Changelings

Part of fairy lore, changelings are the fairy substitutes for human babies that they have abducted. There are standard procedures, often violent, for forcing the fairy abductors to return the true child and take away the changeling. Sometimes the procedure involves plants, as with FOXGLOVE, for instance. The suspected changeling is bathed in the juice, and fairy-struck children had to be given the juice of twelve (or ten, some say), leaves of foxglove (Wilde. 1902). Or a piece of the plant could be put under the bed. If it is a changeling, the fairies would be forced to restore the true child (Mooney). Simpler still, put some leaves on the child itself, and the result would be immediate (Gregory). And instructions from County Leintrim advised a suspicious parent to "take lusmore [an Irish name for foxglove] and squeeze the juice out. Give the child three drops on the tongue, and three in each ear. Then place it [the suspected changeling] at the door of the house on a shovel (on which it should be held by someone) and swing it out of the door on the shovel three times, saying "If you're a fairy, away with you". If it is a fairy child, it will die that night; but if not it will surely begin to mend" (Spence. 1949).

A Scottish way to get rid of a suspected changeling was to build the fire with ROWAN branches, and to hold the child in the thick of the smoke. The brat would disappear up the chimney, and the true child would be returned (Aitken).

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