On the Fairy Road

An exploration of historic and modern Fairy beliefs, and more generally Irish-American and Celtic folk beliefs, from both an academic and experiential perspective.

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Finding Fairies in Grimoires, part 1

Generally when we look for resources on fairies, particularly fairy Queens, we look (rightly) to folklore. There is however another more obscure source that can provide us some information and this is the later ceremonial magic grimoires. These texts are very different in nature and tone1 than other sources and we must keep that in mind as we look at them but they do give us a glimpse at a particularly English view of fairies from the 16th and 17th centuries. 

For our purposes today we will be looking at the material that addresses female fairies, which interestingly includes the only female beings found in the grimoire material2. When we look at the Grimoire material we find two main groupings of beings: Fairy Queens and the so-called Seven Sisters. These are all given names although the names vary in different manuscripts. The Seven Sisters can be bound to teach a person about herbs, nature, and provide a ring of invisibility (Harms, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). The queens can be called on for scrying, manifestation, sex magic, knowledge of nature, truth, and may also provide a ring of invisibility (Brock & Raiswell, 2018; Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). All of the names given, however, are somewhat problematic in that they either can be found nowhere else outside the grimoire material or else they closely resemble common names or words.

Sibilia is mentioned as being both the 'empress' and 'princess' of all fairies to whom all others are servants (Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). She appears in two grimoire rituals that I know of, one in an ancillary capacity merely referenced as having dominion over other fairies while in the other she is invoked into a candle flame to reveal the truth and answer questions put to her. Brock and Raiswell mention that she may be invoked along with Milia and Achilia reflecting a pattern sometimes seen of using alliterative names. 

Micoll is another commonly invoked fairy Queen. Her name is found under many various spellings including Micol, Mical, Mycholl, Micob, and Mycob as well as Michel and Micheal (Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015; Brock & Raiswell, 2018). Under the variant form of Meillia it is possible that Micoll might be the Milia found grouped sometimes with Sibilia, although we more often see her explicitly invoked with Titam and Burfex. Possibly a variant form of Mab, Briggs suggests that Micol is the queen of the diminutive fairies. (Briggs, 1976; Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). Micoll was called on to give knowledge of "herbs, stones...trees...medicines...and the truth" as well as providing a ring of invisibility and was described as being very gentle and kind (Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015, page 207). 

Often invoked with Micoll are Titam and Burfex. Titam is also called Titem, Tytarit, Titan, Tytan, Tytar, and even Setan or Chicam (Brock & Raiswell, 2018; Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). The Book of Oberon suggests that Titam may be connected to or a variant name for Shakespeare's fairy Queen Titania although Briggs argues that Titania is a variant of Diana instead. Because of the obscure nature of the material and the non-standard spelling between sources it is difficult to favor either theory, although it may be that both have some truth in them. Burfex may also be called Burfax, Burphax, or Bursex. Micoll, Titam, and Burfex are invoked together in a ritual to provide the magician with a ring of invisibility, during which one of the three is chosen by the magician and is bound by him to provide him with the ring as well as sexual companionship. 

In addition to the beings listed above, who are described as fairy Queens, we also see a grouping of beings called the Seven Sisters. These are: Lilia, Restilia, Foca (Fata), Fola (Falla), Afryca (Afria/Africa), Julia (Julya), Venulia (Venalla). In the 11th century these sisters initially appear listed as seven fevers in charm texts (Brock & Raiswell, 2018). In later grimoire material the seven sisters are said to be under the rule of Micob and each has a specific sigil associated with her; it is suggested that they can be called on for knowledge of herbs, medicine, and in the ritual to gain a ring of invisibility (Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). Little else is directly known about the sisters, however the number seven is generally considered significant to fairies and in fairylore.

There are a handful of other references to named female fairies but we have nothing else except their name in the context of a single charm or two. I'll exclude those here and leave the focus on ones that we have more information on, although I realize even what we have here is limited. Hopefully this look at the grimoire fairies has shown both the value of these sources as well there particular limited focus. We have the names and a small amount of information on what these beings would be called for but very little else about them, although some like Micob and Titam are tenuously connected to more well known folkloric English fairies.  

In the next blog I will take a look at another fairy who appears in the grimoire texts, Oberon, and what we can learn about him from this source. 

 

1it must be kept in mind when looking at the Grimoires that deal with fairies that this material is predicated on commanding and binding these beings rather than dealing with them in the ways we see witches doing in other sources. I am personally not a fan of the grimoire approach. 

2According to Brock and Raiswell who suggest that all other spirits found in grimoires are explicitly male; even those described as female are referred to as dukes and are only female in illusory form (Brock & Raiswell, 2018, p65). 

References
Brock, M., and Raiswell, R., (2018) Knowing Demons, Knowing Spirits in the Early Modern Period
Harms, D., Clark, J., and Peterson, J., (2015) The Book of Oberon
Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies

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Morgan has been a practicing witch since the early 90's with a focus on the Fairy Faith and fairylore. She has written over two dozen non-fiction and fiction books on topics related to Irish mythology, witchcraft, fairy folklore, and related subjects. Morgan has also taught workshops on these same topics across the United States and internationally. In her spare time she likes to study the Irish language in both its modern and historic forms.

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