Friday, November 30, 2012

Internal Dualism

Article by Ty Hulse

Is it a good spirit or an evil spirit? That question always seems to come up when one is discussing mythological creatures, and usually the answer is 'neither or both.' For unlike Christianity in which the dualism, the opposing forces are contained in two separate beings fairy like beings tend to be their own opposites which makes sense given that nature itself is often unpredictable and it's own opposite. Hermes for example was the deity of both thieves and merchants, for he could help either as he wished. 

It makes sense for natural beings to be their own opposites, for the same river which brings water to fields also floods them, the same forest which provides food is the place of wolves. It's also important to keep the world of fairies in perspective. For the king of the forest loves the spirits of the trees, they are his children and or his wives. Thus those who cut down trees are killing those he loves. From the perspective of the fairies humans are assaulting them, attacking them. Yet at the same time many of these fairies have a protective streak about them. Thus they will both help and harm humans, depending on the humans relationship with them.

This all comes down to the nature of the soul in ancient belief. In order to begin to understanding the ancient European conception of the soul, you must forget everything you think you know about it. Our modern conception does not help in our goal of becoming aware of the real nature of fairies and our relationship to them. Moreover, the modern European beliefs about the soul do not explain some of the important traditions that have been carried over from ancient belief systems.
People then, as they often times do now, believed that the soul was separate from the body. At one time people thought that souls inhabit objects as well as living things. 
“The ancient Egyptians…conceived the Ka or personality as a thing separable from the person or body, and hence ‘the statue of a human being represented and embodied a human Ka’. Likewise a statue of a god was the dwelling-place of a divine Ka, attracted to it by certain mystical formulae at the time of dedication.” (Wentz, 1911) 
When someone dies we erect a marker to them, a marker which is then placed in a beautiful location and on which we place flowers and other offerings. That this marker is a remnant of a shrine to the dead person is clear, for we speak to them at it which is in essence a form of prayer to their soul. What’s more, we feel reverence around it as we would in a religious setting. So again it is clear that this is a shrine for the dead. What isn’t clear, given most peoples current beliefs regarding the soul, is why this shrine must be at the persons body. The answer to this question is surprising as it is plainly obvious – people once believed that the soul remained with the body after death.
In Russia, they have funeral songs: 
“which the grave itself is spoken of as the home of the departed spirit. “Dark and joyless is our prison-house," is the reply constantly made by ghosts when questioned about their habitation. "Stone and earth lie heavy on our hearts, our eyes are fast closed, our hands and feet are frozen by the cold." Especially during the winters do the dead suffer; when the spring returns the peasants say, "Our fathers enjoy repose," and in Little-Russia they add, "God grant that the earth may lie light on you.” (Ralston, 1872) 

From this song, we can see that the Russians believed that the soul remained within the body. Similarly, as we will see further in “Humans Are the Dead”, in Celtic, Germanic, Mongolian, Japanese, and nearly every other Indo-European and Tengeri Mythology,  humans souls were also thought to grow into flowers, trees, and rivers - things that we previously explained to be fairies. Yet at the same time, side by side with these beliefs, are Celtic and Russian myths that tell of soul taking the form of a winged animal. 
In Brittany, souls are frequently thought to be in butterfly form, “but that upon leaving the body it is often believed to take the form of a fly and sometimes that of a raven…" (Ralston 1872). The butterfly also seems to have been universally accepted by the Slavonians as an emblem of the soul. Similarly, one of the names in the Government of Yaroslaw is dushichka, a caressing diminutive of dusha, the soul. In Kherson culture, it is believed that if the usual alms are not distributed at a funeral, the dead man's soul will reveal itself to his relatives in the form of a moth flying about the flame of a candle. Then, the day after receiving such a warning visit, the family would call together the poor and distribute food to them. Meanwhile, Bohemian culture holds that if the first butterfly a man sees in the spring is a white one, he is destined to die within the year. The Servians, on the other hand, believe that the soul of a witch often leaves her body while she is asleep and flies abroad in the shape of a butterfly. 
“The belief in the bird-soul was well known in the Highlands. To illustrate: A farmer was coming home from Inverness to Buntait when at a weird part of the way his mare got uncontrollable and ran up with him to where there was a waterfall (eas). Whereupon he swooned and fell off. On recovering he found his way home and was amazed at finding his mare tied in the stable, not knowing how it happened, for nobody confessed to having tied her. Soon after he hurt himself in moving a heavy box of oats at the farm of Shewglie; a plough or two broke thereafter at the spring-work, always a bad omen. Getting more unwell, he said to his wife the night before his death: "What a beautiful bird I heard singing by my bedside to-night." "I well believe it," she replied. To which he answered: "It was my ghost; I cannot live long.” (Ralston, 1872)
There were also a number of other animal forms which human souls could take. 
“it was generally believed among the Northern nations that the soul escaped from the body in the shape of a mouse, which crept out of a corpse’s mouth and ran away, and it was also said to creep in and out of the mouths of people in a trance. While the soul was absent, no effort or remedy could recall the patient to life; but as soon as it had come back animation returned.” (Guerber, 1909)
It is also clear that along with these ideas, it was believed that humans changed into some other form after death. What we see from examining the mythology surrounding death is that the same people believed that two or even three things happened to a human soul when we died.
Why did the ancient Europeans hold so many beliefs? Is it simply because they were confused by what happens after death? Is it because people were not certain which one of a myriad of choices to believe in so they picked all possible outcomes? Of course, any of these options is possible. Certainly the modern tradition of laying flowers on the grave has persisted even though almost no one truly believes that this does any real good for the dead. So it is also quite possible that the beliefs in Europe changed slowly over time, thus making it appear that they believed that two very different things could happen to a person's soul.
There is, however, an alternative option; that people believed many things happened to a person when they died. That like the people of the Steppes in Central Asia, the Ainu, the Japanese, the Finns as well as the forbearers of the Hungarians and North East Europeans some Europeans believed that everyone had multiple souls. These peoples do have some disagreement as to the number of souls a human can have, but they believed that when people die some of their souls reside in nature and become trees or mountains, while others are reincarnated or travel to the afterlife for a time in the form of a winged creature such as a butterfly or a bird. (Ried, 2002) 
Jacob Grimm points out that Germanic people spoke of the soul as a feminine object, while they spoke of life -integrally related to breath - as masculine. (Grimm, 1835) Clearly, then, there was a distinction of some form between the two, which in turn, supports the idea that at one time the people in Europe believed in more than one soul. The fundamental belief in multiple souls is significant because it shows us not only how some fairies that reside in nature can be connected with ancient humans, but it also explains how an individual fairy can seemingly have many personalities and forms at one time. 
We see the same belief repeated in Japan where people thought that the Kami had multiple souls, and therefore multiple natures or personalities. According to them, any given Kami has four souls and three natures. Namely, Aramitama, Nigimitama, and Sakimitama. Any one of these natures can become dominant, thus completely changing the way the Kami acts, what they desire, and what goals they will have.
The Aramitama is violent and generally destructive. However, it is important to keep in mind that destructiveness is not always harmful.  After all, it was violence and destructiveness that saved Japan from the genocide of the Mongols and protected people from other dangers.
The second type, Nigimitama, is the gentle nature which Kami uses to make the crops grow and the water pure. However, Kami in this state do not go out of their way to do good. They simply keep the natural order of things so that there is enough for humans and animals to survive.
The final nature, Sakimitama, is one in which Kami brings extra luck, creates wealth for humans, and other similar helpful actions. 
I believe that, just as in the concepts behind the Kami, we see separate natures in fairies of European mythology. For the same fairy that causes people's crops to grow is the one that children are told to avoid. (Frazer, 1922) In the sacred groves, the fairies that people prayed to for wealth and luck would not hesitate to kill those who disturbed ­­­them. (Tactis)
Hermes in Greek mythology was both the god who protected merchants from thieves and the one who helped thieves rob the merchants. He gave humans secrets to keep them safe, yet snatched children away, dragging them into a dark world from which there was no return. It is clear from these stories that the fairies and deities in European myths had multiple natures, and that their motivations and thoughts changed with their mood. Indeed, fairies and deities can be said to feel things with more intensity than most humans can and so they need to struggle for control much more fiercely. 
Unlike much of the modern perception of the world, in which the duality between destruction and creation exists in separate beings, fairies exhibit this duality inside themselves. An internalized duality makes sense given that fairies were natural phenomena which are, in themselves, dualistic in a way that is neither good nor evil. After all, if fairies helped humans hunt for food, they must also help wolves source their food, which can include humans as there is no moral difference in the wolf's mind between a deer and a human. In addition, we as humans have every right to kill the wolf to defend ourselves, our own food, and those we love. Why is this comparison significant? Because this is the way of fairies – in fact, the way of all feral creatures - and this is a critical insight into what they think and do.
Indeed, when examining fairies, it becomes obvious that humans are not always their closest companions. Fairies often love trees and animals more because these are their friends. When a human chops down a tree they are in fact killing a fairy, which can be a child, mother, or lover of another fairy. To fairies, humans can be the wolves that destroy what they love, the rats that bring disease and eat off their infant’s faces. In this sense, fairies have every right to return pestilence onto humanity to protect themselves just as we have the right to defend ourselves from predators and illnesses.

Fairies - Always Ancient but Never Mature

Article by Ty Hulse

Many fairies never truly mature. At the same time, however, they grow up within a few years or are born ancient from the very beginning (Grimm, 1835). Further, because of their immortal nature, they would eventually only have the slightest inkling that they were ever young at all. This situation can lead them to desire that which they cannot have, a childhood. Consider that when fairies kidnap adults, the fairies most often replace them with objects which are made of dirt or wood but are enchanted to appear to be corpses. Yet when a fairy takes a human baby, they replace the child with old fairies in disguise. So when a fairy takes an adult, it is clear that what they are after is the adult because they leave the humans very little recourse to discover the deception or to force the fairies to return the person who was taken.

When fairies take human children, however, they are after something else, something more. By leaving an elderly fairy, the fairies risk being found out because of the actions of the elderly fairy. Further, they risk having the fairy abused by the humans as often happened. If all the fairies wanted was the child, then they would simply replace them with clay or wood magically disguised to appear as a dead child as they do adults. By replacing children with older fairies, the fairies are actively seeking to take the place of the child.
In history and our own society, we can see many child actors who grew up to seek after their childhood later. They sought to create a “Neverland” for themselves. Even beyond this, however, there are many people who seek to go back to or to find a childhood again. Movies are ripe with stories of people who wish to regain their youth, or to find the happiness they never had as a child. For such people, however, the rules of society, age, mortality, as well as the fact that no matter what they do they cannot look like children prevents them from achieving childhood later in life.

Fairies, however, can change their form at will, and they don’t have the same social rules as humans. Perkiss points out that when the nymphs would kidnap heroes, it seemed that they did so in order to essentially play house with the hero the way a girl might seek to pull a father, brother, or neighbor boy into a game of tea. Thus, while even human children must follow certain rules, (they can’t force the neighbor boy to play tea without adult intervention or a lot of badgering), fairies with their supernatural powers do not have very many rules at all. Further, because of their immortal nature, they have forever to gain a greater longing for a childhood and can act childlike forever.  There is never a moment when they start to whither and get injured more easily or must worry about finding a job. So they can dance on the hillsides every night for eternity and so they often do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rumpelstiltskin and the Knight

The ancient fairy sat beside the road and felt the wind brushing through his leafy hair as he kissed the moonlight causing her to give a shy giggle which made him smile.
“Its going to be a while isn't it?” Rumpelstiltskin asked the wind, which blew in affirmation. So he sat on an old rock which bent and softened itself for him providing an unnatural cushion. Rumpelstiltskin knew that three young men would soon be passing his way, one after the other, and while he’d already determined that it was the third and youngest of them which deserved to rule Whispershire he still felt he should give the others a chance to prove him wrong. He whistled cheerfully as he looked out over what remained of the wild rye meadow. Perhaps he’d let the trees grow too far he mused as a deer and her fawn were forced to stand so close to the forests that they would have had no warning had wolves been on the prowl. He closed his eyes and began to envision how the forest would look if he allowed the grass to push the trees back just a little more. He was contemplating all the ways he could change the forest when the oldest of the young men started to walk past.....

Read the full story.

I wanted an introduction to Rumpelstiltskin that fit with my analysis of him as a helper of the downtrodden and of kingdoms, it didn't take me long to find the role of Männleins in giving advice to people setting  out to seek their fortune or knights going to rescue someone. This gave me the perfect set up for my first Flash Fiction about Rumpelstiltskin, as the fairy waiting to help those setting off to seek their fortune, while at the same time assuring that a kingdom gains a good king.

Read My Analysis of Rumpelstiltskin

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Germany - Water Sprites

Article by Ty Hulse

Extracted from Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology
Water sprites have manythings in common with mountain sprites but many things peculiar to them.
The males like those of the schrat kind, come up singly rather than in companies, the water man is represented as oldish with a long beard, often he is many headed. In Danish folk song the enokke lifts his beard aloft he wears a green hat and when he grins you see his green teeth.
He at times is the figure of a wild boy with shaggy hair or else with yellow girls and a red cap
Nakki of the Finns is said to have iron teeth.

At times water sprites will go and buy grain and if they pay more than the price a dearth follows but if he buys cheaper the prices fall.

Dancing and song and music are the delight of all water sprites, like sirens the nixe by her song draws listing youth to herself then into the deep. In Sweden they tell of the stromkarls alluring enchanting strain they have eleven song variations but only ten may you dance to the eleventh belongs to the night spirit and his band; begin to t play that the table sand benches, cup and can, gray beards grandmothers, blind lame, and even babes in cradle would begin to dance.
The stromkarl loves to linger by mills and waterfulls hence his Norwegion name fossegrim people would offer a black lamb and were taught music by him in return the fossegrimm too on calm dark evenings entices men by his music and instruct in the fiddle or other stringed instruments  in return for a little white he-goat. If the victim is fat the fossegrim clutches hold of the players right and guides it up and down till blood starts out of hall his finger tips, then the pupil is perfect in his art and can play so that all the trees shall dance and torrents in their fall stand still.
Although Christianity forbids such offerings people retain a certain awe and reverence and have not quite given up all faith in their power and influence.
The nix also extracts cruel sacrifices of which memory is preserved in nearly all popular tradition, when people are drowned in a river it is common to saw the river sprite demands his yearly victim which is usually an innocent child.
On the whole there runs through stories of water sprites a vein of cruilty of bloodthirstiness which is not found among the sprites of mountains woods and homes. The nix kills humans and his own folk who go ashore to mingle with men. A girl was taken by a sprite and passed fifteen years in a haf-fruns gard home (sea wife)and was never seen for all that time. Her brother rescued her
Some others suppose that they do not drown but instead bear peoples souls to their next abode
in seaden drowned men who's bodies ar enot found are supposed to have been drawn into the dwelling of hafafru 

Wood Wives

Article by Ty Hulse

Wood Wives are female forest fairies who tend to be fairly small in stature, though at times they appear in pools of water and lakes within the depths of the forest and as such can be called wish wives for it's into such pools that people cast their votive in hopes of getting their wishes full filled. Even so old sacred forests are the favorite abode of the wood wives. For just as the deities were enthroned on trees within sacred groves so to do wise woman seek the same spaces. Some such as Veleda would live within rocks in the forest and some would fly through the murky forests to the seashore for a time but they always got homesick and returned to the forest. 
Other wood wives, such as those of the Saxons lived within caves in the forest, much as the nymphs of Greece, or the Rusalka of Russia would often do.

According to Jacob Grimm
In groves and on trees their appeared dominae, matronae, pullae clothed in white distinguishable from the more elvish tree wife or dryad who live is bound up in that of the tree. The Vicentina Germans worship a wood wife, chiefly between Christmas and the Twelfth day  the women spin flax from the distaff  and throw it in the fire to propitiate her. She is every bit like Holda and Berhta. As three bunches of corn are left standing at harvest time for Wuotan and Frau Gaue so to this day in the Frankenwald they leave three handfuls of flax lying in the filed for the Holzeibel (wood wives)

At times the wood wives might take away a man to be their husband, just as the dryad and nymphs do. In one Spanish ballad "De La Infantina" a shaggy woman carries off a man to her own country where she is enthroned as queen on a high rock. Eventually she lays aside her hairy covering and is named Sigeminne, which means the 'fairest in all the land."

Some wood wives do seem to have their lives tied up into trees however, for it is claimed that when someone twists a young tree until it breaks a wood wife dies. Still their relationship with people was often positive  for one of their biggest fears was the Wild Huntsmen who would capture them and skin them, than pin his trophy to a tree. Woodsman, feeling sorry for the little wood wives, would paint protective symbols on the sides of trees so the wood wives would be safe inside them.

Wood wives would also ask humans for bread, asking that the humans bake the bread without caraway or cumin seeds, for the wood wife does not like such new ideas. Those who bake such bread will meet with misfortune. Those who leave a plain loaf of bread where the wood wife requests, however, will be paid in wooden flakes or sticks which turn into gold when the person gets home. 

Swan Maidens

Article by Ty Hulse

Those who hear the fairy tales of Swan Maidens might get the mistaken idea that these are weak damsels, this, however, is not the case. Fairy tales are often about people besting forces greater than themselves, within them peasants and fools defeat dragons and giants and young men can kidnap a powerful being to be their wife.

The Swan Maiden is related to Valkyries, they may also be related in some way to the fates which control the fate of humanity. In the Hromundarsaga 'Kara,' who the Edda says was a second born of Svava, appears as an enchantress in a swan shift and hovers above the hero Helgi singing. By her assistance Helgi had always found victory but it happened in one fight that he swung his sword too high in the air and hewed off his lovers food, she fell to the ground and his luck was spent.

Like many fairy beings it may be of course that Swan Maidens are capable of granting great strength which they don't possess. Such a motif is common from Europe to Japan. In one Japanese tale for example a farmer threatens to strike down a Thunder Kami who doesn't promise to give his child Herculean strength. So we see humans are more susceptible to fairy magic than fairies are.

Fairy tale with a Swan Maiden 

Fates, Norns, Faee and Fay

Once fate wasn't something that happened, it wasn't a destiny, rather fate was believed to be something that fairies gave or withheld, their blessings or curses. For they controlled everything that happened, from the fall of rain to the gift of poetry fairies didn't just control fate, they made it. In the words of Jacob Grimm;

Destiny itself is called orlog, or else nauor (necessitas), aldr (aevum); the norns have to manage it, espy it, decree it, pronounce it. It was only when the goddesses had been cast off, that the meanings of the words came to be confounded, and the old flesh and blood causes disappeared.

What we see than is that the Norn, fay, faee, fates are the fairies who control the fate of humans, sometimes in legend they were believed to control all human fate, other times they were believed to only focus on a few special people. Most of the time they were woman but on occasion there were men.

Extracted from Jacob Grimm's Research
Often the norns would enter the castles of future heroes at night and spin their fate, stretching a gold cord in the midst of heaven; one norn hid an end of the thread eastward, another westward, athrid fastened it northward; this third is called 'siter of Neri.” There number, though not expressly stated, is gathered from the threefold action. All the region between the eastren and western ends of the line was to fall the young hero's lot; did the third norn not diminish this gift when she flung the band northward and bade it hold for aye?
It seems the regular thing in tales of norns and fays, for the advantages promised in preceding benefactions to be partly neutralized by a succeeding one.
The Nornagestssaga says: There travelled about in the land Volvur who are called spakonur, who foretold to men their fate. People invited them to their houses, gave them good cheer and gifts. One day they came to Nornagest's father, the babe lay in the cradle, and two tapers were burning over him. When the first two women had gifted him, and assured him of happiness beyond all others of his race, the third or youngest norn.... who in the crowd had been pushed off her seat had fallen to the ground, rose up in anger, and cried 'I cause that the child shall only live till the lighted taper beside him has burnt out.' The eldest volva quickly seized the taper, put it out, and gave it to the mother with the warning not to kindle it again till the last day of her son's life, who received from this the name of Norn's-Guest.
Here volva and norn are perfectly synonymous; as we saw before that the volvur passed through the land and knocked at houses, the nornir do the very same. A kind disposition is attributed to the first two norns, an evil one to the third. This third is consequently Skuld, is called the youngest, they were of different ages therefore, Uror being considered the oldest. Such tales of traveling gifting sorceresses were much in vogue all through the middle ages.

The Edda expressly teaches that there are good and bad norns, and though it names only three, there are more of them: some are descended from the gods, other from elves, others from dwarfs. 

the fate go past, laughing and bestowing good gifts, the first fate bestow blessings, the last one curses. Pervonto builds a bower for three sleeping fate, and is then gifted. Fate live down in a rocky hollow, and dower the children who descend. Fate appear at the birth of children, and lay them on their breast.

There are seven fays in the land, they are asked to stand in for grandmothers, and seats of honor are prepared at the table: six take their places but the seventh was forgotten, she now appears and while the others give blessings she murmurs her anger.

In the German Kindermarchen it is twelve wise woman and the thirteenth had been overlooked.

So in the famed forest of Brezeliande, by the fontaine de Barenden, dames faees in whith apparel shew themselves and begift a child, but one is spiteful and bestows calamity (San Marte, Legend of Arthur p 157-159)

The weaving of the norns and the spindle of the fays give us to recognize domestic motherly divinities; and we have already remarked, that their appearing suddenly, their haunting of wells and springs accord with the notions of antiquity about frau Holda, Berhta and like goddesses, who devote themselves to spinning and bestow boons on babes and children.
Among the Celts especially the fatae seem apt to run into that sense of matrees and matronae, which among Teutons we find attaching more to divine than to semi-devine beings. In this respect the fays have something higher in them than our idises and norns, who in lieu of it stand out more warlike.

Friday, November 23, 2012


There are a number of different tales of the Afanc which either describe it as a water demon or a creature that looks like a mix between crocodile and beaver. In all cases, however, it was a dangerous creature which would prey on those who went into its lake. In one of the more interesting stories about the Afanc it kills three of the kings sons (chieftains) every day when they go out to slay the it and everyday the court maidens bring these sons back to life. It's important to understand at this point that certain woman had the power to control fate and so can bring people back from the dead.
After the kings sons had died and come back to life for a long time a man named Peredur asks to go out with the three chieftains, but they refused as they wouldn't be able to bring him back to life. Determined Peredur strikes out on his own so that he might slay the Afanc and thus increase his own fame and honor. It's important to keep in mind here that heroes in ancient Europe were not necessarily what we would think of heroes should be today, much of their motivation was purely for glory and fame.
On his way he meets a maiden (The Queen of Constantinople who is most likely a stand in for what was previously another fairy figure or  shaman figure). This 'fairy or shaman' gives Peredur a stone that allows him to see things which are invisible for the Afanc as it turns out has this ability, just as it has the ability to shoot poisoned darts at it's victims.
In  Still Another Tale the Afanc acts like a unicorn and lays it's head in a maidens lap allowing the villagers to capture it. For me what's interesting about the Afanc isn't so much the monster but that he is an anthropomorphic beast which seems to be a remnant of shamanism in Europe.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Relation Between Fairies and humans

Fairy List

Just as humans exist somewhere between fairies and giants, so do fairies lie between mortals and deities. Deities appear to exist physically alongside the giants as massive, awe-inspiring beings. For example, Loki is so large that he caused earthquakes when he was struggling beneath the ground. At the same time, it’s obvious that deities are able to change their size whenever it suits their interests - often choosing to enter human houses in desguise. Odin is believed to have become the leader of the fairies' wild hunt through the forest in a human form.
The differences between the ancient gods and fairies may be less than many suspect, just as it is with humans and fairies. On one hand, many of the fairies are descendants from deities or created by them. On the other, some fairies seem to come from the same place that deities are from and are even older than the deities themselves. For instance Zeus, the leader of the deities in Greek mythology, was raised by a nymph who kept him hidden from his father.
Examining the evolution of European beliefs about deities makes the definitive line between the worlds of fairies and deities even harder to see. Initially, Europeans had no real pantheon or concept of deity as it is now understood. Rome’s first deities were the spirits of rocks, trees, and animals. In other words before they worshiped gods, Romans worshiped fairies (Bailey, 1907).
Among the Celts, most gods were local gods rather than all-powerful deities. They were the gods of the rivers, mountains, trees, war, and more, making it hard to make a clear distinction between them and other spirits which might exist.
J. A. Maccullock (1911) believed that the divinities were the most important spirits which only later came to be deified. Oftentimes, these deities included among their ranks the spirits of the great humans who had died. This shows a connection not only between fairies and deities, but humans and deities as well.
These examples suggest that the only separation between deities and the other spirits (fairies) is simply that humans hold more respect for the deities.
Looking back to the roots of European beliefs, we see that within Central Asia there also appears to be little conception of deities. ( Even among the Greeks, deities often act as fairies. At one time, for example, Hermes took the boogyman’s place in coming down the chimney to scare naughty children thus cementing himself as a fairy. (Purkiss, 2007)
Perhaps then, fairies are deities who have not been conceived as such by humans. In other words, deities are hierarchically higher because of how humans regard them. Moreover, as we will see in the chapter “Fairies are Forgotten Gods”, deities can lose their godhood and turn back into fairies. This deification process can go beyond the fairy stage and down to the realm of humans where humans can become the deities that people worship. Nothing makes this clearer than the evolution of the wild hunt which was, at one time, led by Odin who had become a fairy.  However;
 “in the middle ages, when the belief in the old heathen deities was partly forgotten, the leader of the Wild Hunt was no longer Odin, but Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa, King Arthur, or some Sabbath-breaker, like the Squire of Rodenstein or Hans von Hackelberg, who, in punishment for his sins, was condemned to hunt for ever through the realms of air.” (Guerber, 1909)

What we see then is that while there are clear mythological lines between humans, fairies, and deities, it holds more in common with the line between children and adults then between one species and another. 

The Relation Between Humans and Fairies

Fairy List

To answer the question of what fairies are, it is perhaps best to begin by coming to an understanding of what humans are. Our knowledge of fairies springs from our encounters with them as well as the stories we tell about them, therefore, to properly understand fairies, we must become familiar with what was perceived as our relationship with them.
Humans are unique among the European mortal realm because there are clear creation stories that explain where our race came from. These creation stories tend to agree with each other, at least in part. In Greek mythology, humans are the children of the nymphs of the ash trees who, in turn were born from the bloodof the grandfather of the deities and so are older than the gods themselves. In Germanic and Scandinavian mythology, humans were created from the ash trees directly by the deity Odin. The Celts have a slightly different take on the origin of humans;

“In Celtic belief men were not so much created by gods as descended from them. (For) All the Gauls assert that they are descended from Dispater, and this, they say, has been handed down to them by the Druids. Dispater was a Celtic underworld god of fertility, and the statement probably presupposes a myth, like that found among many primitive peoples, telling how men once lived underground and thence came to the surface of the earth. But it also points to their descent from the god of the underworld. Thither the dead returned to him who was ancestor of the living as well as lord of the dead” (MacCulloch, 2005)

Ultimately then, we have to conclude that humans in mythology are not a separate species from nature, but that like the fairies and deities we are a direct descendant of these things. In one of the most famous stories of humans encountering fairies, two fairy children - a girl and a boy who were green in color - were taken in by Sir Richard de Caine at Wikes. Scared and saddened at finding himself in the human world, the boy eventually died. However over time, the girl became human; though she remained “rather loose and wanton in her conduct.” (Keightley, 1870) What this shows us is that it was believed that fairies could become human simply by living among us. One could say than that we are actually a stage of the fairies’ life cycle. In over half of Europe’s myths, humans came from trees whose souls are those of the fairies and deities while the rest of European myths claim that humans are descendants of a deity of the underworld. This is significant because Celtic belief holds that many fairies live within and come from the underworld as well.

Despite this relationship however, it is also clear that humans are distinctly different from fairies. As Jacob Grimm points out, humans physically lie somewhere between the realms of fairies and giants. So while fairies hold power and sway over us, they stand in awe before us. (Grimm, 1835) It is relatively common in mythology for humans to capture leprechauns in order to steal their treasure, or to threaten the lives of tree fairies to force them to provide us with fertile fields. Furthermore, some reports also say that fairies abduct humans to strengthen their sickly line (Briggs, 1967). This shows that not only are humans physically stronger than fairies, but also we are close enough to bear children with them. Fairies themselves are not afraid of losing their powers by bringing human blood into their line. This close relationship between humans and fairies will come clearer in the Chapter “Humans Become Fairies” of this book.
Some interesting questions arise from these stories regarding fairies and humans. Firstly, if we are so close to fairies why is the world of fairies such a mystery to us? Why are humans mortal while fairies are immortal? Why do we lack the fundamental knowledge of nature that fairies have?

The truth of the matter is that most humans lack magic and immortality; there have however been many humans throughout myth and folklore who have found immortality and magic through druidism, witchcraft, wizardry, and the arts of the cunning folk. Even by simply visiting the realm of fairies humans have actually found their place among them. Despite this, however, most humans lack such powers, leaving us to wonder why this is so?

There are three possible answers to these questions. First, we must recall that the deities were not the first beings. They joined together to kill the first being; and just as the deities killed the first being, so too perhaps could humans displace the deities. So allowing us to understand all the secrets of nature the way other fairies do could be dangerous.
Indeed, Zeus forbade teaching humans the secrets of fire and many other arts out of fear of what humans would do with this knowledge. Fairies, too, desire to keep secrets from humans. For in the same manner that they will capture us to be their spouses, so too will we capture them out of greed for their treasure or to fulfill our own lustful desires. Indeed there was a dwarf who told humans directly that they were mortal and weak due in part to their “faithlessness” (Grimm, 1935). What we see then is that humans are believed by fairies to be their treacherous descendants, so it is possible that the secrets of magic have been concealed from us simply to keep us from being even more dangerous.

Secondly Germanic and Scandinavian myths also tell us that Odin will eventually need the souls of dead humans to help him in his final battle to prevent all things from being destroyed. So it is perhaps necessary for humans to be mortal so that we can join his army. This could also be his reason for creating us.
Briggs points out that one aspect of fairies is that they can never mature or be the hero, while humans on the other hand can mature and grow physically strong. (Briggs, 1967) Saving the world from Armageddon requires something other than capricious or playful beings. Instead, it requires creatures that are not afraid to die, beings who seek out the warrior’s life and are always striving for more – these are qualities of humans that immortal and magic-bearing beings would have difficulty obtaining.

Odin is not the only one in mythology who needed humans. In the Welsh story of Prince Powell the fairy king seeks out Powell in order to get his aid in slaying a monster that the fairies cannot kill. (Griffis, 1921) Water dragons would seek out humans as far away as Japan in order to help them battle with unclean beings that they could not fight themselves. Humans, then, are perhaps made to be a mortal form of fairy which is ignorant of magic due to the fairies and deities need for a human hero’s to help protect them.

Finally, another possible reason why fairies keep humans ignorant is because deities and fairies enjoy sacrifices such as bread, clothes, gold, or even the living beings that are offered to them. Such sacrifices denote humans’ respect for the deities and fairies. In the myths and stories, fairies respond to these acts despite the fact that they seem to serve little purpose for them. This is obviously the case in stories such as “The Three Little Men in the Wood” where the fairies give a girl great gifts such as an unlimited supply of gold in return for providing them with a small crust of bread. (Grimm and Grimm, 1812) It seems odd that such respect should be the only reason that such rituals are observed, or that the fairies and deities seek these rituals while getting nothing from them. To understand this better, we need to examine the nature of historical beliefs about magic.

At its most basic level, magic is a sympathetic human action, a ritual combined with a thought which causes a desired outcome (Fraizer, 1890). This gives credence to odd rituals such as burning an effigy of someone in order to cause them to suffer, weaving a knot to bind someone, or painting an animal so that we are later in a better position to kill that animal. When we offer something to a fairy, it could then be taken as a sympathetic action directed positively for the fairy. In other words, sacrifices essentially provide the fairy with blessings.
Moreover, through these myths, we find that our sacrifices lend the fairies strength. If we understood everything that they did, then we would not have needed them anymore so they would not have received strength in the form of sacrifices from us. As we’ll see further in the “What are Deities” and “Fairies are ancient Gods” sections of this book, fairies can become deities or lose their divinity based on human worship.

What is ultimately clear is that in most Indo-European, Ularic and Tengeri myths, humans are simply another stage of life. Not just in the evolution of fairies but also within the life cycle of fairies themselves. This is also seen in India where reincarnation is a major theme, implying that mortals can become immortal beings and immortal beings can die to become mortals. It is also 

Fairies are gods of the past

Article by Ty Hulse

Just as there are deities grown out of tales of fairies, trees, and other natural forces, so to did the deities eventually return to being such beings as people thought less and less about them. Even as lessened beings, however, the deities of old: “To a considerable degree retain their hold on the faith of the peasant and, at least in outlying districts, maintain a vigorous existence. The Church has waged war against them for centuries and has degraded and disfigured many of them. Although their expression has in many cases become greatly altered, yet their original features may easily be recognized by a careful observer.” (Ralston, 1872)

These deity/fairies manifested themselves as both friendly and unfriendly beings while retaining their close relationship with humans or growing bitter and cruel over time. Byelobog, one of the divinities of the Russians which retained his kind nature, became Bylun, an old man which assists travelers in finding their way out of dark forests and also assists reapers within corn fields. (Ralston, 1872)

In Great Britian there was a former deity who dressed in leaves and would help children lost in the mountains. (Briggs, 1967) Danu, a goddess of the Celtic peoples, became not one but many fairy beings one of which is a hag known as Black Annis which haunts caverns and hills from which she seeks to devour humans. Hills in general it would seem have become the resting places of the gods which had passed on into their fairy forms. “In a prayer of S. Columba's, (he) begs God to dispel "this host (i.e. the old gods) around the cairns that reigneth." In Ireland, the divinity of the Tuatha Dé Danann is still recalled. Eochaid O'Flynn (tenth century), doubtful whether they are men or demons concludes, "Though I have treated of these deities in order, yet have I not adored them." Even in later times they were still thought of as gods in exile, a view which appears in the romantic tales and sagas existing side by side with the notices of the annalists. They were also regarded as fairy kings and queens, and yet fairies of a different order from those of ordinary tradition. (Maccullock, 1911)

Many of these deities returned to being simple natural phenomena. The Blue Hag of the highlands, for example, appears to be the personification of winter. She herds deer and fights spring with her staff which freezes the ground. When spring wins, she hides her staff under holly where the grass never grows. (Briggs 1967)

As we’ve seen, internal duality, that is making the same being good and bad, was common among the old religions of Europe. As time went on the deities’ abilities to do either of these grew less and less until they were left tormenting children. The lessening of deities became so extreme that Dirra, one of the gods of old, was captured by the Earl of Desmond as a fairy bride after she’d become a simple water nymph. It was not, however, just the Christians who lessened the deities of the peoples they’d conquered or converted.

Charles Squire maintains that many of the fairy beings of Ireland are the divinities of the pre-Celtic peoples who inhabited that kingdom who were lessened when the Celts invaded. Specifically he states that: “The leprechaun, who makes shoes for the fairies and knows where hidden treasures are, the Gan Ceanach, or "love-talker" who fills the ears of idle girls with pleasant fancies when to merely mortal ideas they should be busy with their work; the pooka, who leads travellers astray, or taking the shape of an ass or mule, beguiles them to mount upon his back to their discomfiture; the Dulachan, who rides without a head, and other friendly or malicious spirits. Whence come they? A possible answer suggests itself. Preceding the Aryans and surviving the Aryan conquest all over Europe was a large, non-Aryan population which must have had its own gods who would retain their worship, be revered by successive generations, and remain rooted to the soil.” (Maccullock, 1911) It would seem strange to think that a divine being, a god, could be captured the way a leprechaun is. Forced to become some man’s bride through a simple trick the way many fairies are in legend, or that they should be so feebly petty as to try to “beguile” people to ride them as a means to cause people discomfiture. 

Land Spirits are Mountain Fairies

Fairy List

Article by Ty Hulse

Mountain Fairies, Rock Fairies, and Fairies of the Land

When Cnoc Aine, a goddess of Celtic lore, showed a group of girls a hill through a hole in a stone, they were able to see that it was teaming with invisible beings. In some cases such beings are simply fairies which make their homes in hills and mountains; however, many of them are their own class of beings. Unlike most of the fairy relationships examined so far, mountain fairies and rock spirits seem to have no solid connection with humans, for unlike tree or ancestral fairies, they are not related to humans. Yet despite this they often are some of the most caring and helpful of the fairies. The Bjergfolk, for example, actively involved themselves in human affairs, helping with farming and fortune telling. Because they are not related to humans the way trees or deceased humans are, the reasons why such fairies take an interest in humans are often hard to ascertain.

It is true of course that occasionally some earth spirits are related to the human dead, this is not always the case. When people first landed in Iceland, there had never been humans their before yet there were rock fairies that began to help the human settlers almost immediately. One man named Bjorn made an agreement with one such rock fairy called a bergbui which appeared to him in a dream. The rock fairy provided him with a goat which helped to grow his herd rapidly and who also sent the land spirits to assist his brothers in their fishing and hunting endeavors. (Davidson and Davidson, 1989)
In another tale, a woman was searching for her husband which had been taken by a nix. She too had a dream that led her to a mountain where an old woman told her how to get her husband back and gave her the magical gifts which she needed free him. (Grimm and Grimm, 1912) This tale is similar to those of Japan in which someone has a dream on or near a mountain in which the Kami of the mountain (which is similar to the mountain fairies of Europe) gives them advice or magical support. In another tale, the Spirit of the Steppes caused that a queen and her handmaidens should all become pregnant. Ultimately, the queen’s daughter was banished by her jealous husband to a distant land where she was raised by the trees and the breezes. (Ralston, 2004)

Fairies of the stones were so active in mortal affairs, in fact, that their name in Iceland means both “harvest” and “seer” as they would provide council to humans in their dreams and even actively guard peoples’ cattle. While this explains why humans worshiped these beings, it gives us little understanding of why the fairies would provide aid to the humans. Looking at our positive relationship with stone and earth fairies only seems to tell us that they are interested in a positive relationship with humans. In order to understand why they want to build a positive relationship, we perhaps are best served by examining human’s negative relationships with these fairies. There is ample evidence which shows that stone fairies are extremely sensitive.

In the 19th century, an Icelandic clergyman wrote that certain rocks and stones were called the stones of Landdisir (land goddesses). It was said to be unwise to make loud noises near them, and children were forbidden to play around them as bad luck would come to those who did not treat them with respect. (Davidson and Davidson, 1989) We see these beliefs mirrored in the world of that time as well where it was thought to be bad luck to disturb certain stones as they were the homes to the fairies. (Wentz, 1911) In other words, humans can impact rock spirits which are sensitive both to noise and being built upon.  It may be that part of the rock spirits’ relationships with humans existed in order to avoid these things. Such sensitivity is problematic when humans are able to be so destructive.  The vaetter of Iceland grew angry when they saw one human murder another, and for a long time ships with dragon’s heads were banned in the country for fear that they would disturb the stone spirits or give them the wrong impression of the human’s intentions. (Davidson and Davidson, 1911)

Because of their sensitivity, rock fairies do more than offer rewards to humans who keep the peace with them; they punish those who fail to do so. When humans do damage rocks or otherwise disturb them, the spirits of the land would haunt the humans acting much as we’d expect a poltergeist to act sometimes for thousands of years at a time. (Wentz, 1911) Rock and earth spirits then grow angry when they are disturbed or when they witness a human murder and begin to damage crops, haunt houses making it extremely difficult to find a safe place to build or farm. Children playing near a group of rocks could, for example, be cursed. A farmer who moves a boulder could have his farm and house become haunted, etc. And when someone dies violently, the rock spirits feel intense sympathy for the person. So tales of poltergeist activity from the human dead may, in fact, have originally been tales of poltergeist activity from stone spirits.

Beyond simply being sensitive to noises, stone and earth spirits appear to be very emotionally sensitive. These spirits are most often referred to in the plural because they live in family groups. (Davidson and Davidson, 1989) So it would appear that the typical stone or earth fairy prefers to live a sedentary lifestyle with strong family ties. Further, their hatred of violence shows a love of living creatures or at least those of human intelligence (they didn’t appear to mind humans butchering goats or cattle or hunting for animals and even helped humans in these tasks). From this we can presume that they cared about humans in much the same way that a motherly or fatherly figure might care about children in their neighborhood or the way a human might care about a stray kitten.
Humans then threaten the fairies’ lifestyle so it is perhaps for this reason which they come to humans in order to make a deal with them such that the humans will leave them alone. Unlike trees or other types of fairies which simply came to people when they needed something, stone and earth fairies often appeared to people in their dreams rather than approaching them directly. This shows a certain amount of anxiety about having direct contact with humans just as it shows a desire to help them.