Faeosophy – the philosophising of and about faeries and fae-ness.
Back in this post I shared some questions I’ve been pondering in my development of a Faerie philosophy. Of the questions listed I though these were a good place to start:
“Who and what are the Fae? How metaphorical are they? How metaphorical is our relationship to them?”
When working with faeries this is a kinda fundamental question on the one hand, and completely irrelevant on the other. My bottom line is that this work works for me, and it works best when I act as-if they are real. From a pragmatic perspective, then, I will continue to act as-if, and to believe that, faeries are literal, non-metaphorical beings.
One other thing – your mileage may well vary. Just because I encounter Faeries in this way does not mean that this is the only way of doing it, or that I’m right! Faeries are notoriously tricky to pin down. They are known for living in liminal spaces, for being betwixt and between, for leading us astray. They are perfectly capable of being kind and cruel, tangible and otherworldly, here and not both at once.
In which case – one answer to the question “what are the Fae?” is “paradoxical, illogical and variable.”
That’s not quite the kind of answer I was looking for though, so I’ll try again.
In the stories they are a people with a different ethic and attitude to us. Or they are creatures intent on leading us away from human civilisation. They live in wilder places than we are used to. They can offer us help and unexpected wealth. They are uncompromising when their rules are broken. They are powerful, but subject to certain rules. They are beings of the natural world, but beings with magical powers.
In which case, they are the magical consciousness of nature.
But is this just a metaphor? Are they actual beings or are they stories we tell ourselves about the natural world but actually we don’t mean it?
When we encounter anything we have an experience, which we then understand in a certain way. We hear laughter – soundwaves are generated by someone, they enter our ears and are interpreted by our brain as laughter – just as we feel that something otherworldly is at play in the depths of the wildwood. When the laughter does not come from another human but we still hear it, echoing like bells over the waves, or when we are unsettled and certain something fae is watching us, whatever the tangible facts, we are experiencing faeries. The experience is not a metaphor, it is very real.
And, as I’ve said before, when I act as-if, when I believe that something more than what I would expect is possible, magic happens. I see or hear things that don’t make sense until I tell myself the story of faeries. They are a real something, there is a reality to them, and they make the most sense to me when I approach these experiences as faeries.
If they were just metaphors, however, they’d still be useful. If I told you a tale of dryads as a metaphor for the ways in which trees communicate through fungi and care for seedlings and stumps, and if you listened to that tale and treated trees better for it, then the metaphor would have given you a healthier way of relating to the world.
This is different to saying they have a reality independent of our stories – I and others have definitely encountered something when we’ve gone looking for faeries. When I say “I’ve seen a faery.” I don’t mean I’ve seen a flower do something I can’t explain, or that I’ve run across a natural process which I’ve needed to respect according to it’s rules. I mean I’ve had an experience, a real experience, which I understand as seeing a faerie.
When I say “Faery”, I’m not talking metaphorically, I really mean “Faery”, because that is how I experience them. Ultimately, there is a reality here, it is my reality, and it works for me.
And perhaps that’s part of the magic of faeries; our relationship with them, our connection to them, is inherently and essentially personal and direct. We meet them, for the most part, one-to-one. They are not distant beings directing things from afar, they are walking beside us through the woods. Those that work with us are holding our hands, tripping us up, pointing out shiny things… like cousins ready for a giggle at our expense, but also, often, ready to be our family.