The Pixie Presence in Devon

Whenever I lost a tooth as a child, I didn't just leave it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy. I put it in an envelope, along with a carefully thought-out note to the Tooth Fairy that always had a question in it: How do you become invisible? What do you do with the teeth? How do you fly here when the weather's bad? And each time, my mother would have to craft some description as to the inner workings of the Tooth Fairy's world in order to quell my insatiable curiosity.

Even though my mother eventually revealed to me the true identity of the tooth fairy, I still have a fascination with the idea of her. Similarly, many people have a fascination with fairies in general. There is something mysterious and enthralling about the thought of something we cannot see existing around us anyway. And it is this inability to see them that makes them so important to myths. Because we cannot see them, they seem magical, and so they add to mythology a sense of magic that separates myths from pure history. Plus, because they are invisible, they're myth has carried on, as we can believe that they are still existing today, right beneath our very eyes.

Devon, with Cornwall and Somerset, is partially responsible for contributing an important part to fairy mythology: the pixie. The pixie is a fairy local to southwestern England, usually described as having pointed ears and wearing green clothing, which is the traditional color associated with fairies. The pixies, though they are sometimes said to enjoy music and dancing, are mainly known for their mischievous nature. They especially enjoy playing tricks on humans. Specifically, the Dartmoor pixies says John Van der Kiste, author of The Little Book of Devon, enjoy misleading travellers from the moors into bogs. This is referred to as being "pixie-led," and to prevent it, one is supposed to turn his or her coat inside out.


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These pixies are said to be still lurking around Devon today. One person in 1982 claimed to have seen four of them near Widecombe in the Moor. Additionally, in Ottery St. Mary, they still celebrate Pixie Day. The celebration, which takes place in June of every year, commemorates a time in 1454 where four of the town's church bell-ringers escaped from the clutches of pixies after being abducted and held in a cave called Pixie's Parlor. The celebrations include a children's re-enactment of the event, a fundraising event, and a fireworks display. This tradition shows how the mythology of pixies continues to be relevant in Devon even in the present day. As author Daniel Codd says, "The only thing we can say for certain is that if pixies did exist, then they existed here, in the county of Devon...Perhaps they still exist."

While you're visiting the county, keep an eye out for those mischievous little creatures. And if you're feeling cautious, try wearing your coat inside out.

Text and Photo © Alana Gale, Drawing © Stephanie Fongheiser


Codd, Daniel. Paranormal Devon. Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009. Print.

Van der Kiste, John. The Little Book of Devon. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2011. Print.