Tag Archives: fairy

Glamour

In fairy folklore, glamour is the magic fairies have that make them seem beautiful and alluring. Glamour hides the dirt and squalor, the mean faces, the bones… it struck me that this kind of magic is something some humans also seek.

I’m pro beauty. I think making and seeking beauty is a good use of energy – especially when there are more diverse possibilities around beauty. I like the beauty of twisted trees and older, more lived in human faces. I like the beauty that a warm heart gives a person. I like creative beauty made from innovation and joy in how we present ourselves. I don’t like glamour.

Beauty is always intended to be real. Glamour is intended to persuade. It’s the harnessing of sexual attractiveness to try and hold power over others. It’s a contrivance to sell product – and often in our visual media, it’s been processed beyond anything the human body can achieve. The glamour of glamorous fashion magazines is often about as real and healthy as the fairy glamour of folklore.

In Paganism, it’s the person who is busy selling you their face, and their look rather than their ideas. This of course draws on the norms of mainstream advertising, but it isn’t very ethical. The book and the workshop won’t make you glamorous, but by associating glamour with product you may be tempted to reach after what you can’t have – and here we are back at the goblin market, eyeing up the forbidden fruit.

We’re easily moved by human beauty. We want it, and we want to be it. The less glamorous you feel yourself to be the more vulnerable you may be to the glamour of others. Gods know, I’ve been there. The less experienced you are in your path and craft, the more the persuasive are the people who glamorously look the part. I’ve been there too, hankering after surfaces because I was twenty-something and inexperienced and the glamorous stuff is eyecatching. But like fairy fruit, it won’t nourish you. The glamour you crave remains out of reach, but you keep paying for it, running round after it and feeling inadequate in the face of it… after a while you can tell it was glamour all along because it leaves you threadbare and unhappy, but by then the damage is done.

There is a beauty that comes to people who do the work. I see it in Jane Meredith, in Cat Treadwell, and Rachel Patterson, to name some visible examples. I see it a lot in people in the Pagan community who are living their magic, and who are suffused by it. It’s a softer, subtler thing, permeating through who people are and what they do. I see the other ones as well, and I see the power of their glamour to attract and persuade. If you can, it’s always worth stopping to ask whether they are selling you glamour – the gold coins that will be dead leaves by next morning, or whether there is any substance to what’s being put forward.


Daughter of Light and Shadow – a review

At the surface, this is an erotic romance novel with magic in it. There is a lot of very sexy fairy content, and great fun it is, too. But that’s not really what the book is about. This is a novel about a young woman coming into her own power, dealing with why she is, what she is, where she comes from and, seeing all of that, starting to make deliberate choices about her life. The sex might be wild, but it certainly can’t save her. The love is there in her life, but it isn’t the magic answer to everything. And as for the magic – until she deals with her own shadow self it is as likely to trip her up as it is to help her.

There’s a nice balance here between escapist, folklore-based fantasy, and concepts a person can get their teeth into. If you like your fantasy well rooted, this is the business. The fairy side is steeped in folklore and tradition, giving us fairies who are cold, other, unreasonable, fickle, charming and exceedingly dangerous. These are more like the fairies from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell than the pretty things of standard modern urban romance. The magic has a strong elemental component to it, and again there’s folklore in the mix as well as material drawn from modern Paganism. There are the witchy ancestors who so often a feature in witchlit, and there’s the question of ancestral wounding.

I’ve seen this come up a few times in various novels now. Anyone writing a modern witch with a witchy ancestry immediately hits the issue of historical persecutions. This book tackles the issue of ancestral wounding head on, while making clear that many of the people persecuted for witchcraft historically were victims who had nothing to do with witchcraft but were vulnerable in some way. It’s nicely done.

If you’re looking for fairy romance, this probably isn’t the book for you because it doesn’t uphold the habits of the romance genre very well. If like me, you prefer stories that surprise you, this is much more interesting. If you’re looking for stories about love and sex that don’t make them the only considerations in a young woman’s life, then Anna McKerrow is an author I can very much recommend. If you want passionate, full blooded witch lit with magic you can relate to and characters who live in the real world at least some of the time, this is a good book to pick up.


Fairycraft

I read Morgan Daimler’s Fairy Witchcraft some time last year, and very much enjoyed it, although if I reviewed it here I’ve managed to hide it from myself. Fairycraft is the recently released and much longer and deeper look at fairy orientated magic. There isn’t much overlap between the two books so if you’re keen on the subject it is worth reading both, start with Fairy Witchcraft.

Over the course of the book, Morgan explores the folklore and mythology of faeries – her main focus is faeries in British folklore (especially Irish, quite a lot of Scottish) but she does encourage people to find out what’s traditional for their part of the world. As an American she’s faced with the complexities of ancestral ideas about the Otherworld, and ideas associated with the land, and has some interesting things to say on the subject.

There’s a fair amount of the history of fairy witchcraft , and the very revealing linguistics of it. Morgan Daimler does a lot of translating from Irish, and in the nuances of language use, all kinds of things emerge.

Alongside this, Morgan talks in detail about personal practice and experience, and what happens when you take the things from the folklore and start trying to do them. This is really fascinating stuff, and is presented with a balance of reverence and questioning rather than any kind of desire to impress. It’s made very clear that fairy work is all about relationship, so what happens for one person is a very limited indicator of what another person might experience while doing the same things. The personal qualities required to work in this way are flagged up and explored.

I suspect that what Morgan says about fairy magic is true of pretty everything to some degree – that relationship is key. Who we are, how we think and act and feel informs what we take into any situation. How that relates to whoever or whatever we’re working with will also have an impact. Care, respect and knowing where the boundaries are, will be important in all things. What this book offers is an explicitly co-operative approach to magic. The Fairy Witch needs a very strong will and great clarity of intention, but isn’t generally forcing that will onto the world, but working with Others. As an animist, I’m always more drawn to ways of being that are co-operative and consenting rather than about forcing will.

I’ve always been fascinated with faerie, it probably started with childhood exposure to the myths of Tam Lyn and Thomas the Rhymer. At the moment my personal practice is very quiet, and in an incubating stage, so I didn’t read this with an eye to acting on it. I think it’s worth noting that even if you aren’t planning to *be* a fairy witch, this is a great read. The wealth of folklore is wonderful, and the content around practice is really engaging to read anyway. There’s some genuinely innovative material about seasonal celebration (I say this as someone who is otherwise bored sick of wheel of the year sections in books). If you do want to take up this path, these two books are well worth a look.

More about Fairy Witchcraft here –moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-fairy-witchcraft

More about Fairycraft here – http://www.moon-books.net/index.php?id=99&p=4684


Fiction – The trouble with enchantment

He is the greatest sorcerer for miles around. They always are. He has summoned a fairy. They always do. He believes he can control the fairy. This is why great sorcerers go in for the kind of lunacy the rest of us know to leave well alone.

The fairy had been caught before. When I say “caught” I mean ‘showed up because this shit is always funny’. She is no more afraid of him than a cat is on finding itself ‘caught’ by a rather ambitious mouse armed with a toothpick.

The fairy undulates seductively and offers the sorcerer her most alluring gaze. She does this to wind him up. Fairies pride themselves on being even more heartless than sorcerers, which is going some.

This sorcerer keeps his heart in a box. The box is made from the bones of an especially vindictive satirist, held together with metal, mined in the cruellest conditions by famished orphans. The fairy sees this at a glance, but is not surprised. The previous sorcerer who summoned her had locked his heart in a glacier, to protect it. He lasted half an hour. Before that, was the one with enchanted chains around his body. It did not go well for him.

“Nice box,” says the fairy.

What will this one want? Wealth? Knowledge? Power? Sexual favours? Wizards who have their hearts enchanted into stone, and otherwise unavailable, have a surprising amount of trouble getting laid. You’d think they would be wiser than to go seeking fairy women, of all creatures, to relieve them.

The fairy is bored, so she steps out of the magical circle cast to contain her, and wanders around his potionary. She picks up the carefully enchanted box made of satirist bones.

“So easy to steal! But better if you give it to me freely. Then I can grant you any wish you name. I can grant the wish that is in your eyes but does not reach your lips.”

Sorcerers do not give away their pre-packaged hearts to fairy women. It is rule 147b in The Ancient Book of Doing Sorcery.

Fairy women do not gaze into the eyes of sorcerers and decide to treat them kindly.

She could steal the box that she now holds, and consume this poorly guarded heart with ease. The bones will yield up what they were set to protect, because the bones care not one whit for the sorcerer, and the fairy is persuasive. From his face, she can tell that he has just worked this out, too. He’s too proud to speak, or to ask for mercy. He holds firm, stares her way, and waits.

She has eaten a lot of hearts along the way. Would his taste any different? Fairies do not have books of rules, because when your first rule is to follow your fancy and to hell with the consequences, there’s not much call for a book.

She throws the box back to him.


Away with the fairies

There’s a hide not far from the canal – private land being developed as a mini nature reserve, with tree planting and a small pond. We regularly see badgers, foxes, rabbits, buzzards and garden birds there, having permission to visit as we please! The badgers are the main attraction, because they generally aren’t easy to spot other places. However, the hide owners tend to put down peanuts to attract them. Last night, there were no nuts. A lone badger of the dozen or so from the set came round to check, and that was the end of the matter. Still, seeing one badger is a joy, and we also had an encounter with a huge, unidentified moth.

We were just getting up to leave when Tom spotted lights amongst the trees. We all saw them – a cluster of small lights that could only be seen from one angle, and that all went off at once. It was nearly dark by then. The nature area does not adjoin any gardens, ruling out fairy lights, solar lights, anything gardenish – there’s a thick hedge and a grass walkway and another hedge between what we could see and the nearest garden.

There were glow bugs in the area, but we haven’t seen any in weeks now. There is a guy who studies moths, we pondered moth traps. Much work went in to looking for a perfectly rational explanation for what all three of us had seen. Increasingly aware that none of us were entirely at ease with the rational explanations, I eventually got round to saying ‘could have been fairies.’

It’s an interesting one for me. I’m a druid and a pagan, I believe in the idea of magic and otherworldliness, but at the same time I pride myself on being a rationally minded creature, willing to consider the evidence as dispassionately as I can. I’ll always look for the banal explanation first, rather than seeing everything in terms of gods, hobgoblins, aliens, Atlanteans etc etc. But there are times when the sense of wonder, the feeling of encountering something numinous is too strong for the rational explanation.

The last time this happened to me I was in Portland with Tom, and we both saw a tiny little whirlwind spinning leaves around. It was so small, so localised, the rest of the air so still that whatever the logical explanation might have been, the sense of seeing something otherworldly was powerful indeed.

Often it’s about the language we use. Thunder and earthquakes have perfectly sensible explanations, we know what they are, and yet at the same time the power of them, and other regular, natural and universally recognised phenomena is breathtaking. Spirit and science do not need to be at odds here. It may be tempting to call things we don’t understand ‘magic’ but there’s no reason not to recognise the known as magical, too. That first rainfall after days of dry heat. A full moon haloed by mist. There’s no reason for the experience of magic to be irrational.

We saw something last night. We don’t know what it was. Any speculation is just that, no version any more evidenced than any other, despite our best efforts. Of course I want to know what I saw, but for me, that knowledge would in no way reduce the feeling of wonder, awe and delight that the moment inspired.


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.


Guest Blog: Water Fairies

By Nukiuk

 

Cool grey and green lichen covered stones surround the small pool which reflects the sky above, a small slash disturbs the crystal clear waters and a coin drifts down to join hundreds of others, each representing some wish, each a desire. For hundreds, even thousands of years people have cast votives into this well as an exchange to aid in their hopes. Such wells dot the Celtic landscape, and are perhaps some of the last remnants of the first religion of the Celtic lands.

Down the hill a ways the river bends and flowing water saturates the ground allowing the trees to grow a little thicker as they seem to stretch just a little ways out into the farms. Once these trees would have been decorated with cloth in the spring, offerings for the fairies of the water which lived within the river. For water fairies were the most important of all fairies among the Celts according to Briggs. Such fairies granted wishes and fertility, they aided in the growth of crops and kept people safe for thousands of years. When Julius Caesar was planning to invade the Celts he received reports that they primarily worshipped water fairies. Further among the Irish Danu, the mother goddess of the Tuatha De Dannan was associated with rivers. Among the Gauls Deo Matrona who was associated with the river Marne was the “Mother Goddess.”

It should come as no surprise then that Arthur’s greatest sword, the one which would not only help him keep his kingdom in tact but which also would not break was given to him by a water fairy. It was after all the water fairies which were people’s protection and comfort. In one tale a woman is forced to flee her home as she was tormented by horned witches. Eventually she collapses, weeping beside a well. It is here by the water that a voice speaks to her giving her the knowledge of how to rid her home of her tormentors. Such stories are typical of water fairies, which, being shy beings tend to avoid being seen by humans. Even so they do sometimes appear, most often in the form of an animal.

The Grimm Brother’s fairy tale of “Little Brier Rose” begins with a Queen and King who want a child and water fairy who grants them that wish.

“One day while the queen was sitting in her bath, a crab crept out of the water onto the ground and said, “Your wish will soon be fulfilled, and you will bring a daughter into the world.” And that is what happened.”

There are two pieces of knowledge we gain from the water fairy in the tale of “Little Brier Rose;” the first is that such fairies often take on animal form. In the Scottish fairy tale of “Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree” the water fairy which acts as an oracle appears as a trout. Other fee’s and water fairies appear in the form of giant eels. As I argued in Water Spirits as Fairies the tales of the Loch Ness Monster likely come from the tales of water fairies in eel/serpent form. Indeed the first written encounter with one of these creatures is of a Christian Missionary trying to banish it, not as a physical being but as a spiritual one.

The continuation of this tradition in “Brier Rose” with the appearance of the crab shows us that water fairies were important to people up into the 19th Century. Indeed in the other version of Sleeping Beauty the King and Queen actively go out to the sacred wells in order to gain a child.

The fact that the water fairy gave the King and Queen of “Sleeping Beauty” a child is interesting because water fairies can to some extent see the future. In other words the water fairy in the story of sleeping beauty was the only active being in the story, she was the one who set the story into motion, so it was she who could be said to be the author of the tale. The water fairy was most likely assigned this role in the story not just because she was the provider of fertility, but because fairies are lovers of art and beauty. Sometimes this means that humans, and the story of humanity are their art.

There are a few important things to bear in mind about water fairies, first is that they are lovers of the journey of the state betwixt and between one and another. In one tale a Welsh farmer falls in love with a water fairy and offers her some cooked bread but she claims it’s too hard, so he offers her some dough and she says it’s not done enough so he offers her some half cooked bread and she accepts this gift.

One must keep this in mind both when giving gifts too and receiving wisdom from water fairies, because while they seek to aid humans they never give a full answer, the picture they give humans is unclear so that the humans will have to take the journey on their own. It is only through the journey after all that a person is able to gain true knowledge and appreciation. This is the realm of water fairies to provide both knowledge and fertility.

As with all things done by the fairy in Celtic tradition continuing to work with water fairies wasn’t always so simple. They are after all enigmatic creatures, for they will providing water to drink and aid in the growing of fields but will also bring floods. This is why people worked so hard to develop and maintain a relationship with water fairies. Often travelling in procession every spring to the sacred waters, singing and praising it. Further they offered the water fairies gifts, most often of cloth but also of more valuable goods, for a relationship with water fairies as with all fairies is one built upon a bond which humans must foster.

 

Nukiuk is a folklorist who has been studying Eurasia’s folk religions and fairies, you can learn more about this at http://zeluna.net/.

To see the references for this article visit http://fairies.zeluna.net/p/resources.html.