Faith in Fae: The Origins of Faery Lore
By Madeleine Drake
In pagan times, belief in faeries and elves was widespread throughout Europe: everywhere you find Celtic and Teutonic culture, faery lore shows up in folk customs and tales. But why faeries? What's the origin of the belief in the Hidden People?
One of the earliest "explanations" for faeries comes from the saga of Beowulf, which contained a mixture of both pagan and Christian beliefs. In Beowulf, faeries are lumped into the same category as monsters like Grendel and other demons, who are described as the descendents of the Biblical Cain.
Starting in the Middle Ages, proponents of Christianity argued that faeries were fallen angels whose sins were lesser than that of Lucifer's, so God cast them down to Earth instead of sending them all the way to Hell. It's not surprising that Christianity equated faeries with demons, given that the early Church divided the entire world into God's forces and Satan's forces.
A delightful exception to the Church's view--Scottish minister and seer Robert Kirk wrote a detailed treatise on faery civilization, in which he explained that there were other realms beside the human one, and that the inhabitants of these other realms were as much a part of God's creation as we are.
But as the fledging sciences of anthropology and archaeology developed, other explanations for the popularity of faery faith arose.
There was the "souls of the dead" theory, which said that belief in faeries was an outgrowth of ancestor worship. This theory makes a lot of sense when you consider the traits of faeries:
• They live underground, often in burial mounds.
• The dead were often reported as seen in the company of the Fae (especially in Ireland).
• The Wild Hunt is a faery rite where Fae emerge into the human realm and snatch up the soul of anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with the hunters.
• There are a number of traditions which say being killed in a certain way can cause you to become a faery (dying before your time, dying in a war, being a druid who was not saved by Christ but who was not wicked enough for Hell, or being stillborn are just a few examples).
• Faery food and drink, like the food and drink of the underworld, cannot be safely consumed by a living human—if you dine with a Fae, you're there to stay.
The mythological theory was born from the new discipline of comparative religion. This theory proposed that faery lore and practices are the half-remembered remnants of a more ancient pagan religion.
To support this theory, its proponents pointed out that:
• Many pagan gods were closely associated with faeries, and faeries sometimes bear the names of ancient deities. The Book of Invasions, a medieval document which describes a succession of races invading Ireland and portrays the Tuatha de Danann as gods who were eventually supplanted by the Gaels, supports this theory.
• Sacrifices offered to the faeries were practiced: ritual sacrifices of blood and food in northern Europe, "gifts" of food, drink and household items in southern Europe.
• Faeries perform some of the same functions as nature spirits in so-called "primitive" religions, and faery practices resemble those of other Stone Age shamanic traditions.
Yet another theory – the anthropological theory – was popular among the Victorians. This theory stated that stories about faeries were actually garbled history of a time when sophisticated Iron Age humans settled in Europe, conquering the small-statured, dark-skinned race of aboriginals and literally driving them underground (in Britain, the Picts; in Germany, the descendants of the Celts and the Wends, often referred to Kleine Heiden, or Little Heathens).
• Faery fear of iron was considered symbolic of the aboriginal people of Europe having only Stone Age technology, inferior to the invader's swords and axes.
• Stone arrowheads dug up by archaeologists (another new scientific endeavor) were said to be elf shot or faery darts, and other Neolithic artifacts were sometimes said to be items left behind by the Fae.
• The Book of Invasions, interpreted as garbled history rather than as a religious document, is sometimes invoked to support this theory too.
But maybe you'd like a more modern theory of faery origins? One more fitting for this modern, high-tech, space-faring era? You're in luck.
In 1908, an Irish tailor told scholar Walter Evans-Wentz that faeries came "from other planets." Many UFOologists since have pointed out the striking similarities between stories of human encounters with faeries and modern reports of alien abduction. And Robert Kirk's theory of "other realms" sounds remarkably like a pre-modern-physics suggestion that the universe contains dimensions that we can't detect.
Fallen angels, forgotten gods, conquered peoples, alien visitors—in every era, we remake the Fae in our image. When Christianity dominated Europe, we squeezed the Fae into our religious worldview. When imperialism was all the rage and the resulting clash of cultures inspired us to study other people's beliefs, we reshaped the Fae to fit our new ideas about politics and comparative mythology. In our current scientifically-focused era, the idea that Fae could be visiting aliens—or even colonists—is intriguing.
How do you like your Fae? Would you rather imagine them as pagan gods or pointy-eared aliens?
Leave a comment and be entered to win a $10 Barnes & Noble gift certificate and a copy of Maddy's new release, Faery's Bargain!
Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum. aised by a pride of cats, a friendly mutt, and the Sonoma County library system, she loves to read about ancient history and mythology, anthropology, gender roles, and sexual archetypes. Her current releases include Blood Hero (Excessica, 7/9/10) and Faery's Bargain (Cobblestone Press, 10/8/10).
Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas.
You can find her online at www.madeleinedrake.com.
A witch gets more than she bargains for
when she lends her magic to a sexy Fae warrior
Tara's witchcraft has failed to save her naga-bitten nephew: the only cure is a rare Faery herb, impossible for a human to obtain.
Kane, a warrior of the Morrigan tribe, is bound to a baigh-duil. He needs a witch to help him send the soul-devouring monster back to its own realm, and he's willing to bargain.
It seems like a fair trade -- the herb for help with a single spell. But what will Tara do when she realizes Kane can only perform sex magic and death magic?
First time in a thousand years the oracle's been wrong, and it's my question she blows. Kane glowered at the occult shop across the street -- a refurbished Victorian painted lemon-drop yellow and trimmed in white, with all the hand-carved flourishes picked out in gilt. Its windows swarmed with faceted crystals that sparkled like drunken pixies in the San Francisco sunlight.
It was too damned cheerful for a woman reputed to have faced down a naga in its own lair.
He stomped down his frustration, focusing on the cool air against his face and the scents of the ocean and car exhaust. The witch inside that candy house might not be the one he sought, but Kane had to admit she was skilled for a human. He could feel the thick, electric buzz of her wards even from across the street. She'd layered the shielding into the walls and powered it with the ley line that ran right beneath the building. Clever, but also dangerous. Tapping straight into the line for spell-work was like drinking from a fire hose. It required excruciating precision to siphon off just the amount you needed without drowning and heroic strength of will to resist the temptation to drink too deep. Kane had seen a mage lose control of a ley line in mid-spell once. The mage had suffered an agonizing death, and the damage wreaked by the botched spell had taken weeks to clean up.
Pain seared through him. The amulet tucked under his shirt flared hot against his skin, its fiery glow visible through the fabric. He hissed out a cantrip, repeating the chant until the pain dulled and the amulet cooled. I won't be able to maintain the binding much longer.
If the witch in the lemon-drop house couldn't help him, he was dead.
* * * * *
Time-yellowed pages slithered against each other as Tara folded the grimoire closed, letting her fingers explore the arcane symbols embossed on the cracked leather cover. Another ancient tome, another chunk out of her rapidly dwindling savings, another dead end. Meanwhile, Jimi continued to weaken under the care of his confused doctors. She didn't blame them, of course. Even if she could make them believe her, what could they do? My nephew was bitten by a half-man, half-snake monster straight out of Hindu mythology. What do you mean you don't have the right anti-venin?
Even more frustrating, she'd found a cure for the naga's poison -- crith-siol, a plant rumored to be cultivated by the Tribes of the Fae -- but it had proven impossible to get. For the last three months, she'd scoured book after book, hoping to find a substitute for the faery herb. As she searched, Jimi grew weaker. Tara had snatched the boy out of the naga's coils before the monster could eat him, but she hadn't saved him. She'd merely postponed the inevitable, and now she could do nothing but watch her nephew deteriorate, his body shutting down one system at a time. The last doctor had given Jimi a couple of months more, at best.
I wish Gran was alive. Gran would have found a cure by now. Or she'd have found a way to get the crith-siol, no matter what it cost.
Gran wouldn't have let Jimi get caught by the naga in the first place.
The brassy jangle of bells signaled the arrival of a customer. The jangle was cut short by a loud thump and a metallic crash -- the front door slamming shut. An impatient customer. Tara sighed, caught between irritation at the interruption and guilty relief for the distraction. She stepped into the front room of her shop.
The man in the black leather duster frowned at a rack of hand-crafted candles as if he found the colorful cylinders of beeswax offensive. He was tall, dark, and too beautiful to be called handsome. His long black hair was pulled back into a sleek braid, the severity of the hairstyle contrasting with the sensual planes of his face -- sloping cheekbones, amber-brown eyes under upswept brows, and a wide, full-lipped mouth over a strong chin. He was the sexiest man she'd met in ages, and if the humming in her head was any indication, a powerful mage. That delicious hum reverberated down her spine, lighting up her nerves as it went.
He looked up, and his frown evaporated in the flash-fire of another emotion -- something so intense it made Tara want to squirm.
Can I help you? she meant to ask. But when she opened her mouth, what came out was, "Mine."
Horrified, she barely managed to stop herself from clapping her hand over her mouth. Mine? Where did that come from? It had been a long time since she'd dated, but was she so lonely that the mere presence of an attractive man was enough to scramble her brains?
The corner of his mouth twitched as if he were fighting the urge to laugh.
Tara flushed. "I mean, I make them. The candles."
He licked his lips, a deliberate, sensual motion, and Tara found herself mirroring the action before she could stop herself. What's wrong with me?
"Um." She cleared her throat and tried again. "Can I help you?"
The stranger smiled. "I believe you can, Bandraoi."
* * * * *
The oracle had been right after all. The witch's aura had responded to him at once, flaring in intoxicating reds and purples the moment she'd emerged from the back room. Her eyes widened with surprise, and the power he sensed sleeping within her stirred, brushing against his aura like a curious cat. He fisted his hands against the near-overwhelming urge to reach out and pet her. She had a touch of the Tribes in her. His body's reaction to it was sharper than a knife to the heart and hotter than a Beltane bonfire. It was like his first fight and his first orgasm squeezed into one frenzied moment.
His witch was short and curvy, and she'd wrapped her luscious figure in a clingy black dress that emphasized her hourglass shape. When she pursed her lips, his cock expanded as his imagination burst open, spilling one wicked fantasy after another into his brain. He pictured her moss-green eyes half-shut with delight, sweat gleaming on her skin, while her wavy gold hair clung to her bare shoulders. He imagined all that power crackling through him as she trembled in the throes of it, her silken voice raw with ardor.
She'd sensed the rousing of her Fae nature; he could tell by the slight quiver of her shoulders, the heat that bled over her cheeks, the pink tip of her tongue wetting her bottom lip. She was perfect -- except for the wariness that glimmered across her face when he'd addressed her by her proper title. Surely she knew Bandraoi was a term of respect among the Tribes? Or hadn't she recognized him for what he was yet?
* * * * *
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