The Hidden Folk of Iceland

“Two nations live in this country — the Icelandic nation and this invisible nation.”

Huldufólk 102 is a wonderful 2006 documentary about Icelanders’ relationship with the Hidden Folk (elves, fairies) in their landscape. You can watch it online here (74 min.) Here is the trailer.

One of my favorite parts starts eight minutes in, when a primary school teacher is explaining to the kids how the elves live in a boulder.

Only one of the numerous people interviewed is obviously New Age-y, with her talk about earth chakras, etc. And there is one guy in sort-of medieval Norse garb, his cap decorated with runes, who is described in the subtitle as a “sorcerer.” (Some people are speaking English, some Icelandic with subtitles.) The rest are pretty much down-to-earth Icelanders, a couple of whom describe their own outlooks as Pagan and/or Heathen.

You have heard stories about roads being routed around “inhabited” spots? Here is a civil engineer who did it.

Also  the land itself: mountains, geysers, rocky coasts, cliffs — wonderful as well.

UPDATE: Bad link to complete film now fixed.

(Hat tip to Galina Krasskova.)

The CIA, UFOs, Fairies, etc.

I am reading Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Pyschological Warfare, and UFOs, by Mark Pilkington. (There is a related documentary film.)

Small disclaimer: I met Mark Pilkington a few years ago in England. We did not talk about UFOs nor about the fact that he was one of the people making crop circles for “cereologists” to get all cranked up about.

I have not yet finished the book, but one of its these seems to be that a lot of the UFO material out there is deliberate disinformation by various intelligence agencies.

Why? Consider this scenario, which happened various times in the past: Military radar operators report suspicious “returns” over an airbase. Fighter aircraft are scrambled to intercept the intruders. Once airborne, however, the pilots cannot find the intruders. Must be technologically advanced UFOs!

This means that (a) alien beings have crossed the galaxy in order to play games with our radar operators, or (b) someone here on Earth is working on ways to “spoof” radar signals in order to confuse potential enemies and cause them to fly around looking for intruders that are not there—while, presumably, the real attacker sneaks in undetected.

Occam’s Razor: They sell them in 12-packs at Walgreens and Boots the Chemist.

Why would intelligence agencies feed deliberate misinformation to the public at large and to UFO “researchers” in particular? Some possible reasons:

1. During the Cold War, to baffle the Soviet Union and divert their military from #2, below.

2. To create a belief in “UFOs” that in turn camouflages actual experiments in spy planes, “stealth” technology, drone aircraft, and other secret research.

Create an image and a predisposition, and people will see what they expect to see.

3. To conduct experiments in disinformation in a controlled way: for example, how long does it take a particular piece of “disinformation” to become broadly accepted and by what channels is it disseminated? The whole “Majestic 12” hoax might be an example. Or “cattle mutilations,” or what you will. A lot of Pilkington’s book is devoted to tracing some of these pathways of disinformation.

What about Fairies?

If alien races did arrive here, they probably would not step out of  mechanical “flying saucers” wearing silver coveralls. Anyone who could conquer the whole issue of traveling faster than the speed of light would likely be so advanced that we not even perceive them.

To use a metaphor from the book, do the goldfish in the bowl know that someone is watching them swim around?

All talk of UFOs aside, I do tend to think that there are other beings who share our space, in a manner of speaking.

They have been here all along. They appear in various forms. They are not necessarily our friends. (Which is why the whole phenomenon of “fairy festivals” makes me feel a little queasy.) Lots of weirdness.

Mix them up with your favorite intelligence agency, and watch out!

Another facet of Mirage Men that I appreciate is that it shows how investigating forms of paranormal (or perceived paranormal) activity can have unsettling effects on the investigator. Rampant paranoia is just part of it.

The classic work, to my mind, on this phenomenon is John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, published in 1975.  (Ignore the 2002 movie, please, unless you have to watch everything that Richard Gere ever did.)

What is interesting is not whether “Mothman” exists or not, but what happens to Keel and his associates when they begin to investigate it. Talk about having one foot on the Other Side! (Or are they victims of disinformation too? More paranoia …)

It reminded me of the summer when a newspaper reporter friend, a lodge of wannabe ceremonial magicians, and I decided to investigate the so-called cattle mutilations. Things went downhill into weirdness fairly quickly.

I published the story in Fate (“Mutilation Madness.” Fate June 1988: 60-70), but this was back in the pre-digital 1980s, so there is nothing to link to. Sorry.

One last quote from Mirage Men that more or less summarizes it:

The UFO scene is overrun with whistleblowers who regale us with tales of underground bases and intergalactic pacts while waving impressive-looking documents around as evidence. To the believers these people are clearly on the side of ufology and are to be welcomes. That the role of [the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations] and other agencies in distributing this same material has been public knowledge for twenty years seems not to have sunk in. Meanwhile, those insiders who suggest that the UFO phenomenon is a complex brew of security, secrecy, psychology, sociology, politics, and folklore, perhaps driven by rare but genuinely anomalous events, are obviously part of the cover-up.

Gallimaufry with Distinctions

• Ule-Alfarrin (a/k/a Robin Artisson, if I am not mistaken) lists differences between “New Ager” and “Heathen.” I like this one:

13. Almost no one who in the course of their religious practice, takes a first, middle, or last name which is the same as an animal, a plant, a weather-based phenomenon, an element, a mineral, or a combination of any of those things can speak for me, nor do they likely believe anything like me.

Being a Heathen is often about making such distinctions, ja?

• Anne Johnson discusses building fairy houses. She understands that the fairies are not always cute.

Talking to Unitarians about animism. I have to do something similar later this month.

• Anne Hill suggests two great books on dreams. She should know.

The Fairies of Torchwood

I never joined the Doctor Who cult, although I had friends who remembered every episode and could debate whether Peter Davison made a better Doctor than William Hartnell.

At a post-INATS dinner, however, a publisher friend said that I had to see Torchwood, a Doctor Who spin-off. He compared it to the X-Files. Netflix had it, so I ordered Season One (2006).

We-l-l-l. The X-Files it’s not. Underneath the aliens and “time rifts” and occasional goriness, it’s not as dark  — there is not the sense of hopelessness against greater forces and the personal doubts that pervade the world of agents Scully and Mulder.

In fact, every time that I see the four main Torchwood operatives running down the street — they seem to run a lot, for running and frenetic music cover up plot slippages and cheesy special effects — I want to sing along, “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees.”

But I heartily approved of the episode called “Small Worlds.”

Every time I see someone who gets all mushy about fairies, I want to remind them, “The fairies are not your friends, anymore than the coyotes are your friends.” You can interact with them, but under other circumstances they would eat you. They are a different life form, and they are not All About Us.

Down the Paratemporal Rabbit Hole

“The infamous” Brad Hicks writes a great blog post on shifting realities.

Personally, I blame the Fairies.

Sheesh, who knows. Ask me about my lost-time episodes. No, please don’t. One of them involves a beautiful Russian girl in a Mercedes two-seater, and everyone would assume that she had to be an interdimensional being.

Fairies, the Dead, and Book-Blogging

Spring semester has started, and teaching does cut into blogging time. And my reading list (for myself) is huge: all the books that I ordered at AAR-SBL (and elsewhere) started arriving in December.

I just finished At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things. Author Diane Purkiss is an Oxford historian, primarily of early modern England, and this book is a romp. She does not set out to “explain” fairies, but rather to trace the different ways that they have been depicted–from being rather interchangeable with the Dead to being literary creations, evocations of rural charm, inspiration of Irish nationalism, and advertising gimmicks.

Factoid: Proctor & Gamble won’t admit it, but apparently in the early 1930s the company dropped its successful Fairy Soap and Fairy Liquid, previously sold with images of helpful fairies assisting the housemaids, because the term “fairy” was increasingly synonymous with “homosexual.”

While dealing with Fairy-like characters in The X-Files, Purkiss oddly misses Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia which argued back in 1969 that Fairies and UFO aliens were the same class of interdimensional beings in different guises.

The Trickster and the ParanormalThese are stacked on the dog kennel-nightstand:

Dereck Daschke and Mike Ashcraft, eds., New Religious Movements: A Documentary Reader. Rastafarians! UFO cults! Wiccans! All of us in the study of new religious movements are in it for the spectacle.

Sabina Magliocco, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America. I mentioned it earlier, but I had to send the review copy to someone else and only recently acquired my own.

Robert Cochrane, The Robert Cochrane Letters: An Insight into Modern Traditional Witchcraft. Never mind the oxymoron in the subtitle; it’s the subtle and shifty Cochrane in his own words.

Nikki Bado-Fralick, Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual. Taking on Arnold van Gennep’s hallowed theory on initiation–and Nikki is the new Pomegranate reviews editor, too.

George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Ufologists saw a progression happening, from “saucer” sightings to “alien” sightings to . . . certainly . . . the “third kind”–direct contact. But why is resolution always just beyond our grasp?

David H. Brown, Santería Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion. It’s not just for Cubans anymore.

The Fairy Faith in Nova Scotia

The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries is one of the background books to the Pagan revival, sort of like Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill. Graham Harvey and I included some of the Kipling in The Paganism Reader; perhaps we should have included Evans-Wentz too, although I admit to always being a little unsure how to interpret the word “faith” in his title.

The Fairy Faith is also the title of a new video on fairies. A Flash version of the trailer is online. I did like the Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, episode.

The link came from a Colorado Springs Wiccan priestess who said, “I am currently doing research on the Fey preparing to teach a section on working with them to my students…”

Certainly the older Indian woman in the video clip had no interest in “working with.” She thought it was wiser to give the fairies a wide berth.

UPDATE: The Paganism Reader gets a five-star review.