Choice Friends



An Essay Of

The Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and, for the most Part,) Invisible People,

Hertofore going under the name of ELVES, FAUNES, and FAIRIES, or the like,

among the Low-Country Scots, as they are described by those who have the SECOND

SIGHT: and now, to occasion further Inquiry, collected and compared, by a

Circumspect Inquirer residing among the Scottish Irish in Scotland

Secret Commonwealth or

A treatise displaying the Chief Curiosities as they are in Use among diverse of the

People of Scotland to this Day; SINGULARITIES for the most Part peculiar to that


A Subject not heretofore discoursed of by any of our Writers: and yet ventured on in

an Essay to suppress the impudent and growing Atheism of this Age, and to satisfy

the desire of some choice Friends


Three early surviving manuscripts of the text. Edinburgh University Library MS Laing III 551. dated 1692. This is thought to be a dictation copy.

The two other M.S.S. are of 18th or early 19th century date, one is recorded as owned by Dr William Henderson in 1814. Both differ in the title page from the 1692 M.S.S. and contain in the introduction an extra section on Atheism.


Michael J. Hunter (eds.) The Occult Laboratory: Magic Science and Second Sight in Late 17th- Century Scotland.

Dangerously Close to Love: Observations From Inside The Shortbread Tin

Upside -Down: Inside -Out

Of Reflex- Man: The Co -walker

Chapter 1

Of the Subterranean Inhabitants

THESE Siths, or FAIRIES, they call Sleagh Maith, or the Good People, it would ƒeem, to prevent the Dint of their ill Attempts, (for the Iriƒh uƒe to bleƒs all they fear Harme of;) and are ƒaid to be of a midle Nature betuixt Man and Angel, as were Dæmons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidious (?) Spirits, and light changable Bodies, (lyke thoƒe called Aƒtral,) ƒomewhat of the Nature of a condenƒed Cloud, and beƒt ƒeen in Twilight. Thes Bodies be ƒo plyable thorough the Subtilty of the Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or diƒappear att Pleaƒure. Some have Bodies or Vehicles ƒo ƒpungious, thin, and delecat (?), that they are ƒed by only ƒucking into ƒome fine ƒpirituous Liquors, that peirce lyke  pure Air and Oyl: others ƒeid more groƒs on the Foyƒon or ƒubƒtance of Corns and Liquors, or Corne it ƒelfe that grows on the Surface of the Earth, which theƒe Fairies ƒteall away, partly inviƒible, partly preying on the Grain, as do Crowes and Mice; wherefore in this ƒame Age, they are ƒome times heard to bake Bread, ƒtrike Hammers, and do ƒuch lyke Services within the little Hillocks they moƒt haunt: ƒome whereof of old, before the Goƒpell diƒpelled Paganiƒm, and in ƒome barbarous Places as yet, enter Houƒes after all are at reƒt, and ƒet the Kitchens in order, cleanƒing all the Veƒƒels. Such Drags goe under the name of Brownies. When we have plenty, they have Scarcity at their Homes; and on the contrarie (for they are empowred to catch as much Prey everywhere as they pleaƒe,) there Robberies notwithƒtanding oft tymes occaƒƒion great Rickes of Corne not to bleed ƒo weill, (as they call it,) or prove ƒo copious by verie farr as wes expected by the Owner.

THERE Bodies of congealled Air are ƒome tymes caried aloft, other whiles grovell in different Schapes, and enter into any Cranie or Clift of the Earth where Air enters, to their ordinary Dwellings; the Earth being full of Cavities and Cells, and there being no Place nor Creature but is ƒuppoƒed to have other Animals (greater or leƒƒer) living in or upon it as Inhabitants; and no ƒuch thing as a pure Wilderneƒs in the whole Univerƒe.

Chapter 2

WE then (the more terreƒtriall kind have now ƒo numerouƒly planted all Countreys,) do labour for that abƒtruƒe People, as weill as for ourƒelves. Albeit, when ƒeverall Countreys were unhabitated by ws, theƒe had their eaƒy Tillage above Ground, as we now. The Print of thoƒe Furrous do yet remaine to be ƒeen on the Shoulders of very high Hills, which was done when the champayn Ground was Wood and Forreƒt.

THEY remove to other Lodgings at the Beginning of each Quarter of the Year, ƒo traverƒing till Doomƒday, being imputent and [impotent of?] ƒtaying in one Place, and finding ƒome Eaƒe by ƒo purning [Journeying] and changing Habitations. Their chamælion-lyke Bodies ƒwim in the Air near the Earth with Bag and Bagadge; and at ƒuch revolution of Time, SEERS, or Men of the SECOND SIGHT, (Fæmales being ƒeldome ƒo qualified) have very terrifying Encounters with them, even on High Ways; who therefoir uƒwally ƒhune to travell abroad at theƒe four Seaƒons of the Year, and thereby have made it a Cuƒtome to this Day among the Scottiƒh-Iriƒh to keep Church duely evry firƒt Sunday of the Quarter to ƒene or hallow themƒelves, their Corns and Cattell, from the Shots and Stealth of theƒe wandring Tribes; and many of theƒe ƒuperƒtitious People will not be ƒeen in Church againe till the nixt Quarter begin, as if no Duty were to be learned or done by them, but all the Uƒe of Worƒhip and Sermons were to ƒave them from theƒe Arrows that fly in the Dark.

THEY are diƒtributed in Tribes and Orders, and have Children, Nurƒes, Mariages, Deaths, and Burialls, in appearance, even as we, (unleƒs they ƒo do for a Mock-ƒhow, or to prognoƒticate ƒome ƒuch Things among us.)

Chapter 3

THEY are clearly ƒeen by theƒe Men of the SECOND SIGHT to eat at Funeralls [and] Banquets; hence many of the Scottiƒh-Iriƒh will not teaƒt Meat at theƒe Meittings, leƒt they have Communion with, or be poyƒoned by, them. So are they ƒeen to carrie the Beer or Coffin with the Corps among the midle-earth Men to the Grave. Some Men of that exalted Sight (whither by Art or Nature) have told me they have ƒeen at theƒe Meittings a Doubleman, or the Shape of ƒome Man in two places; that is, a ƒuperterranean and a ƒubterranean Inhabitant, perfectly reƒembling one another in all Points, whom he notwithƒtanding could eaƒily diƒtinguiƒh one from another, by ƒome ƒecret Tockens and Operations, and ƒo go ƒpeak to the Man his Neighbour and Familiar, paƒƒing by the Apparition or Reƒemblance of him. They avouch that every Element and different State of Being have Animals reƒembling theƒe of another Element; as there be Fiƒhes ƒometimes at Sea reƒembling Monks of late Order in all their Hoods and Dreƒƒes; ƒo as the Roman invention of good and bad Dæmons, and guardian Angells particularly aƒƒigned, is called by them an ignorant Miƒtake, ƒprung only from this Originall. They call this Reflex-man a Co-walker……


Andrew Land (edits), Robert Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies


Whilst I will be using Kirk and contrasting him with the way sailors viewed American Indians during the early days of exploration of America (often glimpsed at from on-board during long isolated voyages at sea) can’t help but give this an utterly different inflection for a moment and wonder if an idealized historian of science is the same class of creature or indeed if Kirk can be imagined as an idealizing ethnographer of late 17th century science.

Anyway back to context.

De Homine, Shadows and Refelections

Gen.1 Man therefore is a Creature, that of all vifible Creatures that we know is the nobleft.

We may obferve in the Creatures of a fubordinate rank to us, how the more inferiour and ignoble bear fomewhat of the Image of the fuperior, a kind of fhadow or adumbration of those perfections that in the fuperior are more perfect, not only by a gradually, but fpecifically differing perfection. We fee in fome Metals an Analogical refemblance of thofe vital effects of Vegetables, growth, digestion and augmentation that is more perfectly in Plants and perfect Vegetables: a refemblance of Appetition, Election. Generation, andd in fome of them an imperfect Image of that univerfal fenfe of feeling which we find more perfectly in Animals, efpecially fome of them, as Foxes, Dogs, Apes, Horses and Elephants, not only Perception, Phantafie and Memory (common to moft, if not all animals) but fomething of Sagacity, Providence, Difciplinablenfs, and a fomething like a Difcurfive Ratiovination, bearing an analogy, image or imperfect refemblance of what we find, though in a degree, fpecifically more excellent in the humane Nature, infomuch that Porphiry, Plutarch, Sextus Empericus, Patricious, and Fome others have been bold to make reafonablenefs not the fpecifical difference of the Humane Nature; and fome latter perfons would not have the Definition of man to be Animal Rationale, without the addition of Religiofum, wherein he feems particularly to exceed the Brutal Nature: Although in truth that which feems to be Reafon in the Brutes, is nothing elfe but the Image and Analogical reprefentation of that true Reafon that is Man.

Sir Matthew Hale, The Primitive Origination of Mankind: Considered and Examined According to the Light in Nature, 1677

Fresh Fruit From Rotting Vegetables


Mr Potato Head: A Retrospective Introduction?

Will be exploring the American adventures of Thomas Harriot over the next couple of months for a full blown article. Running with the title ‘Empires in Mind’ for the moment, but also wondering how to introduce him.

Of H.O.P. (The History of Potatoes)?

Should I run with the introduction, he was first…., as with Harriot’s Wiki page? “He is sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to the British Isles. Harriot was the first person to make a drawing of the Moon through a telescope.” I could then emphasis how modern and scientific the expedition to America that Harriot was involved in really was. Then engage in some rampant flag waving, hail him as the English Galileo, before turning up the volts to full power and transforming him into a full blown monster of modern science. A modern mind trapped in an ancient body of thought. This would allow me to use the word irrational a lot.

Late Observations

How does such a creature become part of history and ethnology?


Thomas Harriot, Wiki page

Newtopia Magazine, Thomas Harriot: A Rational Mind in an Irrational World or One Man’s Genius is Another Man’s Devil

Byssus, Early Observations


Young Frankenstein

The Original Mr Potato Head, “any fruit or vegetable makes a funny faced man”

Early Observations


In respect of vs they are a people poore, and for
want of skill and iudgement in the knowledge and vse
of our things, doe esteeme our trifles before thinges of
greater value: Notwithstanding in their proper manner
considering the want of such meanes as we haue, they
seeme very ingenious; For although they haue no such
tooles, nor any such craftes, sciences and artes as wee;
yet in those thinges they doe, they shewe excellencie
of wit. And by howe much they vpon due consideration
shall finde our manner of knowledges and craftes to exceede
theirs in perfection, and speed for doing or execution,
by so much the more is it probable that they
shoulde desire our friendships & loue, and haue the
greater respect for pleasing and obeying vs. Whereby
may bee hoped if meanes of good gouernment bee vsed,
that they may in short time be brought to ciuilitie, and
the imbracing of true religion.


Thomas Hariot, A Breif and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, 1588

An Essential Ethnology of Celticness

                    Or How the American Indian Became Reasonable


Sailing of into the new year doing some deep background into legendary tales of Welsh and Gaelic speaking Native American Indians and 19th century notions that this imagined European origin offered a reasonable solution to explain  the origins for the adoption of urbanization, religion, art and culture in the Americas prior to its rediscovery by Columbus.

First task is to explore visual representations from the Elizabethan age, looking at how the Native Americans became a part of history and ethnology.


Francois Du Creux, Societ Jesu in Nova Francia, Historiae Canadensis, source

Naturae Simia


Spent the morning, drinking coffee and thinking about late 17th century orangutang’s, mischievous eastern umbrellas, and the enlightenment judge and philosopher Lord Monbodddo’s definition of Man (as you do). I found myself smiling at least once every five minutes.


Kasa-obake, Japanese toy, source, wiki

Pleasing Abstractions

The question wither abstract or merely intellectual ideas have ever much influence on the conduct has not been fairly stated. The point is not wither an abstract position (no matter whether true or false) of which I became convinced yesterday, will be able to overturn all my previous habits, and prejudices, but whether ideas of this kind may not be made the foundation of inveterate prejudices themselves and the strongest principles of action. The ideas concerning religion are of a sufficiently abstract nature; and yet it will not be disputed that early impressions of this kind have some influence on a man’s future conduct in life. Two persons accidentally meeting together, and who have never seen one another before shall conceive a more violent antipathy to each other in consequence of a dispute on religion or politics than they might have done from having been personally at variance half their lives. It is objected that this proceeds from wounded vanity. But why is our vanity more easily irritated upon these subjects than upon any other but from the importance attached to them by the understanding? Questions of morality do not always excite the same violent animosity; and this I think is because they do not so properly admit of dispute in themselves, also because they are not so often made the instruments of cabal, and power, and therefore depend less on opinion, or the number of votes, and because every one appealing to his own breast for the truth of his opinion attributes the continuance of the contest not to any want of force of his own arguments, but to a want of proper feeling in his opponent.- I will add here a remark in some measure connected with the last mentioned observation, that the reason why men are generally more anxious about the opinion entertained of their understanding than their honesty is not so much that they really think this last of less consequence as that a man always believes himself to be the best judge of what passes in his own breast. He therefore thinks very little the better of himself for the good opinion of others. Indeed he considers their suffrage’s in this respect as a sort of impertinence at best, as implying some doubt upon the subject; and as to their direct censures, he will always find some feelings, or motives in his own mind, or some circumstances with which they are not acquainted, which will in his opinion make a total difference to the case. With respect to manners, and those moral qualities which are denominated pleasing, these again depend on the judgement of others; and we find the same jealousy of the opinions of others manifested with respect to these as with respect to our sense, wit, &c.

William Hazlitt, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action: Being an Argument in Favour of the Natural Disintrestedness of the Human Mind, 1805

Emotive Apes

“In a court of justice, or in an assembly of more than ordinary gravity, a trifling incident causes laughter. We are screwed up into an expression of gravity and dignity that we do not feel at heart, and the slightest vulgarity, such as a loud snore, lets us down immediately. All forced dignity of demeanor, as that imposed upon children and giddy people in certain places, is very apt to explode. In a mirthful mood, every attempt to assume the decorous and dignified is the cause of new outbreaks, as when a merry party on the road is interrupted for a moment by a grave and awful passer-by. Children mimicking the airs, and strut, and weighty actions of grown men are ludicrous, but in this they are surpassed by the monkey, from its being a creature so much more filthy, mean and grovelling, and which therefore in performing human actions, presents a wider contrast of dignity and debasement. Stage mimicking is made ludicrous by introducing some vulgarizing accompaniments of manner or dress.

“A common device for causing laughter is to make a person pass at once from an elevated to a common or degrading action…..””

Alexander Bain, The Emotions and the Will, 1865