Tag Archives: fairy story

Guest Blog: Fairies and the Soul

By Nukiuk

“Would you not like to be a fairy?…and live with me in this garden where the sun never ceases to shine and where it is summer all the year?”

Queen of the Fairies offering to make a girl a fairy

Although the above quote comes from a Greek, rather than a Celtic Tale the offer and opportunity for the human soul to become a fairy was a common belief throughout all of Eurasia. Even the breeze which stirs the trees causing the leaves to rustle and the wood to creak was once believed to be the sounds of ancestral spirits speaking to us, for it was in the trees, rocks, rivers and waterways that the human soul resided. The Celts believed that the souls of the dead would go into trees planted near their graves. The  Altaic peoples who gave the Celts their words for horse among things, believed that the human soul became the spirits of the lands, rocks or trees when they passed on and that these spirits could later be reincarnated as humans. Thus we see people’s souls become nature spirits(fairies)  and that these nature fairies  become human souls.
It is more than nature spirits that human souls can become when they pass on, however, for the “Faces of friends and relatives, long since doomed to the battle trench or the deep sea, have been recognized by those who dared to gaze on the fairy march. The maid has seen her lost lover, and the mother her stolen child, and the courage to plan and achieve their deliverance has been possessed by, at least, one border maiden.” In other words the souls of the dead continue to live on among the fairies. The banshee were the souls of ancestors which appeared as beautiful maidens in order to help their family, as they were originally as much about blessing infants and giving advice as they were about giving warnings and meeting the spirits of those who had died. “There is a legend told of the Macleod family: (that) Soon after the heir of the Macleods was born, a beautiful woman in wonderful raiment, who was a fairy woman or banshee, (there were joyous as well as mourning banshees), appeared at the castle and went directly to the babe’s cradle. She took up the babe and chanted over it a series of verses, and each verse had its own melody. The verses foretold the future manhood of the young child and acted as a protective charm over its life. Then she put the babe back into its cradle and, going out, disappeared across the moorlands.” In another tale, the banshee of Grants Meg Moulach would stand beside the head of the family and advise them on playing chess. (F.S. Wilde, 1887)
So although people tend to associated banshees with death, they are really about life, for they are the souls of those who love a family so much that they continue to give it aid and inspiration. It was their place to inspire poets and artists, thus ancient Celts believed that such skills were gifts of the fairies, gifts of one’s ancestors. Thus when Christians claimed that fairies were the souls of the unbaptized dead it may have been true in part that many fairies were indeed those who had passed on in centuries passed.
What this means is that at least one human soul, if indeed the ancient Celts believed that humans have multiple souls (a point which, I argued here )is the same soul which resides in fairies. This seems even more likely when one considers that there are tales of fairies becoming human when they live among humans and eat human food for long enough. Further there are many Celtic tales of a person bringing a loved one back from the fairy court. In other words the Celts believed that the door could under special circumstances, that fairy and human souls were interrelated enough that one could become another.

 

Nukiuk is a folklorist and artist who is using Eurasia’s folk tales and beliefs to better understand the ancient folk religions. You can read more about his thoughts on tree fairies at http://fairies.zeluna.net/2011/11/tree-spirits-are-fairies.html. The References for this and other articles are at http://fairies.zeluna.net/p/resources.html.


The Emperor’s Old Clothes

If the emperor had woken up the following day and realised that perhaps clothing invisible to the stupid wasn’t a good way to go, he might have acknowledged the mistake and got in with his life. Making mistakes is inevitable for humans. We all do it. Lack of experience, not having the right information, miscalculating, and a host of other reasonably honourable, natural shortcomings can result in getting things wrong.

One answer at this point, emperor-style, is to just insist that you are right, and require everyone else to go along with the farce. Real life dictatorships do this kind of thing, I believe. But yesterday I listened on the news to the story of someone who had failed to spot rickets in a baby who consequently died. The parents were accused of murder, and went through 2 years of total hell. Other experts think the rickets evidence was there to be seen. But the person who made the mistake is in court saying that the evidence isn’t there. When people acknowledge error, there is scope for learning. Other lives can be saved. Future suffering can be reduced, or avoided.

It takes courage to admit a mistake, especially with the current blame and litigation culture. It would be healthier to encourage people to own up. It would also be good if we could collectively acknowledge the idea that people do make mistakes. And not just ordinary people, but professionals and experts. Professionals misdiagnose, misjudge, underestimate, overestimate, and all the rest of it. Professional people are not magically infallible, and yet I’ve run into a few who will answer any query or challenge with an assertion that their professional status means they must, by definition, be right. This kind of arrogance is incredibly dangerous. A person who thinks they know it all already does not listen properly or consider the evidence. Not least, they will never be able to identify and properly handle a situation they have not encountered before. New things do happen. New diseases evolve. New technology creates new crimes, and so forth.

The sooner a mistake is recognised, the easier it is to get things back on track. It may seem like losing face, but the temporary humiliation is worth enduring. It’s so much better than what happens when you have to tune out whole swathes of evidence, or refuse to look at anything that doesn’t fit. The more you try to cover for a mistake, the more likely you are to compound it, adding to it with lies and misdirection, and possibly a few rounds of self delusion for good measure. Now you aren’t holding a cloth that doesn’t exist, you’re walking about in public with no clothes on. And really, by that stage it doesn’t matter what you want people to believe, they know they can see your arse, and not a one of them is ever going to take you seriously again.

Mistakes are inevitable to the learning process. If it isn’t acceptable to get things wrong, then it isn’t possible to learn or experiment. Giving permission to yourself, and to others, to be imperfect, is really useful and allows amazing things to happen. It enables the new bard to stand up and have a go. It enables the druid student to call to the spirits of place and not feel awful that their voice quavered a bit and the words weren’t quite perfect. Accepting mistakes opens the way to compassion and greater mutual tolerance. It turns us away from blame and anger, towards cooperation and getting problems solved. It allows us not just to be human, but to be the best kinds of humans we can imagine ourselves being.

Yes, I have made mistakes.

Does my bottom look big in this?