In this “Throwback Thursday” re-post, I talk about Faery, and fairies, and witches. Originally published in the Pantheon blog May 15, 2010.
Sometimes, when I start talking about F(a)er(i/y), someone will look confused* and ask, “What does that have to do with fairies?”
There is historically a conflation between witches and fairies. One of the offenses which could get you burned at the stake back a few hundred years ago was “consorting with fairies;” quite often the women (and men, but it was more often women who were actually tried and convicted) under questioning would describe encounters with the “Queen of Elphame.” that is, the Queen of Faerie. What makes this more complicated is that the words “witch” and “fairy” were often used interchangeably; therefore, the Queen of Elphame might mean another human being who practiced witchcraft, or it might mean the Queen of the Otherworld. Or, you know, both. In her book Between the Living and the Dead, Eva Pocs talks about shamanistic “fairy cults” in Europe which practiced trance possession for healing and divinatory purposes. It was common to refer to someone who had been initiated into such a cult as a fairy.
“We see ourselves, when enchanted, as ‘fey’–not black, not white, outside social definitions, on the road to Faeryland, either mad or poetical.” –Anna Korn
I hope that clears everything up.
*Well, actually they look confused fairly often. I consider confusion a pedagogical method. Really, I’m very Zen.