Pixie Day


While surfing the internet I found an interesting holiday celebrated in Ottery St. Mary, England: it’s called Pixie Day. It happens every year on the Saturday nearest Midsummer’s Day in June. Basically, the townsfolk reenact an event in the town’s mythology: the bringing of the bells to the town’s church and the pixies’ horror and revenge.

Their website (http://www.workinvision.co.uk/Contents/Text/Index.asp?SiteId=944&SiteExtra=4087085&TopNavId=515&NavSideId=13411) outlines the legend:

“Legend has it that long before the arrival of mankind the Pixies occupied that part of Devon called ‘Ottre’ now known as Ottery St Mary. They enjoyed a long and happy existence in the hills, meadows and forests on the banks of the river Otter. Their idyll began to be disturbed as the prehistoric humans migrated into the area. For many thousands of years they managed to coexist with some degree of harmony, the pagan beliefs of the humans were not inconsistent with those held by Pixies and they were able to share the land. The trouble really began with the coming of the early Celtic Christian missionaries who spread Christianity into the county. By 600 AD the Pixies were getting decidedly shirty about this new human belief that seemed to deny their very existence. Thus began what today would be called a guerrilla war between humans and pixies. This intensified when a church was built in the town. John de Grandisson was enthroned as Bishop of Exeter in 1328 and aware, amongst other matters, of the continuing Pixie problems in Ottery he began to tirelessly petition his religious masters in Rouen for the construction of a much larger church. Permission for this was finally granted in 1337. The Pixies were dismayed and intensified their campaign. It all came to a head in 1454 with the hanging of bells in the new church. Pixies hate the noise of church bells beyond all other sounds and they did everything in their power to prevent the bells being brought to Ottery and hung in the Church. It was all to no avail and on Midsummers eve 1454 the bells rang out for the first time. The Pixies fled angrily into exile to live in a cave at Pixie’s Parlour on the banks of the river Otter. They hatched one final plot to take revenge and regain the town, creeping secretly back into town they captured the bell ringers, carried them away and imprisoned them in the Pixie cave. By great good fortune and God’s blessing they were able to escape and return to their ringing which in successive generations they have done to this day.”

River Otter

The river.

Pixies Parlour

This is a picture of the cave in the story.

 Ottery St Mary Church

This is the church.

Pretty interesting how this still exists huh?

Besides the reenactment, there’s also a competition of the costume that scares away the pixies most – the webpage states that bells and Christian symbols are especially terrifying to the pixies.

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2 responses to “Pixie Day

  1. I wonder how the story got down to pixies. There are earlier stories/folktales/myths about the same conflict happening between humans and the Faery. The Faery are terrifying, huge, powerful and way more intimidating than little pixies.
    On the other hand, how cool that the story still has an immediate, physical context! The class should take a field trip….

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