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The heART of Ritual


The Rise of New Fairy Religions

Image: Oberon and Titania by Bob Greyvenstein

Recently, there has been an explosion in the growth of new fairy religions, as well as the popularity of fairy worship within mixed cultural pantheons. This might take the form of general guiding principles which someone might use to help with a persons navigation through life, or it might also be the full-blown dedication to fairies as gods and goddesses, (and beings many places in-between). This territory, though, is quite complicated.

Fairies have been summoned within magic systems from ancient times, of course, but creating new religions around these forms involves a huge amount of assumptions, as well as personal gnosis, which tends to lead to the creation of hybrid types of fairy definition. On the surface, these may seem like they all have an historic precedent, but they are, in fact, mostly new approaches to fairies, as well as the creation of very personal ritualistic rules.

As there are no actual fairy experts, only experts on lore and writings *about* fairies, its not hard to see why this is a particularly tempting territory for those wanting to bring their personal views to a wider audience: simply put, its very hard to deny a persons perspective when you can't prove or disprove what they are saying.

This has always been the way with spiritual movements, of course, but it is often overlooked that fairy culture is itself now very much a spiritual path for many. The worry, for me, at least, is that the understanding of fairy origins, or even the impossible-to-position placement from a consciousness perspective, might become simplified and subsumed into easier to understand principles in order to gain popularity.

As an example, there is often the baseline assumption that Irish fairies are the Tuatha Dé Danann. However this is quite clearly a hard position to defend when it is implied that the Aos Sidhe were already here when the Tuatha supposedly arrived. (As the Otherworld is outside time in the first place, it can be paradoxical to try and win this argument, either way!). This view also sidesteps the very clear relationship which connects all matter as having personhood in varying and abstract ways, and the different types of consciousness-ecology which are said to manifest from, alongside, and after, fairy encounters. In other words, the parts we may not deem important, might be the most important of all! This point is worth considering from an Irish perspective as we now have new archaeological findings which show that Ireland was populated much earlier than previously thought. Much, much earlier!

With this in mind, we also have to consider how those people living in Ireland at that time, 33,000 years ago, would have conceived of such concepts such as land spirits, life after death, seasonal changes in consciousness perception, as well as the times of the year associated with the appearance of fairies, even if these were not marked by aligned monuments yet.

While the cultural view might popularly depict fairies as being regal in many instances, (and this image is heavily used in the new fairy religions), it is worth remembering that many of the tropes and associations are conceptually related to what a culture can understand, and what it values at the time.

So, fairies from medieval Europe act in a very different way, as well as presenting associatively, in comparison to the fairies of Mongolia and Tibet. Equally, the fairies of early 20th century Ireland are often already completely different to the fairies described in contemporary accounts today. So, how do we even begin to consider what people from almost 40'000 years ago may have thought about such beings? Did these ancient people even define actions, morals and 'good' and 'evil' in they way we reflexively impose upon the understanding of fairy purposes and actions today? I highly doubt it, to be honest.

The belief in a good fairy court and 'bad' fairy court doesn't even appear in Irish fairy lore at all, in actual fact, although the Seelie and Unseelie does appear in Scottish lore. In his book The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg describes humans with magical powers being able to join the good fairies and fight against evil 'witches' in order to protect land, crops, and livestock. Is this actually a battle between good and evil, though, or is it a very human interpretation of much more complicated movements and interactions? The difference between the indigenous way of understanding these contrasts is that everything is seen as part of the one. There is no simplistic war between 'good' and 'evil' as such definitions fail to take into account the complications and almost abstract purposes and obligations of higher forms of consciousness in comparison to dualistic moral thinking.

However, to ignore the unpredictable nature of fairy-beings is incredibly dangerous. All of our folklore tells us this. Perhaps its wise to listen to these accounts. To intentionally summon a fairy seems to be a particularly hazardous type of spell with usually unforeseen results.

Recently, many of the posts regarding fairy encounters have used examples from the last century which often have the built-in concept of a simple moral lesson embedded within the account. This might take the form of either a reward from the fairies for having helped them, or a punishment for having caused offence in some way. There is also a very understandable reflex when reading such writings to always take the stories literally, although like many oral teachings passed down from generation to generation, it is usually important to consider the deeper meaning behind the tale. However, if we fail to do this and instead divide fairies into good and bad based on human definitions of such concepts, it seems to me that this is, perhaps, an unconscious reconstruction of the religious framework many of those creating these new fairy religions are coming from. This would certainly not reflect a wilder and more chaotic native or indigenous universal view, which, ironically, most of the oldest existing fairy tales likely emerge from in the first place. (C.) David Halpin

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