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. I began with asking who and what the Fae might be, and, based on the approach that I take to Fae-work, the Fae are spirits, our experience of them mean that they are a real part of our world (for those of us that share our world with spirits or whose world-view allows for spirits, at least) and they exist in a world populated by spirits generally. In which case;
How do the Fae relate to other spirits?
(There isn’t a straightforward answer to this, really, so what follows are some of my thoughts in exploring this!)
… “Spirits” is such a broad term, and under that label of potential spirits to work with I’m including;
- Ancestors and beloved dead
There are many kinds of spirits and none of them are clear-cut… it is more like finding families of related beings with similar energies and functions than defining them strictly.
- Power Animals
- Genuis Locii/Spirits of a place/Landwights
- and so on.
I also often include living beings on that list, mentally, as incarnate spirits. The Fae are generally not incarnate, not in this context anyway, so I’ll focus on discarnate beings for today!
When we start to explore these categories we find it gets even more complicated;
Ancestors; dead humans and other species, once incarnate, now not. You’d be hard pressed to find a tradition that doesn’t work with or honour the dead in some way.
Deities; a tricky one when it comes to definitions. Different traditions define deities rather differently, ranging from archetypes in our unconscious mind, through to independent beings with personalities and lives completely separate from ours. This is a whole branch of study in its own right, but for the purposes of this post I’ll broadly describe them as non-incarnate beings which hold more power than we do, normally linked to a particular kind of energy (eg. love, knowledge, painting, etc.) or a range of related energies. They generally have their own story/stories and manifest in various ways for different people.
Angels; cosmic messengers or intermediaries between ourselves and larger beings/powers. Normally within the Judeo-Christian traditions as I understand it, but not limited to them.
Guides; this describes a job rather than a type of spirit – i.e., a Guide is a spirit-being that has the role of guiding people in some way.
And so on…
The Fae seem to me to be most similar to Genius Locii or Landwights – spirits belonging to or expressing the Being/existence/essence of a particular place. They may be more or less approachable. Some of them act as guides. Some deities have Fae characteristics, such as Rhiannon, a magical woman of the otherworld who appears near a particular place (Gorsedd Narbeth). Faeries are not necessarily tied to a specific location, however, so perhaps some Fae are spirits of a particular place – those that are beings of particular lakes, trees, hills and so on – but others are not.
There are travelling Fae, that troop across wide areas, those that act as guides and those that live among us. Perhaps, though, they are simply connected to counties, countries, or families, rather than a single rock or tree.
The land of the Fae and the land of the dead are often seen as the same place, and often described as reachable through water or mounds, into the earth itself.
There are also stories that conflate the Faery Realm with the realm of the Dead. The Nordic myths describe Frey as the Lord of the Alfar, and the Alfar as both Elves and Ancestors. In Irish myth Faeryland and the land of the Ancestors were both called “The Summerlands”. I take connection to mean that they are a similar energetic vibration to ancestor spirits, close enough to the material realm to overlap with our existence, hence their roles as manifestations of the non-human natural world. Perhaps the Fae are the ancestral spirits of the non-human realms, as viewed through our anthro-centric filters to allow us to relate to them?
For me this all ties in with our nature as somewhat-fey, or potentially so. We are part of nature, we are domesticated, but underneath that is the wild magic. If the Fae and our ancestors are connected, that points to be to their relation to us as part of nature.
Returning to the question at hand, however, the Fae and other spirits seem to me to be parts of a spectrum. Goddesses can be Faery Queens, Faeries can be ancestors or Genius Locii or both, and so on. Although some would, many deities would not be described as Fae, even if some would… and angels generally aren’t considered to be Fae. In some of the stories of the fall of angels, however, faeries were the angels that got left behind on earth when Heaven closed its gates and Hell became full, and those angels took up residence in the land and became Faeries. So Faeries are spirits that are intimately linked to the land and the natural world. Not all spirits that match that description are faeries, but that’s a pretty good place to start.
In short, my answer to this question is that they are a type of nature spirit, and that “spirit” covers such a wide range of beings that Faeries can fit into many categories. In terms of spirit working it will be linked very much to the land, to relating to and responding to natural currents and generally working outside of strict structures that are imposed over those currents. More often than not I define some being as Fae based on a feeling, but the pattern that has emerged for me is that that feeling often links in to the “natural” or “untamed” roots of those beings, so I try to track those connections and draw a map that makes some kind of sense!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on where Faeries sit in your understanding of spirits.
And next time I post it will be a little shorter than this!
~ Halo x