Pondering what a Fae is, I researched the difference between that Being and the Roman Lar (Note 1). In “Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk,” Morgan Daimler writes that “fairy” is a catch-all term for otherworldly beings. Teresa Moorey, in “The Fairy Bible,” classifies the Lars and Penates with House and Hearth Fairies.
Claude Lecouteux, the medieval scholar, describes how Brownies (Note 2) and Lars are connected. In “The Tradition of Household Spirits,” he explains that Brownies were originally Domestic Gods. They had two major duties. First, Brownies supervised the “ethics of the household” (i.e. the behaviors of the family). Second, they protected the house from both human and supernatural attack. For the Brownie to do his work, he and the household had to reach a mutual sense of understanding.
Delving deeper into the lore of Brownies, I find that they are one of the few Fae who prefer human habitation. Edain McCoy in “A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk,” says that Brownies want to keep the home peaceful and happy. (This fits with Lecouteux’s two duties for Brownies.) According to McCoy, Brownies are considered to be lucky to have around. If asked, they will protect the human heart.
McCoy says that the most benevolent Brownies are the House ones of Scotland. According to various sources, Brownies were brought to the New World by Scottish immigrants. That I can attest to since my Scottish Grammae did tell me about Brownies.
Daimler says that there are two species of Scottish Brownies. The Highland ones have no fingers or toes. The Lowland Brownies have no noses. McCoy details other Scottish Brownies. The Dobie is dull-witted while the Killmoulis looks after mills.
The lore concerning Brownies has many ambiguities. McCoy list Brownies as being world-wide under different names such as the Domovoi of Russia. Meanwhile, Moorey includes other Beings who live in homes as Faeries. My sense of Brownies is that they are to the Scots as the Lars are to the Romans.
In the lore collected by Daimler, a Brownie is usually referred to as “he.” Although females do exist, they are not often encountered. When a female is, she is generally rampaging against a person for harming her child or husband.
Traditionally, Brownies are depicted as squat brown beings. In the lore collected by Lecouteux, they wear brown rags. Do not offer a Brownie any clothing. He regards clothing to be an empty gift, since it indicates that he has to conform to human rules. Moreover, the clothing implies that the Brownie is a servant. An offended Brownie will immediately leave the home.
When a Brownie adopts a home, he will come unseen on a quiet night. He will clean and organize the house. If a human follows the rules that the Brownie has laid down, they will be blessed. Tara Sanchez, in “Urban Faery Magick,” writes that what makes a Brownie mad are messes. If a person regularly leaves a mess, the Brownie will trash the home. (A Bogart is a good Brownie gone bad.) To keep a Brownie happy, put out a bit of milk or bread in odd places.
Brownies remind me of the Roman Lars. Brownies would be as welcomed in my home as are the Lars. I make offerings to the Lars and Penates of milk and bread. Perhaps Brownies do inhabit my home since I do keep it neat and clean.
Note 1. As a Roman Polytheist, I have altars to the Lars and Penates (Roman Domestic Gods). The Lars protect the family and the home, while the Penates keep the pantry full.
Note 2: Lecouteux in “The Tradition of Household Spirits” refers to the Fae as “Brownies.” In “Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages,” he explains that “fairies” are people’s doubles.
Daimler, Morgan, “Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folks.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2017.
…,” A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2020.
…, “Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2014.
Lecouteux, Claude, “The Tradition of Household Spirits.” (Translated by Jon Graham). Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2013.
…., “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies.” (Translated by Clare Frock). Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2003.
McCoy, Edain, “A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 1994.
Moorey, Teresa, “The Fairy Bible.” Sterling: New York. 2008
Sanchez, Tara, “Urban Faery Magick.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2021