Amazingly sick this week, but no virus can keep me from dealing out a column for you.
On the fan forums, both Shinmeko and Padawan asked me to talk about the Fae. So let’s just get into a very abridged history of the Fairy Folk.
I should bring up first and foremost, that like vampires, the Fae are a universal belief in cultures across the world. There are differences between them depending on what country/time period/culture you go to, but there are underlying similarities to them all.
Fairy mythology is most prevalent in Celtic Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland, with the latter being the strongest source) and their mythology was eventually transplanted to the Americas through immigration and the handing down of folk tales. Fairy lore is most commonly fond in the “hillbilly regions” of America, meaning the Ozarks, the Appalachians and other rural mountain regions. Make of that what you will and insert your own Deliverance joke here. Asia has their own Fairy folklore, but I won’t be getting into that today. I will mainly be focusing on the Western Fae. I do want to make a quick mention that certain Native American tribes have their own Fairy folklore. In south central Montana, up amongst the Pryor Mountains, the tribe known as the Crow believed there was a group of fairies called the “Little People.” These fairies possessed healing powers, and had magic powers relating to war, horse stealing, and they had very strong canine teeth. In regards to the last bit, I have no idea how or where that came from, but just the fact texts make mention of “really sharp canine teeth” made me have to put that in here.
Western/Celtic Fairies (I will NOT spell it Faerie as that’s new age retardedness, much like Vampyre) began as a way to explain all sorts of minor mishaps, and even to explain deformities, bad weather, sick livestock, and untimely death.
The term “Fairy: comes from the Latin word Fata, which means fate. This refers to the Three Fates of Grecian myth who spun, measured, and cute the lines of life for all living things. In Old English, the fairies were known as fays, which has since been turned into Fae by the evolution of our mother tongue. The original term ‘fays’ meant bewitched or enchanted, which makes sense due to the fact Fairies were believed to have magical powers and would cast spells on people. They were also originally believed to be familiar for Witches and Warlocks, or in some cases, the creatures who tutored them in the Black Arts.
There is no constant in terms of the appearance of the Fae. They may be beautiful or ugly. They might have wings, or maybe they don’t. They may be monsters, or they may be humanoid. They way have wands, they may have pipes. Some are apathetic towards humanity, some are benevolent, while others are malevolent.
The only real common thread between the Fae legends comes from the fact their names are often times referring to their diminutive size, the fact they are almost always invisible to the human eye (although they can make themselves visible if they choose to).
There are six main beliefs for the origins of the Fairy Folk.
1) They are the souls of the Pagan dead, trapped between the worlds of Heaven and Earth for not being Baptized and choosing to disbelieve in God.
2) They are the Guardians of the Dead, watching and protecting those that no longer dwell amongst the living.
3) They are the ghosts of ancestors.
4) They are fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven for siding with Lucifer but condemned to Earth instead of Hell by God.
5) They are Nature spirits attached to a specific element and/or location.
6) They are small humanoids, but mortal nonetheless.
These are not the only ways of describing the origins of the Fae; merely the most common.
In Irish mythology, the Fairies are known as the “Tuatha de Danaan”, which means, “People of the Goddess.” Fairies are believed to be a Divine race who came across the seas from the East as clouds and mist somewhere in 15th Century BCE. The Tuatha de Danaan took over Ireland, and then retired into the hills and mounds (Side and Sidhe) and became underground dwellers that eventually evolved into the Fae. The Tuatha De Danann that chose to remain above ground kept their original beautiful humanoid forms, as well as their mastery of the mystical arts. These Tuatha de Danaan were considered part moral, part spirit, and part Gods and began to marry and breed with the local humans. Until the 13th Century, it was considered a blessing to have Fairy blood running through your veins.
I do want to point out a lot of Folklorists and Cultural Anthropologists theorize the Tuatha de Danaan were actual foreign born humans who looked strikingly different from the Irish and thus were considered to be not entirely mortal. They were most likely the Lapps, the Pics, or the Romano-British-Iberians. The RBI once populated Britain and much of Europe and Scandinavia, but were eventually pushed out by the larger and more warlike tribes, such as the Celts. As these races were forced more and more into the woodlands and rural areas, local residents began to view them with superstition and created the Fairy legends. Some of the races interbred with the locals while others died out.
The Fae were believed to be nocturnal, with most of the tales involving them occurring only after dusk. Most Fairy stories (I almost used the word TALE there…feature the Fae as antagonists from stealing women away for wives and their true loves having to save them, to stealing human children and replacing them with Changelings. The Fairy Folk even had one of humanity’s oldest extortion rackets going on, where humans, in order to stay on the good side of the Fairy, ironically called “The Good People” or the “Good Neighbors” would leave out food and drink for the Fae and also make sure their houses were nice and tidy. In return the Fairies would not be mean to these humans and might even bestow gifts or money or do chores for the humans that left them offerings. The Fae were weak to cold iron, which is a common weakness in all cultures for supernatural beings such as Djinn and Lilin, much the same way Garlic tends to ward off the Undead no matter the culture or worldly location.
Note that while Fairy Lore does exist, some tales here and there throughout various cultures speak of an entire Fairy nation where all the Fae live together, which is called Elfland. Elfland is believed to be underground, and that there is no concept of time there. You can access Elfland through barrels and mounds, but if you do…well, stories differ on what awaits an all too curious human.
Fairies are also said to live at sacred wells, fountains, lakes, and groves of trees, where if you leave them an offering, they will bless you and ward off misfortune and illness. And in Celtic beliefs, ancient burial sites such as tumuli, dolmens, menhirs, and megaliths are haunted by Fairies, again connected them to the dead. The fairies of these customs come out only on moonlit night and dance around the mounds and tombs in a strange circular dance. The Celts also believed that on Samhain, the Celtic Pagan festival of the dead, that the fairies were at their most active (and most mischievous). The Celtic beliefs towards Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve eventually became absorbed into Christianity, and Christian Saints took the place of the gods, ghosts and fairies. This day is commonly known as All Saint’s Day, or November 1st. Interesting that the Day or Martyrs replaces the night of the dead, eh?
Today, the Fae are used by some (NOT ALL) contemporary Pagans and Wiccans who feel they can establish contact with the Fairies and their Realms in order to enhance their spirituality and magic. I’m not even going to touch that stuff, as you can pick up any erroneously New Age text at your local Barns and Noble or Borders and chortle your way through that.
I will however relate two well known (at least to people into this sort of stuff anyway) stories about the Fae. The first involved Edenhall and their Luck. Now a luck in the days of yore was an ornate object kept as a token of good luck that would protect them against evil. As long as the object remained intact, the family who passed it down from generation to generation would prosper. Although stories about lucks are generally long and romantic involving them being gifts from the Fae or witches or even royalty, the truth is they were often used as objects to signify tenure or deeds, back in the days when very few could read or write. Instead of a deed, one had an item to signify the land ownership. These were lucks.
Regardless, let me tell the tall of the Luck of Edenhall. This luck was thick yellow brown cup made of glass decorated in blue, red, and gold enamel. It was housed in a specially designed leather case. Edenhall and its’ luck were located in Cumberland (Northern England), and was the property of the Musgrave family since the middle of the 15th Century. The story behind this Luck is that one day the Butler of the Musgraves went down to draw water from a Fairy well named after St. Cuthbert. There the butlers found a group of fairies playing and singing and dancing around the well. The butler’s intrusion scared the fairies and caused them to flee, leaving behind an ornate goblet. As the butler picked it up, the departing fairies chanted,
“If this Cup should ever break or fall,
Farewell the Luck of Edenhall.”
Although it is not known when the Luck first became part of Edenhall or the Musgrave family, the first written recording of the cup was in 1689, although the Fairy legend was not recorded until 1791.
This particular luck was made famous in 1721 when the visiting Duke of Wharton nearly broke it by letting it fall when he was completely drunk. The butler made a leaping dive and caught the Luck in a napkin. Wharton them immortalized the luck in a balled he called, “The Drinking March”.
There are many different theories as to the origins of the Edenhall luck. Some say it is Moorish in design, and because the leather bag bears the inscription IHS, the cup was originally used upon a Spanish seafaring vessel. Another theory is that it was made in Damascus in the 13th or 14th century, as the Luck is consistent with the style of glasswork done in Spain at that time. These people believe the IHS was added to the bag as some sort of protective charm to prevent the Fae from reclaiming the Luck. Another belief is that the luck is simply and old French or English cup from the 13th or 14th Century.
The second Fae tale I wish to tell involves the Cottingley Fairies, a hoax so well done, it fooled many, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator and writer of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Two young girls, fabricated photos that ‘proved’ fairies were real. Let’s look at these photos, shall we?
I think anyone today who takes a look at these can instantly spot them as fakes, but nearly a century ago, these photos fooled many people. Doyle I can understand being taken in, because as a Spiritualist, he desperately wanted to find and believe in proof of the supernatural. Others though? I guess it was just a different age and they weren’t as cynical as we are now.
In 1920, Doyle, who was a fanatic over Fairy Lore, received a letter from fellow Spiritualist, Felicia Scatcherd. Felicia let Arthur know, that the existence of Fairies had been proven by the way of two photos taken in Yorkshire. Doyle asked his friend Edward Gardner to investigate this claim for him. Gardner got a hold of the photos and reported they showed tiny winged females dressed in gowns that were in style in Paris at the time, dancing and playing on tiny pipes.
The photographs were taken by two young English girls, named Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. They were cousins and claimed to be able to see Fairies and also Gnomes, which they managed to snap a picture of as well. Both girls claimed the photos were taken in 1917 in the village of Cottingley and that the fairies were white with wings of green, pink, and mauve. They had to point this out due to the black and white natures of photos at the time.
Although the photos were obviously fakes to people now (and the faeries were actually cut outs from a 1915 book called, Princess Mary’s Gift Book), Gardner pronounced them to be legitimate and sent them to Doyle. Both photos companies Eastman and Kodak (Now one combined company today. Go figure.) expressed doubt to the legitimacy of the photos, but Doyle chose to believe Gardner’s word. Doyle had local Clairvoyant Geoffrey Hudson (also Doyle’s friend) add to his belief that the photos were real by stating he too could see fairies, and saw them routinely in Cottingley as well. Elsie and Frances then produced three more fairy photos and that was enough for Doyle, who then published an article in the Christmas issue of Strand Magazine in the year 1920.
This article created a deluge of “authentic” Fairy photos that were sent to Doyle, although he refused to believe any of those were real. Doyle felt the others were obvious fakes and lacked the charm and innocence of the original ones. Rosemary Ellen Guiley hypothesizes that Doyle just refused to believe two girls, aged 10 and 16, could be anything but innocence and lacked the malice or ability to produce outright “professional trickery.”
In 1922 Doyle stepped up his belief and published an entire book on proof that Fairies were real entitled appropriately enough, The Coming of the Fairies. This book contained a longer, more detailed commentary about the photos taken in Cottingley, and also other chapters citing more proof of fairies and their existence. Doyle believed that soon many would come forward with proof that the Fae were real. And with satisfaction that humanity had learned that Fairies were real, he went abroad for a lecture tour of Australia.
When Doyle came back, well…humanity had formed quite the opposite opinion. While he was Down Under, the photographs had been widely circulated on both sides of the Atlantic and deemed completely and totally fake. Doyle had been turned into a complete laughingstock, and even he finally admitted he had been fooled by what he called “The Greatest Hoax in History.”
Even after Doyle died, both girls refused to admit the photos were false in any way. That is until the 1980’s when both girls finally came clean on the hoax, stating that they faked the photos to get back as adults who mocked them for believing in the Fae. Both girls, even in their now old age, still believe fairies were quite real and that they could see them, but the photos were merely an attempt to try and make their parents and townspeople to stop taunted them for “Childish beliefs.” Once Doyle became involved, both girls felt pressured to make the three new photos and to keep quiet about the deceit as they didn’t want to embarrass him or hurt his feelings.
And that my friends, is the closest anyone has ever come to proving the existence of the Fairy Folk.
Hopefully this is what our friends in the Fan Forums were looking for.
Remember, Nygotha answers YOUR questions and inquiries into all forms of folklore, urban legends, taboos, and beliefs long forgotten. So you can send me an email or comment on the forums, and eventually (unless I misplace it), your questions will be answered.
This week a simple dish to reflect my less than healthy status. Soup is the food of the gods to the ill. Although most people use the stereotypical Chicken Noodle, I prefer something much healthier, a good old fashioned Vegetable Soup. The soup I’ll be giving you the recipe for today is a traditional French Provencal Soup. Chock full of veggies, and guaranteed to get you healthy as soon as your body can digest it.
Soupe au Pistou
1 1/2 cups fresh fava beans, shelled
1/2 cup dried herbs
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced (NOT CHOPPED)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small (or 1 large) leeks, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 small potatoes, finely diced
4 ounces green beans
5 cups water
2 small zucchini, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup garden peas
Handful of spinach leaves
Salt and pepper for taste
Sprigs of fresh basil
For the Pistou
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
1. To make the pistou (Basil and garlic puree), but the garlic, basil, and cheese in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of machine when needed. With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed tube. If you do not have a food processor, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind/pound the basil, cheese and garlic together and then stir in the oil.
2. To make the soup, place the beans in a sauce pan with water (just enough to cover them), add the herbs and one of the garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for ten minutes. Set aside in the cooking mixture.
3. In a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish, heat the oil. Add the onions and leeks and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion just begins to start softening.
4. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic clove and cook, covered, for ten minutes while stirring.
5. Add the potatoes, green beans, and water, and then season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and then skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for ten minutes.
6. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and peas together with the beans and their cooking liquid and simmer for half an hour. Or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the spinach and let simmer an extra 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper and dap a bit of pistou into each bowl.
Besides starting up the official IP Play-by-Web RPG game, I churned out not one, but FOUR reviews of video games this week, my last ones for quite some time for Inside Pulse games, as I’m just too burned out to care about video gaming anymore.
Nightmare or Druaga
Midway Arcade Treasures 2
The Bard’s Tale
You can also check out LiquidCross’ History of The Legend of Zelda and Misha’s review of Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne Maniacs.
In comics we have, Jim Trabold talking about Avengers Disassembled and Morse covers Avengers stuff as well.
Laflin talks politics as well as sports.
The latest Rocktable is up. And you can also read Gloonmchen’s latest column as well.
The Movies Section is up and running now.
Eric S still hasn’t recovered from the Election and a ton of wrestlers got fired
That’s it for this week. I’ll see you in 7 days with more analytical babble about myths and lore.