Mythology: Sprites

Sprites are sandy coloured creatures, about knee height,  with green eyes, but they are very shy so nobody has seen them up close.  They can shape shift, most commonly into birds.  They are common in East Anglia, and also Spain and Mexico.  It is not considered lucky to talk about them.

There was an Essex man named Hyter John, who made his living by delivering packages to people who live in swampy areas.  On his route there was a dryish bit of land where sand swallows lived, and also sprites.  Hyter John was the only one that could travel there at night, because years ago he rescued a baby sprite from drowning.  Even he has only ever seen that one baby sprite.

The word sprite is also used as a broad term for elf-like creatures, elementals of the air, spiritual beings like ghosts and any creature that is sprightly.

Here we are the sprightly Sprites,  Brave and helpful like the knights.
Here we are the sprightly Sprites,
Brave and helpful like the knights.

Sprites may be related to the Celtic spriggan, which is small and ugly but can inflate whenever it wants to frighten someone.  Spriggans, far from being shy, are quite dangerous and have been known to kidnap babies and leave one of their own in their place.

Sprites often appear in fiction, including Shakespeare’s Ariel and Puck, Shadowcat from the X-men comics and Chix Verbil in the Artemis Fowl series of books by Eoin Colfer.  The Pink Power Ranger is empowered by the spirit of the sprite and through it can control the wind.

It is possible to catch a sprite using a sprite trap.  This is a piece of copper wire that has never carried electricity, bound to a blackthorn stave with red thread.  The trap should be placed at the entrance to a home or churchyard.  Another blackthorn stave, this one with a lighted candle attached, should be placed in front of it, to attract the sprites.  Once the sprite has been caught, the thread is removed and placed in a bottle, which is sealed and buried.

However, it is not sensible to do this, for if the bottle is ever dug up and unsealed, the sprite will be very very angry, and it won’t make the distinction between the person that put it in there and the person who released it – it will attack everyone!

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