Friday, May 26, 2017

Fairyland, Witches & Souls of the Pagan Dead

Fairies as Souls of the Pagan Dead

by Susan Sheppard

Centuries after the Picts faded into oblivion the now Christian population of the British Isles began to view fairies somewhat as ghosts, since fairies were thought to be the unbaptized souls of the pagan dead. Much superstition surrounded fairies, and thus, they were not entirely trusted. In fact, fairies, such as banshees, thought to be the souls of women that died in during childbirth without given the proper rites by a priest, would visit curses on certain families. This was especially true of the families who did not honor the memories of these souls of the pagan dead.

Like the ghosts that haunted houses, it was believed fairies were not pure enough to get into heaven but were still too good for hell. Also, the souls of human beings were considered to be small and could crawl out of the body at night. Thus, fairies like ghosts might appear as small.

Yet the fairies could be terrifying. In Devonshire houses began to be by haunted what inhabitants concluded were Pixies. The Pixies and the Fauni (nature spirits) were reported to throw great stones, pieces of wood and clods of earth at inhabitants to drive them away from sacred groves and fairy mounds.

Fairies became associated with ghosts and spirits of the dead in other ways. It was thought the fairies, in a realm exactly parallel to our own, were helpers who assisted human souls into reaching the Otherworld, or Land of Eternal Youth after dying. Upon each human death, a disturbance would take place in the astral realms that the fairies could readily feel. When Celtic persons died the first spirits they were to meet were fairies coming to their aid for a peaceful transition. 
Fairies were also thought to attend births and christenings.

During Elizabethan times, the role of fairies grew diminished and the fae folk were shut inside the broom closet with witches, both no longer believed in. However, literary works, such as those by William Shakespeare continued to draw upon fairy lore as inspiration, even though the fairies were no longer the magical children of the pagan gods, or the fairy races as sentient beings. Fairies were no longer taken seriously.

Around this time, fairies began to shrink further in size. They weren’t giants or anywhere near to human size. In fact, fairies could be held in a teacup and people seemed immune to their blessings and curses. Fairies began to lose their power over the human imagination. By this time, it was thought if fairies were real, only children could see them.

Fairyland and the Dead

I have learned that whenever I dream of fairies someone is going to die. This may startle those who still view fairies as airy, winged sprites or as miniature angels, however, throughout history most especially in the British Isles fairies have long been associated witches and spirits of the dead. Yet the idea that links fairies with spirits of the dead should not cause alarm. It is all a part of the natural transition such beings have a part in.

Tales of human entry into Fairyland, mostly in Scotland, held that fairies attended to the dead, and were sometimes responsible for a number of hauntings in homes, or ghostly visits, acting as witch’s familiars. To some, fairies were souls from pre-Christian days cloaked in some astral form, not knowing how or deserving to get into a Christian heaven. In Celtic belief, it was thought Fairyland was the very first place souls would visit after death before moving on to an astral realm, guided by fairies into Summerland or Celtic Otherworld and the Netherworld of the Egyptians.

But in popular culture, this link has been largely forgotten. Death, and anything associated with it, such as ghosts or spirits of the dead, is an area of cultural and religious taboo. New age circles are not always so comfortable with the idea of ghosts or haunted places. We revere fairies while we fear the dead. The concept of ghosts remains disturbing to many and is erroneously associated with evil. It may seem hard to see fairies in such a place, but people in the past believed some fairies were in the land of the forgotten dead.

Some say that the communications with spirits upsets the dead and such spiritual interference should only be allowed during Samhain. In some respects, this very well may be true. But there are many spirits who still want to communicate with the living, and they will make their presence known until their message is received. This is what causes hauntings. Thus in our modem day, like the Banshee fairy that washes out the bloody clothes of her dead along waterways, fairies and their connections to ghosts have been rinsed of their powers.

Long ago, fairies and ghosts were viewed as much as the same, spirits neither good nor bad but something in-between. Even human beings were thought to be fairies if they showed special powers or unusual ugliness or beauty — much the same as witches. In Scotland, it was considered great esteem for a man to marry a woman who was a “fairy witch.” This could be dangerous as well since fairy witches were often blamed for blights and bad luck.

Yet in Ireland, where the ghosts were called Thevshi or Tash, Finarva, the King of the Fairies ruled over the dead. Again, there was danger that was associated with fairies and haunting ghosts. If not treated with proper respect, they might come back to wreak havoc on the living, thus, all fairies were referred to as “the little people” or the “wee folk” and the names of the dead were rarely spoken.

It was believed in the Celtic realm that when a soul leaves the body, it could be enticed away, at times, by fairies, looking for a new soul to join them in fairyland. Very small children were susceptible to this, because they fairies themselves are much like children themselves, open and natural to the world. In western Ireland, in Christian times, when a small child died, blood from a chicken would be sprinkled on the threshold so spirits or fairies would be enticed away from the body.

According to Lady Wilde, in her 1897 book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland that starting on All Hallows Eve, “the dead would spring up in their shrouds and rush out into the moonlight with mad laughter to join the fairies.” On the last night of November, it was especially tenuous between the living, souls of the dead, and the fairies. It was this last night (believed by the Irish) that fairies would dance with souls of the dead on hillsides before they must return to the chilled, cold earth. Certain tales indicate fairy witches joined them in their dance.
Individuals who died at twilight would find themselves in Fairyland and could visit the living as ghosts. It is interesting to note that modern ghost researchers say the most opportune time to investigate ghosts and hauntings, is to start around dusk since this is the time spirits tend to show themselves to mortal human beings. Once again, with the coming of night pulls us into a twilight world, a ghostly dreamtime.

Fairies As Witch’s Familiars

Familiar spirits are ghosts, or discarnates such as fairies, that contact human beings routinely and can be used for magic. The most recognized familiar in witchcraft as in popular culture has to be a black cat, followed closely by a raven or a crow. Native American familiars arrive in the form of a totem animal more likely to be a bear, eagle or an elk. The animal’s body is possessed by another spirit or divinity that is primarily an imp, a ghost or a fairy. When called upon, the familiar may wish to assist a sorcerer, magician or witch, or rescue a person who needs help.
The name “familiar” was first used in English and Scottish witch trails, believed to appear as an attendant to witches and sorcerers. Familiar comes from the Latin word familiaris, meaning intimate, friendly with, as is related to one’s family or someone very familiar. The first used of familiar, as in a “familiar spirit,” imp or fairy, was written down in1584.
The animal familiar is mostly found in England where accused witches were thought to have familiars that were really fairies, demons, imps and elves, and sometimes ghosts of evil people invading the body of an animal. 
Familiars could be kept as a pet, or even a spider or a toad found inside the house of the accused witch. The idea of familiars traveled to America to show up in some of the Salem Witch Trials later.

By 1598, beliefs in fairies appearing in the guise of animals was firmly solidified, when a man in Aberdeen claimed he had met with the Quene of Elphen (Queen of Elfiand) along with her cats wandering along the rode at Twilight.
At this time, in Gaelic lands it was believed that anyone who passed away around at Twilight, his or her spirit could get lost, ending up in Elfiand only to return as ghosts. Fairies were very much like the undead, or the nosferatu, whom some believed they shared tombs with while in Elf or Fairyland.

Fairies and familiars exhibited related psychic powers, they have the ability to divine the future, and leave their realms, just like ghosts who want to interact with the living. They are also described as ghosts very early on, as in a green glowing light, rather large or small and inside a moving shadow. In British occult lore, it was believed that sometimes when the Devil appeared, he did as a handsome man dressed in green, a color primarily associated with fairies. The Devil would then vanish in the form of a black dog, of course, associating him to the banshee’s Black Shuck and other British hobgoblins.
What is lost on our culture today is fairies became a part of demonology after the witch trials. 

It is only when the Victorians cleaned up fairies, and their associations with witches and the dead, that they were re-introduced as very much watered down creatures.
It was once feared that when there was no water or milk left out for the fairies or familiar spirits that visited the home, they might have to drink human blood. The most common name for a witch’s familiar in England was “Robin.” It is interesting to note that the legendary figure of Robin Hood, like the fairies so often, is always portrayed wearing green clothing.

Fairies and Poltergeists

When considering poltergeists, and how we view them in our modern day, it is not so different than the way common folk used to see fairies. Fairies, like spirits, could cause havoc and mayhem in the household if not given the proper respect. Fairies could also move objects and hide them in the most unlikely places. At times, they even threw things, like glasses or cups and might splash food or liquids in people’s faces to show their unhappiness. Sometimes the fairies might drum to keep residents awake all night, tap or knock on doors or walls in order to draw attention to their plight or just to show their disapproval at homeowners. Others were reported to run a cane up and down the headboard of a bed or made loud invisible footsteps in homes. Unruly children might cause the fairies to slap, to pinch or push. Mysterious lights or shadows appear and disappear in the home. This was all just a part of fairy mischief.

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it should. The unseen type of fairy, the kind that plays tricks, is very much like our everyday poltergeist. Of course, in German, poltergeist simply means a rapping ghost or meddlesome spirit. The appearance of the poltergeist tends to occur in cycles, and never appears as a person, or a personal ghost, with a face or a history or a name. (They may lie and respond to any name given though.) Some may mistake their poltergeist for a person that they know of that died in the home or perhaps a relative who passed on. Such unsettling occurrences, such as doors slamming, shelves crashing and empty footsteps must be explained somehow. But it usually is not. Poltergeists may be our own volatile and erratic psychic powers unleashed, and are typically associated with an adolescent boy or girl.

Therefore, the popular theory explaining poltergeists over the past fifty years is, that poltergeist phenomenon is fueled by dormant telekinetic powers found within the human brain. 
The stress of adolescents may stimulate the poltergeist activity that at one time could easily be mistaken for the powers of fairies, witches or spirits of the deceased. What is intriguing about linking poltergeists to fairy hauntings in the distant past is that poltergeists are generally not thought to be spirits of the dead, either. They are a form of haunting all on their own, but generally associated with other types of hauntings.
In fact, I have found during my own ghost investigations that the appearance of poltergeists are often a pre-cursor or a “firing up” to other major types of hauntings, which may involve actual ghosts or spirits of the dead. Where you have poltergeists, you will most likely find actual ghosts. There must be some synergy between the human mind and spirits, and other type of spirits, for instance fairies, earth energies, and elementals.

Imagine what might happen to the owner of a home plagued with poltergeists during the times of the witch trials and executions. It would seem insane to admit to poltergeists (as fairies or ghosts or imps) in the home to anyone, most especially authorities who could put you on trial. And a number of witch inquisitors, when visiting the homes of many supposed witch’s home, reported having their hats knocked from their heads, having their shins kicked and their pockets turned inside out. In any event, the only way to save oneself was to point a finger at the “real witch” responsible for the haunting.
Fairies as Elementals: Spiritual Expressions of Earth Energies

Elementals, or natural earth energies representing the four elements of fire, earth, water and air, have much in common with fairies. They are ethereal forms of life and spirit that are not usually seen by the human eye but are also expressions of earth energies. In fact, many believe fairies are just that — elemental spirits that are really not human in any way, but can be contacted by psychic visions and by other powers.

One could hardly call elementals supernatural since they are very much a part of the natural world. But they sometimes appear as balls of light, colored gases and cloudy lights, the rippling silver of waves on water, or even in the simple stirring of a blade of grass. Such energies have personalities and it is the tradition of witchcraft that interactions with elementals will benefit crops, will cause gardens to be more abundant and will generally make life on earth more pleasant for human beings. After all, elementals are in the primordial phase of all creation on earth and in our solar system. Yet they are not impartial to humans — they are in essence helpers.

Earth Elementals govern the physical realm of sinew, bone, mountain, muscle, grass and rock. Air Elementals govern the ethereal realms, such as wind, storms, the influencing of stars, planets, oxygen and spirit. Water Elementals represents the astral realm, just beyond the earth realm. They rule emotion, empathy, mediumship and ghosts.
As the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas once wrote: The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my green age. Behind nature, perhaps, is where the spark of divinity lies. Such could be said of the elemental forces found in the natural that are apart from the human mind or soul, and yet also a part of both.
However, in more ancient times, it does not seem probable that that the beings country folk claimed to have communications with were spirits of nature. They saw fairies as very similar and related to human beings, sometimes wicked, other times mirthful and filled with wit, fairies could extremely ugly and yet at other times shining and beautiful beyond compare...

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