This is my second day of the Five Photo, Five Stories challenge. Today I shall challenge: LaToya, at Creative Life. We shall see what she says 🙂 I am happy to say that Eileen agreed to the challenge, and will start posting Wednesday. Make sure to check it out!
I love this picture, it has such an ethereal feel. This lady looks like she belongs in a fairy nook somewhere. Perhaps as a garden fae?
My first fantasy author was David Eddings, and he wrote pure fantasy: magic, wizards, kingdoms and princesses. Slowly over the years authors have reached for new material and my favorite genre was born–Urban Fantasy. These stories are set in our world, slightly altered to allow all sorts of mythical beings live with and around us. Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Merry’ series is one of the better examples of this genre. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is also fantastically written with a splendid selection of faeries. And Jim Butcher’s Dresden files defies description. But what is the origin that all these stories are based on?
There are so many choices when it comes to where faeries originate from. Or even how to spell fairy! The spelling ‘faerie’ is older, and seems to have more gravitas. (I have always leaned towards this spelling.) Fae come in all shape and sizes and the myths surrounding them are all shapes and sizes too. Some myths go back to the time of the Greeks. Any of the minor deities of land or water, i.e. nymphs, in Greek mythology could be considered faeries.
However, when most people think of the fae, they are thinking either of the Tuatha De Danann of Ireland or the ever popular “wee folk”, both of Celtic origin. Although belief in faeries expanded across Europe shortly before the Medieval Age, much of what we see in books and on screen is referencing the Tuatha. The Tuatha De Danaan were believed to live in Ireland by the Celts long before Christianity reached Ireland. Tall, willowy people with the ability to change their shape, the Tuatha split in two groups when the humans infringed on their lands. Some retreated to a land said to be hidden in the mists, having no contact with humans or the fae left behind. They became the Daoine Sidhe.
The other Tuatha stayed and intermingled with humans, becoming Fenian Heroes of legends and lore. They spilled into England and it is rumored the some became the Knights of the Round Table. Perhaps even Arthur was a fae?
However, as times moved forward, old tales were lost and new ones became popular:
“By the 13th century, the original context of Old English belief had become lost, and people were using the word ‘faery’ in various ways. Early fourteenth century English literature appears to distinguish fairies from dwarves (goblin-like entities who lived in burial mounds); from brownies or hobgoblins (who lived in houses near the hearth and performed domestic tasks); and from the fairy damsel or White Lady who was regarded as a benevolent guardian spirit or genius loci “(Pemberton 1997).*
Some beliefs didn’t change: Fae are pagan, and Solstices and Samhain (Halloween) are times of great festivals for them. People in Medieval times walked with care on those nights. Many of the Fae are still believed to live in the burial mounds and barrow graves scattered across Celtic lands, a belief that began very early in the Celtic history. Fae are also very long-lived, and have been called immortal. This trait may account for the mischievousness: boredom!
Tales are told of travellers lured into swamps by floating lights, babies stole from cradles, and confusion in people after encounters with faeries. This last makes sense, as the very name Fairy comes from Latin and means “to enchant”. This Faeries have done for centuries, enchanting us with their looks, their wiles and the very notion of them.
By the 14th century the diminutive, mischievous image of faeries that we know today had been set. Puck, from a Midsumer’s Night Dream, was a classic faerie. Small and full of mischief, Puck caused endless trouble for those around him. Various Fae have various powers to cause mischief and confusion, but one power that all Fae are thought to have is the ability shift dimensions, from the underworld, heaven and earth. They are generally described as human in appearance (differentiate them from gnomes, trolls, dwarves and the like) and having magical powers. Many modern writers have come to lump all magical creatures-gnomes, faeries, selkies etc–as Fae, then separating them by type.
Faeries have been fodder for many writers since Shakespeare, and today’s writers are continuing that theme with enthusiasm.
In his manuscript, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, Reverend Robert Kirk, minister of the Parish of Aberfoyle, Stirling, Scotland, wrote in 1691:
These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People…are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure***
Such a long history of belief in Faeries seems to indicate that much will be written about them for a long time to come.
Types of Fae from around the world include:
- Aloja. Indigenous to Spain – they are believed to help guard the fate of human beings.
- Bannik. They are believed to be the guardians of Russian bathhouses, ponds and saunas.
- Banshee. Its regarded as an ill omen to see/hear one of these – since it is believed they foretell the death of an individual (family member).
- Cailleach Beare. A guardian in certain parts of Ireland – she is thought to appear as an old crone, that if kissed – turns into a young maiden and offers Kingship of the land.
- Cwn Annwfn. Indigenous to Wales – these are fairy hounds that are believed to have the responsibility of hunting wrongdoers (such as those who have abused or offended others).
- Huldra. Associated with Norse – these are believed to be peaceful (and beautiful) folk that look after cattle and play music.
- Leprechaun. Indigenous to Ireland – these cobblers famously hoard their pot of gold, but can be made to give it up if you get the better of them.
- Peri. They are associated with forest and river beings found in Persia.
- Pisky. Indigenous to Devon and Cornwall – these folk are very territorial and often blamed for misleading travellers.
- Tylwyth Teg. Although attractive to look at and fond of singing and dancing, this Welsh fairy folk are believed to be abductors – and human children are/were brought up to fear them. **
*Read More: faerie.monstrous.com