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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Morgan's Basic Ogham Cheat Sheet

Although there's no solid historical basis for using ogham as a divination tool its certainly popular to do so today and there is more than enough material to make it a viable system. Much like tarot, actually, there is so much that it takes a while to learn to really read ogham well. I highly recommend checking out the original source material, the Auraicept na n-Eces as well as modern books on the subject including Erynn Rowan Laurie's book Ogam Weaving Word Wisdom, John-Paul Patton's The Poet's Ogam and Skip Ellison's book Ogham: the secret language of the Druids for detailed study of the ogham.
  That said, over the years I have come up with what I call my "Ogham Quick Reference Guide" to help me out when I'm using ogham for ritual omens or divination. Due to a learning disability I've found the ogham especially challenging to learn and using this little guide has been helpful, so I thought I'd share it with everyone. Maybe it will help other people trying to learn to use ogham for divination too.

English letter: B  Ogham name: Beithe - pronounced: Beh     Literally "birch tree": new beginnings, cleansing, protection

   English letter: L  Ogham name: Luis - pronounced Looh-sh    Possibly from the Old Irish "lus", herb. In tree ogham represents the Rowan, "coarthann": Enchantment, mysticism, protection against magic                  

English letter: F    Ogham name: Fearn - Pronounced Fee-yarn    The alder tree, Old Irish "fern", modern "fearnog": support, protection during attack. Often associated with ravens and divination.  

English letter: S   Ogham name: Saille - Pronounced Sall-yuh    The willow tree, Old Irish "sail": healing, making plans, moving forward.

 English letter: N  Ogham name: Nuin - pronounced Noo-in   Possibly "weaver's beam". In the tree ogham associated with the Ash, "fuinseag": peace, creation, stability. A clear path. Bring things together.

   English letter: H  Ogham name: Huath - pronounced Oo-uh   Literally terror or phantom.        In the tree Ogham represented by the Hawthorn, "sceach" a fairy tree: the unknown, fear of the unseen, transition

 English letter: D  Ogham name: Duir - pronounced Doo-ihr    The oak "dair": wisdom, strength, protection, growth.

English letter: T  Ogham name: Tinne - pronounced Tihn-nyeh   Literally means metal rod. In the tree ogham associated with the Holly "cuileann": fighting, contention, weapons, fire, and smithcraft

English letter: C Ogham name : Coll - pronounced Kohl  Means hazel: divination, magic, and enchantment, knowledge. Also relates to wealth.

English letter: Q  Ogham name Quert, alt. Cert - pronounced Kehrt  Means "rags". In the tree ogham this is apple "ull": healing, restoration, renewal, nourishment

   English letter: M   Ogham name: Muin  - pronounced Mwin  Literally means "neck" or "back". In the tree ogham it stands for the vine "funiuin": release, compromises, focus, determination, confrontation, vengeance (basically think the good and bad sides of wine)

 English letter: G    Ogham name: Gort - pronounced Guhrt   Literally "field". In the tree ogham it is the ivy, "eidhnean": beauty, love, friendship, fidelity

  English letter: nG   Ogham name nGetal - pronounced Neh-tahl  Literally "wounding". Associated with the broom plant or reed "giolcach" in tree ogham: separation, warning, courage, direct action

 English letter: Str  Ogham name: Straif - pronounced Strahf   Literally "sulfur". In the tree ogham it is the blackthorn "draighean": discernment, cunning, focused protection, the thorn, inner strength, boundaries

English letter: R  Ogham name: Ruis - pronounced Roosh    Literally "redness". In tree ogham it represents the elder tree, "trom": anger, blushing (ie loss of face, embrassment), endings, completion, be realistic in order to succeed

  English letter; A   Ogham name; Ailm - pronounced  Al-ihm  The word and its meaning is uncertain. In tree ogham it represents the fir or pine, "giuis": hard work, effort. The need for caution. Integrity and good judgment are key.

English letter: O  Ogham name: Onn - pronounced On    Old Irish for "ash tree" or "stone". In tree ogham this is given as gorse, "aitenn": take action, movement, success, perseverance, relief

English letter: U   Ogham name: Uir - pronounced Oor   Literally "earth". Associated in tree ogham with heather, "fraoch": embrace your talents, plant now to harvest later, effort brings reward with patience

English letter: E  Ogham name: Edad - pronounced Ehd-ahd    The word and meaning are unknown. In the tree ogham it is the aspen, "crithach": endings, death, let go of what you've outgrown. Calm consideration. Trust in your ability to endure.

English letter: I  Ogham name: Idad - pronounced Eed-ahd    the word and meaning are unknown. Associated with the yew, "iur", in the tree ogham: see the big picture. Seek experience, know when to act and when not act. Bide your time. Don't avoid problems.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Complete List of My Published Works 2022

 Its been about 18 months since I last shared my complete bibliography so its time for an update. 


“Healing Ritual for the Ocean Waters”, Circle Magazine issue 109 summer 2011

“A Gaelic View of Samhain”, Celtic Guide, vol. 1 issue 10 Oct. 2012

      “Celebrating Imbolc with the Family”, Air n-Aithesc, vol.1 issue 1, Feb. 2014

      “The Witch, the Bean Feasa, and the Fairy Doctor in Irish Culture”. Air n-Aithesc, vol. 1 issue 2, Aug. 2014

     “Finding the Morrigan”, Goddess Pages, issues 26 winter 2014/spring 2015

     “The Morrigan’s Call”, Pagan Dawn, no. 194 Imbolc/Spring Equinox 2015

     “A Family Bealtaine”; “The Good Neighbors”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. II, issue I, Feb. 2015

     “The Morrigan and Sovereignty” Goddess Alive e-zine Spring/Summer 2015

     “Finding Flidais, Irish Goddess of Cattle and Deer”, Oak Leaves, Summer 2015, Issue 69

     “The Role of the Morrigan in the Cath Maige Tuired: Incitement, Battle Magic, and Prophecy”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. II, issue II, August 2015

      “Three Paths, One Purpose”. Call of the Morrigan, Oct 2015

      “Samhain: Myth, Mystery, and Meaning”, Pagan Dawn, no. 197 Samhain/Yule 2015

“Crom Cruach”; “Reconstructing Iron Age Ritual Feasting Practices”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. III, issue 1, February 2016

“Experiential Spirituality” Mystic Living Today ezine, April 2016

“Fairy Witchcraft Master class”, Spirit & Destiny, July 2016

“Enchantment in the Modern World”, Mystic Living Today ezine July 2016

“The Cailleach”; “Two Views of the Leannan Si”, Air n-Aithesc, vol III, issue II, August 2016

“Medb”, Air n-Aithesc, vol IV, issue I, 2017

“Scottish Fairies and the Teind to Hell”, Pagan Dawn, Spring 2017

“Fairy Witchcraft: Old Ways in New Days” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Spring 2017

“Tailtiu”; “Samhain; Tradition and Transition”, Air nAithesc, vol IV issue II, 2017

“The Fire Festivals in History and Myth”; “Cermait”, Air nAithesc, vol V 2018

“Fairies, Word and Deed” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Autumn 2018

“Seeking in the Mists: The Gods and Goddesses of Ireland” Pagan Dawn, Beltane 2019 no 211

“Fairy Queens and Witches” Pagan Dawn, Lammas 2019 no 212

“Queens of Fairy” The Magical Times, Oct 2019 – March 2020, issue 27

“Conceptualizing Fairyland” Pagan Dawn, Imbolc 2020 no 214

“The Divinity of the Tuatha De Danann”, Pagan Digest volume 01, May 2020

“The Power of Transformation”, Witch Way Magazine, Midsummer special issue 2020

“Fairies and the Stars”, Pagan Dawn, Lammas-Autumn Equinox 2020, no 216

“Sexuality and Gender Among the Good Neighbours: the Intersection and Inversion of Human Norms in Fairylore”, written for Revenant Journal 2020, cut, posted on; FIS newsletter 2021

“Lugh, God of Many Skills”, Pagan Dawn, Lammas Issue, 2021, no 220

“Seeking in the Mists: Gods and Goddesses of Ireland”, Pagan Dawn, Samhain issue, 2021, no 221

“Queens of Fairy” Watkins Mind Body Spirit Winter 2021

“Imagining Fairyland”, Pagan Dawn, Imbolc issue, 2022 no 222

“The White Elephant in the Room: Racism and Diversity in Fairy Belief”, Witches & Pagans Magazine, issue 39, 2022

“Fairy Queens and Witches”, Pagan Dawn, Beltane Issue, 2022, no 223

“Finding the Aos Sidhe”, ev0ke magazine, forthcoming


Academic Papers

“Evolution of the Fairy Courts: from Scottish Ballads to Urban Fantasy” Ohio State University Fairies and the Fantastic Conference, 2019

“Álfar, Aelfe, and Elben: Elves in an historic and modern Heathen context” 3rd Annual Heathen Women United Conference, 2019

“Unseely to anti-hero: The Evolution of Dangerous Fairies in Folklore, Fiction, and Popular Belief” Hertfordshire University’s ‘Ill Met By Moonlight’ conference, 2021

"Fairies as 'Other': Gender and Sexuality Across Western European Fairy Belief" Folklore Open Voices: folklore for all, folklore of all conference, 2022



Short Stories

Chess: A Between the Worlds short story - 2017

Birth: A Between the Worlds short story - 2018

The Well at Carterhaugh: A queer retelling of Tam Lin – 2019

The King of Elfland: A queer retelling of Thomas the Rhymer – 2021

In the Fairy Wood: A queer retelling of Alice Brand - 2021


 Poetry (magazines)

 “Shining God”, Idunna 76 Summer 2008

“Five” Circle Magazine issue 107 2010

“Consumed” Witches & Pagans issue 24, 2011

“Hammer” Circle Magazine issue 115 vol. 35 #4, 2011



“Essense” (under the pen name Seabhacgeal) The Pagan’s Muse, 2003

“Secrets”; “Alone”; “First”; “After the Drought”; “Forgiveness”, Voices of Survivors 2009

“Oíche Shamna”, Pagan Writers Presents Samhain 2011

“Snowflakes”; “Midwinter Solstice Dream”, Pagan Writers Presents Yule, 2011

 “Connecting Past and Future: Modern Reconstructionist Druidism”, Essays in Contemporary Paganism 2013

“Past & Present”, Paganism 101, 2014

“Macha: One face of the Morrigan”, By Blood, Bone, and Blade: a tribute to the Morrigan, 2014

“Ancient Goddesses in the Modern World”; “Frigga”, Naming the Goddess, 2014

“Macha, Horses, and Sovereignty”, Grey Mare on the Hill, 2015

“Ancient Roots, Modern Faith”,  Pagan Planet: Being, Believing & Belonging in the 21Century 2016

“Guidise ocus Comairc” An Leabhar Urnaí 2016

“Macha’s Race”, The Dark Ones: Tales and Poems of the Shadowed Gods 2016

“Goddesses of Ireland: Beyond the Ninth Wave” Goddess in America 2016

“Pagan Parenting in the 21st Century”; “The Morrigans: Ancient Goddesses in Modern Times”; “Taking the Road Less Traveled By”, iPagan, 2017

 “The Goddess Hidden in Folklore”; Seven Ages of the Goddess, 2018

“Interview with Morgan Daimler” Real Witches of New England 2018

“King of the Sidhe of Ireland: The Dagda's Role in the Aislinge Oenguso”; “An Analysis of the Dagda's Role in the De Gabail in t-Sida”; “How the Dagda Got His Magic Staff: The Power and Symbolism of the Dagda’s Club”, Harp, Club and Cauldron: a curated anthology of scholarship, lore, practice and creative writings on the Dagda 2018

‘The Morrigan’; ‘Brighid’ Celtic Goddesses 2018

‘What is Modern Witchcraft?’ Pagan Portals What is Modern Witchcraft anthology 2019

“Finnbheara”; “Nuada” Naming the God 2022

“Dawn” Kindred Kingdoms 2022

“Irish-American Folk Magic” American Folk Magic forthcoming

“The Herb in the Wood” My Say In The Matter, forthcoming

“The Irish Sidhe Through A Folkloresque Lens: Co-opting and Redefining Irish Folklore for a Popculture Audience”, Fairies: a Companion, forthcoming



Faery by John Kruse 2020

Samhain by Luke Eastwood 2021

Parallels Between Romanian and Irish Fairy Lore and Practice by Daniela Simina forthcoming

Bones Fall In a Spiral by Mortellus forthcoming



Books Non-fiction

Selected Charms from the Carmina Gadelica, 2011

Selected Prayers from Volume 1 of the Carmina Gadelica, 2011

By Land, Sea, and Sky, 2011

A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith, 2012

Where the Hawthorn Grows 2013

Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft, 2014

Pagan Portals: the Morrigan, 2014

The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann: a dual language pocket book, 2015

Pagan Portals: Irish Paganism; reconstructing Irish Polytheism, 2015

Pagan Portals: Brigid, 2016

Fairycraft 2016

Tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann: a dual language pocket book, 2016

Pagan Portals: Gods and Goddesses of Ireland 2016

Fairies: A Guidebook to the Celtic Fair Folk; 2017

Pagan Portals: Odin, 2018

Travelling the Fairy Path 2018

Pagan Portals: the Dagda 2018

Pagan Portals Manánnan mac Lir 2019

Pagan Portals Fairy Queens 2019

Myth and Magic of Pagan Ireland: a dual language pocket book, 2019

A New Fairies Dictionary 2020

Pagan Portals Thor 2020

Pagan Portals Raven Goddess 2020

Cath Maige Tuired 2020

Pagan Portals Living Fairy 2020

Pagan Portals Lugh 2021

Settling of the Manor of Tara 2021

Through the Mist a dual language mythology book 2021

Pantheons the Norse 2022

Pagan Portals Aos Sidhe 2022

Pagan Portals 21st Century Fairy 2023

Fairy: the Otherworld by Many Names forthcoming

Pagan Portals Freya forthcoming


Books Fiction

Shadow, Light, and Spirit, 2012 (poetry)

Murder Between the Worlds: a Between the Worlds novel, 2014

Lost in Mist and Shadow; a Between the Worlds novel, 2014

Into the Twilight; a Between the Worlds novel 2015

Heart of Thorns; a Between the Worlds novel 2016

Fairy Gifts: a Between the Worlds anthology; 2016

Dark of Winter: a Between the Worlds novel 2017

Desire and Ashes a Between the Worlds novel 2018

Wandering: a Between the Worlds Anthology 2020

Convergence a Between the Worlds Novel 2020

Into Shadow: The Tallan chronicles 2023







Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Fairy Folklore in Pan's Labyrinth

 Continuing on with my series of fairy folklore in films and television let's look at the 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, or 'El laberinto del fauno' [the labyrinth of the Faun]. This movie, much like Henson's Labyrinth, is full of folklore references which are worth discussing, as well as many references to classical literature and mythology which are beyond the purview of this blog. As with previous discussions we'll approach this bullet point style and talk about what we find in the movie versus what we'd expect in folklore. 
Spoilers ahead!

A very quick recap of the plot: a young girl named Ofelia and her pregnant mother go to live with her new stepfather who is a military officer trying to capture rebels fighting the government in Spain. Ofelia is led by a fairy into a labyrinth and meets a creature called the Faun who explains that she is the reincarnation of a princess who fled the world of fairy/underworld and was lost in the mortal realm. Ofelia is given three tasks to complete to return to the Underworld: retrieve a key, steal a knife, and (as is eventually revealed) spill a drop of innocent blood. She is initially given three fairies to help her accomplish this but when she tries to complete the second task she breaks a rule and eats some food after being told not to, resulting in the deaths of two of the fairies. In the midst of this her mother dies giving birth to Ofelia's brother. For the third task, which she hasn't been given in full yet, she is told to bring her infant brother to the labyrinth; when she does so - pursued by her furious stepfather - the Faun tells her to spill his blood. She refuses and her stepfather arrives, takes the baby, and shoots her. As she lays dying, her blood trickles into the labyrinth and the scene cuts to her in the Underworld where Ofelia is seen rejoining her mother and father who are sitting on thrones. The Faun acknowledges her as the princess.

   Let's look at the various points of folklore:

  • Ofelia initially sees a small fairy which appears as a stick bug but transforms into a fairy later. This is certainly playing into more recent (19th/20th century) folklore that has merged fairies with insects in various ways.
  • Ofelia is the only one who seems able to see the fairies. At various points in the film Ofelia is not the only one present when a fairy is near but she is the only one who can see them; even when her stepfather sees her talking to the Faun he sees only Ofelia. There is very old widespread folklore which tells us that the fairies can and do pass invisible to human sight but that some people, through natural affinity or through magic, may be able to see them. 
  • The number three shows up prominently in several important places. While not as widely noted in relation to fairies as the number 7 is we do see three being an important number across folklore as it is here with Ofelia's three tasks and three fairy helpers. 
  • Three tasks being required to win a prize or achieve a goal is something that in itself is sometimes found in fairylore or fairy stories. In some changeling folklore a person must do three things to retrieve a lost person, usually go to a fairy fort at night, grab the person off a fairy horse, and return all the way home without speaking (for example). 
  • Fairy prohibitions are a vital point to Ofelia's second task, which she nearly fails. She must steal a knife from a being called the Pale Man  who sleeps at the head of a table full of food and is warned not to touch any of the feast. However she gives in to temptation and  eats two grapes, which immediately wakes the Pale Man who attacks her - she escapes only because of her three fairy guides, two of which are killed. This is, to me, an obvious nod to the longstanding prohibition across fairy folklore not to eat fairy food. Although in folklore the punishment for eating such food is being trapped in Fairy in this case the punishment is literal death but both are strongly resonant of the idea of being trapped forever due to transgressing this prohibition. 
  • There is a strong connection in Pan's Labyrinth between the human dead and fairies. Ofelia is a human girl who is said to be the reincarnation of a fairy princess who died on earth; when the Ofelia is killed she reappears apparently as her fairy self in the world of fairy. When Ofelia is seen returning to the Underworld/Fairy her human mother, who had recently died, is there as her fairy mother. This is also reflected in the muddle between the Underworld and the Otherworld presented in the film. In folklore we see this same fluidity between concepts and the idea that human dead may become fairies and that some fairies were once human. 
  • Ofelia's final task is to spill innocent blood to open the way between the worlds. She refuses to harm her infant brother but when her own blood is spilled she is transported to the Underworld. While some have argued the end of the film is a metaphor for death it can be read more literally as it plays out, with her being allowed to return to her true home. Ofelia's father, the king of the Underworld, tells her she passed the final test and won her reward by refusing to harm her brother and choosing to sacrifice herself instead. While not exactly true to older folklore this is certainly resonant with many fairy stories where a person is presented with a task which is actually a test of character and only choosing the morally 'good' action wins. 
   Pan's Labyrinth is a complex and nuanced film which leads viewers into a very dark place and presents an end which is simultaneously triumphant and tragic. Fairy folklore is woven throughout the movie, intermixed with myth, literary references, and imagination. The result is a piece that isn't itself folklore but which feels folkloric in its tone and storytelling. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Are Fairies Physical?

 One of the most common questions I'm asked is if fairies have physicality, if they are tangible beings. This is rooted I think in the common idea perpetuated especially in new age and post-Victorian fairy belief that these beings are entirely energy or thoughtforms, creatures that can be perceived by the mind but lack physical reality in this world. So let's dig into this shall we?

Arthur Rackham

The simple answer is: yes, no, and maybe. 
Because, really, nothing with fairies is simple.

The longer answer is that yes we have many accounts across mythology, folklore, and anecdotes that establish fairies are (or can be) physical in the human world but we also have stories were they are decidedly not. And that's the part we need to dig into. 

In the oldest Irish myth featuring the Good Folk, the Echtra Condla, we see a woman of fairy appearing to Connla, son of the king of Ireland, and interacting with him in a physical way by giving him an apple and eventually taking him - physically - off in a boat. But she is also invisible and imperceivable to the other people around Connla. In the same way when we encounter a man of the sidhe in the Táin Bó Cuiligne he passes unseen and apparently intangibly through the army of Connacht but then is seen and interacts with Cu Chulain and his charioteer Laeg. Stories like that of Sadb and Fionn show the physicality of these beings as well, with Sadb - a woman of the sidhe - being rescued by Fionn and eventually giving him a son. In fact we have many stories across the entire corpus of material and across western European cultures of fairies of various kinds reproducing with humans. 
There are also an array of stories that features predatory fairies that physically kill a human, such as the kelpie or each uisce who appear in the form of a horse, tempt a human to ride them, and then run off with the human and drown them before eating them. The Scottish Baobhan Sithe are beautiful women who tempt young hunters to dance with them only to kill them, and by all accounts they are physical beings. And of course selkies - well known across areas from Scotland to Iceland - are very physical beings who may be encountered as saviors of sailors in storms or may be trapped into unwilling marriages when their sealskins are stolen.

In contrast however we do find a few stories of fairy encounters where the beings seem intangible or able to do things beyond the normal limitations of our physical world. The Slua Sidhe flying unseen in whirlwinds may be one example. Will o the Wisps could be another, where lights are seen moving in trees, leading travellers astray, but appear and disappear without any connection to physical reality. There are also many anecdotal accounts of people experiencing fairies in non-physical ways which must be considered and of fairies seeming to vanish at will. This area is a bit muddier as some of this may be understood as invisibility rather than intangibility, but I'll still offer it for consideration here. 

This may seem contradictory but its worth keeping in mind that the answer here doesn't have to be a simple yes or no. Reverend Robert Kirk writing about fairies in 1691 described their physicality as fluid and compared their nature to a condensed cloud, saying they could choose to be physical or choose to be intangible at their own will. Jacob Grimm relates a story of a German elf woman who passed through the knothole in a door as if she were smoke but once inside was fully physical, married and had children with the man who lived there, before leaving the same way she'd entered. He also described a method to capture Maran, or Mares, who were also known to enter through knotholes by blocking the knothole after they'd come in because while they could turn into something like smoke to pass through that small opening if it were blocked they would be trapped in their physical form. All of this seems to imply that physicality is a choice for the Good Folk, something that they can have or not have at will. 

Are fairies physically real? Yes, according to the bulk of folklore, and no according to a few stories, and maybe both if we listen to Kirk and Grimm. Like everything else with this subject the answer is complex and ultimately nuanced. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Baobhan Sìth in Folklore vs my Fiction

 I recently gave a presentation 'Elves After Dark 2' in which I discussed several specific types of folkloric beings known to directly and intimately interact with humans. This included the Scottish Baobhan Sìth a being that I also include in my fiction and in the Q&A after the presentation I was asked about how the folklore differed from my interpretation in my Between the Worlds series. I answered the question then but thought this was a good topic to get into here as well, to offer an illustration of the way that fiction based in folklore differs from that folklore and why. 

main characters of Between the Worlds, art by Valerie Herron

To start I want to be clear that while there is very good fiction out there based on fairy folklore, no fiction that I have ever seen is 100% accurate to that folklore. Its just a fact that writing fiction means fitting the plot and that often means altering things. Some books alter the folklore so far that its basically only the folklore in the names beings used while others stay largely true to the source material. 
I have always endeavored in my fiction to be the second sort and stay as true as possible to the folklore I'm drawing on in my work which is heavily based on fairylore, however that said certain adjustments were made, so let's look at that here. 

Baobhan Sìth in folklore are somewhat obscure beings. The name itself means something close to 'dangerous female fairy'. We have one main thread of stories which are all almost identical, varying only slightly in the details. In these stories a small group of men goes out hunting in the woods and finds a small group of women just as the men have decided to seek shelter for the oncoming night. The group shelters together and one of the men provides some kind of music - singing or playing an instrument - while the rest dance with the strange women; one of the women lurks near the musician. At some point the musician notices his friends have gone oddly quiet or in some versions looks up and sees a bit of blood on one of his friends shirts and realizing the other men are dead or dying he flees. The women pursue him until he takes shelter among some horses whose iron clad hooves ward the fairies off. The next morning, the women having fled, the man goes to his town or village and gathers a group to seek out the now missing men; they find them all dead in the shelter. In most versions they have been drained of blood while in some their hearts have been removed. 
That is all quite consistent across the stories we do have. Now we also have some Victorian, Edwardian, and post-Edwardian era folklorists material that elaborates on these stories by adding detail. Particularly Mackenzie's 'Scottish Folk-lore and Folk Life' which more directly equates Baobhan Sìth to classic demons and eastern European vampires and also adds details more usually found with the Glastig, such as the wearing of a green dress to cover animal feet (goat hooves in the Glastig's case, deer hooves in the Baobhan sìth's) as well as claiming the Baobhan Sìth could take the form of a crow or raven. This has further been greatly elaborated in 21st century material which may or may not be pulling from Scottish folklore. 

Now in my fiction I do include a Baobhan Sìth, but I based her character on the older stories of these beings not the folklorists descriptions - so no green dress, or deer hooves*, or shapeshifting. She is, arguably, dangerous and in my fictional world Baobhan Sìth (under a phonetic spelling of that term) have a bad reputation because of the danger they present to everyone around them. I did take creative liberties, which I admit, in making my Baobhan Sìth something closer to a modern psychic vampire, feeding on emotions, rather than a traditional blood drinking vampire. I made this decision in part because it worked better with the story I was telling and also because the ambiguity of the older folklore, while implying a vampiric nature, doesn't explicitly state that the Baobhan Sìth drink blood rather than just kill their prey. I wanted a being that fit the broad strokes and worked within the framework of the folklore but also worked in the wider narrative I was telling so while I feel she is still strongly reminiscent of Scottish Baobhan Sìth folklore she isn't a template for that folklore or an exact replica of it. And while I generally make a lot of effort with my fiction to stay as true as possible to the source folklore there will always be places where things have to be nudged slightly one way or another to fit the wider story I am telling. 

When we have folklore in fiction it is always going to be along a spectrum of accuracy to that folklore. Some material will be much closer and some will be much further and many times how close or far the material is will be a matter of personal opinion. Anyone reading fairy folklore inspired fiction is best to remember though that it isn't folklore and shouldn't be treated as actual folk belief though and just enjoy it for the fiction that it is. 

*I do have a Glastig that shows up in one story which fits that folklore with the dress, hooves, and all. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Its Time To Talk About The Anti-Irish Issues in That Popular Series

 I've said I would write this blog for a while, after discussing the subject in bits and pieces on social media so here we are. I want to preface this by saying though that this isn't an indictment of the author in question personally nor am I saying she did this consciously nor intentionally. This isn't me trying to bash the series; I'm picking it as one example out of many because its popular and because we need to have this conversation. This is me trying to get people to be more aware of a particularly insidious aspect of anti-Irish propaganda that has been around for centuries and continues because its almost a trope now, as much as the idea of Irish and Irish folklore as inherently fantastic (which Orla ní Dhúill discusses in depth in her article 'Do Fantasy Writers Think Irish Is Discount Elvish?).

So. Let's talk about the anti-Irishness of A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

First, establishing the Irish connection as it were, and no its not the folklore that may or may not have been used in the series. Or the use of Morrigan as a name for one of the secondary characters. Maas tells a tale of a world that has both mortal lands and lands of fairy and offers a map in the books which shows what the main areas of the story look like and are called. The map is basically a slightly reworked Ireland and Great Britain. Its not subtle:

my actual face contemplating the side by side comparison of these maps

Prythian is where the 7 fairy courts of Maas's story are, roughly everything north of Cornwall in Britain. Hybern is also ruled by the fae, but as we'll get to in a moment of a very different nature. Prythian seems to be a form of the Welsh Prydain, an old word for Britain; Hybern is obviously based on Hibernia, the Latin name for Ireland. Like the map this isn't particularly subtle and I am not the first person to make this connection. So we have a map that is basically Ireland and Britain and a name for those places that is also, basically, Ireland and Britain. Further to the Irish aspect of this the king of Hybern (who is never named) has a nephew named Dagdan, one letter off from the Irish god the Dagda, and a niece named Brannagh, a name that is often said to be from the Irish word for raven. The warriors of the Hybern king are called Ravens, a bird that features prominently in Irish mythology.
So this gives us, effectively, fantasy pseudo-Ireland, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself.

However, then we get into the backstory and story of Hybern and its people. To recap the series: At one time humans were enslaved to the fae, but there was a war to free them. Hybern was adamantly against freeing the humans and when the king of Hybern was forced to sign a treaty agreeing to do so he and all his people killed every human in Hybern instead. They were subsequently cut off from the rest of the world, plunging their people into centuries of  poverty and misery during which they became convinced that the whole human slavery thing was a golden age that had to be brought back to restore their kingdom. To this end the king of Hybern first sent out an emissary who enslaved the Prythian Lords (Prythian being ruled by a group of lords rather than a monarch) and when she eventually failed he sent out his niece and nephew to reconnoiter the area where a wall separated the fairy lands from mortals - because he had a plan to enslave humans again. His emissary was cruel and vicious; his niece and nephew (twins who were in an incestuous relationship by the way) were equally so. All three end badly because of their bloodlust. The king uses a primordial cauldron to both remake people and to break through that wall but (of course) is ultimately foiled and prevented from enslaving humans again. 
Generally speaking the Hybernians are depicted as violent, vicious, amoral, and evil. They use poison as a weapon against other fae, use torture, delight in killing humans, and want to subjugate not only humans but the other fae who sided with humans in the war.

So at this point we have fantasy pseudo-Ireland that is full of people who are backwards thinking, stuck in the past, cruel, and stuck in poverty because they lost their slaves. Which, for scholars of history, is awfully similar to anti-Irish propaganda since the 18th century, except the poverty was blamed on laziness - although I'd argue that's a fine line here since ultimately its the implied laziness of the Hybernians that keeps them from doing the work the human slaves did previously. Anti-Irish material often featured the Irish as animalistic, lacking self control, drunk, lazy, and dangerous. This is so persistent and so ingrained in popular consciousness that anti-Irish stereotypes often don't even get a notice from people today and still appear in various forms in tv shows and movies (I'm looking at you Wild Mountain Thyme). The king of Hybern is even physically described as less beautiful and less regal than the Prythian fairy lords, which is inline with older anti-Irish stereotypes. While Tamsin and Rhysand, main fairy lord characters, are described as heartbreakingly beautiful and well dressed, the king of Hybern is described in A Court of Mist and Fury as 'ruddy', dressed more practically, average height, and 'blandly handsome'.

What we end up with then is a very popular series like A Court of Thorns and Roses where the fantasy pseudo-Irish are all the bad things in the world and everything that has to be fought against, the ultimate antagonists. 

I'm not saying any of this anti-Irish coding was intentional but the thing is its undeniably there and it reflects a long history of seeing Ireland and the Irish as backwards, primitive, violent, and dangerous. Its the same thing we see with Harry Potter's Irish character having a penchant for blowing things up or American Gods Mad Sweeney perpetually suffering and fighting. Its a reflection of the way that many people have internalized a perception of the Irish based on stereotypes that are inherently anti-Irish. 
At best its very sloppy, lazy world building with cringey results. At worst its leaning into hibernophobia to intentionally bring those things to mind with readers. We can and must do better.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Folklore in Hilda

 As part of my ongoing series on folklore found in mass media I'm going to take on the popular Netflix show Hilda. This is an animated series based on an existing comic/graphic novel that pulls heavily from Icelandic and related folklore. It is aimed at children and features a main character who is a child and so we go into this understanding that the folklore within the show has been softened for modern views on what is appropriate for children. 

Hilda is an entertaining series, so far having two seasons and movie which follow the adventures of the eponymous Hilda who is something of an expert in the magical and unusual. Where most people in Hilda's world fear the supernatural its Hilda's main focus and many of her adventures occur because she engages with something other people avoid. 
So that all said, let's dive into some of the folklore we find in the series:

  • Elves -  Elves are one of the more important groups of folkloric beings found in Hilda, with the elf Alfar (literally named elves, which to be honest is a bit confusing) as an important secondary character. The elves of Hilda are extremely small, only a few inches tall, and effectively powerless (lacking magic); this is at odds with elves in wider folklore, even the places where they are described as small they are seen as powerful magically and able to protect themselves. However inline with folklore the elves are invisible to mortals unless they choose to be seen - and in Hilda's world the human signs paperwork. 
  • Giants - Giants are a common being found within folklore and another which appears in Hilda as a blend of actual folklore elements and creative license. In folklore giants are usually dangerous and often described as somewhere around 12 to 13 feet tall. Hilda's versions are truly gigantic - one sleeping giant being mistaken for a mountain - but are only dangerous in that their size means they often unwittingly cause destruction. 
  • Trolls - Trolls exist across a range of folk belief  sometimes as outright dangerous beings and sometimes as a sort of rough mannered fairy being. In most folklore its agreed that they turn to stone in the sunlight, with this transformation understood to be permanent. They sometimes steal human children and their characters can range across stories from vicious to very human-like. Hilda's versions of trolls follow some of this folklore, in that they are rough and dangerous creatures who turn to stone during the day, but they are different in that the stone transformation is temporary. Hilda's trolls initially appear almost animalistic but they are later shown to be intelligent beings with a society and relationships.
  • Mara -  Folkloric Maran or Mare are night hags that cause sleep paralysis, night terrors, and sometimes death. Since this would obviously be a bit intense for a children's show the Mara in Hilda are mean teenage girls imbued with supernatural powers who cause nightmares and torment sleepers with their worst fears. 
  • Nisse -  Nisse is the Danish and Norwegian term for a type of spirit that helps around a home or farm. Described as male and usually appearing with a beard and wearing a hat they live in the house and protect the home. Hilda's versions, as usual, follow the broad strokes of the folklore but with differences: there are female Nisse for one thing, and while folkloric Nisse will leave if offended in Hilda Nisse can be thrown out of a home by an angry homeowner. Also in Hilda all the Nisse are named Tontu, which is just the Finnish word for Nisse.
  • Barghest -  In northern English folklore a type of giant monstrous dog which sometimes is said to kill people and other times is an omen of death. Hilda plays with this idea, featuring a gigantic black dog which is terrorizing the area but is eventually found to be friendly when reunited with its original owner. 
  • Lindworm -  Lindworms are beings found across centuries of folk belief, specifically Norse, and are usually depicted as what we might understand as a sort of wingless dragon. They could be dangerous or malefic but were also connected to knowledge of medicine and the natural world. Hilda stays true to this idea although her Lindworm is friendlier than the usual run. 
  • Changelings - showing up in the recent Hilda movie is the concept of changelings, something found widely across folk belief. In traditional folklore a changeling is a fairy or object exchanged for a stolen human; this is also what it is in Hilda. The main difference in Hilda's depiction of changelings is the method used to get the human back (usually very brutal in folklore) and the motivation behind the change. In stories a fairy is swapped for a human because the fairies want the human for various reasons, while in Hilda the swap occurs because of a supernatural being that decides her own child will be safer among humans.