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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Morgan Daimler

Morgan Daimler

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.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Someone on social media asked me what my favorite translations of [old/middle] Irish material where and I thought it would be good to answer the question here. 

 

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Thoughts and Samhain and the Otherworld

As Samhain approaches we see many references to the idea of a veil between worlds thinning; an idea that I have previously rejected. I know that many people embrace the concept either figuratively or literally but for myself I’ve always seen the intersection of this world and the Otherworld not as a veil but like a shoreline where earth and water meet. However after re-reading a post by Ireland’s Folklore and Traditions  https://irishfolklore.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/from-ancient-samhain-to-modern-halloween/ recently I’m reconsidering my own views to a degree.

My understanding of references to the veil, with the up front admission that it something I am looking at from the outside, is that people tend to approach it two ways. Either it’s seen as an actual barrier of some sort that separates the human world from the Otherworld, or it is a barrier in the minds of humans which obscures perception of the Otherworld and its denizens. While I can respect that other people find value in this concept it has never worked for me. I don’t see there being a barrier, per se, of any type separating the two realities rather I believe that they are something like oil and water where their very nature acts as a separator even though they are in many ways conjoined. In the same way the idea of the veil being personal to each human while closer to something I can understand doesn’t sit quite right with me, perhaps because it seems to involve too many diverse factors to creating a unified experience that would lend itself to everyone agreeing this veil is thinner at certain times. And again, I’ll repeat I do understand that this concept works well for many people and I am not trying to argue against it merely to explain my own thoughts around it.

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Seeing The Shape of Folklore: From Popculture to Source Culture

One of my favourite things to contemplate is the connection between folklore as its found in the living cultures, particularly the Celtic language speaking cultures, and folklore as its manifested in popculture. I have written articles about aspects of this and even presented a paper at the University of Ohio for a conference they had in February of 2019. There are so many diverse factors that influence and shape the way that folklore is preserved within a source culture and the ways that that same material is taken, reshaped, and spread throughout popular culture. 

As I was thinking about this all today, and particularly the ways that popculture reimagines older and existing folklore it reminded me of something. There was a time in Europe when very few of the educated elite there had been to Africa, especially the interior, and so descriptions of animals found there - and more to the point artwork depicting them - were quite fantastical. For example the image with this blog was created by Albrecht Durer in 1515, based on  a written description and rough sketch he had seen although he personally never saw a living (or dead) rhinoceros. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Three Approaches to Fairy Work

As I've studied both older folk practices relating to fairies and modern methods I've observed three basic approaches. Today I'd like to take a quick look at these, with an understanding that there is no one that is better or worse than the others; they are simply different ways to relate to the Fair Folk that have developed organically over time. All of these exist in the historic record as well as modern practice. 

1. Appeasement/Warding - Probably the most common approach to dealing with the Good People is simply to prophylactically give them what you are willing to and which they want - usually milk, butter, or bread - to avoid them taking what you don't want to give and which they also want - cows, human children or adults, or your luck or prosperity. The other side of that is to ward against them with iron, specific herbs and charms, or Christian items. These two things, appeasement and warding, are usually paired together as joined practices. The majority of people who acknowledge the existence of fairies, in my own experience and study, take this approach if any. 

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Pagan Pilgrimage, Basic Guidelines

The idea of making pilgrimages - effectively of travelling to a place perceived as sacred - has gained popularity among pagans. I often see people in various social media groups talking about making such journeys to places they believe have sacred qualities or associations or talking about trips they have made. The main questions I see people asking centre on how to do this in ways that are most respectful to the sacredness of the location, but often are rooted in a paradigm of interaction with these places that is humancentric and ultimately doesn't really respect the location. It can be hard to shift out of that mindset. 

I am speaking here as someone who has dealt with tourists and been a tourist, and who has seen firsthand the harm that humans do even when they are trying to engage in a sacred way with a place. Often this harm comes from short sightedness and failure to understand the full impact of their actions but sometimes its also from a very self-centred place. I've seen 5,000 year old historic sites treated like someone's own backyard, seen graffiti on standing stones, rubbish tied to rag trees and tossed into cairns, and painted 'So-and-So was Here' stones left at archaeological sites. None of this reflects best practices, and I believe that we, as a wider community, can do better. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The dark moon is coming up in a few days, and shortly after that we will see the first sliver of the new moon in the sky. I have for a long time made a practice of acknowledging the presence of the new moon in some way, as it marks the beginning of a new cycle of the moon. In folklore it has also long had great significance and I think its important to acknowledge that. 

There was a belief that you could tie your luck and wealth to the growing light of the moon by turning any money in your pocket or a ring on your finger when you first saw the new moon and reciting a small chant. This sort of sympathetic magic is simple and easy for anyone to do and represents a common form of folk magic. 

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In my last blog here I talked about blending personal gnosis and folklore or other people's anecdotal accounts. Today I want to look at another important factor to consider as you set off on the Fairy Road - considering the perspective of the sources you are using. We live in a time when there are possibly more resources for studying fairies than ever before but the quality of these sources is, shall we say, exceedingly wide ranging. There are an abundance of good quality sources of course but people seem to take any and all such material equally rather than giving different weight to each based on its individual biases and viewpoint.

Considering a source's perspective is very important in deciding how to approach the material - to put a twist on an old saying 'not all sources are created equal'. And not all sources share a common view or understanding even of the same subject. The way that the educated English of the early modern period understood and approached fairies is very different from the way that the people in rural communities seemed to have done the same, and both are very different again from how people in Ireland in the same period understood the Daoine Sidhe. Lowland Scottish folklore about fairies found in the ballad material has its own perspective as well. And all of these differ from anecdotes we may find today in those same places. We also have to consider that people - myself included - who are outside the living cultures may have a different perspective as well.

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