Eight Things About (My) Descant Faelatry

descant noun 1. a melody that is sung or played above the basic melody of a piece of music 2. a comment, remark, or criticism on a particular subject (archaic)

I’d state that my early life had a dearth of vocabulary and structured understanding or practices pertaining to what I’d now call liminality, but maybe it’s more that nobody else could figure out where I stand in life for me. While I got around to digesting the mythology, theology, cosmology, metaphysical paradigms, ritual practices or customs, and specialized terms of a variety of established modes of discourse both religious and secular (that I consider beliefs, defining belief as the systematic implementation of ideas)…a belief in fairies became my belief.

I go by Thomas Keightley’s word history. In The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People, Keightley noted that the word “fae” (or fay, or fey) in referring to folkloric beings of the Occident, really only existed in English—and had perhaps displaced while becoming synonymous with “elf”—and French, where the word might have come from the Fates. (France being there, and Rome being right there, it works.)

Interacting with fae and questing through Faery came later, at which point maybe the terms don’t fit but I’ve already gotten attached to wording the something.

I call my faith Faelatry. It might not fit anymore, but the word stuck. So, I thought to list of the similarities and differences perhaps to some other ways of Faelatry:

1.) I believe in a corporeal world with corporeal/physical matter, indeed I default to it. In accordance with some kinds of fairy lore maybe, I also believe in otherworlds. Otherworlds or Faerylands have been an immensely helpful concept in parsing my personal experiences with the not-strictly-corporeal. When it takes a descant divergence or elaboration is that I’ve since mapped those Faerylands as the sidereal, ethereal (or otherreal), incorporeal, and surreal. Respectively, these would be the world made of agreements (cultural or social), the world of personal experience that often isn’t shared (I guess I could describe them as partial hallucinations overlaid on the corporeal, except unlike most hallucinations they make sense and become consistent), the world experienced during out-of-body experiences (yes, that’s far-fetched, as in yes “far-fetched” is literally what I call the method to do it, this is where I wrote how I do it), and the surreal (which are fuller hallucinations that make sense and become consistent, such as with dreams, especially numinous dreams).

2.) In some traditions, the first rule of Fae club is you do not talk about Fae club. But I talk about it, write about it, express it as freely as I feel suitable, and even hope it’s even understood. I can’t talk about everything, due to the constraints of time, energy, and language. Oftentimes, a concept just doesn’t match any word in mind, and that’s when I can’t talk or write about it. Other times, the sort of experience I have might be classified as liminal, but it doesn’t make enough sense to be worth mentioning, and/or it isn’t consistent enough to have had any impact on my life, and I can’t personally justify maybe anyone else out there finding value in it. I also refer to fairies by the f-word that is verboten in some traditions, and I would probably even say thank you to them had I better manners (thanking the fae also verboten.)

3.) Every liminal entity I meet is a fairy to me unless they insist otherwise, or unless I’d be talking with someone who I think would insist otherwise before we can actually have a constructive conversation. My own ethics strive for equal empowerment and mutually-respected boundaries: I understand that not everyone is a Faelatrist, and there would even be different traditions of Faelatry—Keightley noted Scandinavian fae being repelled by the sound of bells ringing, whereas some English fae would be attracted and delighted by the sound, for just one instance. In communities and interactions with those of differing terms and understanding, I’ll make as much effort to be in harmony. To navigate and ease the challenges of coexistence make the definition of ethics to me. But, I’m just Weird as an individual (and the way I use the word Weird is weird, and I won’t elaborate on that right now.) So: Deceased shades or ghosts of human beings are fae to me. Vampires are fae to me. Therianthropic or otherwise transhumanist facets are fae to me. Demons are fae to me. Angels are fae to me. Gods are fae to me. New Age extraterrestrial alien spirits from the Pleiades or Andromeda are fae to me. Pop culture characters who act like autonomous people with agency in the Faerylands I mentioned above…are fae to me.

4.) How literal is my belief? William Bascom made the distinction between myths (which are very literal in belief, cited as authority for how the world is or how customs should be), folktales (which are told for entertainment and not much more than that), and legends (which run the gamut of belief, but, unlike the previous two, refer to earthly rather than cosmic truths). I consider it immensely important that someone makes that sort of distinction but I…don’t, generally. Sometimes I express belief in a way that’s metaphorical, other times I express impossible and unreasonable beliefs that’s can’t be justified but are just too real. All things considered, I function physically and societally somewhat fairly, thank you. Most importantly, literary interpretation isn’t what I’d necessarily consider disbelief. It’s still a systematic implementation of ideas.

5.) I do have a belief in a sense of selfhood that can become cohesive, or fragmented. The corporeal Fetch, or the physical body, includes itself in this belief on the cohesive side. When the fetch, or self, extends or enacts in the Faerylands, I do believe that it can get very strange, and that’s what I’m still exploring. The experience of holding the contradicting personal truths of several personal fetches in the meantime could influence #4 above. It also influences an idea I have, of Simultaneous Reincarnation, which is that on some level everyone is a simultaneous reincarnation of everybody else. Access to altered or decentralized consciousnesses generates empathy in some work with Glamour, and such phenomena as meditative regressions to a past life. I believe that the Fetch can fragment into shards, and that there do exist some fae whose whole consciousness resembles a shard of human consciousness, and that there would (by the same rule) exist some fae whose consciousness resembles the collective or even total understanding of several human consciousnesses—but I’m not certain I’ve met any.

6.) Glamour, I believe is related to the word for the rules of a language to which speakers and writers conform, and refers to the rules of action and consequences in the Faerylands. This theoretically includes Glamour in the corporeal world and the sidereal world. See #1 above: I know sidereal means something else in most dictionaries; that’s not usually what I mean when I use it. Nyah.

7.) When I’m not repurposing existing words to represent a meaning there wasn’t previously a word for, I make up new ones. The concept of Wildeval is the one I consider most pertinent at the time of this writing, named for Oscar Wilde, who contrasted the market price of everything to a sentimentalist’s absurd sense of value. (In one of his stageplays, Lady Windermere’s Fan.) It’s that Wildeval embodied by ritual offerings I make to the fae, traditionally “toradh”.

8.) Related to Glamour and Wildeval are the poetics (representative meaning attribution) of the body, of symbols, of objects, of locations, and of time. While the wheel of the year or the temperate seasons aren’t particularly significant to my own personal belief, I’d like to get this out on May Day. Also, I just really like eights so I’ll end this list here.

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The Evil Enchantress of the East Coast


Image by Sophie. Sadly, the official promotional images are rarely as good as the fan-art.

Oh, Once Upon A Time. I have been vacillating between hatecrush and ragequit on this show since the middle of the second season. It’s become a show that personally offends me on so many levels, at too many moments. It’s also given me some of the most resonant poetic imagery I’ve seen in pop culture. The demonstrative power-play of ripping out somebody’s heart and whispering one’s commands to them is chilling because on some level that is sort of what truly happens when something figuratively like it happens…of course the magic of romantic love is fuchsia and gold, and of course the land of eternal youth will have one island full of death skulls and hourglasses.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about The Evil Queen from Snow White’s fairy tale. This show gave her a name (Regina), a redemption arc, and a long-lost sibling in the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shortly after her redemption arc (that is, Regina turning from apocalyptically wrathful to merely snarky) she began to show her care with such heartwarming lines as, “Nobody is allowed to kill you but ME!” While couched in terms of self-aggrandizement and…uh, threat of homicide…viewers who have gotten to know Regina over the episodes can easily take this as her way of saying that she considers you a friend and will protect you.

It’s difficult for me to understand or accept. To spin vitriol like that into something positive can be a trap. In too many ways have verbal abusers tried to dismiss a victim’s perspective with how the victim is just humorless, or should know the abuser well enough by now to somehow know what’s really meant and adjust their reaction accordingly.

And that’s too bad, because there does seem to be a process to it that I also found paralleled in some rituals of Ancient Rome (from Melissa Mohr’s A Brief History of Swearing):

Bullae, the necklaces containing phallus-shaped fascini, were thought to shield their wearers from the evil eye—they had what is called apotropaic (from the Greek meaning “to ward off”) power. Songs containing obscenities could, in the right context, also protect people from evil forces. They were sung when someone’s good fortune was likely to attract invidia, envy or ill will. They offered protection in two ways—the obscenities themselves contained the power to ward off evil, and the songs’ mockery took their subjects down a peg or two, to a level where they no longer invited individa. Victorious generals were serenaded with fescennine songs—their moment of triumph was also a moment of great weakness.

When Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC, for example, he was publicly celebrated for vanquishing the Gauls and publicly mocked for being the cinaedus of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, many years earlier. The obscenity and mockery of these verses were thought to protect Caesar at this vulnerable moment when hundreds, even thousands of people might be watching him with envy.

Okay, I still don’t understand. Maybe ritual obscenities operate like some psychological or spiritual vaccine, but as the corporeal and everything else operate on an increasingly less one-to-one correspondence, I would just as easily say that cussing someone out in any context is spiritually unhygienic. (Maybe I still have a bad taste in my mouth from an argument against trigger warnings that went something like…people who get triggered by things will never learn to tolerate life or to function normally without getting actively triggered as often as possible. Or at least as often as the sort of world and life that got such individuals so traumatized in the first place.) (As far as I could figure out, this was an unironic argument.)

I should also note that the above quoted ritual wasn’t, evidently, very effective. Senators didn’t turn their dagger-like glares and glowers away from Julius Caesar. They just got their hands on actual daggers.

Still, this may have influenced a number of later superstitions about “signs to ward off evil” also being obscene gestures, or statements of forcefully false modesty. I have a feeling that there could be something to it.

*

The Evil Queen, when originally recorded by the brothers Grimm, had been Snow White’s mother. This is interesting, as this character had started the story off with a wish for a child with “hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood” and she basically got the good-looking daughter that she wished for…and then proceeded to enact elaborate and impractical schemes to get rid of (or punish) her daughter for being so good-looking. Even though that was what the queen wished for in the first place.

That’s a definite lot of irony there, that I think is a shame to miss out on in almost all modern versions that turned Snow White’s awful mother into an awful stepmother instead. The implied inevitability of mixed families having more awkwardness settling-in then eclipses any other motivation.

The character of Regina isn’t exactly envious. Her vices are portrayed as some cover-up for grief or loneliness that she believed would be weakness to admit to. She’s been shown as possessive (a slight-but-present distinction) and wrathful…but never covetous.

Zelena—the given name of the Wicked Witch of the West—is the envious one instead. This is why the Wicked Witch of the West, in Once Upon A Time canon, is green. She’s green with envy.

Their respective characteristic vices might not have played off one another in the best way, (and I mean even just on the level of a thematic cohesion,) but when it comes to an examination of the thing and what to do with it, I wonder how it would play out.

It’s less about recognizing the “complex characterization” and more recognizing the “concept characterization” then.

Regina could easily embody the profanity that wards off the destructive properties of invidia.

Loose Canon: Hades and Satan, Syncretized

So, a while back I phant’sied this presence of (I intuited) a syncretism of Hela from Norse mythology and The Morrigan from Celtic mythology, which at some points go together like a turkey ham McFlurry, which is to say they don’t actually go together but there she is.

I just refer to her as Lady Hawthorn, and wonder why I didn’t get another syncretism instead, for instance, Kali and Izanami, or even somebody else entirely such as Death as a perky Goth girl from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

I did wonder if syncretistic deities were still happening, though. In a way, I sort of got my answer:


(transcript here)

I forgot where exactly I typed up a wall of text, I might have typed it up at multiple places, about J.M. Barrie’s Neverland being misconcepted as it became popularized out of the novel that he wrote. The misconception, however, came off to me as an echo of a place or basically a fairyland in an even older story: Tir na nOg, returning to the collective consciousness by another name.

It could be a combination of coincidence and personal bias, and certainly much of the beauty and profundity of Barrie’s version is lost when Neverland is shunted to regressing into an imitation of something perhaps simpler and less challenging a description of the otherworld and what it would mean.

The point being, I waffle between trusting the collective consciousness to generate and popularize the stories that the most people need, and mistrusting the stories as lies to advance some agenda, such as sustaining the imbalance of representational power. (I haven’t gone so far as to detest fiction and storytelling completely as ungrounding and misleading and untrue by nature.)

In the former consideration, the old stories of Poseidon’s attempted conquest of Olympus or Hera’s being displaced by Hades’ attempts that are a new thing, could show how much more uncomfortable the collective consciousness is with mortality (than, say, natural disaster or women.)

On the other hand, I am so bored by the antagonization of death, and Lady Hawthorn and I might not be alone in this but there aren’t comparatively as many stories that show death as an inevitable and not particularly inimical presence, even adapting from mythological spheres where it (in this case, Hades) was that. So, now I can consider the damage of appropriation, and understand a little better why the flow of stories (which I’d previously considered a natural resource that belongs to everybody, even if the money attached to intellectual property has its own separate flow) ought to have dams and filters.