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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022 Recap

 This year has been a challenging one for me but I kept moving forward, and I wanted to offer a quick recap here for everyone.

I had four articles published in magazines this year: “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, June 2022
I presented "Fairies as 'Other': Gender and Sexuality Across Western European Fairy Belief" for the Folklore Open Voices: folklore for all, folklore of all conference and gave a lecture on the Aos Sidhe for the Folklore Library's conference. I was also very excited to present at Octocon in Dublin, to be on several panels, and to do a short reading of my forthcoming novel Into Shadow.
I wrote two short stories for anthologies, 'Dawn' which was published in 'Kindred Kingdoms' and 'The Herb in The Wood' which will be in the forthcoming 'My Say in the Matter', I also had a poem accepted for the latter book. I had two non-fiction pieces published in the Naming the God anthology, one on Finnvarra and one on Nuada.
I wrote the forwards for two forthcoming books, 'Bones Fall in a Spiral' by Mortellus, and 'Parallels Between Romanian and Irish Fairylore and Practice' by Daniela Simina. Both will be out next year.
I had two non-fiction books published, 'Pantheons the Norse' and 'Pagan Portals Aos Sidhe', as well as self publishing the prequel in my urban fantasy series 'Emergence'. In addition I wrote two books which will be out next year, 'Pagan Portals 21st Century Fairy' and 'Pagan Portals Freya'.
Beyond that I taught a couple classes for the Irish Pagan School and on my own offered Elves After Dark part 2 and From Leannán sidhe to Fetch. I was also the guest on various podcasts and restarted my Youtube channel which I hadn't had time to focus on much. And of course I've been continuing my translation work on Patreon, offering my patrons new English translations of Irish myths as I work on them as well as a final completed copy when its done.
That's about it for me this year. I'm hoping that 2023 is on an easier setting, to borrow a gaming term, and allows me to focus more on some of the projects I most want to get done, but we shall see.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

What Do Fairies Look Like?

When you imagine what a fairy looks like, what do you picture?

For most people the mental image is strongly shaped by pop-culture and artwork, and these in turn are largely products of an idealized cultural aesthetic, influenced by those outside actual belief. Although Tolkien-style elves may be an accurate representation of one type of Fairy being, the idea that all fairies are tall, lithe, and handsome is far from what we find in folklore. And while the images of small insect-winged* children may fit a very specific type of garden fairy, the more widespread images of winged Barbie-like beauties - wasp waisted, disproportionately large eyed, large breasted, with tiny hands and feet - is straight out of our culture's fantasies. Many modern images, such as those that depict selkies as a kind of seal mermaid with the upper torso of a human and lower half of a seal, are purely from an artist's imagination. In the same way the recent upsurge in anime and video game influenced images - those that have extremely long pointed ears, sharp features, slim figures but exaggerated sexual characteristics - don't reflect actual folklore or mythology but an artistic view that is aimed at appealing visually to an audience used to consuming a specific aesthetic. 

So, what do the Good People really look like? As with most questions relating to Themselves there is no simple answer, because the subject is too broad and diverse. I think, therefore, that the best approach is to look at a range of different types of fairies known to have more human-like forms and discuss how we see them described in folklore, in order to get a feel for the ways that these beings, overall, may appear. In order to keep this article reasonably short I'm only going to give very brief descriptions of each below:

Aos Sí - Yeats described the Daoine Maithe as looking much like human people, although prone to wearing slightly outdated fashion, although Yeats isn't an ideal source this view seems to be inline with wider Irish folklore. Described as around five feet tall, sometimes slightly taller, in most accounts from sources like the Good Folk aren't distinguished by their appearance per se but by an Otherworldliness around them or by their actions. We see the idea of their human appearance reinforced in much of the anecdotal evidence particularly stories of borrowed midwives, stolen brides, and musicians who spend a night inside a fairy hill. There would seem to be then at least one type of more powerful fairy people who do or can look very much like humans and may even pass for human to some degree. 

Y Tylweth Teg - like the aos sí generally described as human-like in appearance, usually blond haired. In some folklore said to be the size of an 8 or 10 year old child, but elsewhere described as adult human sized.

Pixies - Descriptions can vary greatly but they are known to wear green. Pixies may range in height from a few inches tall to five or six feet and Briggs describes them as red haired, with short faces, and up-tilted noses. 

The Baobhan Sithe - described as beautiful human-looking women, who wear long green dresses to hide their feet which are the hooves of a deer. Said to take the form of wolves and crows or ravens.

Brownies - generally about 3 feet tall, although folklore varies in some details, but they are usually said to dress in rough clothing or rags. Described in some sources as tanned and in others as uniform brown colour all over.

Leprechauns - look much like humans in the oldest stories, except they are said to only be about 12 to 18 inches tall. In later folklore they are described with a similar height and as looking like older men with grey or white hair and beards.  

Goblin, from 'English Fairy Tales' by J. Jacobs, 1895, pubic domain

Goblins - three to four feet tall, ranging from almost human like, although extremely ugly (by our standards), to very animalistic with whiskers, tails, claws, etc., Like other terms including elf and fairy goblin is a category as well as a specific term so there is a lot of variance here. 

Trows - in some folklore trows are described as very human in appearance, although they may appear old, shriveled, or physically deformed. In other stories however they are described as clearly inhuman, unattractive, and twisted, even in sometimes appearing as a mix of human and horse. They are often described in unflattering terms as having oversized feet, large noses, flat faces, and short limbs. They can range in height from three to six feet depending on the story. They are often said to dress in grey. 

Dwarves - Another type of fairy that has a wide range even within its grouping. In some cases they may appear as Tolkien described them, as short, barrel chested, heavily bearded men. In other cases the may have clear physical deformities such as animal feet or feet turned backwards at the ankle. 

Púca - a shapeshifter the Púca can appear as a variety of animals including eagles, goats, horses, bulls, and dogs. May also appear as a small man. 

Kelpies - can assume the form of a horse or of a dark haired person, usually but not always a man. As a horse he is appealing and fine-looking; as a person he would seem human except that his hair remains damp and may have water weeds in it if one looks closely. 

Merrows - Like traditional mermaids they have the upper torso of a human and the lower half of a fish; merrows also have webbed hands. Females are extremely beautiful. Males are hideously ugly, with green tinted skin, and deep set red eyes. Children born from the union of a merrow and a mortal are said to have scales. 

Selkies - Selkies can take the form of seals or of dark haired human-like beings. The children of selkies and humans are said in folklore to be born with webbed hands or feet.

Glaistig - May appear as a beautiful woman with slightly damp or dripping hair; as a woman wearing a long green dress to conceal her lower half which is that of a goat; or may appear in the form of a goat.  

Huldra - A kind of Scandinavian fairy that looks like a very beautiful woman but always has some hidden deformity in stories; sometimes a tail, or a hollow back. The Huldrekall (male huldra) is quite ugly with a long nose. 

Martin Brandenburg 'Elfenreigen', Public domain

Elves - elves present a unique difficulty because the English word elf is used to gloss several words in other languages and was also used for a long time as a generic. Because of this we end up with a range of beings that fall under the label 'elf' but are very different in nature and description. We may perhaps divide them into two main groupings, the tall elves and the small elves. The latter are generally described as about a foot tall and can appear as old and wizened or younger. The former group are often described as more human in appearance, although they are clearly supernatural in their abilities and are averse to iron. Grimm suggest a division in Germanic mythology of taller elves into three main groups, the ljossalfar, dokkalfar, and svartalfar, each living in different domains and having slightly different appearances; lossalfar means 'light elves', dokkalfar 'dark elves', and svartalfar 'black elves'. Snorri writing about Norse mythology described only ljossalfar and svartalfar. In Scottish and Germanic sources the tall elves may be described as beautiful and the word elf was sometimes glossed with incubus; elves were known for seducing mortal women. However in other Germanic sources elves were explicitly called ugly. 

Giants - there are also a variety of giants to be found in fairylore, beings who can be 7 or 8 feet tall or more. In English folklore these are usually named beings like the Jack-in-Irons or Jimmy Squarefoot. In other cultures these may appear as a type of being in their own right such as the Norse Jotun or Anglo-Saxon Ettin, both names meaning 'giant'. Giants may appear very human but on a larger scale or may be monstrous, such as the aforementioned Jimmy Squarefoot who was part man and part boar, or they may have extra heads or limbs.

Gruagachs - male or female, generally human-like in looks may appear as either young and attractive, or as wizened, old, and very hairy.  

Muryans - Cornish fairies that could be as small as ants. They might be shape-shifters who could take animals forms, particularly birds, but were also associated with the Heathen dead. It was believed they had once been human-sized but had shrunk over time, eventually disappearing entirely. 

This is only, obviously, a small sample of the huge array of fairies that can be found in folklore. I hope though that this has illustrated the range of descriptions we see, from human-like to monstrous, from tiny to taller, from what we may call beautiful to what we judge as ugly, from entirely human-like to animalistic, with various skin colors including green. As Katherine Briggs says "The fairy people are good and bad, beautiful and hideous, stately and of their greatest variations is size" (Briggs, 1976, page 368).  Fairy has an enormous diversity to it that far, far defies our modern cultural perceptions of 'beauty'. If we are seeking to understand and appreciate the folklore, and to connect on any level with these beings then we must understand this diversity and appreciate it for what it is without overlaying our own perceptions and opinions onto it. We must understand that each group of fairies, each kind, would seem to judge by their own standards just as we do by our cultural ones, so that what a pixie considers beautiful is not what an elf (of any type) might consider beautiful, and neither may be what a human would call beautiful. I think we limit our appreciation of Fairy when we are looking at it through our own lens of beauty, height, ability, size, skill, or mobility, rather than appreciating it and Themselves for what and who they are in themselves. 


Further Reading:
Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evans-Wentz
Celtic Twilight by W. B. Yeats
Fairy and Folktales of the Irish Peasantry by Yeats 
Meeting the Othercrowd by Lehinhan and Green
Teutonic Mythology by J. Grimm
Prose Edda Snorri Sturlisson
The Trows, Orkneyjar 
A Dictionary of Fairies by Katherine Briggs
Elves in Anglo-Saxon England by Alaric Hall

*on a small side note, the idea of fairies having wings is actually more recent and comes from the theater. I recommend this article 'In Search of the Earliest Fairy Wings' for a far more in-depth discussion of the subject. 

* there is some art out there that is based more closely on folklore, rather than adapting an idealized concept of what a fairy is to our modern beauty standards. What I am referencing here is specifically the more popular images found in video games, anime, and more imagination based art. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Pre-Christian Celtic Fairylore?

 I recently shared a comic by Zach Weinersmith which featured a 'traditional Celtic folklore fairy' who, at one point, mentioned stealing a human soul for the fairies' tithe to Hell. I shared it because the comic is funny but unsurprisingly - because social media is what it is - received some pushback from people over the idea of the tithe to Hell which they felt was problematically Christian in contrast to pre-Christian fairylore. 

This is one of those deceptively simple statements that's actually very, very complicated. So let's jump into why that is and why we shouldn't dismiss 'Christian' fairylore for an assumed pre-Christian lore. 

Firstly, yes the tithe to Hell is a clearly Christian concept, a belief found in Scottish folklore around the Selkirk area. The idea is that the fairies pay rent to the Devil for Fairyland, which by implication is the property of Hell. This tithe, or kain, is paid either yearly or every seven years and is paid in the currency of Hell, that is souls. Because the fairies prefer not to give up their own people they steal humans to offer up instead, which then further ties the folklore into beliefs around changelings. The layers of this concept are without debt Christian and play into the idea found across fairy belief which fits fairies into Christian cosmology by defining them as a type of fallen angel or demon-lite. 

There's no arguing that the belief is Christian and rooted in Christian cosmology.  However this is where things get complicated - saying that the tithe to Hell is a later Christian addition to pre-Christian fairy belief, while obviously true on the surface, implies the existence of pre-Christian fairy beliefs to contrast the later material to. And herein lies the rub. 

We have no recorded pre-Christian fairy beliefs, at least not in Ireland or Scotland.

Everything we have, even the oldest material which can be dated back to roughly the 7th century, was recorded by Christians in the Christian period. 

Now we can certainly theorize and extrapolate. We can look at similar beliefs in other closely related cultures that do have pre-Christian or conversion era material.  We can study the Christianity of various time periods across Europe and see how that meshes in with fairy beliefs of those times. We can study archeology that seems relevant. But we can't know for certain what the beliefs were or how they were practiced because we simply lack that information. 

It is also complicated to filter out exactly what and how much is Christian insertion. We can say with reasonable certainty that the idea of the fairies renting from Hell and paying a tithe to the Devil is foreign influence, because the ideas of Hell and the Devil are later Christian concepts. But beyond that it starts to get murky. Was the connection to changeling folklore before or after to the idea of the tithe itself? Meaning did people start to say that changelings were stolen to pay the tithe as a way to explain why fairies stole humans, or did beliefs about fairies stealing humans lead to the idea of the tithe? Was the concept of a rent to Hell entirely a new idea or based on older pagan sacrificial rites? Was the entire concept Christian cosmology influencing fairy belief or was it concepts of society and class structure around landlords and rent being reflected in the local beliefs?

Because these beliefs are fluid and adapt as time passes, there is no rigidly set pre-Christian form that we can simply look at - at best we have a scattering of clues to be traced and expanded on. And of course we have a lot of modern beliefs and practices as well. Fairylore is a living thing and must be understood that way, to be understood.  

Ultimately when we are talking about fairy beliefs across Ireland and Scotland we are talking about 1500 years of syncretic beliefs, and its impossible to unweave that completely. We can pick out the most obvious insertions - Hell and the Devil - if we're minded to and we can use a range of sources to reconstruct the likely older beliefs. But certainty is more elusive and controversial and pre-Christian beliefs will only ever be educated guesses. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Top 10 Horror Movies

 Since we're into October I thought it would be fun to do a list of my top 10 favourite horror movies - feel free to add your own in the comments. 

Outside of a few close friends most people probably don't know that I'm a big fan of the horror genre. I've watched horror since I was about 12, saw Halloween for the first time, and fell in love with the entire concept. Probably less surprisingly my preference is for supernatural or psychological horror, and I'll be honest I have watched a lot of B movies in my time so I'm certainly not coming at this with very high cinematographic standards. I'm pretty sure watching Night of the Lupus loses me any claim at being cultured on this topic (not even getting into such classics as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, or Critters). That said this is my list of top 10 favourites; I could easily have done top 20 or 50 but I didn't want this to get too ridiculous.
My standard for what makes the list are simple: what I most enjoyed watching and re-watch most often.

Top 10 Horror Movies 

  1. The Hallow - an Irish horror movie that perfectly blends folklore and horror, and shows why fairies should be feared. 
  2. A Company of Wolves - a classic film in my opinion which blurs the perception of reality. My favourite werewolf film. 
  3. Session 9 - based on the idea of a crew cleaning out an abandoned asylum, it leaves the viewer wondering what is supernatural and what is purely human horror. 
  4. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - the sequel to the Blair Witch Project, Book Of Shadows centres on a group of people on a tour of the witch's territory that goes terribly wrong. 
  5. House on Haunted Hill (1995) - the remake of the Vincent Price classic this version is both an homage to the original and pushes the boundaries of the older film. A group of people are challenged to stay overnight in an abandoned asylum, but things quickly start to get messy. 
  6. Hellraiser - absolutely essential horror and a basic of the genre. A puzzle box which if solved opens the doors to a hellish realm and its inhabitants. 
  7. Jennifer's Body - walking the line between comedy and horror this film finds the perfect intersection of teenage drama and demonic horror. 
  8. Ringu - the original Japanese movie on which the later US film 'The Ring' was based. A cursed video tape leads to death for those who watch it. 
  9. Sleepy Hollow - a much expanded version of the classic headless horseman story. 
  10. The Prophecy - based on the idea that the war in heaven between factions of angels hasn't actually ended, and is spilling over onto earth.
I'll add honorable mentions for comedic horror classics like Idle Hands, Krampus and - of course - Shaun of the Dead. 

Since I have a special love of vampire movies and I didn't want to clutter up the first list with those I'm adding a second list just with that focus. I have seen a lot of vampire movies over the years. Same standards apply here as above. 
Top 10 Vampire movies
  1.  Lost Boys - a new family in town quickly finds that Santa Carla isn't at all what it appears to be. 
  2. Interview With  A Vampire - based on the Anne Rice novel, a tale of a vampire telling his life story to a reporter. 
  3. Bram Stoker's Dracula - based on the book, honestly just a masterpiece of acting, scenery, and film
  4. Vampires vs. The Bronx - a very supernatural twist on gentrification
  5. Vampire Hunter D - an anime classic about vampire hunter who is more than he appears
  6. Children of the Night - probably best classed as a B movie, but still on my list. A young woman and her friend accidently awaken an ancient vampire and the whole town is caught in his spell
  7. Subspecies - the classic B vampire movie. Three foreign students in Romania find out that folk tales aren't always superstition. 
  8. Dracula 2000 - a very creative expansion of Stoker's Dracula story that explores the idea of Dracula in the 21st century
  9. Fright Night 2 - sequel to the original Fright Night, it tells the story of a vampire seeking revenge on the humans who killed her brother
  10. Blade - born as his mother is being turned into a vampire, Blade is a unique being who is a blend of both human and vampire and dedicated to destroying the monsters who killed his mother. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Following the Pleaides

 As some people are aware for the last four years I have been researching the Pleiades from a spiritual perspective and working to create a system of rituals connected to it. As we approach the four year anniversary of the experience in Iceland which led me onto this path I wanted to recap how things have gone so far. 

image of Pleiades by NASA, public domain

I've talked about the approach I was developing to honouring the Pleiades in the past (here and here), beginning in 2018 after the initial experience that drew my attention to it; eventually I compiled that material into a book titled Living Fairy. for those unfamiliar and who don't want to read the indepth explanation at the links the short version is that while visiting Iceland in September of 2018 I and several friends had an experience after wandering outside late at night. We saw what appeared to be a large number of Otherworldly beings moving across a hillside in the darkness and the Pleiades glowing blue just at the horizon like a bonfire. Later in discussing it with my friend Cat Heath we both concluded it represented a ritual celebration by those Powers, which we theorized was tied to the Pleiades - specifically the acronychal rising of the Pleiades which we had witnessed. And from there I was sent on this path to connect the dots as it were between fairies, the Pleiades, and ritual. 

Over the last four years I have established four main ritual dates:
The conjunction around May 14th: The Darkening
The heliacal rising around June 24th: The Return of the Queens (or just the Returning)
The acronychal rising September 22: The Way-Opening
The culmination November 20th: The Rade
With those dates I created a series of rituals which connect to each and tie into a new kind of mythology around them, inline with my practice of Fairy Witchcraft. 

Additionally I noted that every 8 years the Pleiades are conjunct with Venus, a planet which can be seen as a star-like object in the sky and which is associated by some people (including myself) with a fairy goddess called the Queen of Apples. This occured in 2020 and I chose to call it the Great Gathering and created a ritual specifically for it as well. It will happen next in 2028.

One of my main struggles across the last four years has been working out the precise timing which continues to be a challenge. The dates for these events vary by latitude and while they are generally around the same times each year, with a slight and slow drift, getting the dates worked out has been a bit hit or miss for me. I don't have much experience with astrology or astronomy and haven't yet found a good program or app that can tell me when the Pleiades will be conjunct or rising, but have been slowly working it out through direct observation.
I've also found myself tending to look for close correlating solar holidays - equinoxes especially - as they are easier to track; but they aren't as accurate for timing the Pleiades. I realize some of that desire is simply to stay a bit aligned with the more popular pagan approach to holy days, which is something I need to let go of. 

On the other hand, I have had a great deal of success with the rituals themselves. While my previous experiences with pagan rituals provided a handful of intense numinous experiences my work around the Pleiades has proven to be quite intense and inspiring. So far even the least active of the rituals I've done has involved a noticeable change in the temperature around me, a stilling of the sounds, and a rise in the wind. These results have also been noted by other people working the ritual cycle, suggesting that it is the dates themselves, and perhaps the ritual structure, that are effective.
My struggle to date the events with technology has also been a success in a way because it has forced me to directly connect to the constellation by tracking it visually as much as possible. I have found a lot of value in that and in nurturing an awareness of the constellation itself beyond its symbolism.
Finally I've found that working with this has deepened my own spirituality and connection to the Othercrowd. There is a dance-like rhythm to this cycle and it speaks its own mythology to me as I go along, a story of the 7 fairy queens travelling through the year, the sky, and our lives. 

This year's acronychal rising will begin my fifth year working with this system and I remain excited to see how it continues to play out and shape itself. 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Tolkien, Stereotypes, and Diversity

 I've written here before about representation and racism in fairy media and later expanded that into a full length article which was published in Witches & Pagans magazine under the title 'The (White) Elephant in the Room: Race & Identity in Fairy Lore'. In both of these pieces I emphasized the diverse descriptions of fairies, elves, and other Otherworldly beings that we find across folklore and the way that such diversity is largely ignored by those with an agenda towards an imagined pale skinned, blond version of folklore or warped to vilify a group within a game structure to play into real world prejudices. I do think that its vital for people to look beyond the popculture surface of fairylore to appreciate the diversity of the material - and will continue to advocate for a wider understanding of this. But within this wider discussion I think we also need to be honest about the way that these beliefs are and can be twisted to support particular agendas.

With that in mind lets tackle a current controversy: diversity in Rings of Power

image by Zanstardust from 

There's been quite a hue and cry from one segment of the population over the diversity in the new Rings of Power show, by people who feel strongly that Tolkien meant for the elves to be envisioned and depicted only as they were shown in the Lord of the Rings movies. I'm not going to get into Tolkien lore here about why some aspects of this criticism don't hold water, but rather address a different issue: why Tolkien's work does need to be adjusted today. Because we are stuck with two different inherent issues: Tolkien himself fashioned his orcs along anti-Asian stereotypes; and Jackson's movies in turn portrayed them in ways that fed into anti-black sentiments. That Tolkien was working with an anti-Asian intent isn't in question, he himself says as much "The orcs...were squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.” (Chance, 205, p 114). Compounding that Tolkien also described some orcs in Return of the King as explicitly black skinned, and very clearly defined orcs as irredeemably evil. Tolkien himself was elsewhere outspoken against apartheid, Nazism, and racial classifications, as well as anti-Semitism, and its likely the racial stereotypes that appear in his work were subconscious reflections of his own cultural milieu; however that those stereotypes are there is indisputable. While Tolkien, in a letter to his son, expressed that it was the evilness of orcs that made them what they were not their appearance and that they were to be found in the real world among all people, the idea of the orcs and goblins fitting these stereotypes was concentrated and expanded on in Jackson's movies, cementing a visual narrative that gave us ethereal Caucasian elves and violent, dangerous, dark skinned orcs and goblins. That this is canon isn't arguable, however, I will argue that just because its canon doesn't mean its acceptable. 

Many people argue that Tolkien was writing based on existing folklore, specifically Anglo-Saxon and Norse, and therefore his elves are based on that and should be kept true to that. I agree, and the Elves in Rings of Power are much closer to older folklore than those in Jackson's movies. There is unquestionably a great deal of diversity in older folklore and descriptions of elves, across both Anglo-Saxon aelfe and Norse alfar. The idea, for example, of various groups of elves described by colour appears from at least the 13th century with Snorri Sturluson  writing about the Ljosalfar or light elves and Svartalfar or black elves. His black elves appear across multiple stories both helping and sometimes competing with the Aesir, and have their own world, Svartalfheim, or black elf home (Simek, 2007). Although today we tend to give heavy moral weight to these colours, associating white with goodness and black with badness that does not seem to be a factor for Snorri's black elves; just as the light elves can act maliciously towards humans so too the black elves can be helpful and both groups are generally more ambivalent. When we add in the 'dusky elves' (dokkalfar), usually thought to be formed by human dead, the concepts get even more nuanced and complex. We are given three groups of elves with various colour associations - light, dusky, and black - who all have various interactions with humans and whose colours seem to indicate literal appearance but not morality or behaviour. 

 However while Snorri didn't play too much into this idea, with his black elves no better or worse than the Aesir in many stories, Jakob Grimm writing in the 19th century certainly did, discussing a groups of spirits as white, pale, and black and relating these to angels, the dead, and devils, then further connecting the light elves to angels and black elves to devils (Grimm, 1888, p 446). We cannot have this discussion without acknowledging that or the apparent wider cultural move towards strongly codifying spirits by colour associations which was clear by at least the early modern period in Europe. It is likely, in my opinion, that this did affect Tolkien's choices in his writing in the early 20th century. Arguably a Christian overlay trying to fit these older pagan concepts into Christian cosmology they nonetheless created a moral implication where none had been previously* and which fit in with racist ideologies.

Tolkien's choices in describing his orcs and goblins as well as his decision to refer to his various Middle Earth beings as 'races' and to describe them in ways that reflect wider racial stereotypes has had a huge and long lasting impact on both the genre of fantasy fiction as well as role playing games based on that genre. This has been written about in more depth and by better voices than my own here and here and I encourage readers to dig into these and the other articles on race on the public medievalist site. But ultimately the issue comes down to the stereotypes in Tolkien's work being taken, expanded on, and codified across the genre of fantasy, and into gaming based on that, in ways that amplify the racism within those stereotypes. The ideas of pale skinned beautiful elves in contrast to dark skinned violent orcs isn't reflective of older folklore, but of this early 20th century influence. It remains in the genre because it continues to be perpetuated, not because it is a requirement.

Just because an author writing almost a hundred years ago created material that played into racial stereotypes of the 19th and 20th century doesn't mean we must therefore continue to adhere to those stereotypes. Especially when we do have wider folklore and material that supports diversity among elves and a modern understanding that we cannot simplify good and evil into skin colours. The newest Tolkien spin off, Rings of Power, may deserve legit criticism on different fronts, but including diverse casting isn't one of them - if anything that is only reflecting the array of source material Tolkien was drawing on to begin with and the author's own expressed opinions against racial classifications. As Maya Angelou so wisely said: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
We know better now and we also know the harm that incorporating human world racism into the fantasy genre has done. We must do better than to keep perpetuating it.

*I'll note discussion this is specifically about English and continental European colour symbolism; Irish colour symbolism around spirits tended to focus on different colours particularly red, green, and white

Grimm, J., (1888) Teutonic Mythology vol 4
Chance, J., (2005) Tolkien and the Invention of Myth
Rearick, A., (2004) Why Is the Only Good Orc a Dead Orc? The Dark Face of Racism Examined in Tolkien's World. Retrieved from
Warmbrunn, C., (2020) Dear Tolkien Fans, Black People Exist. Retrieved from
Strurtevant, P., (2017) Race: the Original Sin of the Fantasy Genre. Retrieved from 
Racism in Tolkien's Works (2022) Tolkien Gateway. Retrieved from's_Works
D'Anastasio, D., (2021) D&D Must Grapple With the Racism in Fantasy. Retrieved from's_Works

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Folklore in Legend

 The 1985 movie Legend is often classified as a dark fantasy but it contains many themes from older folklore. So today lets look at some of the folklore we find in the film and how it is incorporated into the story. 

1551 woodcutting of a unicorn

Spoilers ahead:

For those unfamiliar the movie tells the story of Jack, a young man who lives in the forest, and Lili, a princess and friend of Jack, as they work to stop the Lord of Darkness from casting the world into an endless winter night. It begins when Darkness sends two goblins into the wood to kill the unicorns; the goblins decide to follow Lili as she goes to visit Jack and so follow the two as Jack takes her to see the unicorns for the first time. Because the unicorns are drawn to Lili's innocence they stand still long enough for one of the goblins to shoot the stallion with a poison dart, and later chase him down and cut his horn off. Jack is angry at the unicorns being frightened off, not being aware of the goblins, but Lili ignores it instead taking off her ring and throwing it into a pond while declaring she will marry whoever recovers it. Jack, in love with Lili, dives in after it only to be trapped as the lake freezes over when the unicorn is killed. He manages to escape but Lili has already fled; she runs across the two goblins and overhears them admitting they killed the unicorn because of her. She then follows them back to Darkness who is angry that both unicorns weren't killed. Meanwhile Jack has allied himself with an elf, fairy, and two dwarves who have found the mare and realized they must retrieve the stolen horn in order to revive the stallion and save the daylight from Darkness. 

Now, on to the folklore. As one might guess from the above synopsis there is a great deal of folklore woven throughout the film which blends Christian symbolism with western European fairylore. I will be focusing on the latter here and instead of looking at incidents as they occur throughout the film will instead be discussing various characters and plot points. 

  • The unicorns are presented in a way that largely aligns with wider folklore: they are rare and hard to find, are attracted to innocence and purity, and their horns are magical in nature. The unicorns in Legend, of course, are white horses with horns, while the unicorns of folklore are generally described as more goat or deerlike than horselike. Similarly folkloric unicorns of earlier periods were not depicted as particularly gentle creatures.
  • The goblins of Legend are a bit of a mixed bag folklore-wise. They adhere to older ideas of goblins as generally dangerous and possibly malicious, but as with much media from this period they are shown to be more bumbling and comedic than actually dangerous. In a particularly odd twist that adds a moral layer to an already moral tale one of the goblins is later revealed as a fairy who has lost his way, implying perhaps that goblins in this world are corrupted fairies which is certainly a unique idea not found in older material.  
  • The elf, Honeythorn Gump, appears as a youth with pointed ears but speaks as wise adult. Given the wide range of folklore about elves to be found across the centuries and various cultures this depiction fits in to folklore at least broadly, although it does lean into the more twee end of things. Gump acts as a guide and mentor to Jack throughout the movie.
  • The fairy, Oona, is an interesting character who is initially presented as a flying ball of light but later reveals that she has the ability to shapeshift into a human-sized being (albeit still with wings). Oona's early appearance is very much inline with 20th century fairylore, particularly drawn from the stage productions of Peter Pan where Tinkerbell was literally just a light effect. Her later appearance is still inline with that imagery but her behaviour and ability to change shape and size reflect older folklore. She is an ally to Jack but is somewhat mercurial and seems to have her own agenda as well. 
  • The dwarves are less aligned with folklore and more with late 20th century popular culture, being shown (as the goblins are) as bumbling and rather goofy. They may represent the furthest characters from older folklore of any in the film although they are rather inline with the disney concept. 
  • At one point Jack and his friends must cross a swamp and encounter a dangerous being named Meg Mucklebones. Meg is a fairly standard folkloric hag, a being who lurks in swamps, rivers, and lakes, and who will drown and eat humans - examples from folklore would include Black Annis and Jenny Greenteeth. Meg does threaten to eat Jack but is killed by him instead. 
  • The group also encounters trolls after being captured and these beings are what might be described as extreme version of the folkloric concepts - hideous, grotesque, animalistic, violent. Troll folklore is another type of material that can vary widely so the trolls of Legend aren't entirely outside older material but certainly seem to be a lot more concentrated versions than what is found in older stories. 
Ultimately Legend is a fascinating film that blends older folklore, newer folklore, popculture ideas about fairies, and a morality tale into a cohesive whole that is unique. It should, perhaps, be understood within its own context or as a good example of late 20th century fairylore distilled through the lens of hollywood. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Marriage and the Otherworld part 2

 In my last piece I established that marriage was a common feature of stories involving fairies but today I'd like to look at some patterns we can note within that wider concept particularly of the Good Folk marrying humans. I think this can help us further explore the idea of marriage with the Othercrowd and may be useful both for those with an esoteric bent as well as those writing fiction who look to folklore as a source. 
As with the previous article I will be using the word fairy here somewhat loosely, in line with the material itself, and will also be looking at relevant examples from related folklore of other types of Otherworldly beings, such as that of selkies. Also as with the previous article I will be focusing on the folklore and mythology rather than modern anecdotal or esoteric experiences, which fall outside the purview of this particular piece.

illustration by Warwick Goble

Two types of Marriage
Looking across the folklore one thing that quickly becomes evident is that marriage with fairies can be broken down into two rough categories: forced marriages and voluntary marriages.

Forced marriages occur both when a human captures an Otherworldly being and when a human is captured although generally it is a woman being captured no matter which version is in play. The Stolen Bride motif is based on the idea of a human woman being taken by an Otherworldly suitor to be married in the world of Fairy (see Briggs Fairies in Tradition and Literature) for example and can be found across both folklore and anecdotal accounts. The human woman is usually thought to be dead by her family but sometimes is able to communicate with a relative or her husband - if she were already married - and may or may not subsequently be rescued. In the case of a fairy woman being taken as a spouse they are usually trapped in some way so that they cannot return to their own world and must marry the human who trapped them; selkies having their sealskins stolen, for example, or Maran who could be trapped if the knothole she entered through was blocked (Ashliman, 2005). In both those examples the Otherworldly wife would immediately flee her human husband if she found a way to undo the magic holding her - the selkie must find her hidden sealskin and the mare must find and unblock the knothole through which she'd entered. A human taken and married into the Otherworld can only hope for one chance at rescue, usually during a fairy procession through the mortal world, and if that fails is trapped forever with their new spouse. We do see at least one example, in the ballad of the Elfin Knight, of a human woman (or girl) who tries to trap an elf into marriage; although she ultimately fails it does suggest that there were cases involving men as the captured spouse. 

Voluntarily marriages, similarly, occur with both combinations of partners. In the Echtra Nera and the Echtra Condla we see human men who gain fairy wives with the consent of the wife; in Connla's case the fairy woman goes to great lengths to convince Connla to return to her world with her, while in Nera's case the fairy wife is given to him by a fairy king but nonetheless seems to be happy with the situation. There is also an anecdotal account in Lady Wilde's work of a young human man taken by the sidhe who refuses to be rescued because he is happy with his fairy wife. The Welsh tale of the Physicians of Myddfai features a Lake Maiden who chooses to wed a human man after he successfully courts her and the Orkney tale of the Great Silkie of Sule Skerry tells of a human woman who weds a selkie man. In Jean d'Arras tales of Melusine we see both Melusine and her mother Perryne choosing to marry human men out of apperant affection for them. In these cases both partners are willing participants in the marriage through choice not coercion and often seem to feel some genuine love for the other person within the context of the story.

How This Happens

How a human gets into a marriage with a fairy across the folklore generally occurs in one of three ways: the human is compelled by the fairy, the human compels the fairy, or the human and fairy meet and choose to marry. In cases where the human is compelled by the fairy it is usually what we might classify as an abduction: there are multiple examples of this across Irish folklore, where a person (usually a woman) is kidnapped by the Sidhe and taken into the Otherworld to marry one of the Good Folk. In cases where the human is compelling the fairy they either use magic or steal a magical item from the fairy; the girl who hears an elf blowing his horn on May Day morning and wishes for him as her husband is an example, where the elf appears to be compelled to do as she wishes against his own will. In the third case the meeting and marriage are more along what might be considered typical lines although the speed that things occur in is usually swift - in most stories where both partners are willing they often meet and marry quickly. 

Gain and Loss

Another notable pattern that we must discuss is that in all of the examples we find of mixed species marriages, humans and Other, one partner must inevitably - by choice or force - give up their own world for the length of the marriage. This is not as simple as choosing to be with the partner and only being able to visit their own world but is a full immersion in the new reality to the exclusion of the old. Stories that discuss a partner returning to visit their own world inevitably end tragically, as we see when Oisín begs Niamh to visit Ireland only to fall from his horse, instantly age 300 years, and die. Fairy spouses that choose or are taken into the human world live fully within it, either becoming human themselves as we see in the story of the kelpie who weds a human girl*, or eventually returning to their own world, often heartbroken.  Humans who are taken into Fairy and are not quickly rescued from it cannot safely return and must instead live out their existence in that realm or die, as Oisín did, when the time they missed on earth catches up to them upon their return. 
There are only a few accounts of what we might call 'long distance marriages' where the human remains living on earth and is regularly visited by the fairy spouse, mostly found in the Arthurianesque material such as Lancelet and Ogier the Dane**.
It would seem that to choose marriage with a fairy - or to be forced into it - means one partner must make a choice to give up their own world, or be stolen from it. 

Rules For Otherworldly Marriage

There are some basic rules that seem to exist across folklore for marriage between fairies and humans:

  1. Persuasion is often required for one partner (Gibson, 1955). One partner usually is advocating for the relationship while the other, human or fairy, is reluctant to engage in it. Even in cases where love seems to be a factor this is often in play, for example Connla takes a month to decide to go with his fairy woman and in Ogier the Dane Ogier goes through multiple trials and two human wives before accepting the fairy woman's love. Obviously in forced marriages this is even more extreme.
  2. The human partner is usually put under some form of prohibition in order to equalize the partnership (Spyra, 2020). Spyra suggests that there is an inherent power imbalance in these relationships which is addressed through the use of prohibitions which help to empower the human so long as they are adhered to. Certainly it is common in these stories to see the human partner explicitly given a thing they must do or must not do to retain their fairy spouse - for example Pressyne told her mortal husband he couldn't see her birth her children nor bath them and left when he violated that, and similarly her daughter Melusine prohibited her human husband from seeing her on Saturdays and left him when he did so. 
    In the case of forced marriages this is demonstrated through a secret the human must keep, whether that is the location of the selkie's sealskin or the knothole the mare entered through. If the fairy finds the source of the magic that's binding them to the human they will flee. 
  3. Broken promises or prohibitions result in immediate dissolution of the marriage. Across all the stories this rule seems to exist without exception. To betray a fairy spouse is to lose that fairy spouse, and often lose anything you have gained since they came to you. Fairy wives will return to the place they came from, taking with them their own possessions and often any children who have been produced. Selkie wives who find their hidden sealskin leave immediately, even those that seem to have formed a genuine affection for their mortal spouse, and may or may not take their children with them. Humans taken into fairy voluntarily who break a promise or prohibition are immediately expelled, often leaving them insane or pining away for their lost spouse. 
  4. That which belongs to the fairy spouse remains with the fairy spouse (Gibson, 1955). Although we might imagine fairy marriages as somewhat equal within themselves folklore paints a different picture, often implying that even when the fairy is in the human world they retain greater control, able to bring luck or financial success or withhold it and retaining possession of everything they brought with them or add to the marriage (as discussed above). 
  5. Children are possible but must choose one world to live in. A common theme across these stories is that fairy-human marriages do result in children but that these children must choose a single world to live in, despite their mixed heritage. In some cases the child ultimately goes to the Otherworld with their fairy parent while in others they remain in the human world with their human parent; if staying in the human world they are often notably odd or unusual and have a reputation for uncanniness (Gundarsson, 2007).
This summarizes the details within the concept of fairy human marriages, across a range of Western European beliefs. I would suggest that just as the borrowed midwife and stolen bride are motifs within folklore the fairy marriage occupies a similar space and is deserving of similar consideration. It is, at the least, something found across 1500 years of folklore and across all of Western European material dealing with Otherworldly beings. 

End Notes
*see McNeill, pp 68-72
** long distance or intermittent relationships are more common however in folklore of fairy lovers, rather than spouses per se. 

Ashliman, D., (2005) Night-Mares
Black, G., (1903). County Folk-Lore, vol. 3: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning the Orkney & Shetland Islands
Briggs, (1967) The Fairies in Tradition and Literature
Child, F., (1882) The English and Scottish Popular Ballads vol 1 - 5
Cooper, H., (2006) Lancelot's Wives, Arthuriana vol 16 no 2 Retrieved from 
Gibson, H., (1955) The Human-Fairy Marriage Retrieved 
Grimm, J., (1888) Teutonic Mythology
Gundarsson, K., (2007) Elves, Wights, and Trolls
Ogier the Dane (2022) William Morris Archive 'Introduction to Ogier the Dane' Retrieved from 
Jones, M., (2022) The Physicians of Myddfai Retrieved from 
McNeil, H., (2001), The Celtic Breeze: Stories of the Otherworld from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales
Spyra, P (2020) The Liminality of Fairies: Readings in Late Medieval English and Scottish Romance
Thomas Off Ersseldoune (1997) Thomas the Rhymer Appendix Retrieved from
Towrie, S., (2022)  Mansie O'Kierfa and His Fairy Bride Retrieved from 
Wood, J., (1992) The Fairy Bride Legend in Wales Retrieved from 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Marriage and the Otherworld

 Recently the subject of fairies and marriage was brought up in a discussion, with someone suggesting that fairies would have no such concept as 'marriage' and that there were no accounts of marriage either of fairies or between fairies and humans. Since I'm not sure how pervasive that idea is I thought the best approach would be to address it here and discuss the layers of folklore involved - I'll note though that I will be sticking to the context of folklore and nor branching into modern esoterica (which is related). I'll also note before we jump in that I'm going to take a two pronged approach here and address fairies as a specific group through mostly folklore and literature and secondarily the wider subject of the Good Folk across Western Europe. The waters get muddy here as the term fairy often has an ambiguous use in the source material so I am choosing to cast a wide net.

First I suppose we must define marriage for the purposes of this article, so in this context we will be using the term to describe a committed relationship between two specific beings in which they or the narrator either explicitly use the term married or use the terms 'husband', 'wife', 'groom', 'bride', etc.,. This relationship may or may not be monogamous and may or may not be permanent*, but is marked by the specific language used to describe it in the sources. 

Evidence of fairies getting or being married to other fairies as well as marrying humans can be found across folk belief. As Gibson rightly puts it "One of the commonest features of fairy mythology is the marriage between a human-being and a fairy" (Gibson, 1955).  It is a folklore motif called the 'fairy bride' although we also find human brides with fairy grooms. Many families claim ancestry that traces back to fairies or other specific types of Otherworldly beings, both through marriage and without it, and stories of fairy spouses can be found across Europe. 

Fairies marrying fairies is usually a detail mentioned within a wider story, and we are rarely given any profound insight via folklore into the practical aspects of this concept. Often marriages between species don't last and just as often they end badly, usually through an action on the human's part, however there are some accounts of cross-species marriages that do end well, often with the human going into the world of Fairy. Below I will share a series of examples that illustrate these points. 

Marriage Among Fairies

- In van Zatzikhoven's 12th century 'Lancelet' we are told a story of the Arthurian knight Lancelot who weds the fairy Iblis. She remains his faithful wife after he leaves her and he marries another and she  accepts him back when he returns, after which the two have four children together. The story is German, based on French sources (at least allegedly) of British myth. One might note that Lancelet while human was fostered by the fairy Lady of the Lake so did have pre-existing ties to the world of Fairy before meeting Iblis. 

- Shakespeare's Oberon and Titania are described as the King and Queen of Fairyland together, refer to each other as 'my lady' and 'my lord' and are if not outiright said to be married, heaviliy implied in context to be so. 

- in 'Ogier the Dane' Ogier is a human who is given six blessings by the fairies at his birth, the sixth of which is the love of a fairy woman. The end of the story finds him finally accepting her love and her offer of immortality as he goes of with her to Avalon

- an anecdotal account from the Orkneys mentions a man who fell asleep on a fairy hill and was awakened by a beautiful fairy woman who he took as his wife. He already had a human wife but that didn't appear to be an issue. The man and his fairy wife had three daughters together. (Towrie, 2022)

- contains an account of a fairy wedding, the story going that a human man was on his way home when he met a fairy man who invited him in to a fairy fort, saying they were celebrating a wedding. The man entered and saw 'the fairy bride' playing music on a golden harp (Duchas v1003 p 309)

- In most iterations of the 'fairy midwife' stories (which is indeed a motif in itself) the woman who the midwife is called to assist and who the fairy man calls his wife is recognized as a human woman thought to have died or gone missing. 

- Lady Wilde recounts the tale of a young man who was taken into fairy and whose family hired a specialist, a fairy doctor, to recover him. after a week of effort the young man's spirit was said to appear before a crowd, summoned by the fairy doctor, and he asked to be left where eh was with his fairy bride. 

Marriage Among The Good Neighbours

- in the Welsh tale of the Physicians of Myddfai a human man succeeds in courting and marrying a Gwairg Annwn, or lake maiden, although as we are told her agreement has a catch: "and after some persuasion she consented to become his bride, on condition that they should only live together until she received from him three blows without a cause". the two are happily married for years until he does, indeed, give her three blows without cause and she disappears back into the lake. 

- In Irish mythology the human** protagonist Fionn finds and marries a woman of the sidhe named Sadb, although she is later turned into a deer

- In folklore its said that Fionn and Sadb's son, the half-sidhe/half-human Oisín was taken to Tír na nÓg by the sidhe woman Niamh; the two married according to popular versions of the tale and had two children before Oisín left to return to Ireland 

- The ballad of the Elfin Knight tells the story of a young girl who hears an elf blowing his horn on May Day morning and wishes to have him for herself. When he appears in her room her fairly quickly proclaims that she is too young to marry him. Later in the ballad he says that he has a wife already. 

- In Thomas of Erceldoune Thomas's Queen of Elfland is married to the King of Fairy (or the Devil depending on the version).

- Selkies are well-known to have relationships with humans although the male selkies are less commonly said to marry. Female selkies however feature prominently in stories as seal-wives who marry a human fisherman after their sealskin is stolen by him. 

- Grimm relates a tale form southern Sweden of an elf woman who entered a house and became the wife a man living there and bore him four children before disappearing back as she'd come. 

Looking at the evidence there are some general conclusions we can reach, besides the fact that fairies do indeed marry both other fairies and sometimes humans. Firstly marriage for fairies seems to have roughly the same purpose as for humans, either a commitment based in love or a union to achieve a goal (often reproduction). Also as with humans marriage for fairies is a diverse and varied concept that we see including both fidelity (the Elfin Knight didn't want another lover as he already has a wife) as well as what we may term ethical non-monogamy (the Orkney anecdote) and infidelity (Thomas the Rhymer). We also find examples of both happy marriages (Niamh and Oisín) as well as unhappy ones (selkie wives). Secondly marriage for fairies, unlike for humans, seems a much more contractual and reciprocal affair even when love is involved; fairies operate with distinct rules which they must follow even when they don't want to. An example of this might be the man who married the Lake maiden - while the marriage seemed happy and loving she warned him she would leave if he struck her needlelessly three times and when that happened she did so.  Similarly we see in some accounts of selkie wives the idea that they did love their human husband but once the sealskin is found they must leave even if they don't want to; these are the stories where the selkie lingers as a seal and helps the husband fish. It is likely these prohibitions and rules reflect an effort by the fairy to equalize the relationship, to bridge the power gap between themselves the human, by putting a requirement on the human to prove their dedication (Spyra, 2020). It is also possible that this is simply an aspect of fairy marriage and applies equally to marriage between fairies. We see a range of such prohibitions across stories from the aforementioned three strikes, to the human not being allowed to speak of the fairy to others, to the hidden sealskin. Gibson also notes that human-fairy marriages usually include specific features including a reluctance on the part of the fairy, prohibitions given by the fairy, and a taking back of anything given by the fairy, including children, when she leaves (Gibson, 1955). 

To conclude, I hope this short article has demonstrated the pervasiveness of this concept across folklore, even if with only a few examples, and offered some thoughts on the concepts around marriage and fairies in folklore. 


Cooper, H., (2006) Lancelot's Wives, Arthuriana vol 16 no 2 Retrieved from 
Briggs, (1967) The Fairies in Tradition and Literature
Spyra, P (2020) The Liminality of Fairies: Readings in Late Medieval English and Scottish Romance
Ogier the Dane (2022) William Morris Archive 'Introduction to Ogier the Dane' Retrieved from 
Gibson, H., (1955) The Human-Fairy Marriage Retrieved 
Jones, M., (2022) The Physicians of Myddfai Retrieved from 

Wood, J., (1992) The Fairy Bride Legend in Wales Retrieved from 
Child, F., (1882) The English and Scottish Popular Ballads vol 1 - 5
Thomas Off Ersseldoune (1997) Thomas the Rhymer Appendix Retrieved from
Towrie, S., (2022)  Mansie O'Kierfa and His Fairy Bride Retrieved from 
Grimm, J., (1888) Teutonic Mythology
A Fairy Wedding (2022) The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1003, Page 391 retrieved from

*in this it differs not at all from human marriage

**in fairness Finn may not have actually been human but he is presented as such in most of the stories

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.