The Pixies, as the fairies of Devon and Cornwall are usually called, were often said to lead people astray. The term ‘Pixy-Led’ was used to describe this occurrence. In the The Western Daily Mercury newspaper for 6 June 1890 there is an account of one of a group of men working in a woodland who left the others to go back for a tool as they went home for the evening. A strange feeling came over him and he heard voices and laughter all around him. That was the last he remembered. When he didn’t come home with the others his wife went to look for him. She found him wet and bedraggled sitting in a stream, not knowing where he was. He had been ‘Pixy-Led’. When he saw his wife he came to his senses and she told him he should have turned his pockets out or reversed his coat as this was a defence against the pixies. The newspaper report mentions others who were led astray in this way and remained under the spell of the pixies until dawn.
In other parts of the country, fairies are said to lead travellers astray with lights such as the will-o-the-wisps on marshes. These tales don’t usually give a reason other than mischievousness for the practice. But this tale from Yorkshire does:
A tailor once boasted that he would like to catch a fairy and keep her captive. On his way home one evening he somehow lost his way. He dropped his scissors and couldn’t find them. Other items in his work bag fell away into the twilight. Then he saw a beautiful girl holding a light. He called to her to help him but she didn’t move, so he went towards her. But as he got nearer she seemed to get farther away. He followed her and the light seemed at one moment very close but the next moment far distant. She led him here and there for several hours, then disappeared leaving him utterly lost and bewildered in the darkness.