Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness by Carole G. Silver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Strange and Secret Peoples is a book not only about Faeries but also about the Victorian beliefs and attitudes towards faeries. The Victorian beliefs tell us not only about faerie but also about the people who believed those beliefs. Victorian England could be a very racist, class conscious, sexist and snobbish. It was around the Victorian time that England's Empire was expanding and putting her into contact with new people and cultures. Many of them with far different customs and darker skins. The british did not always hold such a favorable view of these people.
The first subject tackled was who or what faeries were. Many thought them to be spiritual being or demon like creatures. There were some views that held them to be fallen angels or former gods. A common belief was that they were Tuatha D dnan. Indigenous people who fled to underground caves with the onslaught of foreign invader. With Pygmies being discovered in African areas the view became more prevalent. They were then thought to be Turanian stock people who were of short stature and inferior build and who inhabited Europe before the Indo-Europeans came. For while they coexisted but then the Indo_Europeans wiped them out. These Turanians taught the Indo_europeans herb lore and healing techniques. The worst in human behavior was attributed to faeries and dwarves. They were underground people who hated others, ate people and ravaged women. Smetimes they even took slaves.
The next topic is about faerie women entrapping men. There was a fear of feminine power. Faerie women were thought to be closer to nature and had more of an animal instinct. Men felt they could not be trusted. Women back then were also treated like property. In faery tales a fae bride will marry a man with certain preconditions andd then when those conditions are broken she up and up leaves with the man staying behind heart broken. Some times she took the children and sometimes she did not. This issue dealt a lot with female independence. Some felt this attitude of faerie women was a throw back to times when Indo Europeans came there would be intermarriages with the local people. Some say that an Indo woman would marry an indigenous man and set conditions. When the conditions were broken she left. Some times it was an Indo- man who married an Indigenous women and she set the standards. In the times when the Turanians ruled things Goddesses were powerful and sacrifices were made to them, women were in charge and had supremacy.
Changeling were faerie exchanges of human babies. There was a fear that faries would abduct a human child and replace it with one of their own who was sickly or a piece of wood that looked like their child. The child left behind was often prematurely aged and very ill. Often times it never moved, ate a lot and had an over sized head. To get their child back concerned parents would put the fae baby on a burning iron shovel or drown it. It was hoped that the faeries would come back with the human child and do another exchange. but this was not always the case. It now found out that most of these sick babies had legitimate health problems. Some of them untreatable.
Goblins and dwarves and other faery creatures were thought to be members of an indigenous race that was short on stature and intelligence yet had magical ability. With the discovery of pygmies in African and other historical literature making note of their existence in Egypt, parts of the Sahara and mention of them in other parts of Europe and Central Europe plus other places in the world, people began to believe that the faeries were either a missing link or something that developed along separate line. this lead to some of the worst in human behavior. Pygmies were sometimes capture an display as freaks in circus and side shows. Some were even put in a zoo. The Victorian put their worst fears into these pygmies. THey were looked at as subhuman, cannibalistic and barbaric.
The fae are thought to be cruel and merciless. They do not like humans. To trespass on their land, insult them or destroy their favorite tree could invite the worst of calamities up and to including death. To speak to a faerie was to invite a trouble maker intent on wreaking havoc. Faeries loved to haunt houses. Faeries are depicted i stories and art work as being war like and cruel, They hurt animals for the fun of it and often wage war on each other for no reason. Faeries supposedly feed off energy an will drain the nutrition from milk, energy from men and blood. Faeries might be best left a alone.
It is said that faeries are leaving England. Part of this is due to Victorian literature and children's stories turning them into Gossamer winged cuties. Some say that it is the Gospel and forms of Christianity that are driving them away. Other sayit is science and technology that kills the faerie faith and faeries along with it. Of course with the destruction of nature faeries are leaving. The faith is not so strong yet it is not gone. Some humans are trying to repatch the relationship.
I say this...belief is everything!
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