Sunday, November 20, 2011

Origins Of Europe's Fairies - p1

Proto-Indo-Europeans Second Society of Fairies.
You see them in the distance, on the hill tops for a brief moment as dusk starts to settle in. Anxiously you watch them carefully, uncertain what the strangers might want, and then all at once they are gone. Did they disappear into a ravine? You strain your eyes but the twilight plays tricks on your eyes and you see shadows dancing among the hills so you can never be certain. Even without such experiences however its easy for people to imagine that theirs another society, another set of people living along side them - in the hills and the forests. As stories come in of other peoples from distant lands who have strange and wondrous foods, songs, technologies, or societies - perhaps the first tales of the copper being extracted from rock or a strange looking piece of jewelry – the tales from these stories would grow. Such tales and artifacts may not come often but once is all that’s needed for the tales to begin. It seems unlikely then that there are a people in the world who don’t have some tales of fairies who live much as they do but have strange powers.
Fairy societies are present among every Indo-European people I’ve been able to find folk tales on, from those of the Hindu-Kush and Persia within Asia and the Celts and Germanic peoples of Europe we see the presence of a second society of magical humans who live in a parallel world, humans who we now call fairies. These fairies have a supernatural control over nature - the wild animals are their herd animals and friends so they protect them. People always had to be very careful to respect these fairies for they would haunt buildings or people that were in their paths and at times they would curse and kill those who disrespected their claims on wild animals and plants.
The parallel world in which these fairies lived was all around the Indo-European peoples, hidden by secret doorways into mountains, rocks, cliffs and trees or at the bottom of special lakes and rivers. Tales of deities and fairy like creatures opening windows in cliff faces or doors in the sides of mountains are common, as are stories of people in Europe seeing the fairies living within hills or the craggy rocks.
It seems likely then that the Proto-Indo-Europeans believed that they traveled among fairies which lived within the rocks, mountains, trees and lakes which surrounded them as they herded their animals through the wilderness or went hunting. It’s also likely that the Proto-Indo-Europeans acted to both pacify and keep these fairies at bay while also making offerings to them for luck and healing. Among later Germanic peoples the warriors, priests and poets would worship the gods who could grant them victory and magic, but what do peasants need victory for? For peasants there are the gods, but there are also the fairies which make the plants grow, the fairies which help the animals be fertile and which give or withhold permission to hunt in the wild. These are who the farmers and herders, need bargain with. Long after Europe was Christianized the peasants would still pray to these fairies, they would still make offerings to pear trees and sacred wells, still bargain with the spirits of the hills and rocks.

Read Part 2