "the Pixy," with the station being built near Wick's Barrow, an Iron Age burial mound called "Pixies Mound" by the locals.

There were reports in 2001 of pixie sightings in the UK in the Woodham area of County Durham. All of these sightings were from residents of houses in a small street near a meadow. In 2007 there was another pixie sighting in Sandy, Bedfordshire.

As for me, I hope there are still pixies around, just not the mischievous ones!




By Samuel Minturn Peck

Tis said their forms are tiny,
yet all human ills they can subdue,
Or with a wand or amulet
Can win a maiden’s heart for you;

And many a blessing know to stew
To make to wedlock bright;
Give honour to the dainty crew,
The Pixies are abroad tonight."



By Nora Chesson

Have e’er you seen the Pixies, the folk not blest or banned?
They walk upon the waters; they sail upon the land,
They make the green grass greener where’er their footsteps fall,
The wildest hind in the forest comes at their call.
The steal from bolted linneys, they milk the key at grass,
The maids are kissed a-milking, and no one hears them pass.
They flit from byre to stable and ride unbroken foals,
They seek out human lovers to win them souls.
The Pixies know no sorrow, the Pixies feel no fear,
They take no care for harvest or seed time of the year;
Age lays no finger on them, the reaper time goes by
The Pixies, they who change not, grow old or die.
The Pixies though they love us, behold us pass away,
And are not sad for flowers they gathered yesterday,
To-day has crimson foxglove; if purple hose-in-hose
Withered last night, tomorrow will have its rose."

NOTE: All of the paintings which do not carry attribution may be found at


gma said...

I always thought that pixies were the faerie kind...surely from the house of Sidhe. Hard to believe they are a different species. These images are fantastic! Such a fascinating and informed post.
Thank you for this.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Wonderful - you present such interesting information - and I too hope that pixies abound. Thank you.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

When we lived in Surrey I am certain we had a resident pixie. I had a beautiful lace handkerchief that would constantly move from one room to another and always at night. No one human was responsible I am sure and it was my only explanation for it. Come to think about it i have never seen it since we left. Oh well, there is at least one well dressed pixie still dwelling in Surrey, Margaret

Rowan said...

Another interesting post - I didn't know that faeries and pixies could be harmed by silver. I've always been familiar with piskies - my mum had a little piskie as a good luck charm when I was little. I love the final piece of artwork and the one with the pixies in the woodland.

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

I love the "Water Pixies"! It's so nice to come here- learn and see beautiful artwork - thanks for enhansing my Friday:-)

Ruthie Redden said...

am loving your posts on all things magical & faerie, wonderful *ruthie*

Leanne said...

lovely images here Julie, well done. yes, the west country here is rife with tales of all the otherfolk.

as you know my littlest cat is called pixie and the name had to be hers, we have always said she is pixelated! I also sometimes call her my fairycat as she is very fae in behaviour, and much smaller than the average cat!

Shopgirl said...

Julie my little Irish Friend.
This was really fun to read, I don't think I have a Pixie in my life, but if I do....I hope it puts some Pixie dust on me, I need alittle help. I am working on 31 charms for the Mother/Daughter dinner/tea. On one side is really cute Bears and on the other is a Teas set or something to do with tea. I am putting on the beading now and praying that they like them. Each table will win one by having the right Tea bag with a saying on it. So you know I am busy because I am also decorating with a co person.
How are you doing? I think about you all the time..Be well sweet girl, Mary

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Pixies and fairies are often seen as antagonistic in the mythology. The fantasy novel Pixie Warrior by Rachael de Vienne, that really nice author with the beautiful children, draws on a tradition of war between pixies and fairies. (You should read the book: has free chapters. It's fantasy novel of the month here:

Pixie mischief is seen in mythology as being directed toward those who are unjust, harmful, and negligent or who slight pixie kind. To the needy and deserving or to the merely hapless, pixies grant favours, expecting no or little repayment. We’re unaccountably attracted to pretty ribbons.

Are pixies real? While it is in our interest to appear unreal, I cannot look you straight in the face and say I do not exist or that my extended family is unreal.


Unknown said...

I was driving in the country near Rugby, I could not believe my eyes, I saw 4 small objects moving a rabbit to the side of the road, I have gone over and over this and can not associate these with any animals. I have more detailed facts but too much to write here. I am 100% CONVINCED they were indeed Pixies, I do not take drugs and was sober at the time.

Anonymous said...

i've seen their incoming...i call them faeries, but perhapst they're pixies i've seen. they gae me a number of their wee skulls fe th resting grouns. theyre no all creature, neither, but part plant an part creature. Fe what i saw, they moar float than fly, an when they die they drop away into a blossom an wilt it, leaving only their skulls on a stalk. A bit scary looking, but thats hae they do. and theyre no moar afraid o silver than we are o cats, that gies them a good laugh.

Goddess of Exile said...

I had a strange dream of a pixie. I never read anything on fay or pixies till i had the dream a few days ago.

Dream~ I was walking with my fam thru a beautiful bridge but i sensed something was off. the lights flickered over my family and for some reason i felt it was something trying to possess us. we ran n i pushed my family to an elevator to get away safely. I spoke to a woman n asked her about the area n what could be doing this. she said the undead n she turned to bones n ash. than a platinum blonde haired guy appeared n asked to marry me i didnt say yes or no i was just bewildered. he said he was a pixie wanting to marry me. he told me to use my finger to draw an outline of a traingle around his finger. I bulshit n do a circle but i do the triangle n i feel a massive energy going back n forth to me n him. it was an amazing energy but i stopped n ran away. where ever i ran in my drem he would appear trying to seduce me. It was a very weird dream but I do believe i may have seen one since i have not heard the term pixie in years n if it was my brain conjuring things up i would have used the term faery or fay instead.

Charlotte M said...

This is very much like what I learned when I was little, just one thing though. It's not the Southern part of Britain, it's the South-West.

I know it's nit-picking but as a Cornish lass I just wanted to point it out.

Anonymous said...

I know how silly this sounds, but is it possible to be a descendent of a pixie? you did put in you're post that it is possible for pixies to fall in love with humans. this is may sound incredibly stupide but after everything that you have said it just makes sense. here is some description of my self I am 5.1 in height, my feet are a size 2.5-3 depending on the shoe, I have hazel-green eyes that people have said change colour with my moods. animals love me and every animal I have meet feels as if I have a connection to. I really enjoy being mischievous, I am the most outgoing person in my friendship group. I often get told that I should think before I speak. I love nature and sugary foods. people often confuse me as being a lot younger than my age they assume that I am around 13-15 because of my baby face.which is not always appreciated. I also get followed every where by a crow. I have named him birdie. I have also got a very accurate intuition and do a little palm reading. but after writing all of that I have realised maybe im over thinking... would really love you opinion. thank you for reading my post.

Julie said...

I don't know about humans and pixies breeding, but I do know that you are an empath and an animal whisperer. You have a very fey spirit and you may may have the gift of second sight. You are so lucky to have a Crow Totem that has manifested itself in an actual animal. Here's a small bit of info on the Crow Totem: "The crow is a spirit animal associated with life mysteries and magic. The power of this bird as totem and spirit guide is provide insight and means of supporting intentions. Sign of luck, it is also associated with the archetype of the trickster; be aware of deceiving appearances. If the crow has chosen you as your spirit or totem animal, it supports you in developing the power of sight, transformation, and connection with life’s magic."