Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Remedial Lore: An Upcoming Theme

There is a skilled work of fiction of which I am very fond, in which there is a character who has been bewitched by a wicked fairy. As is standard with bewitchments, she is unable to tell anyone what has happened to her. Each and every time she tries to lift her frail voice and confess her condition, the only words that spill out are absurd historical anecdotes from another world. She's desperately reaching out for help, but all that comes out is the tale of a battle fought by rabbit-mounted imps across an expensive rug. People shake their heads and walk away slowly.

I know the feeling.

I don't consider myself a particularly knowledgeable person when it comes to my areas of interest. I'm sure as hell not an expert. But it just so happens that the more common discourse regarding my particular passions tend to be fraught with popular misconceptions and misleadingly precious "literature," most of which can be easily dismantled by even the smallest amount of casual research.

The problem is that the intelligent and critical people end up completely dismissing whole areas of cultural history and magical practice, to the point where such information is regarded as "off limits," or simply irrelevant outside of a smutty novel. I could devote my efforts to debunking the mythical myths of idiots, like many other brave souls have, but I'm more interested in these "discerning" individuals, who think they're in on the joke, or that the lore is only so much inscrutable phantasmagoria for small time fantasy authors to plunge their grubby meat hooks into for material. (Ahem.)

For clarity, I am referring to these separate-but-certainly-not-unrelated subjects:

1.) Celtic Mythology.

2.) Fairy Lore.

3.) Familiar Spirits.

Due to a history of imperialism and cultural marginalization, few people in the West today are familiar with the histories and sagas of Celtic countries. In the Victorian age, the bourgeoisie of Great Britain developed an ongoing fixation with sanitizing folk and fairy legends for its own xenophobic, moralistic reasons. (This issue is really too big to cover at the moment, but I'm sure you already know that when I try to mention the F-word, it doesn't matter what information accompanies it, because all that figures in your mind are porcelain collectibles, or an amateur model smeared with glitter.) Roughly around the same time, a few prominent members of the Celtic Revival were engaging in some fanciful falsehoods, similar to those spun by the Rosicrucians, or any number of organizations said to have been founded by Tibetan Masters. While most authors, poets and patrons were engaged in a valiant effort to preserve the authentic narratives of their respective countries, one could argue that a legacy of bullshit may have inadvertently resulted in the aftermath. Not that I would ever compare a work as powerful and moving as Ossian to Celtic Feng Shui.

By my estimation, subject of the witch's familiar is something that has reemerged in the popular imagination the late 20th century - possibly, in the wake of New Age fascination with totemic entities - though it has yet to take center stage amidst the general fanfare we're currently seeing over witchcraft as a whole. Generally, most modern occult writing on the familiar spirit is simply fluff or filler, while all too many practitioners dismiss historical sources for their frequently Satanic overtones. Furthermore, most people are completely unaware of the intersections that occur between witchcraft and fairy belief. (Protip: there are intersections that occur between historical witchcraft and fairy belief.)

Most folks who engage in niche occult practices or the less popular polytheisms are content to talk one another's heads off until we lose our minds - at least that way, we don't have to explain what we're talking about all the time. We all understand each other. But I'd like to do what little I can so that the wider occult community can find a convenient point of entry for subjects like these - to encourage, at the very least, the same kind of casual familiarity one might have of Heathenry or Madam Blavatsky, regardless of one's own path. Basically, "Things You Really Should Already Know About _____." Because I'm not an expert. But I am an enthusiast. Hopefully, you might come to see why.