Tuesday, February 21, 2012

House Faeries - A Few Introductions

Time to introduce you to a few types of house fey!

Brownies - Legendary creature of Scotland and England. The Brownie is a type of hob who works at night in exchange for small gifts or food (porridge and honey are two favorites). A regular tradition among rural folk was to take the newly churned milk and sprinkle the corners of the house with it as a libation to the brownie. Never, ever refer to the gifts you leave a brownie as "payment," or the creature will leave immediately and offer no more assistance.

House Brownie drawing by Lauren Pettapiece.

Toni Diterlizzi's version of a Spiderwick Brownie.

Two sweet examples of house brownies for sale on etsy from FuegoFatuo.

Boggart - An always malicious faerie in English lore. The boggart is behind a good deal of household mischief such as milk souring, items disappearing, and animals being injured. Boggarts tend to follow a family from house to house, but putting a horseshoe above the front door can keep them away. Boggarts are described in Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi's Spiderwick Chronicles as a Brownie who has been angered. There is some precedent to this idea, as it has also been mentioned in other earlier books such as Tasha Tudor's Corgi picture books.

Boggart drawing by Patrick A Garland.

A Boggart in the Spiderwick film.

Domovoi - An excellent modern resource for this house fey is Catherynne Valente's Deathless. The domovoi feature very prominently in this (extremely excellent) book, and truly come to life! A Domovoi is a Russian house spirit, usually small bearded hairy blokes. Sometimes they can take on the appearance of a cat or a dog. No matter who you are in relation to the household, even if you are its head, you are wise to address the Domovoi as "master" if you ever see him. Like a brownie, a domovoi will generally only perform beneficially and protectively for a household unless he is angered. Milk and biscuits can be left for the Domovoi overnight. If you want to invite a Domovoi into your abode, go outside while dressed in your finest clothes, and say "Grandfather Dobrokhot, please come into my house and tend the flocks." If you are moving and want your Domovoi to stay with you, make an offering and say "Domovoi, Domovoi, Don't stay here but come with our family!" The Domovoi like to live at the threshold under the door, or under the stove. He also acted as an oracle of the future, and his behavior could warn a family of upcoming danger or good.

Two older images of Domovoi...credits unknown.

Domovoi for sale on Etsy from Elladolls.

All information via Wikipedia articles.


  1. I was intrigued by your post on the subject of fey spirits. Here are 2 links to a couple of local manifestations peculiar to the North East of England.


  2. My favorite author on British fairy lore is Katharine Briggs -- if you can find them, her books are fascinating: "The Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and Legends", "The Fairies in Tradition and Literature", and "Abbey Lubbers, Banshees, & Boggarts: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies" are all excellent sources.

  3. The second illustration of domovoi-I think that might be by Ivan Bilibin; certainly one of the Russian illustrators of that time period (1890s-1910s).

  4. Horus, thank you so much...I was fascinated to read those stories!!

    Mizmak, I definitely want to try to find her stuff.

    Thanks for the identification, Leigh!