So what are fairies? How do you research them? Just as important, do you even want to have anything to do with them?
Each of those is a book or article-length question, so I will paint with a very broad brush here. Nevertheless, fairies have popped up on this blog before.
In deadbutdreaming, a blog devoted to fairy lore, among other things, Neil Rushton offers “A Faerie Taxonomy.” He writes,
The faeries mean different things to different people. There is a great range in their taxonomy; they can be the archetypal characters found in faerie tales, folkloric entities existing in a liminal reality, animistic nature spirits responsible for the propagation of flora, and a host of culturally-coded modern beings, including, but not limited to, extraterrestrials and certain creatures that can manifest during altered states of consciousness.
There is so much folklore, so many variations, and categories (the dead, nature spirits, interdimensional beings, etc.) that blur into each other. Big ones, little ones. Usually they are described as humanoid, but on the other hand, I don’t think of our “cousins” as being necessarily humanoid at all.
You have various sorts of Hidden Folk in various places and cultures. Apparently they are fairly respectable in Iceland. I have met them (?) in dreams, where they became “the people who live inside the walls.” Not that they live between 2x4s and sheets of paneling or drywall — what was meant was a sort of interdimensionality, where their large world seems to fit into one of our small worlds.
The big ones (human-size or almost that) are often described as the Gentry, the Good Neighbors, and so on. They are powerful and unpredictable in the stories, and the best response to encountering one might be to tip your hat and say, “Fine day, isn’t it, Your Grace.” And then go another direction.
Or as Anne Johnson put in a post last year titled, “Faeries aka Fairies Are Real”
So you say, “What do faeries look like?” And I answer, “What have you got?” There are as many varieties of faerie as there are of biological life in the apparent world. Some faeries are human shaped and sized, some are tiny, some look like animals, some like birds, and some are just beams of light. Be careful if you make eye contact, because they like to distract. And whatever you do, show them respect. Even the “critter” ones. Call them “Ladies and Gentlemen,” or “your majesties.”
We had mentioned them before and they had shown up on several occasions, but if my memory is correct (and if it’s not, it’s not off by much) this was the first time we invoked land spirits, ancestors, Gods, and the fae in four separate invocations.
The ritual was an overwhelming success. But Themselves decided we hadn’t been sufficiently generous and helped themselves to an entire pitcher of wine.
In a rather violent manner.
The stories of our ancestors tell us they are proud people who do not tolerate slights and disrespect. They seem pleased with this change.
Attempts to lump them in with spirits of the land and of natural forces is inaccurate, unnecessary, and unwanted. They are the Fair Folk. That is how I understand them, and how I will relate to them.
Here are some books that influenced my thinking:
Jacques Vallée, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. Astronomer, computer scientist, and ufologist, Vallée wrote this book in the 1960s partly to answer the question, “If the Space Brothers are out there, why don’t they land on the White House lawn/Red Square/United Nations Plaza, etc.?” His suggestion: it/they have always been here and it/they enjoy messing with us.
I often criticize people for trying to explain a mystery with another mystery, and I have to admit that saying, “They are not visitors from another star system, but they have been here all along” is doing just that, because what does “here all along” exactly mean? But I cannot think of hypothesis more useful.
George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal. A former university parapsychology researcher, Hansen writes an interdisciplinary study of why most academics — even in religious studies —shy away from the topic of the paranormal and why, at the same, people and institutions involved with the paranormal have their own difficulties.
Psi interacts with our physical world, with our thoughts, and with our social institutions. Even contemplating certain ideas has consequences. The phenomena are not to be tamed by mere logic and rationality, and attempts to do so are doomed to failure (From the book’s website.)
The book grabs ideas from parapsychology, psychology, anthropology, and elsewhere, but the chapter I found most interesting, “Unbounded Conditions,” discusses how investigating UFOs, parapsychology—and I would add Bigfoot, for example—destabilizes both groups and individuals.
These phenomena intrude into the lives of investigators. The researchers participate in them and cannot remain on the side as observers. The subject-object distinction is subverted, and the consequences are often unpleasant (p. 217).
Hansen acknowledges John Keel The Mothman Prophecies as a classic of phenomena intruding; you might call it synchronicity out of control.
Finally, I recommend The Super Natural: Why the Unexplained is Real, by Whitley Strieber and Jeffery Kripal. Strieber is known for Communion and other writing on his often-unpleasant encounters with “the visitors,” whom he does not see as space aliens. Kripal is one religious studies professor who is willing to think and write about odd, esoteric, erotic, and paranormal aspects of what we cal “religion.”
The book is arranged in alternating chapters by each author. I read it last year and need to re-read it. A few statements in it severely shook me, so I need to have another go. If you prefer the “interdimensional” explanation, then this book is the rabbit hole that you want to jump into.