Fairy Origins

There are many myths that describe the origins of the faeries, and almost all of them are different. Many involve Christianity in some way, these are generally believed to be later myths created by priests to explain the pagan creatures of the wood. Some believers have thought that fairies are a special creation, and that they exist in there own right. Others have said that fairies like ghosts are the spirits of the dead, or of certain types of dead who died before Christianity came to Britain, for instance, or unbatised or stillborn babies. To others fairies were fallen angels, neither wicked enough for Hell nor good enough for Heaven. Here are some concepts ;

Modern Myth
An attempt to interpret faeries in modern terms using the sciences of archaeology and sociology, explains faeries quite nicely (and rather boringly) as the legend of an aboriginal, stone-age rage, first encountered by the invading iron-wielding Celts. The smaller race, which would of-course be beaten by the stronger, more advanced invaders, would be quite fearful of the iron weapons of the invading race. This would explain the two most popular traits of faeries, their by now exaggerated diminutive size, and fear of iron. The larger race, might even be responsible for myths of giants as their size and power also became exaggerated through the years. A very tidy little myth explanation brought to you by science. A professor Murray has suggested that the little people were actually the descendents of neolithic man, therefore the fairies were actually the little people. These neolithic people were found in England and later Scotland, Ireland and Wales although remenants also survived in Belgium, France and Germany.Fairies could have been European Pygmies with a hight of 5 feet 5 inches. They were dark skinned and therefore known as ‘brownies’.  They were also refered to as elves, goblins, leprechauns or sprites.

Norse Myth
In Norse mythology, maggots emerging from the corpse of the giant Ymir transformed themselves into the Light Elves and Dark Elves. Living in the air, the Light Elves were happy and benign, but the Dark Elves who dwelt underground were evil and malicious.

The Icelandic (post Christianity) myth tells that Eve was washing her children in a river, and God spoke to her, fearful of him, Eve hid all of her unwashed children. God asked her if all of her children were there, and Eve replied that they were. God then said that all of the children which she hid would remain hidden from man, and would become the elves, faeries and Huldre Folk (Scandinavian). The Huldre girls were very beautiful, but only from the front.

Roman Myth
In one myth faeries were originally immortal beings who lived in Italy, as  the Roman empire spread, so did the little folk, to France, and then to the British Isles. Faeries were kept out of Greece by competition with the indigenous Nymphs and Dryads. In Cornwall they also met with armed resistance from pixies, who managed to keep them from spreading in to that area. Originally Faeries bestowed gifts upon newborn children, while punishing mean adults, but they expanded to interfere in all parts of human life.

Spirits of the Dead
In a more likely myth, faeries are the spirits of the the pagan dead. ‘Fallen angels who were not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost,’ say the peasantry. This is supported by the fact that faeries are usually considered to live under large hills, many of which are the same mounds under which the ancient Celts buried their dead. An additional connection is that like the dead realm of Hades, faerie food must never be eaten, for once tasted, a mortal can never leave.In many stories it is difficult to tell the difference between ghosts and fairies – both are said to haunt prehistoric burial mounds, for instance, and in fairy land, as in the land of the dead, the passage of time is miraculous. The dead were sometimes said to have been capture by fairies, and even seen in fairy land.These pagan dead where in particular those matriarchal spirits who lived in the preChristian realm of the Goddess. Sometimes the fairies were called Goddesses themselves. In several folk ballads the Fairy Queen is adressed as ‘Queen of Heaven.’ Welsh fairies were known as ‘the Mother’s Blessing.’ In the post Christianity myths, faeries are the spirits of unbaptized children or fallen angels or ancient druids who grow smaller and smaller through the ages, refusing to become Christians. In all of these cases, they are not good enough for heaven, but too good for hell. So they are expelled to live in the middle world.

Natures Spirits
Possibly the earliest myth concerning the origin of Faeries is that they are the elemental nature spirits of the trees, hills, and waters. Originally the Celtic ‘Elf’ referred to this creature, but was possibly replaced with fay and eventually faerie. The Celts had different names for spirits of different areas, for instance feld-elfen, wudu-elfen, berg-elfen
and sae-elfen referred to elves of the field, wood, mountain and sea. The wood elves of Celtic origin are more recently considered a sub-type of faerie.

Witches and fairies were closely associated in the popular imagination, and the witch cult certainly  added to the fairies reputation. Many witches attributed their powers to knowledge gained from fairies. John Walsh, a Dorset witch, adnmitted in 1566 that he had learnt from the fairies ‘how persons are bewitched’.

Faeries, are one of the most popularized fanciful races in mythology and literature. They are featured in myths from the early Norse-men, Celts, Romans as well as in Medieval French, English, Irish and Scottish tales. In literature faeries have been written about by Chaucer and Shakesphere and many others. Fairies as proposed by Shakespeare were little people who drank from acorns, flitting on gossamer wings from flower to flower, dancing in rings which left circles on the grass and weaving enchantments to amuse themselves. There King was Oberon and their Queen was Titania. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, in the 14th century, said that pious monks and friars had driven away the fairies, and 200 years later the English writer Reginald Scot claimed that it was the reformation that had got rid of them.