Don’t Follow the Lights across the Moor, said the Monk, or Why We Learn Nothing New about Fairies

William James in Brazil, about age 23 (Wikimedia Commons)

The famous American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842–1910) was also a paranormal researcher, chiefly in the area of Spiritualism and mediumship. Toward the end of his life, he wrote about a problem that still vexes ufologists, ghost-hunters, and everyone else engaging “the phenomenon.” He starts by speaking of a fellow psychical researcher, Prof. Henry Sidgwick:

Like all [psychical research] founders, Sidgwick hoped for a certain promptitude of result; and I heard him say, the year before his death, that if anyone had told him at the outset that after twenty years he would be in the same identical state of doubt and balance that he started with, he would have deemed the prophecy incredible. It appeared impossible that that amount of handling evidence should bring so little finality of decision.

My own experience has been similar to Sidgwick’s. For twenty-five years I have been in touch with the literature of psychical research, and have had acquaintance with numerous “researchers.” I have also spent a good many hours (though far fewer than I ought to have spent) in witnessing (or trying to witness) phenomena. Yet I am theoretically no “further” than I was at the beginning; and I confess that at times I have been tempted to believe that the Creator has eternally intended this department of nature to remain baffling, to prompt our curiosities and hopes and suspicions all in equal measure, so that, although ghosts and clairvoyances, and raps and messages from spirits, are always seeming to exist and can never be fully explained away, they also can never be susceptible of full corroboration.1)William James, “The Last Report: The Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher,” in William James and Psychical Research, ed. Gardner Murphey and Robert O. Ballou, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1961), 310. Originally published in The American Magazine, October 1909.

James’s frustration was mentioned in an episode of Weird Studies, a podcast produced by musicologist Phil Ford and writer-filmmaker J. F. Martel.2)Both are Canadian, although Ford teaches at Indiana University. Weird Studies is devoted to “a scholarly field that doesn’t and can’t exist,” but they try.3)The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny.The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.

James’s comments also reminded of a comment by some UFO researcher I once read who said that during the Fifties and Sixties there was this rising anticipation that Something Was Going to Happen. Maybe the Space Brothers would simultaneously land in Red Square, Lafayette Square (by the White House) and Brasiilia — or whatever. But the climax never happened; instead, the same stories repeat and repeat.

“The Fairy Faith,” Jim Fitzpatrick, 1989.

A few months ago, I finally read Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth, one of the classics of Fairy literature, written but not published in 1692. I recommend Brian Walsh’s annotated version, The Secret Commonwealth and the Fairy Belief Complex, 2002. Kirk wrote,

These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People  . . . are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure.

And can we say anymore today, three centuries later? We ask a few more questions: Do the Good People associate with certain ethnic groups? Do they migrate? Can they change shapes (orbs of light, silvery “aliens,” tall hairy bipeds, etc.)? But do we really know anymore than Robert Kirk did?

A few years back, when I was co-chair of Contemporary Pagan Studies within the American Academy of Religion, seeing a rise in the number of “fairy festivals,” which seemed to overlap Pagan festivals to some degree, as well as new books on the Fairy Folk, I suggested all that as a topic for one of our sessions, but my idea got no traction. Too early, maybe.

Now there are more books4)Some of them seem to say, “Fairies are dangerous, but if you read my book, I will tell you how contact them.” and even Cherry Hills Seminary, the most viable Pagan seminary, is offering a class called “The Fair Folk: A Thanatological Perspective.”

Class Description: Who are the Fair Folk? Many do not expect one of the answers to be “the dead”!  In this Insights course we will parse through the different types of Fair Folk (focusing on the Irish traditions), examine species of Faery with clearly human folklore (including hauntings, burials and premature deaths) and contemplate the possibility of the Fair Folk as ancestral figures.

So where is the monk? You promised us a monk!

Another podcast I sometimes listen to is Stranger Things, and in a recent episode, “A Monastic View of the Other,” co-host TImothy Renner interviewed Br. Richard Hendrick, an Irish Capuchin (Franciscan) monk and meditation teacher. He used to manage the Capuchins’ friary and retreat center in Donegal. If you click through the photos, I think that one shows the fairy hill described in the interview.

Brother Richard tells some stories of house-cleansings, where people thought they were disturbed by ghosts or other entities. He comes across as level-headed and compassionate, and he stresses that one cannot respond to such requests by charging in and (my words) firing off Latin invocations while throwing incense grenades.

And Then There Is Hellier

Inverted pentagram? Really?

In another podcast, TImothy Renner of Strange Familiars mentioned that some of his music (he is a musician too) is used in Season Two of the paranormal documentary Hellier, which reminded me that I needed to download it.

Brother Richard talks about being spiritually grounded, avoiding obsession, and “not following the lights across the moor,” In other words, don’t let yourself get sucked in to the point where you have one foot on the Other Side.

But if there is anyone who does “follow the lights,” it is all the ghost-hunters and paranormal investigators out there, who show up with their spotlights and cameras and recording equipment and digital thermometers and other gadgetry and announce, “All right, Bigfoot, where are you? Goblins, show yourselves! We come in peace! [Aside: “Are you getting a reading?”]

Here is the synopsis:

In 2012, Greg Newkirk received an email from a man calling himself David Christie, who claimed that he and his family were being terrorized by unearthly creatures by night. After exchanging emails, David disappeared. For the next five years, the case only got stranger, as more connections and mysterious emails came in. Then, in 2017, Greg and a team of researchers [chiefly Dana Newkirk, Karl Pfeiffer, and Conor Randall] traveled to rural Kentucky, not knowing what they would uncover, or how deep they would discover the case might go.

Back at Weird Studies, J. F. Martel observes, “If you ever wondered what Samuel Beckett would have written if he had developed an interest in the paranormal, Hellier may be the answer.”

Yeah, Waiting for Goblin, that’s it.

On the plus side, the show’s production values are high. I have seen stuff on cable TV that was a lot worse. On the negative, sometimes I just want to reach into the screen and grab them:

If y’all are “digital natives,” why did you wait five years to have a competent IT guy check the headers on that email — which reveal that it did not come from eastern Kentucky at all?

Do you know anything about using public records? Don’t you realize that the volunteer fire department in a small town will know where everything is?

Don’t you carry a good GPS receiver? If you can’t write down the address when you think you have found “the house,” at least get its coordinates, which will save you a lot of driving around later, plus you can research its ownership history with the county assessor.

Since the initial email sounds a lot like Whitley Strieber’s experience in Communionand his books are on the Newkirks’ shelves, I am surprised Strieber’s name does not come up. (At least so far. I am only just into Season Two, so no spoilers, please.)

One book that does come up a lot is John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies.It took me a long time to read that, because the title put me off, but it remains a classic study of how the researcher can go over the edge, off “across the moor.” The Hellier group refer to it a lot when they raise questions such as, does experiencing uncanny synchronicities mean that you are on the right track, or are they just a distraction? Are they “signal” or are they “noise”?

And to go back to William James, after twenty years, will you have learned anything substantive at all? Or is the real story the subjective experience of the researchers? I have been there, a little, and I know how fast the paranoia can grow.

Notes   [ + ]

1. William James, “The Last Report: The Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher,” in William James and Psychical Research, ed. Gardner Murphey and Robert O. Ballou, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1961), 310. Originally published in The American Magazine, October 1909.
2. Both are Canadian, although Ford teaches at Indiana University.
3. The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny.The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.
4. Some of them seem to say, “Fairies are dangerous, but if you read my book, I will tell you how contact them.”

“Witness of Another World” is a Powerful Documentary about “Visitor” Encounters

Aside from an occasional excursion, I am not much into UFO studies. Years after it came out, I read Jacques Vallée’s 1)Born in France, Vallée has spent most of his life in the US. His career includes astronomy, software engineering, venture capitalism — and UFO studies. Passport to Magonia, and it shaped my thinking.

I put its thesis like this: Instead of chugging through interstellar space to Earth, the UFO-nauts have always been here. “They” appear in many different shapes, some humanoid, some not, as it suits their fancy. Sometimes They just like to mess with us for reasons we do not understand. Or in more refined language,

As an alternative to the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis, Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected (Wikipedia).

Back in the 1970s, Vallée and his wife flew to Argentina to investigate the case of Juan Pérez, a 12-year-old boy from a gaucho family in northern Argentina. Sent out one morning to bring in the family herd, Juan saddled his favorite horse, Cometa (Comet), and rode off into the pastures. On his ride, Juan encountered . . . something . . . that seemed to be a typical flying saucer. Tying Cometa to the craft’s ladder, he went up into it, he said.

There he encountered two beings. When he went home and told his story, he soon became a UFO celebrity. Cometa, however, sickened and died mysteriously only a few days after the encounter.

Juan’s life was wrecked. Call it PTSD. Call it a bad case of susto (soul loss). He fled the ufology scene. He ended up a fifty-ish bachelor, living an isolated life with just his dogs, working seasonally on neighboring ranches and otherwise alone.

There he was until an Argentine filmmaker, Alan Stivelman, decided to reunite him with Vallée, with whom he had had a good relationship as a youth. Vallée was enthusiastic about the plan — all he wanted was a couple of months to study intensively to improve his Spanish.

Stivelman’s documentary, Witness of Another World, is just beautiful movie-making. Whether on Argentinian pampas or up north in the jungle villages of Guaraní Indians, who play an important part in the documentary (Juan has some Guaraní ancestry) or exploring the texture’s of Juan’s crumbling house, it is good to look at.

It is a story of a man brought back from the edge, a spiritual rescue mission, where ufology meets shamanism meets a compassionate reunion of old friends —  the eighty-year-old scientist and the grown-up but still frightened gaucho boy.

You can rent it (download) for $4.99or buy it (download) for $12.99. It is on Amazon Prime as well.

Listen to what Jacques Vallée has to say about “the phenomenon,” his term for the whole UFO/demon/fairy/visitor complex. Watch what the shamans do. And remember that “They” are not necessarily our friends.

Bonus: On his Dreamland podcast, Whitley Strieber interviews director Alan Stivelman, with contributions from Jacques Vallée.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Born in France, Vallée has spent most of his life in the US. His career includes astronomy, software engineering, venture capitalism — and UFO studies.

Pixie Problems, or Working Things Out with the ‘Cousins’ (4)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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.”

John Beckett describes what happened when a group of American Druids, seeking to be inclusive, “explicitly invited the Fair Folk as part of our formal liturgy [at Beltane 2016].”

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.

He concludes,

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.

Pixie Problems, or Working Things Out with the ‘Cousins’ (3)

If these are what the “cousins” want, then they can have them.

Part 1 Here

Part 2 Here

Skittles to me are M&M’s low-rent relative, and Gummi Worms look like they should be threaded onto a lead-head jig and used to catch largemouth bass — except the fish might just spit them out. (I am sure that someone has tried.)  But per Byron Ballard’s advice, “the cousins” get them every new Moon. And sometimes a demitasse of coffee or a shot of bourbon.

I wrote to her in early March,

After I sent you the photo of the snail of shiny things and the plate of candy, it did indeed snow, snow that is just starting to melt now.  I looked out the back door this morning, and the plate was off the backside of the retaining wall,
lying on the ground.

When I checked, yes indeed, fox tracks.

The fox apparently prefers Skittles to Gummi Worms.

Do you depend on woodland creatures to remove the offerings after Those Critters have presumably sampled  their essence?

So somewhere there was gray or red fox with a sugar rush. Byron replied,

Poor fox! Yes, generally critters take the food away or it composts itself.

What do they want? Hmmm. My best guess is they want attention, they want a relationship and they want to be entertained and amused.  Just like us.

Anne Johnson commented, “I don’t leave much candy, preferring to eat it myself, but I fling every kind of shiny object at those lil’ cousins. For awhile I’ve had peace in my household.”

Our household too has been more peaceful, but there are still oddities. When we went to Texas for a week in early April, I took down the birdfeeders because the bears were waking up, and a bear would happily smash the feeder to get the sunflower seeds. One feeder hung by a short length of shiny chain. When we came back, the chain was gone. It was too heavy for any but a big bird, and why would a mammal (raccoon? gray fox?) climb up and get a steel chain? Foxes are notorious for stealing things like teddy bears and dog toys, but steel chain? Oh well.

In his chapter on “Offerings” in Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic, Aidan Wachter writes,

Some spirits I have worked with also like tea, coffee, and some like milk. I think the best way to proceed is by following the hints the spirits give and then seeing what happens. Some spirits are decidedly into alcohol and tobacco, some find these offensive. If you like, you can sit with the pendulum or cards and ask questions as to what might be a good offering.

I think the most direct way to think of offerings is as offering nourishment or food. Sometimes this is outright food, and many I know who bake, bake for the spirits. I tend to give offerings of unbroken eggs, tortillas, chili sauce, fruit, flowers.

It is a good to consider candles as food for the spirits as well. Candles are a solid energy source (wax, but this is also true to oil in oil lamps or even wood for a fire) that is largely consumed by burning. As it is consumed, it is transformed from solid matter into heat, smoke, ash, and carbon. This transmutation allows and spirits and powers to feed on these energies and their subtle nature (p. 80).

Six Ways has more content in 167 pages than a whole shelf of typical Craft books. I recommend it unreservedly. Wachter, however, is writing about more than just household “pixies” here. So in the next post I might set one foot into the swamp of faerie taxonomy.

Continue to Part 4

Pixie Problems, or Working Things Out with the ‘Cousins’ (2)

The snail with a few shiny things and a candle to get their attention.

Part 1 here

Anne Johnson responded promptly. Since the shrine is a minute’s walk from the house, she suggested putting out more shiny objects closer in.

I repurposed an odd birdfeeder shaped like a snail into a pixie-feeder (trap?). I put some shiny things in it (some broken silver spoons, a singleton silver earring) in it and sat it on a retaining wall outside the back door. Since this was in December, it kept getting snowed on.

Then she referred me to a specialist, Byron Ballard, the “village witch” of Asheville, North Carolina. As it happened, I had met Byron in person, so I felt OK about writing to her. Here is part of my email to her (spoiler: more things disappear):

Oh, and recently a carabiner with keys to the “bear boxes” on several scout cameras that I keep up in the national forest disappeared.

When I opened my toiletries bag during last week’s campout, there were the keys. Now there could be a naturalistic explanation: last December we took Amtrak to Virginia to visit M’s brother and other East Coast relatives who came to his house near Charlottesville for a few days.

It could be that I put those keys in my pocket when I replaced batteries in the security camera at the guest cabin (about 100 yards from our house), then ended up taking them on the train.

Finding them in my pocket, I would have put them in the toiletries kit, along with my house/car keys, just to empty my pockets during the trip.
Then I never used the toiletries kit again until last weekend.

I was sitting in this tent, three hours’ drive and a little distance on skis away from home, when I found the one set of keys.

BUT . . . there were *two* sets of keys to the bear box padlocks, and both disappeared. I now have one, which is great. I don’t have to hike out with big bolt cutters and take off the old locks.

It is POSSIBLE that I moved the second set of keys, but I checked the two places where I store spare keys, and they were not there.

Byron, whose classes at festivals, etc. include one called “Little Altars Everywhere,” responded with a long, humorous email, of which this was part:

The problem is likely caused by the spirit folk I call the Cousins, who are generally benevolent but frequently mischievous. My suggestions are these:

Feed them outside your house. Contrary to received knowledge, these folks like strong coffee and hideous candy. Think of the sort of artificial color/flavor candies like Swedish Fish and neon gummi worms.  If it catches your eye but you probably wouldn’t eat it, they will love it. Skittles work but I go for amusing shapes–gummi fried eggs or circus peanuts or root beer barrels.

Feed them near where your “shinies” are.  If you have dogs, you can bury the candy. Or put it high up where your dogs can’t reach it.

Do this for several days and I think you will be rewarded with an atmospheric condition I which the air and the energy around the feeding area feels like champagne bubbles.  Fizzy and bright.

After the initial introduction, you can cut back on the feeding to once a month. I do it on the new Moon so I can keep track of it.

If you are offering a drink, which I recommend, find a beautiful little glass or cup to leave it in.  You have already discovered that they like to go into things.  Like cats, they are often “gozindas” (goes into) or “gozondas (goes onto). They appreciate small boxes–round ones like oatmeal boxes are the favorites of my folks.

You are basically bribing them to behave the way you want so that when they slip and steal the corkscrew, you can go out to the feeding site with one bright Skittle and tell them they can have more when the corkscrew is returned.  The important thing to remember is they are not malicious, only curious and enthusiastic.

Soon I was at a Target store down in Pueblo with a shopping list:

  • Water filter
  • 4-foot extension cord
  • Skittles or ?

I did not even know exactly what Skittles were, but I found them —and Gummi Worms — in the candy aisle soon enough.

Read Part 3 Here

Pixie Problems, or Working Things Out with the ‘Cousins’ (1)

Lonely Norwegian spoon.

It all started with a fork, an antler-handled serving fork of clean Scandinavian design, part of a spoon & fork set that my parents bought while visiting Norway in the early 1990s and later gave to M. and me at Christmas. We liked them and used them nightly for salads and other dishes.

Then after several years the fork disappeared. Our house is not large—a little under 1,000 sq. ft. on the main level —and we looked all over the kitchen and adjacent living/dining room, — pulling out drawers, furniture, and appliances — but never found it. Things happen.

I don’t do a lot of how-to Pagan writing. When it comes to magick-working, I hold with the “keep silent” part of the “magician’s (or witch’s) pyramid.” But I wanted to share this story, which is not over yet, in case anyone gains anything from reading it. I expect it to spread over three or four blog posts.

So the fork was gone and time passed, and then “they” decided to step up their game early this past winter. I say “they” because there seemed to be deliberate mischief in what was happening. Read on.

We usually drink wine with dinner, so we have — had — this particular corkscrew for years. That evening, I could not find, neither in its drawer nor on the dining table. I just shook my head and pulled out my Swiss Army knife, which has a corkscrew. Problem solved.

That corkscrew, incidentally, is still missing, five months later.

Then last Friday, she went looking for a little plastic dish with a lid (think very small leftover dish, a quarter-cup capacity) that she uses when taking her own homemade almond butter to the coffeehouse to put on bagels. She has used this particular dish for several years, because she can slip it into a purse. It should have been in the dish rack. It was not. We both looked. I cleared the dish rack of clean dishes.

The next day, there was the lid — only the lid — lying in the center of the dish rack.

She had laughed when I blamed “the pixies” for the missing corkscrew. Now she was not laughing.

The bottom of the dish showed a couple of days later — in a cupboard of empty jars and storage containers — inside another lidded container.

And then the lid disappeared again, and M. found it in the pages of a magazine on the living room floor.

Pagan blogger Anne Johnson — in the sidebar as The Gods Are Bored — writes about the fairies now and then, and she and I are keypals sharing common interests in blogging and vultures, so I wrote to her with the story that I have given here.

She had blogged earlier about putting out shiny things for them, and in fact, I had put some old pieces of jewelry etc. on the outdoor shrine altar, whereupon they promptly disappeared.

Yet something more was needed. What did “they” want?

Read Part 2 here

UFOs, Bigfoot, and Economic Development in the Coal Camps

Some Rockvale residents are not too welcoming.

Three little towns in Fremont County, Colo., are referred to collectively as “the coal camps.” Rockvale, Coal Creek, and Williamsburg all housed coal miners of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I don’t know when their populations originally peaked — maybe in the 1920s.

They had a reputation for insularity, partly due to ethnic and language issues. Many of the miners were Italian or Slovenian or of other Eastern European origin. Meanwhile the county seat, Cañon City, was a stronghold of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan—the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic incarnation of the KKK. You can see how there might have been some conflict.

When M. and I lived in Fremont County in the late 1980s, these three town could almost have been called “ghost towns.” With house prices low there, we considered buying in Rockvale or Coal Creek, but unlike Cañon City with its several irrigation systems serving town lots, small orchards, and truck farms, the coal camps were bone dry, not good for gardeners at all.1)The word “truck” in “truck farms” does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Latin for wheel, but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means “barter” or “exchange”. The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866. [Wikipedia]

In my mind, inhabitants of Rockvale, for instance, were either old Italian ladies — widows of the aforesaid coal miners — or people with a front yard full of old cars and motorcycle parts, several pit bulls, a couple of pickup trucks and a Harley, and a general attitude of “Leave me the **** alone.”

Plus one real talented sculptor whom we knew. Mixed in there were some people who just found the coal towns to be a cheap place to live, as we almost did.

And some of them are fans of “the unexplained.”  Earlier this month, local newspapers reported an upcoming three evenings of story-swapping devoted to UFO (July), ghosts (August), and Bigfoot (September).

These hair-raising events are sponsored by the Rockvale Development Committee, which was formed in February 2018 to help the town recover from recent setbacks. The focus of the Rockvale Development Committee is to raise funds while providing positive community building events and experiences.

At $5 admission, they raised about $100 from a group of middle-aged to elderly locals, plus three teenagers, sitting on folding chairs in the tiny community building. Stories were swapped, and some of them were good ones — in other words, they defy rational explanation.2)I have had one literal “unidentified flying object” experience, and I was able to explain it rationally, but it took me a couple of years to duplicate the original circumstance.

One that did not involve “flying objects” struck me as highly strange. The speaker had been a teenager in the late 1960s, living in mostly agricultural Weld County in northern Colorado. One winter evening at dusk he was walking from a neighbor’s house back to his family’s farm, a route he took often. He passed an irrigation canal with a concrete-block pump house beside it as he turned onto a little dirt road. There was a car parked by the pump house — he thought it looked like a black mid-1960s Ford Mustang, with someone in the driver’s seat.

As he walked past and behind the car, he said, he looked at its interior from the rear. The interior was full of many sparkling multi-colored lights, far beyond the usual dashboard display for a Sixties car. This strange sight frightened him, and he started running

Then his cousin came along in his truck and offered him a ride. Their conversation was something like this:

Speaker: Did you go by the pump house?

Cousin: Yeah.

Speaker: Did you see a car parked there?

Cousin: I didn’t see any car.

Meanwhile people traded truisms like “There’s so much that can’t be explained in this world” or “Some talk about it, some don’t” or “The Indians saw a lot more than we do” or “There’s millions of planets out there.”

But here is what bothers me, as an orthodox Jacques Vallée-ian, is that people hold only one or two hypotheses.

  1. The “visitors” are from another solar system, flying here in physical spaceships.
  2. The so-called spaceships are actually secret military experiments.3)This group had no problem with secret military experiments, as long as the taxpayers get their money’s worth.

Both hypotheses are mechanistic. But consider what Vallée was writing years ago (via Wikipedia):

By 1969, Vallée’s conclusions had changed, and he publicly stated that the ETH was too narrow and ignored too much data. Vallée began exploring the commonalities between UFOs, cults, religious movements, demons, angels, ghosts, cryptid sightings, and psychic phenomena. Speculation about these potential links were first detailed in Vallée’s third UFO book, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers.

As an alternative to the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis, Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected.

When we get to the ghosts and Bigfoot events, will people make these links?

Rockvale may have some hostile residents, but it has no monster — nothing along the lines of Nessie, Mothman, or the Jersey Devil. Towns that do have monsters can use them for economic development, just like a saint’s grave or the temple of a god.

A Search for Mysteries and Monsters in Small Town America: How Monster Festivals Became American Pilgrimage Sites,” an article on Smithsonian.com by religion scholar Joseph Laycock, connects sightings with the human hunger for mystery.

Many find legends like the Lizard Man [of Bishopville, South Carolina] enthralling. But some become obsessed, longing to know more about something both mysterious and frightening. In these monster hunters, I see elements of religion. . . . Here I see another connection to religious traditions. Pilgrimage has always been an economic phenomenon, and many medieval towns depended on stories of local miracles to draw pilgrims. By inviting in the cryptozoology tribe, today’s small towns are celebrating aspects of local culture that were once pushed to the periphery or mocked. But like the medieval towns of the past, their local economies are getting a nice little boost, too.

Read the whole thing. And keep looking up.

Notes   [ + ]

1. The word “truck” in “truck farms” does not refer to the transportation truck, which is derived from Latin for wheel, but rather from the old north French word troquer, which means “barter” or “exchange”. The use for vegetables raised for market can be traced back to 1784 and truck farms to 1866. [Wikipedia]
2. I have had one literal “unidentified flying object” experience, and I was able to explain it rationally, but it took me a couple of years to duplicate the original circumstance.
3. This group had no problem with secret military experiments, as long as the taxpayers get their money’s worth.

I’m Here to Fill your Krampus-tide Stocking

Don’t forget to leave a penny for Krampus! (Maine State Museum).

Krampus likes lots of odd, pointy, and weird things, so let’s go . . . .

Was a genuine 11th-century Norse penny found in Maine dropped by a Norse explorer, or is it part of a long-time hoax? But would   “Egil Ketilson” have been carrying money? Where was he going to spend it, Skraeling-Mart?

• The initiates of Mithras also kept their secrets well. But they left some buildings, and people try to figure out the religion from those.

“I realized that if I designed my metal band, it would definitely be a pagan feminist folkcore band, which is a Swedish/Norwegian style of metal music. It’s really ambient and loud even though it’s not using as much electricity-style [sic] instruments. I realized that I didn’t know anything about paganism. I was grabbing onto it because it seemed logical for this brand of metal. Slowly, over the years, I started researching goddesses and figuring out that in paganism there is a lot of mathematics and numerology. That instantly peaked [sic] my curiosity because I like working with numbers.”

Being avante-garde these days is such a lot of work.  And you have to learn about runes and electricity and stuff. (Does anyone still say “avante-garde”?)

• “Your eyes appear to have a magical power all of their own”? “You operate at a lower body temperature than the people around you.” You might be descended from Fairies.  Yeah, sure, tell it to Krampus.

More Confirmation about Bigfoot

I read this article in the Colorado Springs Independent and a paragraph jumped out at me:

She learned about her [Nepalese] people’s animistic prayer traditions, and had shamans explain to her that yeti aren’t the silly abominable snowmen of cartoon legend, but actually shape-shifters and guardians of the mountains. At their urging, Lepcha now carries ginger in her pocket while traveling, so the yeti won’t disturb her.

Shape-shifters. Part of the faery folk, and not necessarily our friends, as I have suggested before — also here). That is why I think that people who go out in the woods and look for “tree structures” are doing it wrong, although I am sure they have a great time.

On the other hand, although “ghost” is an odd choice of words, these people might be on to something (link to YouTube video).