Monday, 4 June 2012

Faeries and Psychology

©Anna Franklin & Paul Mason
Recently, I have been drawn to work more with the Hidden Folk.  I wasn't sure what was calling me, whether just something about the aesthetic of my favourite faery decks, or the fact that they are a means of connecting with nature in a spiritual way.  However, what I wasn't expecting was an epiphany about the "why" of some faeries and plenty more questions.

Although I know a few people (whom I deeply respect) who believe in faeries as actual, physical creatures, I have always seen them more as archetypal energies.  The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.  And Nancy Watson, in her book Practical Solitary Magic makes the point that, whether they are external or internal, it is best to treat them as though they were real, and with respect!

The Fairy Ring Oracle (Llewellyn, 2002), which I wrote about here, gave me an additional, new perspective on the whole question.  The companion book to this deck gives a lot of well-researched information about faerie lore throughout the ages, focusing mainly on European folklore.  Reading some of this information, I was struck by how often faeries of old were seen in quite opposite ways: with the potential to either be a great help, or a terrible hindrance.  For example, a pacified brownie might help with house chores, while an irate one might throw possessions around and make an awful mess.

One thing that suddenly sprang out at me came in particular from the cards "Changeling" and "Garconer".  Garconer is a gypsy-like faery, dashing and handsome, who seduces human women.  Then, when he leaves, which he always does, they pine away for their faery love.  Changelings are faery children who are left in place of a human child, and who grow up sickly and pale.

Those sound to me like serious cases of love-sickness and post-natal depression!  Blaming them on faeries doesn't change the fact that they are likely more to do with the person affected being unable to accept their situation, and so blaming it on something outside themselves.

It makes me question Nancy Watson's statement: in what way is it helpful to react as though a child really is a changeling, or as if a lost love really was someone special and irreplaceable?  I guess that anything which allows us to externalise pain, if we use that to then look at it and deal with it, is a good thing...

Altogether, this has given me a different perspective on the use of working with faery energy.  As well as allowing us to connect with nature in a more personal way, they can also help us deal with some of our individual demons.  I like how Jessica Macbeth expresses it in the companion book to Brian Froud's Faeries Oracle (Simon & Schuster, 2001): "The Faery Challengers bring us face to face with our fears, our denials, our inner traumas, our insecurities, our delusions and confusions, our misbehaviors... Faery tests and challenges are not like the tests we had in school, which only discovered what we had already learned.  They design their tests so that, in the process of passing them, we actually learn things that move us to a higher level of being."

So, our experience of faery challenges, of the feeling of having a changeling for a child, or pining away for our faery love, allow us to grow and stretch ourselves spiritually, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.  That's something I can get behind!  How about you, do you believe in faeries?  And how do you work with them?


  1. I'd like to read that Anna Franklin book, but not enough to actually buy the set. I wonder if you can get just the book...hmm