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.
This conflation persists in some places to modern times. Not coincidentally, in southern Appalachia the world “witch” might mean a person, an action (“witching for water”), a spirit (as in the Bell Witch), or “the witchlins in the woods,” that is to say, the fairy folk. You might even say that calling oneself a “Faery witch” is redundant. That is not at all to say that we are something other than human; for one thing, Victor described Feri as “the religion of being fully human” or something to that effect. For another, it’s clear from reading enough lore that the realm of the Fair Folk, the ancestral dead, and the Gods are all the same realm, and furthermore that realm is all around us constantly. We are the Fay, the Fair, the Fated Folk, and by that, I mean everyone. The Shining Ones and the wee folk are our kin.
“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.