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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Fairy Facts: Selkies

 In this installment of fairy facts we're looking at a popular one - selkies.

Name: Selkie, Silkie, Selchie, Rón
The name literally means 'seal' and may appear in English as selkie-folk or seal-folk to differentiate from the animal

Description: Selkies appear as seals in the water, like any wild seal except for their eyes which are said to be particularly human-like. They may go on land and remove their seal skin to take on or reveal a human form. In human form they are often described as having dark hair and dark seal-like eyes. 

Found: Selkies, under variations of the name, are found in folklore across Ireland, Scotland, the Orkney and Shetland islands, as well as Iceland.

Folklore: Selkie folklore is vast and complex as well as regionally varied, however some wider concepts can be found across the bulk of stories. Perhaps the most well-known is the idea of the selkie wife: A fisherman sees a selkie dancing on the shore and sneaks over to take her sealskin; without it she is trapped on land and marries him. They have several children together and live as a married couple until one of the children eventually finds the sealskin and tells their mother. Once the sealskin is returned the selkie immediately goes back to the ocean - sometimes with her children other times leaving them behind. In contrast there are two main stories of male selkies. In one the selkie takes a human lover and leaves her with a child which she is forced to raise alone; the selkie returns years later to claim the child. In the other a heartbroken human woman cries into the sea and a selkie lover appears and takes her with him into his realm.
The half-human children of these unions are said to share their selkie parent's dark hair and eyes and to be born with webbed hands or feet. It has been suggested that selkie stories may originate with attempts to explain such birth defects or genetic disorders in some families, while other scholars also suggest it may be an explanation for early encounters with Inuit peoples.
In most folklore selkies can change their form at will, while in some they are limited to only coming on land one day a year. They are described as living in family groups and some selkie wives had a husband and children among the selkie folk before being taken by a human. They are also said to both cause storms at sea and to sometimes save sailors from drowning in storms.

Where It Gets Muddy: Selkies are becoming increasingly popular across modern fiction in stories which often radically rewrite the older folklore for plot purposes. This has resulted in a growing confusion not only about what selkies are but also about the rules which govern them, particularly around the magic of their sealskin. In some cases attempts to rewrite selkie wife stories to move them away from the abducted or forced bride trope have gone so far the opposite direction that they've just created the same thing under a different rule. For example the story where the selkie drops their coat in a human cafe and a human picks it up and returns it to them causing the selkie to instantly fall in love with them and claim they are now married. 
It is best to take these newer stories with the understanding that they are fiction.

What They Aren't: Contrary to some popular art, selkies aren't described like classical mermaids, with a human top half and seal bottom half. As described above they appear as seals in the water or as fully human on land. This confusion may come from the fact that in some folklore they are called 'mermaids' interchangeably with being called selkies or else are called a mermaid but described as a selkie. It is likely that in Ireland, Iceland, and the UK mermaid at points was being used as a non-specific term and that it may have served as the best English language translation for the terms in the original languages. 

Recommended: For a modern media approach to selkie stories I highly suggest people watch 'The Secret of Roan Inish' a movie about selkies set in Ireland which includes a lot of relevant folklore. The 1994 movie is based on an older book 'The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry' set in Scotland.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Fairy Facts: Slua Sidhe

 For this installment of fairy facts we're going to take a look at the Slua Sidhe, beings found in folklore as well as incorporated into modern Role Playing Games (RPGs). 

Åsgårdsreien by Peter Nicolai Arbo

Name: Slua Sidhe (Irish) or Sluagh Sìthe (Scottish)
In Irish the name translates to the Fairy Host or Army. In Gaidhlig the terms means Fairy People, Fairy Host
In Scotland the term may be shortened to Sluagh, while Sluagh na Sìthe is a poetic term for the fairies

Please note the term slua or sluagh is a collective noun which describes a group of beings, a host or crowd, not an individual being. 

Description: a group of malicious or dangerous beings who travel primarily through the air using magic. May or may not be on horses or accompanied by hounds.

Found in Irish and Scottish folklore, and in Irish mythology

Folklorein Irish folklore the Slua Sidhe (modern Irish Slua Sí) are malevolent fairies who travel in whirlwinds or gusts of wind and who are prone to both kidnapping humans and causing injuries to those they pass. They might swoop down and abduct any solitary human who takes their fancy, sometimes keeping them and sometimes dropping them very far from home. Those they injure may be blinded, lamed, or driven mad, if not outright killed. According to Katherine Briggs they are most active at night. In older Irish material and myth the Slua Sidhe are simply any army of the Aes Sidhe.

In Scottish folklore the Sluagh may be understood as fairies but are also described as being the unforgiven human dead, who kill animals and restlessly wander the skies. It is believed that they lived wicked lives as humans and must therefore atone for their sins by wandering the earth without rest. They may employ elfshot, invisible arrows, against their victims, and by some accounts serve or are driven by another spirit; Alexander Carmichael in his Carmina Gadelica doesn't name or describe these beings, only referring to them as 'spirit-masters'.

Irish folklore has a different term, slua na marbh, for the host of the dead, however Gaidhlig doesn't differentiate the two in the same way. 

Where It Gets Muddy: The sluagh appear in Changeling: The Dreaming, an RPG put out by White Wolf. However the sluagh of the RPG are vastly different from those of folklore, not only because the term is (mis)used as an individual noun but also because they are said to live underground; the other name used for them us 'Underfolk'. They are primarily associated with causing fear. The RPG sluagh are bound not to cause any real harm and work to frighten children into good behaviour. 
In short the RPG sluagh are entirely different beings than those of folklore, however many people who are only familiar with the gaming concepts are unaware of that. 

What They Aren't: As noted above, Slua is not an individual term. A person cannot be 'a slua', as that literally means a host or crowd. An individual would be a member of the slua.
The Slua are not psychopomps, nor are they associated with stealing newly dead souls (only still living humans). 
The Sluagh do not have wings. They fly via magical means rather than a physical appendage. 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Book Review: A Fairy Path

 Today I wanted to do a book review on a book that recently came out that I particularly liked: A Fairy Path by Daniela Simina. I really liked the author's previous book Where Fairies Meet which is a comparison of Irish and Romanian folk belief around fairies so I was excited to see this one come out as well.

One of the best things about Simina's work is that it fills a gap in the English language market for books discussing Romanian magic and folk beliefs. People who are curious about these subjects don't have many options for resources, and what is out there is very difficult to weigh the quality of. Simina is a solid source - she has presented a paper for the Folklore Society - who is speaking from within the culture and her writing is accessible and easy to understand.

A Fairy Path is autobiographical, telling the story of the author's life in communist Romania, her own other-than-usual experiences and connection to the Unseen, and her path into folk practice. Unlike many biographies and autobiographies this book isn't a dry read though; the story is told so smoothly that it often feels like a novel rather than non-fiction and the folklore and folk practice blends in seamlessly. It is an enjoyable read for its own sake but one that will also teach you a range of material in a far more engaging way than most lectures. 

The book starts with an author's note that I recommend people read before going on; I know not everyone likes to read author notes but I think this one really helps set the tone for the book. From there it moves into the main body of the text, 18 chapters which lay out the author's story. There is an epilogue, followed by two appendices. The first appendix is a guide to the folk magic that comes up in the book and offers great insight into Romanian practices. The second appendix is a list of resources for further study - I found this especially invaluable because it can be so hard to sort out good from bad sources on the subject, or even to find any at all much of the time. 

Overall I think this book is a great resource for Romanian folk belief and magic, and a fun read outside of that. It also offers a unique look into the culture of Romania at the time of the author's childhood, and the way that folk beliefs linger even in hostile environments. I'd recommend it to anyone who is curious about the subject or who just enjoys a good autobiography. 

A Fairy Path is a unique look into the intersectionality of Romanian fairy belief, life outside the norm, and finding a place in a changing world, deftly interweaving the author's experiences and thoughts as she came of age in communist Romania and reconciled her experiences with fairies against the unbelief of those around her. This is not your typical autobiography but rather works to guide the reader, along with the author's younger self, through the process of integrating personal experience, folk belief, and magic into a cohesive whole in a world that is too often hostile to those who are different. A fascinating and valuable read.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Fairy Facts: Changelings

 For our next installment of fairy facts I thought we'd tackle one of the most widely misunderstood subjects: changelings. To be fair a changeling isn't a type of fairy, per se,; we have stories of a wide array of specific types of beings that leave changelings from the aos sidhe to trolls. They are called changelings instead of by a specific term because they are something that has been changed for a stolen human; so perhaps we could understand it more as a kind of job description. 

Changelings are a huge topic - they take an entire chapter in my book Aos Sidhe and that's looking only at the Irish folklore - so this isn't going to be a comprehensive discussion here only an overview. At some point soon I will offer a full article on this subject and specifically dig into some of the most controversial or confusing aspects, but hopefully this today will at least help people get a better idea of what changelings are to start.

Name: Changelings

Description: A changeling is something left in place of a stolen human. There are three options with changelings: 1 an inanimate object that has been magically changed to look like the stolen person, 2 an elderly fairy that wants to be pampered and cared for, 3 a sick and dying fairy baby.
  The physical description of a changeling is often dependent on the specific story; if an inanimate object it will look exactly like the stolen human. If its a fairy it will often be described as an 'ugly' version of the stolen human.

Found in folklore across western Europe, from Iceland to Scandinavia, from Ireland to Germany.

Folklore: Across folklore we find stories of humans stolen by the fairies who are babies, toddlers, children, and adults; each is taken for different reasons but it usually boils down to filling a need the fairies have. Usually the stolen human is either left alone at a critical time during which the swap happens or wanders alone too close to fairy property. To cover these thefts a changeling is left in the stolen human's place and the changeling either "dies" and is buried or eventually leaves through various means. There are a very small number of stories where the changeling, if a fairy baby, survives and is raised by humans but always with community knowledge that they are (assumed to be) a changeling; more often the fairy is reclaimed by their fairy family while still a child. Most often the changeling is either driven out, forcing the stolen human's return, or the human is rescued forcing the changeling to leave; in some stories the changeling is killed or driven off but the human doesn't return (see anecdote section below).
   There is a wide diversity of folklore around changelings but it can be roughly divided into 6 types:
   1 Insatiable - baby or child who mindlessly consumes food and drink
   2 Inconsolable - baby or child that cannot be satisfied or appeased and is constantly crying
   3 Personality Changes - a child or adult who suddenly begins acting unlike themselves
   4 Eerily Knowledgeable - a baby or child who demonstrates impossible knowledge or skill, such as playing an instrument or dancing, or who otherwise reveals itself to be an elderly fairy
   5 Failure to Thrive - a baby or child who doesn't age or grow across years
   6 Dies - the changeling dies within a short time of being swapped for the human (particularly common in stories of women stolen after giving birth)
   In folklore of changelings we find various methods to force a changeling to leave or reveal itself, most of which are cruel and deadly. In a small number of stories the person is urged to provide excellent care for the changeling so that the fairies will care equally well for the stolen human, but usually the changeling is tortured in an attempt to force the fairies to take it back, which in the stories of course works. In another small sample of stories the stolen human is rescued directly from the fairies and the changeling disappears. 

Anecdotes: Changeling folklore exists both in story types, as mentioned above and in anecdotes which represent stories of people's personal experiences. Technically these are not separate things but for our purposes here I am dividing them for clarity, because there is a sharp contrast between the story types and alleged changeling encounters/experiences people have. While the above story types represent motifs and tropes that are found across various cultural tales and provide the stereotypical understanding of changelings, the anecdotes often represent very different approaches to this belief. For one thing anecdotes don't focus as strongly on infants but tend to feature children and adults more often, and the tell tale signs of a changeling rarely fit the story types. For example a story told on was about an 8 year old boy who was out picking nuts and disappeared; when found he was in a catatonic state and remained so until his parents followed the advice of a local fairy expert and - they believed - the changeling left and their 'real' son returned, although with no memory of the events since he'd disappeared. 
Anecdotal accounts sometimes involve court cases or stories wherein the person is murdered because of the belief they are a changeling. In these stories it is usually reasonably clear the child or adult was suffering from an illness, birth trauma, or other medical issue which caused them to be assumed a changeling. 

Where It Gets Muddy: popular modern fiction has largely reversed the concept of a changeling, taking it from an old or sickly fairy - or stick - swapped for a living human and turning it into a trope about a magical child raised by humans who later discovers they are a fairy. This is entirely foreign to the older or culturally based stories but has become the dominant view across popculture in the last decade or so as the trope has become well known in fiction. This has caused many people who get their understanding of folk beliefs directly from modern fiction to accept this view as definitive. 

What They Aren't: despite the proliferations of memes and social media assertions, changeling wasn't the older term for autistic children or how autism was previously understood. The association with autism only dates back to the 1990s and is based strictly on one or two story types associated with changeling folklore (ignoring the others and all anecdotal accounts). It is a term that some modern autistic people self-identify with but should be understood in that context. Prior to the 1990s, specifically in the Victorian period, folklorists and other academics had explained changelings as a misguided belief by ignorant people around children born with clinical retardation or Down Syndrome. Martin Luther in the 16th century explained changelings as children born without souls who only existed as a physical body. It is possible that some autistic children in the past would have been labelled as changelings but it is far from a 1 = 1 equivalency. 

There is a strong link between changeling folklore and people, particularly children, suffering from physical disabilities or congenital issues. I highly recommend dr Rose Sawyer's book 'The Medieval Changeling' to better understand the intersection of changeling belief and disability. 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Fairy Facts: Cait Sìth

 A recent discussion on social media has motivated me to start a small series which I am going to call 'fairy facts' which will offer a brief overview of specific types of beings often labelled as fairies or within the wider purview of the subject. This will not be an in-depth full article - I have already written a book, A New Dictionary of Fairies, that deep dives into various fairies and folklore Katherine Briggs style and I am not going to do that again here. But I am going to offer a solid basic intro to each one that can hopefully help people understand this folklore better and dispel some popular misunderstandings. 

So, to start lets look at a victim of meme'ing misinformation, the Cait Sidhe or more properly the cait sìth.

not a cat sidhe, just a regular cat

Name: Cat sìth in Gaidhlig, Cat sidhe in Irish, both meaning 'fairy cat' or 'cat of the Otherworldly mounds'
    plural is cait sìth or cait sidhe

Description: a medium-to-large-dog-sized black cat with a spot of white on its chest

Found in primarily Scottish and to a lesser extent Irish folklore

Folklore: despite the name a cat sìth isn't a cat per se, but rather is either a fairy in the shape of a cat or a witch who has transformed into a cat. As a witch it is believed they can change into their cat form 8 times and change back to human form but if they change a 9th time they will be trapped as a cat forever. In stories of the fairy in cat form they sometimes speak or act in anthropomorphic ways, and its believed they walk on two legs when they think they won't be observed. 
  Cait sìth are believed to steal the souls of the newly dead, so there are a variety of wake practices which were  focused on preventing that, including attempts to distract or delay the fairy cat from reaching the corpse. 

See: Campbell's The Gaelic Otherworld for more on cats and witches/witches in the form of cats

Where It Gets Muddy: much of the folklore that is commonly found about Cait sìth comes from a single website from 2000, which didn't cite any sources for its claims. This is where the idea that a bowl of milk would be left out on samhaine [sic] for the cat sidhe comes from, for example. While purporting to share scottish folklore the website uses Irish spellings and uses the plural cait sidhe in place of the singular, suggesting caution should be applied to the material. Nonetheless nearly a quarter century on from its start the material has become widespread and has been accepted into the modern folklore corpus. 

What They Aren't: cait sìth are not a breed of cat, although it is thought that they may have been inspired by the Scottish Kellas cat. They aren't any type of human-world cat nor are they housepets in any way. Despite the name and proliferations of twee memes, the cat sidhe isn't simply the fairy world equivalent of a human world cat, but is best understood as a humanoid spirit in the shape of a cat.   

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Cailleach

 This material is expanded from the Cailleach entry in my book 'Gods and Goddesses of Ireland'.

The Cailleach's Stone, Cork, picture by me 2018

“Ebb-tide has come to me as to the sea;
old age makes me yellow;
though I may grieve thereat,
it approaches its food joyfully….
I am Buí, the Cailleach of Beare;
I used to wear a smock that was ever-renewed…”
-          The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare

The Cailleach, or Caillech in Old Irish, is a complex deity who seems to have roots in Neolithic Ireland. Cailleach is from a word that means ‘veiled woman’ or ‘elderly woman’ but in later usage was a pejorative generally used to mean hag or witch. In Ireland she is called the Cailleach Beara or Beare for the Beara peninsula which is her main habitation, although in folklore she is also sometimes given the epithet of Béarrach; the Old Irish word berach means sharp or horned. The Cailleach Beara’s true name is said to be Buí, a word that may mean ‘yellow’1. Alternately it may originally have been Boí, a word related to the one for cow (bó) and it’s possible that she was at one time a cow goddess who represented the land and its sovereignty on the Beara peninsula2. This idea is somewhat supported by her legendary possession of a powerful bull, the Tarbh Conraidh, who had only to bellow to get a cow with calf. Certainly she is strongly associated with Beara and because of the irregular orthography of Old Irish either version of her name is possible, although Buí is better attested, appearing in the well-known poem ‘The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare’. MacKillop suggests that she may also previously have been known as Dígde, a sovereignty goddess of Munster, and Duineach whose name he gives as meaning ‘[having] many followers’, both of which were subsumed into the single identity of the Cailleach Beara at some point3.

  Several different goddesses are called ‘Cailleach’ in Irish myth including the Cailleach Beara of Cork and Cailleach Gearagáin of county Cavan4. The most well-known however is the Cailleach Beara, who is strongly associated with south west Ireland. She is considered a sovereignty figure, the archetypal crone who appears offering the throne to a potential king in exchange for intimacy; those who reject her in this guise will never rule but those who embrace her as an old woman will find her transformed into a beautiful young woman and will themselves become king. She is also credited with creating many of the standing stones and geographic features in various areas, who folklore claims are people or animals that she transformed; her bull the Tarbh Conraidh for example was turned into a stone in a river by her when he tried to swim across it to reach a herd of cows on the other side. In other parts of Ireland including Connacht, Leinster, and Ulster the Cailleach Beara is seen as the spirit of the harvest who inhabits the grain and flees from the scythes in the form of a hare5. In many areas harvest traditions included the practice of leaving the final sheaf standing in the field and naming it the Cailleach, or of dressing the final sheaf as an image of the goddess.
   The Cailleach as Buí is said to be one of the four wives of Lugh, although other sources say that she had seven husbands; she is also said to have had 50 foster children6.  The Cailleach is generally described as an old woman but she also can appear young, and is considered the progenitor of some family lines including the Corca Duibhne7. A tenth century poem says that she was the lover of the warrior Fothadh Canainne. Folklore claims that she has two sisters, also named Cailleach of their respective areas, who live in Dingle and Iveragh8. She is associated with a standing stone, the Hag's Stone or the Cailleach Bheara [hag of Beara], resting above Coulagh Bay, Cork (see image above). The story is that the Cailleach was Manannán's wife and she turned to stone waiting on shore for him to return from the sea. Some say that the stone is her face, still looking out at the water. The stone is on a steep hillside but can be reached by following a narrow path. It is visited by people who leave offerings on and around the stone
  It is said that the Sliab na Cailligh in county Meath were created when the Cailleach flew over the area and accidently dropped the stones9. Cairn T at this site also has a large roughly chair shaped stone at the rear of eth mound known as the Hag's Chair, where people sometimes leave offerings; its said that if you sit in the chair you may be granted a wish. Leaba Chaillí, the Hag's Bed, in Cork is a wedge tomb associated with her, where local folklore claims she both lived and was buried. She is strongly associated with several areas in Ireland including the Beara peninsula and Slieve Daeane in Connacht10. Although she is found in Scotland as well she is not considered a pan-Celtic deity and so there is speculation that she represents a likely pre-Celtic divinity that was absorbed into Celtic culture at a later point11.

The Hag's Chair at Sliabh na Callaigh, picture by me 2016

  The Cailleach in Scotland has a different although related character, associated more tentatively with the harvest but also with the winter and storms. Called the Cailleach Bheur [beur meaning sharp or cutting in Gaidhlig] she was associated with the bitter winter wind and snowstorms as well as with creating geographic features which bear her name12. In the 1917 book “Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend” we learn that the goddess Bride (Irish Brighid) ruled over the summer half of the year, from Beltane to Samhain, and the other half of the year was ruled by the Cailleach. There are a variety of stories about how the year changed rulers which either feature the two goddesses contending against each other or describe them as aspects of one being. In one version Angus is the Cailleach’s son who falls in love with Bride, so the Cailleach imprisons her which causes winter to come to the land; only when Angus finally succeeds in freeing her on Imbolc does winter begin to relent13. In other versions of the story the Cailleach must drink from a magical spring, either on Imbolc at which point she transforms into Bride, or at Beltane at which point Bride is freed14.

  In the Cailleach we see a complex and ancient deity, perhaps rooted in pre-Celtic belief but certainly once a powerful sovereignty goddess. It was she who created several features of the landscape of Ireland and Scotland making her cosmogonically significantly, and it is she who controls the storms of winter in Scotland. The Cailleach may appear old or young, and may give sovereignty to kings, even divine kings if we see her as Lugh’s wife and the source of his legitimacy as king of the Tuatha De Danann. Although she is often considered a more obscure deity today, and her place among the Tuatha De Danann is somewhat uncertain, she seems to have been very significant historically and certainly maintains a powerful place in folklore today.

1Murphy, 1956
2O hOgain, 2006
3MacKillop, 1998
4Smyth, 1988
5O hOgain, 2006
6MacKillop, 1998
7Smyth, 1988
8O hOgain, 2006
9Smyth, 1988
10MacKillop, 1998
11Monaghan, 2004
13McIntyre, 2015
14 McNeill; 1959; McIntyre, 2015


MacKillop, J., (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
McIntyre, M., (2015). “The Cailleach Bheara: a Study of Scottish Highland Folklore in Literature and Film”. Retrieved from
McNeill, F., (1959). The Silver Bough, volume 2
Monaghan, P., (2004) Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore
Murphy, G., (1956) Early Irish Lyrics: eighth to Twelfth Centuries
O'hOgain (2006) the Lore of Ireland 
Smyth, D., (1988). A Guide to Irish Mythology

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Three Book Reviews: Folklore 101, Fairytale 101, Sex Education 101

Today I wanted to do a combined review of three books by the same author, dr Jeana Jorgensen, because while the topics vary the wider purpose of each book is the same, to offer a solid basic introduction to a complicated topic. This goal is admirable and one I share myself, because I think that its important to have material that can bridge the gap between layperson and academic, and can offer a way for people to either get a basic grasp of a subject or offer a starting point for those seeking to study something more deeply. Dr Jorgensen's books succeed marvelously at this goal.

Folklore 101: An Accessible Introduction to Folklore Studies. 
   Folklore is one of those subjects that can seem simple on the surface but which has surprising depth and breadth to it, and this book serves as a perfect, easy introduction to that complexity. Folklore 101 begins by explaining what folklore is and why folklore is important then segues into a section containing 13 basic folklore concepts which form an important basis for understanding the wider subject. Following this is a shorter section discussing three "big categories" of folklore: verbal, customary, and material culture. Then the author offers 27 specific folklore genres, clearly explaining each one and providing examples. This is followed by a section on special topics, discussing 11 types from women's folklore, disability and folklore, and the intersection of folklore and literature. The book wraps up with a conclusion that looks at how folklore can and does effect all of our lives and how the information in the book can be used on a personal level. 
   Dr Jorgensen masterfully presents the academia of folklore in a way that is approachable and the book is structured so that it builds of off itself, making it easy to move from one section to another, and simultaneously deeper into the subject. I also really appreciated that the author didn't shy away from tackling more difficult issues within folklore, including the concept of 'American' which is often used as shorthand for mainstream white US culture. For many people who have a narrow idea of folklore as story this book will be an eye opening read; you may particularly enjoy the sections of folk speech and jokes. 

Fairy Tales 101: An Accessible Introduction to Fairy Tales
   If you ask most people what a fairy tale is they will probably respond with an example like Cinderella or Snow White, but if pressed to describe what a fairy tale actually is will probably be unable to give a clear explanation; fairy tales are a core part of culture but are somewhat ephemeral. Fairy Tale 101 embraces this ephemeral nature and rather than trying to fit it into a small box, explores the range of concepts and stories that make up fairy tales across history, beginning with the author's description of what makes a fairy tale what it is. The opening section includes 10 topics that help establish an understanding of the fairy tale and ground readers in the wider concepts involved with them. This is followed by a section containing 10 articles or blogs that dig deeper into issues that frame fairy tales, from 'original' versions to tale types to why which translation you use matters. The next section is academic articles by dr Jorgensen, including two papers about the intersection of female agency/femininity in fairy tales and one on masculinity. The book wraps up with a section on resources, which is invaluable for those seeking to move forward and learn more. 
   Fairy Tale 101 is more academic in tone than Folk Lore 101, but still stands as a great introduction in my opinion. It helps readers navigate the often confusing, sometimes genuinely baffling, genre of Fairy Tales, and the way the book is set up as a series of, in effect, short articles, makes reading it and absorbing the material easier than it would be in a book using a more typical chapter structure. This is my go-to recommendation for anyone interested in learning more about fairy tales, whether that's out of personal interest or academic interest. It offers all of the need to know basics as well as a bit more depth in some areas, and sets a reader up with a great foundation to go forward from. 

Sex Education 101: Approachable Essays on Folklore, Culture & History
      I had been eagerly awaiting this book since I first found out about it, and it did not disappoint. I should probably preface this by saying that my own degree is in psychology but I am active in the folklore field, I am a long time advocate of comprehensive sex ed, and a fan of dr Jorgensen's other books, so I went into this with high expectations - and I was not disappointed. 
     Sex Education 101 is not another book focused on the how-to's or anatomy of sex, but rather is a comprehensive look at the beliefs that we have and forward about sex, how those influence and shape us, and the way that story and belief affect our understanding of and relationship to sex. The introduction outlines what the book is and isn't and the author's intentions, then the book moves into sections on the folklore of sex, how sex actually works, the history of sex ed, taboo topics, and the case for sex ed. Each of these sections is broken up into various shorter articles which makes the text both easy to get into and also perfect for both referencing and reading one article at a time. Articles are clearly titled and each one works on its own and within the wider flow of the book. 
   I appreciated that Sex Education 101 took an honest look at the US history of the subject, from Kellogg and Graham's obsession with anti-masturbation foods to conversion therapy, and how that has impacted generations of people. It worked to both define and debunk common misconceptions that are perpetuated through both formal and informal channels, and explored the history of sex education and the ways that various cultural factors shaped it. All in all this book is essential not only to gain a better understanding of how we culturally understand sex but also why, and the way that 'facts' can be shaped by belief. highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand sex, beliefs around sex, or get a glimpse of cultural history on the subject. 

Ultimately I think all three of these books are essential reading, and each helps clarify a confusing and complex subject.