Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What are Fairies?

Article by Ty Hulse

Fairy means "The controllers of fate, thus they are the things that make fate, for fate is not an abstract concept, rather it is what they make the world to be."

Quick Points to Understanding What Fairies Are.

1-In mythology fairies were spirits or souls of objects such as trees, shadows, and even emotions.

2-Sometimes these souls could become free and independent of the objects which they inhabited. Humans for example were descended from the spirits of the Ash tree in Greek and German mythology. Elves were once the spirits of the earth.

3-Because humans had been related to fairies, fairies could come from humans. Some fairies were the spirits of the dead living within natural objects such as hills, trees, water, etc. Other fairies came from humans who chose to become fairies again (such as pixies).

4-Fairies were believed to control fate, thus humans prayed to them and made offerings to them in the oldest religions. The Deities such as Zeus were those spirits of the earth, sky and trees which got names.

5-During the Elizabethan and Victorian Eras fairies were used in comedies and children's stories and so came to be depicted as the cutesy things we think of fairies today, but this isn't originally what fairies were.

To further understand why fairies do what they do, we must understand where they came from and what they really are. It was once believed by Europeans that everything in the world – trees, rocks, shadows, even emotions – had a life of its own. The belief that all things have souls was once shared by nearly all people. This view also gave rise to the mystery of what the souls that inhabited everything were. These souls were later understood to be and personified as the fairies.
We are perhaps best served in our understanding of fairies by looking to the Japanese for their understanding of the nature of Kami, which are things that inspire reverence and awe. In the same manner, fairies are the wondrous trees in nature, the tall mountains, and the calm majestic rivers. Fairies are in the poems we tell and the songs we sing. This view is apparent in people’s original belief that the gods needed no temple - they lived directly within that which inspired awe.

The word “temple” itself means wood, implying that the deities lived within groves of trees, on mountain tops and within sacred wells. (Jacob Grimm, 1835) Early Romans also worshipped deities associated with specific localities and even household objects which they needed to survive, such as cupboards and hearths. (Bailey, 1907)
Fairies are not simply those creatures that inspire awe and reverence, just as the Kami was worshipped in Japan, so too were the fairies worshipped by the peoples of ancient Europe. Just as the Kami and Yokai of Japan were often feared so too in Europe did the fairies also plant the seeds of fear and cause sorrow. So in myth, fairies are both the monster and the object of reverence, the illness in the cattle, the things in the dark that cause our flesh to constrict into Goosebumps and make our hearts race.

The ancient Romans would drive diseases away by performing rituals that would show the power of civilization over nature in order to make the nature fairies afraid to come near them as they believed that nature fairies were the cause of illness. Among the Celts it was considered dangerous to harm certain plants because they were inhabited by fairies. In one myth, a man named Caffney cut some of the plants that housed fairies in order to cook his dinner. But the wood would not burn, and soon he pined away until he died. (Wentz, 1911)
Briggs speaks of another fairy, the Lamia, which hid herself in despair and became a monster, jealous of the good fortune of human mothers. This jealousy, coupled with a desire to hold children, moved her to steal children away (Perkiss, 2007). In a Greek fairy tale a young man is enamored by some beautiful fairies causing his mother to warn, “Beware, my son! The maidens may be fairies. Evil may come. Beware!" (Gianakoulis, 1930) Such warnings show how horrified people were of fairies because of the things which they might do.

Fairies, then, are our hopes and our fears; our dreams and our nightmares. On the one hand, they give the world life, while on the other hand they bring destruction. There is nothing felt and nothing that happens that is not caused by a fairy. In myth, certain fairies were known as fates, a word that came to mean “unavoidable”. However, events caused by fates are unavoidable only because fairies deliberately make it so.
Again Purkiss points out that Fairies represent the women’s domain in that they are both distant from the action of most stories and yet ultimately they are the ones driving it. It is not a coincidence that fairies weave and spin. In Europe, it was believed that there was magic in spinning and weaving. That “fate” could be altered through the act of spinning and weaving. Having an understanding of this provides us with some useful information for telling the fairies’ story. To effectively tell the fairies’ story, we need to understand why they would do such things, why they make the world the way they do, and why they get so heavily involved in the lives of humans.