by Colleen Halverson
But one does not enter the linguistic space of an Irish folktale or mythological cycle in search of truth or authenticity. Anyone who wants to research the Fae needs to take a step back from any source and, instead of searching for truth, search for patterns and systems. Irish folklorist Angela Bourke explains how tales of the Faeries are like a syntax. They are not “history,” but ways of thinking about history. They are not even stories, but in essence, ways of thinking about stories.
In particular, Faerie stories allow for expressions of deep cultural trauma, ranging from war and revolution, to the Famine and industrialization. They also serve to contain the stories of the marginalized, especially women and children. Take, for instance, one of the first stories JM Synge relates in his part memoir, part anthropological study, part poet’s musings called The Aran Islands. In this story, Synge’s guide tells him how his child was taken by the Faeries. After his wife neglected to bless her child after a stranger remarked on his beauty, they began to hear all sorts of terrible sounds around their house. He then goes on to say,
“The next day, the seed potatoes were full of blood, and the child told him mother he was going to America.
That night it died, and ‘Believe me,’ said the old man. ‘The fairies were in it.”
In this story, we receive so much information about the tenuous nature of childhood amongst the peasantry. There are also echoes of the Famine in the rotted, bleeding potatoes, and we discover the profound cultural trauma of mass emigration.
Synge himself oftentimes finds these missives quaint at best, but another issue with researching the Faeries lies in the person recording the story. These tales are culturally embedded texts, meaning they are told and retold as a part of a shared language amongst a tight-knit community, so the presence of a folklorist or anthropologist inherently changes the nature of that story. Also, gender bias, especially in an Irish context, has clearly played a role in the gathering of Irish mythology and folklore. For many years, scholars censored Queen Maeve’s more, shall we say, illicit sexual exploits, but even in the nineteenth century male seanachaí (Irish for “storyteller”) were given more privilege than female seanachaí amongst prominent folklorist of that era. This is why I love reading Lady Wilde (yes, mother of Oscar Wilde!) and the stories she gathered. There are so many incredible stories that feature women in her tales.
But I think the most important thing to know about researching Faeries is to enjoy them for what they are, ideally around a warm peat fire with a pint of Guinness or two. While reading about them in books can be a great experience, hearing them, listening to them is truly spellbinding not just because of their incredible content, but because by bearing witness, we become, in some small way, a part of this living art form.
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Colleen's Sexy, Otherworldy Paranormal: Children of the Veil
Finn O’Connell doesn’t know why the Fianna want him to aid Elizabeth in her search, but he’ll take any excuse to be near her again. Together, they dive headlong into the shadows of her mother’s secrets and find themselves embroiled in a Fae rebellion that will test Finn’s loyalties and their love.
With the Faerie realm verging on chaos, Elizabeth and Finn will embark on a quest that will lead them from the streets of Chicago to London’s seedy Fae underground. But rescuing Elizabeth’s mother means journeying to a place Finn can’t follow, and Elizabeth is forced to make a choice between finding her at last or saving her own soul.
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