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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Critical Look At The Secret Lives of Elves & Fairies

I know it's been awhile since I did a book review and this actually isn't one that I wanted to do, but one that I have finally accepted that I needed to do. So today we are going to take a look at John Matthews 2005 book 'The Secret Lives of Elves & Faeries'. I will preface this review with two things: I have no personal issues with Matthews work in general and have often used his Druid Source Book and Seers Source Book as references; and I am going to focus this review on the issues I have with this work being marketed as nonfiction and why I believe it is actually fiction. I do not dispute that people may, and indeed probably do, find inspiration and value in this book but I think it is vitally important to understand it in the context of fiction rather than as historic truth, such as that may be.

Once again we see a book marketed primarily to a pagan audience that takes the track of being newly revealed material found in a heretofore undiscovered historic text, in this case the alleged personal journal of Rev. Robert Kirk author of the 17th century work 'The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies'. There should be some immediate red flags with this, even for people unfamiliar with other authors like Douglas Monroe and Steven Akins who have tried this same line to sell their books. First of all such a personal journal if it existed would rightly belong to a museum, university or library - indeed the existing manuscripts for 'The Secret Commonwealth' can be found today in the University of Edinburgh Library and National Library of Scotland. Secondly, as was touched on in point one by my mention of two locations for his real books, despite modern views of the idea of journaling Kirk's actual book was written in a series of tiny journals not one single large book (Manwaring, 2017). That aside however it should be noted that had a new and previously unknown journal belonging to reverend Kirk been found it would have made headlines and been the subject of significant academic study.

During the period when Matthews claims this private journal was written and Kirk was off adventuring with fairies and exploring the subterranean world Kirk was actually confined to a sick bed for the most part and was dictating 'The Secret Commonwealth' to his cousin Robert Campbell (Manwaring, 2017). This means that Kirk, while able to get out and take short walks near his home would have been physically incapable of the lengthy explorations depicted in Matthews book, which are clearly established as physical and not spiritual journeys and occured right up to the point of Kirk's death or alleged disappearance*. This also calls into question the premise of Matthews book, that The Secret Commonwealth was excerpted from Kirk's personal journal material aka The Secret Lives, since we know that The Secret Commonwealth as we have it is at least partially from dictated material and was otherwise pieced together from material found in several different journals, rather than from a single manuscript.

An equally significant point that must be made is that Matthews book 'The Secret Lives of Elves & Faeries' printed in 2005 contains paragraphs worth of material previously printed in his 2004 book 'The Sidhe'. It must be kept in mind that The Sidhe is a book of material Matthews says was channeled to him in Ireland in 2003/2004 from the aos sidhe after he visited a sacred site, and Secret Lives is, by Matthews assertion in the book itself, Reverend Kirk's own writing from 1691/1692. This is not an insignificant amount of material or a few sentences here and there but nearly full pages of text, paragraph after paragraph, repeated word for word from one book to the other. I'm including photographs of the two books side by side with some of the relevant doubled text underlined, because it is too much to write out in full here, however to give a small sample:
The Sidhe, page 22: "We are an ancient people. We were here long before your kind walked on this earth. We remember everything and have seen everything that took place here for many thousands of your years. We do not measure time as you do, so that for us time passes slowly. We do not speak of our origins to anyone not of our race; but it is certain that we emerged from the earth as you yourselves did, though much sooner in the history of the world."
The Secret Lives of Elves & Faeries: "We are an ancient people." Kee told me. "We were here long before your kind walked on this earth. We remember everything and have seen everything that took place here for many thousands of your years. We do not measure time as you do, so that for us time passes slowly. We do not speak of our origins to anyone not of our race; but it is certain that we emerged from the earth as you yourselves did, though much sooner in the history of the world."
On the left is text from Secret Lives, on the right text from the Sidhe
For anyone interested the doubled text that I have personally noted can be found in these places: The Sidhe (TS) page 22-23, 3 paragraphs duplicated in Secret Lives (SL) on pages 32 - 33. TS page 23 1 paragraph duplicated in SL page 34. TS page 52, 3 paragraphs doubled in SL on page 61. I realize that some people may immediately respond to this by arguing that perhaps Matthews and Kirk were told the same things. I would personally have some arguments against that idea, but taking it as is for the moment even if we assumed it was true it would not result in this amount of duplicated text. Reverend Kirk writing in the 1690's was not writing in modern English as Matthews is, and as anyone familiar with Kirk's Secret Commonwealth may realize the language Kirk wrote in is not always easily read by modern English speakers. It is early modern English mixed with a dialect called Doric, or Scots, and looks like this: "Ther Women are said to Spine very fine, to Dy, to Tossue, and Embroyder: but whither it is as manuall Operation of substantiall refined Stuffs, with apt and solid Instruments, or only curious Cob-webs, impalpable Rainbows, and a fantastic Imitation of the Actions of more terrestricall Mortalls, since it transcended all" (Kirk & Lang, 1893). Even if we assume that the message the two men received was the same the way they each recorded it, more than three hundred years apart, would have been radically different.

Relating to that last point, the language issue. Secret Lives of Elves & Faeries is labeled clearly as Reverend Kirk's personal journal, and opens with a story by Matthews about how he found this journal and came to publish it. And yet the book in several places misuses words and terms from Gaidhlig and Doric that Kirk would have been fluently familiar with**. Even if we account for Matthews supposedly translating the text and updating the language it would not excuse these errors. In modern Gaidhlig the fairy folk are called sithe and in Secret Commonwealth Kirk refers to them as sith. In Secret Lives Matthews has Kirk calling them by the Irish term 'sidhe'. At one point in Secret Lives Matthews has Kirk telling a story in which Kirk's fairy friend Kee incorrectly uses the Doric word foyson as a verb when it is a noun. In another place the Unseelie use the Gaidhlig term 'sluagh' as a nickname of sorts for Kirk, even though sluagh is a collective noun that means 'assembly, folk, people'; while Matthews offers the intext explanation, allegedly from Kirk, that says sluagh is a term for dead humans who won't pass on, this is a fabrication. The Unseelie calling Kirk sluagh is like them nicknaming him 'crowd'. All of these are also red flags that the person writing the text wasn't familiar with or fluent in these languages, and make it impossible for it to be the writing of a man who spoke both languages.

In The Secret Commonwealth Robert Kirk never mentions there being two courts. This is because we don't see any references to the Unseelie Court prior to the 19th century. Before that the fairies were referred to only by the term Seelie Court, which was used as a euphemism more than a descriptor of an actual court. In contrast Matthews book is very much based on the idea of there being two courts, and of one court being benevolent and the other malicious. Even this ignores the folklore that warns of the dangers presented by the Seelie Court, but that aside it is at best a glaring anachronism to see the Unseelie Court mentioned in a book allegedly written hundreds of years before that concept was known to exist.

The final thing I may note is simply a matter of history. Kirk's Secret Commonwealth was a book written from the perspective of a folklorist recording native beliefs and carefully framed in a strongly Christian worldview. Matthews Secret Lives in contrast paints a picture of a man who was deeply personally involved with the fairy folk and was avidly writing down his personal experiences with the idea of sharing what he was writing with family and perhaps even a wider audience. During Kirk's lifetime in the area of Scotland he lived in people - men and women - were being persecuted and executed for practicing witchcraft on the basis of associating with fairies. Had Kirk actually written such a text and had it been discovered, minister or not, he would have faced trial and execution as did others like Andro Man and Betsy Dunlop, a fact that Kirk would have known. Such a journal would have been a death sentence, and while it suits our romantic modern notions to imagine such a thing the living Kirk would never have been foolish enough to write about his desire to share his experiences and writings with his family. People died for such things.

Ultimately people may find The Secret Lives of Elves & Faeries to be fulfilling and even inspiring. They may enjoy the vision Matthews paints of Fairy, his weaving together of some of Kirk's material from The Secret Commonwealth and well known folklore like the story of the Stolen Bride or Borrowed Midwife with his own ideas and material. But any reader must understand this book in its context as fiction, which it does not admit to being. To fall into the trap of seeing this as what it isn't, as the actual writing of Reverend Kirk, is highly problematic and does a disservice I think to Kirk's actual writing and to the older folklore.

For myself when I'm in the mood for fiction centered on rev. Kirk I'll stick to Kevan Manwaring's book 'The Knowing' which is both honest about its nature and an excellent novel full of genuine fairylore.

*I'm actually in the camp that does believe that Kirk was taken by the Sithe as his body was found dead near the fairy howe (hollow). This is, of course, disputed in different sources and there is a great deal of folklore around Robert Kirk's death or possible disappearance.
**Kirk had translated the Bible and psalms into Gaidhlig.

Manwaring, K., (2017) The Remarkable Notebooks of Robert Kirk
Kirk, R., and Lang, A., (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An Poc Sí - The Fairy Stroke

One of the most feared weapons of the fairies was the fairy stroke or poc sí, sometimes also called the fairy blast. There are several modern Irish expressions associated with this term including 'poc aosán' which is a term for a sudden illness, 'poc mearaidh' meaning a touch of madness, and 'buaileadh poc air' meaning to be elfstruck or bewitched (O Donaill, 1977). In Old Irish this might be called poc aosáin [fairy stroke] or áesán [fairy sickness]. Associated with the Slua Sí [fairy host] and the sí gaoithe [fairy wind] the fairy stroke was a sudden and otherwise inexplicable illness marked by a change in behavior and health. MacKillop suggests that this term is where we get the term stroke from for cerebral hemorrhages or aneurysms (MacKillop, 1996).

The fairy stroke could afflict both humans and animals but was differentiated from the similar elfshot in its symptoms and method of application. Unlike elfshot which used an arrowhead, sometimes invisible, to injury a person, fairy stroke was caused by a blow from the fairies themselves, or in rare cases being struck by a blunt object they threw. Fairy stroke might manifest as a sudden seizure or else a loss of mental acuity, which may be temporary or permanent (MacKillop, 1996). Getting the fairy stroke, like many things associated with fairies could be a double edged blade as it cost a person their health and mind but was also believed to convey a special esoteric knowledge (Wedin, 1998). There was also some crossover with changeling folklore as in some cases those who had received the fairy stroke were said to have actually been taken by the fairies while either a glamoured object or decrepit fairy was left behind instead (MacKillop, 1996). This is also true of those afflicted by elfshot indicating that both could be used either to torment people or as a means of taking those humans who the fairies desired.

Those who were struck by the blast might simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time, may have transgressed a fairy rule, or may have failed to adequately protect themselves. One anecdote from Newfoundland tells of a woman struck by the fairy blast because she passed through a crossroads without carrying a bit of protective bread in her pocket while another man received the blast for trying to cut down a tree the fairies didn't want cut (Reiti, 1991). In other examples people were approached by fairies who either offered them items or wanted them to do things and when the people refused the Fey folk threw items at them; wherever the item struck the person was afflicted with pain, sometimes resulting in lifelong debility and other times in madness and eventual death (Reiti, 1991).

Lady Wilde includes this charm for curing the fairy stroke in her book:
"There is a very ancient and potent charm which may be tried with great effect in case of a suspected fairy-stroke.
Place three rows of salt on a table in three lines, three equal measures to each row. The person performing the spell then encloses the rows of salt with his arm, leaning his head down over them, while he repeats the Lord's Prayer three times over each row--that is, nine times in all. Then he takes the hand of the one who has been fairy-struck, and says over it, "By the power of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, let this disease depart, and the spell of the evil spirits be broken! I adjure, I command you to leave this man [naming him]. In the name of God I pray; in the name of Christ I adjure; in the name of the Spirit of God I command and compel you to go back and leave this man free! Amen! Amen! Amen!" (Wilde, 1888).

MacKillop, J., (1996) Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
Wilde (1888) Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland
Wedin, W., (1998) The Sidhe, the Tuatha de Danaan, and the Fairies in Yeats's Early Works; William Butler Yeats Seminar
Reiti, B., (1991) 'The Blast' in Newfoundland Fairy Tradition
O Donaill, (1977) Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fairy Doors and Fairy Houses

There are two things that are trendy right now, although I wouldn't say either is exactly new: fairy doors and fairy houses. The principle behind each is simple and how serious or kitschy it is depends entirely on the person making it. A fairy door is a small door, usually at least several inches high, that can be plain or decorative, and which is designed to be placed against a surface to mimic the presence of a real door. A fairy house* is a small house, again simple or decorated, usually a foot or so high, that is intended to represent the home of a small fairy.

100 year old Japanese Maple in the sun

Fairy Doors - As far as I've been able to find with my ametuer investigating the modern phenomena of fairy doors seems to trace to Ann Arbor Michigan and the early 90's although they didn't start appearing in random public places until 2005. Originally the idea of illustrator Jonathon Wright the fairy doors began as artwork, although it should be noted that Wright moved on to writing about and hosting a website dedicated to 'urban fairies' and calls himself a fairyologist (NPR, 2006). One can now purchase them from a variety of specialty companies as well as mass market catalogs and they also feature in the work of different artists. Some fairy doors open up to tiny rooms, rather like doll house rooms, and the implication is that these are where fairies live. Others are simply doors placed against flat surfaces, meant to replicate the above idea. We even see them now painted onto things, to give the impression of a doorway where none actually is.

So on its face the idea of fairy doors seems fairly tame. It was originally aimed at children, created by Wright to delight and encourage belief in his wife's preschool students (NPR, 2006). I will be honest though, I have never been a fan of fairy doors particularly the indoor ones. Many people use them as a sort of blanket invitation to Otherworldly beings and while I do understand that they are approaching it with the belief that fairies are little winged sprites that are full of glitter and love that doesn't actually change the fact that an open door is an open door. When people are inviting fairies in, whether they have a set idea of what a fairy is or not, they are still putting out a blanket invitation to any fairy being who may want to come through that doorway. I tend to be very hesitant about the idea of any sort of open doorway like that, and having such a thing around children given the folklore of children being taken by the Fey just isn't something I would do. If a person really wanted to have a fairy door I would at the least ward it and keep it from actually being used as a passageway for anything to travel through. For myself my children's rooms have iron and broom in them not open doorways.

Under specific circumstances such a doorway could be useful, if a person was in a situation where they needed to open a passage for a spirit or fairy. I would be very cautious about doing this however unless I was very sure of exactly what was coming through. It isn't easy to filter such an opening.

Fairy Houses - Fairy houses have a complex history and while they seem to be rooted in the late Victorian period, with its shift to viewing fairies as garden spirits, they draw on the older folklore concepts of giving the fairies of your home and land a place and offerings. Having a fairy house indoors represents offering a space to your house fairies, while having outdoor fairy houses, theoretically is a type of offering to the spirits, the fairies, of that place. These are strongly reminiscent of the Roman household shrines to the lares familiaris, shrines which housed objects devoted to household spirits and where offerings could be placed (Connor, 1994).

Like Fairy doors, Fairy houses have taken off as a cultural idea recently and can even be found as public art displays and in museums. They are so popular that books have been written about them and one can easily find instructions for making different kinds of fairy houses online, as well as a wide range of images of them. Fairy houses are limited only by a person's imagination, and while they are certainly often viewed as nothing more than decorative items they can also have practical uses. A fairy house can serve as a point of connection to your house fairies and yard fairies and also as a place to leave offerings, just as the shrine to the lares did for the Romans.

While I am extremely cautious of fairy doors I am quite pro fairy houses. A fairy house, while admittedly often kitschy and twee, is a way to offer a permanent place to the spirits that are already present in your home and yard. Obviously they don't need such a thing but it's a symbolic gesture to them, a way to say that you appreciate their presence and efforts.

Doors and Houses - The key difference between the two, and the reason that I like the one and not the other really comes down to the intention behind them. A doorway by its nature will always be an entrance to a place and it is dangerous from my perspective to have something like that open to the Otherworld and with a sort of carte blanche invitation attached. After all just because a person is assuming that all fairies are pleasant little winged sprites who bring luck and happiness doesn't actually make it so. To have such a door and a welcome mat in front of it means that one can't be certain of what may come through that door. In contrast a fairy house is aimed at a more specific type of fairy from the off, either in the house for a house fairy (or house spirit more generally) or in the yard intended to offer a home for the fairies in your garden. Fairy houses are also by their nature designed to be specific to the fairies that are already in place, rather than open portals to anything wandering by. In one case you are inviting things in; in the other you are offering a place to what is already there.

Popculture will always shape and affect our beliefs and practices, sometimes more than we realize. For many people fairy doors have become a ubiquitous concept, yet as we have seen they are a recent addition to our culture, brought in initially to delight small children. Fairy houses were a feature of late Victorian era gardens yet they reflect older ideas relating to shrines for spirits in the household. I believe one should be approached with caution and the other can be useful if we look beyond their bright colors and small features and give serious thought to the metaphysical implications they carry with them.

*there's a range for what may be considered a 'fairy house' but what I'm mentioning here are the sort that can be bought or built for inside the home or permanent placement in the yard. When I was a child back in the 80's I used to build these instinctively, if you will, but out of wild materials in the woods. Little acorn cups and tiny bark plates, tables of stone and wood, beds of twigs and pine needles, walls of stone and branches and leaves - you get the idea.

NPR., (2006) The Wee Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Connor, P., (1994) Lararium

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Two Short Translations

Lugh scéith,
scál find,
fo nimib ni raibe
bed mac nÁine aidhlibthir
Arddu déib doen,
dron daurgráinne,
glan gablach,
aue Luric Loegaire.
Myles Dillon. "The Consecration of Irish Kings". Dublin: Celtica

Warrior's shield
fair hero,
under heaven none as bold
as the son of Aine,
higher than men,
strong sun-oak
bright branching,
grandson of Luric Leogaire

Grainne to Fionn
ut dixit Gránni ingen Cormaic fri Find.
'Fil duine
rismad buide lemm díuderc,
ara tribrinn, la dia tribrend, in m-bith ule, la m-buide,
la h-uile h-uile, cid díupert.'
- marginalia Amra Columb Chille

Spoken by Grainne daughter of Cormac to Fionn:
"There is a person
On whom I would gladly look,
 Who I would give, would give the entire world, the world, 
all of it, even if it is a fraud."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Will o' the Wisp

  The Will o' the Wisp is an interesting thing to study, possibly a ghost or a fairy from one view and a swamp phenomena by another, one that may be explained by scientific means but whose folklore persists. There is debate even today about whether the Will o' the Wisp is supernatural or a natural occurrence and explanations for it include both optical illusions as well as spontaneous ignition of swamp gasses. There is also a rich array of folklore around it which offers many explanations of it from that viewpoints as well as stories of dealing with it

In recent times it has become less common for people to see Will o' the Wisps, and many accept the scientific explanation although science itself has never been able to reproduce or measure them successfully. When the phenomena appears it can be as small as a candle flame or as large as a torch, pale or bright, and the light will reflect off of nearby objects (Sanford, 1919). Colors can vary and may include green or white and the phenomena has been seen passing through windows and doors and inside buildings although it is most commonly seen over or near water, particularly swamps. Explanations for what causes it include bioluminscent plants and animals, gases given off in the process of decay, and bubbles of plasma, although no single theory can or has been proven (Drudge, 2016).

In folklore the Will o' the Wisp has many different names which are indicative of the folklore attached to it. The common name of Ignis Fatuus is Latin for 'fool fire'. It is also known variously as Bill-with-the-wisp, Hobbledy's Lantern, Jack-a-lantern, Jenny-with-the-lantern, Jenny-burnt-tail, Peg-a-lantern, Joan-in-the-wad, Kit-in-the-stick or Kitty-candlestick, Kitty-with-the-wisp, the Lanternman, Pinket, Friar Rush, Gyl Burnt-Taylf, Hinky punk, and Hobby Lantern (Briggs, 1976). It's possible that like so many other types of fairies we are not looking at one specific being but rather a range of beings who all fall under the umbrella term of 'Will o' the Wisp' because of how they appear and what they do. In that case any being who shows up in the dark of night bearing a light to mislead travellers could be called a Will o' the Wisp even if we also know it as another distinct being such as the Pwca.

The nature of the Will'o'the'Wisp can be either mischievous or malicious depending and they have been known to both lead travellers harmlessly astray and also to lead them to their deaths. They do this by appearing as lights in front of lost travellers; as the traveller follows the light the light moves and leads them astray. In the case of the mischievous spirits this may mean into a ditch or in circles but for the dangerous ones it could mean off a cliff or into a bog where they drown. They are also known to attack people directly in some folklore, physically chasing them, driving them mad with a touch, or causing a burning sensation on the bottoms of the feet (Ashliman, 2016).

The Will o' the Wisp is often explained as a human spirit of some sort that has been cursed to wander by night bearing a light. the purpose of this light also varies and depends often on why the spirit is cursed to wander. In some areas of Scotland it was said to be the spirit of a girl who had died and spent her afterlife searching the area near the shoreline for a plant used in dyeing cloth; and that she did so because she'd been too greedy in hoarding the dye when she was alive (Ashliman, 2016). In other stories, for example, it was someone who illegally moved boundary markers or cheated neighbors and is set to wander with a light to show where the true boundary is. In the Netherlands and parts of Germany there is a belief that Will o' the Wisps are spirits of unbaptized children who will approach people and try to lead them to water hoping to be baptized (Ashliman, 2016). They can be dealt with by either offering them baptism or throwing graveyard dirt at them.

By other accounts though the Will o' the Wisp is a fairy. In Wales both the Ellydon and Pwca take on the role of the Will o' the Wisp, leading travellers astray. Stokes describes one such incident with the Pwca here: "[A] peasant who is returning home from his work, or from a fair, when he sees a light traveling before him. Looking closer he perceives that it is carried by a dusky little figure, holding a lantern or candle at arm's length over its head. He follows it for several miles, and suddenly finds himself on the brink of a frightful precipice. From far down below, there rises to his ears the sound of a foaming torrent. At the same moment the little goblin with the lantern springs across the chasm, alighting on the opposite side; raises the light again high over its head, utters a loud and malicious laugh, blows out its candle, and disappears up the opposite hill, leaving the awestruck peasant to get home as best he can."(Stokes, 1880). In parts of Germany they are viewed as a type of gnome who can help lost travellers if petitioned to do so and paid for their help, but who will also lead astray those who annoy them (usually by seeking them out); protections against them include walking with one foot in a wheelrut (Ashliman, 2016). In another German story they are described as having wings and flying, and one appeared to attack a girl while she walked because she was singing a song which mocked the spirit (Ashliman, 2016).

There is a distinct crossover as well between the two beliefs, that the Will o' the Wisp is human spirit and that it is a fairy, which we see in many versions of the Jack o Lantern story. In that classic tale, generally viewed by folklorists to fall into the auspices of Will o' the Wisp lore, a person makes a deal with the devil but outwits him by some means and eventually finds himself turned away from both heaven and hell alike. Left to wander in the cold darkness between worlds after a time he finds a light or is given one, which he uses to light his way. In a version of the story related by Stokes in 1880 the reader is explicitly told that the man, having been turned away from both afterlives, was turned into a fairy (Stokes, 1880). This is reinforced by Danish lore which states that a Jack o Lantern is the soul of 'an unrighteous man' and that one should never call on him or point him out if you see him but that turning your cap inside out will protect against him, which is true to fairylore (Ashliman, 2016). This may reflect wider beliefs that fairies themselves are those who belong to neither heaven or hell, something we see in both narratives about the fairies origins as fallen angels and also some beliefs that relate dead humans as fairies.

The Will o' the Wisp is an intriguing and unusual fairy - or spirit - one of the few that science has sought to explain and also one of the more well documented as a phenomena. I have never seen one myself, but my husband has once in the swamp behind our home. Are they natural phenomena? Ghosts? Fairies? I think perhaps the answer is all of the above.

Sanford, F., (1919) Ignis Fatuus; Scientific Monthly vol 9 no 4
Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
Ashliman, D., (2016) Will-o'-the-Wisps
Sikes, W., (1880) British Goblins
Drudge, C., (2016) A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature: Ball Lightning

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Di Chetharslicht Athgabála

Di Chetharslicht Athgabála

Fo chosmailius dorigne Finn húa Baiscne. In tan búi in fian oc Badamair for brú Siúire dodechaidh Cúldub mac húi Birgge a síd ar Femun ut Scotti dicunt co mbert a fulacht núadaib. Co teóra aidchi amin degéni friu. Isin tres fecht iarum norat Finn co luid riam i síd ar Femun. Fortngaib Finn la techt isa síd co torchair allda anall. A ndosreng fris a láim fritninnle in ben asin tsíd & escra fliuch ina láim iar ndáil isin úair riam & doinsort a comlaid frisa síd co ndruid Finn a mér itir in comlaid & in ursain. Gabais iarom a mér ina béolu. Adonic as afrithisi foopairt dicetal. Fortnosmen an imbas condebert: ‘Tair Femen fuigial formuig meis mui muic cetson sirchrand sirlúath laith find sra aulad Cúlduib chanmae.’

Cinn ree iarom dobertatar mná braite a Dún Iascaich a tír na nDésea. Dobreth ingen álainn léo. Atecoboride menma Find in ben dó. Focairdd sí menmain for in gilla búi léo .i. Dercc Corra mac húi Daigre. Ar ba hé a abras-side. Céin fonnuithea fulacht léo léim & doléim in gilla tarsin n-indiu. Tre sin didiu carais an ingen é & asbert fris laa n-aill ara tísed cuice i lighe. Ní foét són Dercc Corra déag Finn. Atagegai domnid dó. Cotsáid fri Finn & asbert: ‘Fortaprom ar écin!’ Asbert iarum Finn fris: ‘Éirgg es’, ol sé, ‘de m' inchaib & rotbia essomon trí laithi & teóra n-aidchi & fomcialta-sa ó suidhiu inund!’
Luid didiu Derc Corra for loinges & arfoét caill & imtighed for luirgnib oss n-allta (si uerum est) ar a étrumai. Laa n-aill didiu do Find isin caill oc a cuingidh-som co n-aca Find in fer i n-úachtar in craind & lon for a gúalainn ndeis & find-lestar n-uma for a láimh clí, osé co n-usce & hé brecc bedcach and & dam allaith fo bun in craind & ba hé abras ind fir teinm cnó & dobered leth n-airne na cnó don lun nobíth for a gúalaind ndeis, no-ithed feisin al-leth n-aill & doicsed a uball asin lestar n-uma búi for a láimh clí & norandad i ndé & docuireth a leth don dam allaid búi fo bun in craind. No-ithad som iarom in leth n-aill & no-ibed loim fair den uisce asin lestur huma búi for a láim co mbo comól dó frisin n-iich & a n-oss & in lon. Friscomarcar didiu a muinter do Finn cia bo hé hisin crunn, ar nínathgéntar som dáigh celtair díclithe búi imbe.

Is de dobert Finn a hordain ina béolo. Addonich as eisib afrithisi fortnosna a imbus & dichan dicetal co n?eipert: ‘Con fri lon lethcno contethain cotith in dithraib Dercc Corra comól fri hich ni ba filliud fabaill a uball fín mblais cona fricarbaith mac úi co dedail Daigre.’ ‘Dercc Corra mac húi Daigre’, ol sé, ‘fil isan crund’.

 The Four-Regulations of Impounding Property

 Then when the Fian were at Badamair near the border of the Siúire, emerged Cúldub son of Ûi Birgge from the síd of Femun (as the Scots say) and he carried off their cooking. For three nights he did this to them. That third time afterwards  Finn went before him to the síd of Femun. Finn forcibly seized him as he went into the síd and he fell wildly there. He draws against his hand and encounters the woman from the síd and a full water vessel in her hands after distributing that time from it and she jammed the door against the sid and between the door and doorpost Finn thrust his finger. He thrust his finger into his mouth. Then he began to chant an incantation. Illuminated by the imbas he spoke...

A time later they carried off captive women from Dún Iascaich from the land of the Désea. A beautiful girl was carried off by them. Desired the mind of Fionn the woman for him. Love was in her mind for the servant they had, that is Dercc Corra son of úi Daigre. This was his habit. Always when they were cooking he would leap and leap back, the servant there every day. For this reason the girl loved him and said to him one day that he should lie down with her.  Dercc Corra wouldn't consent to this because of fondness for Finn. She desired vengeance(?) against him. She incited against Finn and said: ‘He has ravished me!’
Then Fionn said to him: ‘Go’, he said, ‘and get out of my sight and you shall have a truce of three days and three nights then be on guard in your seat just the same!’

Then Derc Corra went under banishment and lived in a wood and went on shin-bones of wild deer (if that is true) by his lightness.One day then Fionn was there in the wood seeking him when Fionn saw a man in the top of a tree and a blackbird beside him on the right and a white-vessel of metal in his left hand, and with a fish and he a leaping trout and a wild stag at the base of the tree & and this the action of the man breaking open nuts and he would give half the kernel of the nut to the blackbird eating on his right side, he himself would eat the other half and he would take an apple from the metal vessel in his left hand and divide it in two and give half to the wild stag at the base of the tree. He would eat the other half afterwards and drink the water from the metal vessel that was in his hand so that they feasted together then the fish the deer and the blackbird. His followers questioned Finn then about who was in the tree, because they didn't recognize him because of the concealment concealing him [his disguise].

So then Fionn placed his thumb in his mouth. He is illuminated as he bites and he begins to chant imbus and dichan dicetal saying: ‘With a blackbird half nut vanishes(?) circles(?) the wilderness Dercc Corra agreement of eating turns his course his apple fair tasting against sharp teeth son of úi Daigre.’
‘Dercc Corra son of úi Daigre’, he said, ‘there in the tree’.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Story Behind Pagan Portals Fairy Witchcraft

Every book that's written has a story about the motivation behind it's writing, and this is the story behind Pagan Portals Fairy Witchcraft.

In 2013 I was on social media one day and I stumbled across a link on a page which purported to discuss 'Faerie Witchcraft'. Clicking on it showed a convoluted and confusing hodge-podge of paragraphs that wandered between nonsensical and silly - calling the mid-winter holiday 'Nollaig' for example, which literally means Christmas in Irish, but implying it was an older and genuinely pagan name for the holiday*. It took the common modern approach of treating the fairies as a kind of hybrid between elementals and nature spirits, shoe-horned into a tight corset, and then shoved into a pagan framework. Being rather feisty myself I went back to my own social media page and ranted a bit about kids these days staying off my lawn and bemoaned the growing trend of blending this view of fairies into a pagan framework.

And then I had one of those moments that will sometimes happen, where I felt like they were saying to me, 'If you don't like it, do something about it.' And I stopped, sort of mid-word as I was typing on facebook and I thought about that. Because venting to my friends whenever I ran across something that seemed so offbase to me was fine but ultimately it didn't accomplish very much. The mainstream perception was still what it was. And so I started to think about what I could really do about that and the idea of a book came to me. I had written one book at that point for Moon Books so I had an idea how the process worked but I was uncertain about writing anything about Themselves and also nervous about writing anything about my own personal style of witchcraft. It was one thing after all to write about my spirituality in a more general sense or to write about the theory of things and another entirely to write about how I actually did things myself.

Nonetheless the idea wouldn't go away and I kept feeling pushed to do it. I felt like it was something that the Good People wanted, as trite as that may sound, to have that option out there for people seeking to connect to them from a neopagan framework. There were a few things in print but they inevitably were separated from the root cultures in important ways, usually through the addition to different degrees of ceremonial magic or Kabbalah**. My own focus was on the Fairy Faith without that overlay, and with my pagan religion as a base instead of Catholicism. That made it something different from what I was seeing elsewhere, and that difference had its value.

So I decided to write the book as a Pagan Portal, a very basic introductory text. It would give people the idea of what was possible and a direction to go in if it interested them. It would put the option out there. I really struggled over calling it Fairy Witchcraft though, as I am not personally a fan of the 'f' word however I eventually acknowledged that to reach the people who were looking for it meant it needed a very clear and obvious name. So subtelty went out the window for the sake of a clear message. I rather think that amuses Them actually.

And as it turns out that voice telling me to 'do something about it' was right, or at least correct in that there was a need for it. Certainly people seem to find something meaningful in it and the Pagan Portal was followed up by a full length in depth book, with a third book coming out next year. In the end I am glad I listened, and glad I took that chance - and very glad Moon books took a chance on me.

*spoiler alert - Nollaig is from the Old Irish notlaic which in turn was borrowed from the Latin natalicia - 'birthday'
**I'm not judging that by the way, just saying that it takes the beliefs in a different direction from the folk beliefs of a hundred or two hundred years ago, which were more what I was working from. Obviously I add in neopagan influences to evolve things in a unique direction.