Thursday, January 9, 2014

What Does It Mean to Be Fairy-Led?

Being "Fairy-Led"

In the British Isles, fairies were once feared. There was a state of malingering that people were thought to fall victim to, which was referred to as being “fairy led.” This term may create a cute picture in the imagination, as that of being lead away by diaphanous winged, nymphs but such was not the case in past times.                                                  
In the past, fairies were not always beautiful. In fact, only a few were. And fairies were not always good either. Some were dangerous to reckon with. Not only could fairies bring good luck, they can also bring bad luck.
The realm of the fairies were thought to be the next one immediately parallel to us, as well as one below in fairy barrows. Fairies had a certain guardianship over these spirit realms and acted as guides to the dead as they passed over. It was thought that if one interacted with the fairies regularly, the fairies may get attached and claim you as their own. This could cause a person to pine away, or die prematurely. Often those attached by fairies would enter an almost zombie-like state. In this state of confusion or weakness one became fairy-led.
 Interestingly, there is a similar belief about the Puck fairy or “Pooka” where some individuals worried about being “pooke-led,” which meant losing one’s way, becoming confused or bewildered, and even missing time episodes similar to some claims of alien abductions in recent years.
 Abduction by Fairies
In ancient times, especially among the Celts and early British tribes, a belief in fairy abductions was common among the population. Fairies, during those periods, were thought to have guardianship over the realm of the dead and also the underworld.  It was then that fairies were given the task of guiding the souls of the dead departing earth by helping their transition into the afterlife. Because fairies were associated with death and were not viewed as the friendly sprites we now see them as, superstitions and fears surrounded them.                                                                                                                          
For instance fairies were not always so even-tempered. The peasant folk believed fairies had to be placated with bowls of milk and or cups of sugar set out at night as offerings. If this was not done, the snub could anger the fay folk.  Messy homes, for instance, could inspire the wrath of the sidhe (“shee” or fairy race).    

In the children’s classic “Peter Pan,” Tinkerbell is characterized as a jealous fairy.  Those who suffered from malingering illnesses (see “Hag-ridden” and “fairy led”) were believed to be victims of malevolent fairies (and sometimes their mortal kin witches) who stole people from their beds at night and rode them through the night sky like horses. (Here we see the relationship between the words “hag” and “nag” both tied to horses.) Even so, not all fairies had unkind intentions toward their fellow mortal human beings and often acted as helpmates and agents for good such as granting wishes and even doing housework when the owners were away!                
In what was once Pictland, or Scotland, it was held in great esteem for a Scotsman to marry what was called then a “faery witch,” insuring a life with fine children and other comfort rewards. Fairies were still feared by some and blamed for outbreaks of fires, bad crops, or livestock going dry, becoming diseased, or crops experiencing blight.
When certain individuals woke up drained or tired in the morning, many sincerely believed to have been abducted by fairies the previous night. Fairy children or “changelings” were placed in the beds of children, while the real human child was stolen away to Fairyland. You had to also be careful of sudden "Elf-darts" shot by the fae which could cause sudden strokes.


Fairy Rings

Before there were crop circles, there were fairy rings. Fairy rings are most likely a natural phenomenon, such as a fungus growing beneath the grass creating the circles. Often, the circle is dotted with mushrooms, which is probably why we link fairies with mushrooms.

Like crop circles, the grasses inside fairy rings are either flattened or barren but with sprouts of tall foliage surrounding the area. It was believed and sometimes still is that the grass was flattened by the fairies circular dance. In other areas of the British Isles, the fairy rings were termed “hag tracks” thought formed by the coven dances and Sabbats of local witches. Some even speculated fairies stole horses at night to ride them all night in a circle forming the ring.

William Shakespeare wrote of fairy rings and fairies in his play The Tempest:
You demi-poppets that by moonshine,
Do sour the green ringlets make.
Where of ewe not bites, and you
Whose past times is to make midnight mushrooms.

Pictured is Robin Goodfellow leading his fairies in their making of a fairy ring. As you can clearly see, fairies were sometimes blamed for nocturnal emissions and other things human beings seemed to have no control over.
Few believe in actual fairy rings in our modern day. Crop Circles, a type of fairy rings, has usurped them as points of paranormal interest. Scientists have not found the cause, so assume these circles are a natural occurrence. However, when it comes to the fairies, we are never quite sure.

  Moonset Lily
Susan A Sheppard


1 comment:

  1. I was looking up the term "fairy led" with no success until I found your blog. You have answered all my questions and more. Thank you so much!