A Fairy Common Confusion: Fairyism and Neopaganism in the Modern World

fairiess

“Fairies and the Peasant Girl” by Yuliya Litvinova

If Fairy folklorists agree on anything, it’s that the origins of the conception of the fairy draw upon many pre-Christian strands of cultural belief. In the fairy of folklore, we see the shadowy remnants of the human dead, of ancestors, of some old Pagan Gods, of some nature spirits, and so forth. There isn’t a single category or “species” of beings called fairies with their own unique origin, their own uniform appearance, fairy laws, fairy customs, fairy rulers, and fairy natures. You only get such ideas in very late, localized stories belonging to distinctive cultural regions, and only because of the creative needs (and cultural assumptions and limitations) of certain storytellers.

Anthropology and History, however, reveal a deeper perspective on the complex reality of fairies that we can’t ignore.

By the time you believe in Pagan Gods, Ancestors, and nature spirits and worship them (as most Neopagans do), you don’t need to add fairies to that mix because you already technically have them; you are already reaching out to the very beings and forces that fairies are later cultural descendants and memories of. Sticking “fairies” next to your Gods, Ancestors, and nature spirits is redundant. And blending Pagan and post-Pagan cultural lore, absent of historical context, is a recipe for disaster (or at the least metaphysical confusion.)

People in later times weren’t often consciously aware of the origins of the “fairies” they heard cultural tales about. Some places in Britain or Ireland storied the fairies one way; others storied them other ways. In some places, they are given a distinctive character: the fairies are X in appearance, X in character and temperament, and so forth. For those people, in those times and places, that’s what the fairies were. That’s what they believed.

But that’s not the whole story of “fairies”, and that can’t be taken as an authoritative pronouncement of what “fairies” are by us today. The folk tradition isn’t making theological pronouncements nor revealing a singular, orderly cosmology meant to be taken as fully-shaped and authoritative. That’s not what folk tradition does. Continue reading

Advertisements

Sometimes A Dark God

dark god final

Our civilization doesn’t work. No ones does.

None are sustainable, and all are laden with dark debts of immense weight.

All are sinking, all are marching towards their dissolution.

Mourning comes in many stages. Denial and Bargaining are two of those stages. It helps to conceptualize all of civilization- ever since the first civilizations- as a long, drawn out, and complicated process of bargaining which followed upon a foundational denial.

If you look at our political struggles as a form of bargaining against the inevitable, against Nature and reality itself, many things become clear to you. We were doomed, in a very real way, the first moment animals and forests began to perish wholesale because of our chosen human life-ways.

As the problem widened, as the waters, the ground, and the sky became tainted, and as the extinctions of our kin beings accelerated, the doom itself (already assured) just kept updating its arrival time. There was denial- and then there was more and more bargaining.

We crossed a line ages ago which has serious and inevitable consequences. Once it was crossed, there was no going back and no avoiding the debt it incurred. A sacred boundary was broken- and the world, Nature, the sacred- it has integrity. It has power. It can’t be broken and offended, then ignored or storied away.

Continue reading

Crossing the Hedge

jowanet5The image above is a work of silhouette art that I created last year. I call it Crossing the Hedge. Much visual symbolism comes together in this image to communicate the deeper reality of the vocation of Witchcraft.

The image shows a cosmological map of types. On one side is the human world, and a hedge separates it from the other-than-human world, the wilderness beyond. The hedge that protects the human space of habitation from the outside is breached, crossed, by a witched woman, a woman who is made capable of this extraordinary passage by her Familiar spirit, who sits on the hedge in the form of a cat. Continue reading

Strong Horn

stronghorntop

A very long time ago, when the trees were much larger than they are now, and animals of various kinds were more likely to be met by a traveler who followed the streams through the forests, there lived a man. He lived in a place where a large river split itself around a large outcropping of boulders and stones.

He was not a human man; in the evenings, he would slip into the water and turn into an enormous snake which had two long, sharp horns coming from its head. In this shape, he would coil up under the water and sleep. Sometimes he would sit very still, and look like the mud and stones of the river bottom, and eat fish who swam nearby. He also ate turtles, and toads, and eels.

When he emerged from the water, he would take the shape of a human man, and wander in the forest. Sitting still, he might look like a tree-stump, and snatch foxes or rabbits up when they came by, but he usually let them go after they kicked and cried out in terror. A fox who bit him while he was engaged in this prank discovered that his blood was too strange and powerful; it warped the tongue and throat of the fox.

The horned snake man slipped back into the water one evening, assuming his long, scaly shape. But unbeknownst to him, the large stones and boulders who had watched him for seasons beyond count had been plotting against him. They chose one of their number to harm him- and as he passed below them in the water, a great boulder freed itself from the dark soil and rocks that held it suspended over the river. It crashed down, making an enormous splash, and crushing the horned snake man. He died there in the water, pressed against the bottom of the river.

His spine was crushed, and much of his power slipped out of him, being drawn away by the moving water, which licked and drank it up. Some fish came to take their share. All the horned snake man could do with the power he saved from his spine was assume the shape of one of the fish in the river. And thus he had to remain, for many seasons: a fish in the shallow water near the bank and the stones. Continue reading

Now They Fly Together: Sorcery and the Serpent Walk

theyfly2

Full moon. Third Wolf Night. Dark room. Candles flicker around a circle of stones surrounding a triangle made of thin, knotty branches.  A trail of stones leads from the northeast of the circle to a deer’s skull, silently watching. Freezing wind leaks into the room from over the windowsill, snakes around the stones, and makes the flames flicker.

Open, hedge.
Open, deep forest of the Manitou world.
Adonay Sabaoth Cadas, Adonay Amara. Aly Adoy Sabaoth Amara.
Abbomacho. Abbomacho. Abbomacho.
King of spirits, you who come from the cold northeast,
Open the way into the unseen world for me.
You have given me the Serpent Dreams,
And you protect those who dream your dreams!
Open the way into the unseen world for me.
Cheepi. Cheepi. Cheepi.
You of the Cheepi Host who protect me and help me,
Open the hidden way into the unseen world for me.

Continue reading