Dwarves in Faerie Lore

Faeries podcast - free - Dwarves in faerie (fairy) lore In this week’s Faerie Magick podcast, Fiona discusses dwarves.

Faerie / fairy podcasts - Dwarves in faerie loreRoots: Dwarves are mentioned around the world in a variety of cultures and societies.  In Western culture, most folkore traditions seem to be rooted in Germany, Switzerland and England.

Classic examples: Leprechauns, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, and the ladies’ attendants in King Arthur’s court.  The latter are sometimes associated with ghosts, and the distinctions aren’t clear.

Appearance: Generally male, and human-like but diminutive, ranging from six inches tall to the more usual two to three feet tall.  The men look old and wise and often have long gray beards, but they aren’t “old” since dwarves are immortal.

Dwarves generally own some magical item of clothing such as a cap, a ring, a cloak or cape, or a belt.  It usually gives them invisibility, which is a form of glamoury.

Most (but not all) dwarves are also shape-shifters.  (That’s different from glamoury, which is largely an illusion.)  They usually turn into a creature with wings.  Light or benevolent dwarves turn into butterflies; dark, mischievous or malicious dwarves are supposed to turn into screech owls.

There may be some connection between dwarves’ transformation and the Badb or Mhorrighan stories of Ireland, in which she appears as a crow.

When dwarves shape-shift, they can readily turn back into their usual form.  However, if a wizard casts a shape-shifting spell on them, the dwarf must be very clever to outwit the wizard (and his spell) or wait for the wizard to reverse it.

Dwarves are able to shape-shift the world immediately around them, too.  That may be a form of glamoury, but it’s usually described as a physical change, such as a castle that suddenly appears as a quaint cottage.  This may relate to Cinderella’s carriage that was shape-shifted from a pumpkin.

Dwarves and vampires:  Both dwarves and vampires can transform into flying creatures.  Both dwarves and vampires have problems with sunlight.  Some dwarves have been identified with ghosts, or as beings that were once human or human-like.

Some dwarves turn to stone if sunlight touches them.  They’re okay with the light, but the rays of the sun are an issue.  So, they live in caves, caverns, underground palaces, and dark forests that don’t allow direct sunlight through.

Dwarves and treasures: Dwarves are usually associated with some kind of work or career.  That work usually — but not always — involves working with metal.  (Example: The seven dwarves were miners. Rumpelstiltskin — or Rumpelstilzchen — spun straw into gold.)

Dwarves may protect a treasure in their caverns, castles or forests.  That treasure often includes (metal) coins, such as the leprechaun’s pot of gold.

Dwarves may also craft magical metal objects.  Though the objects can work magic (or magick), they may also carry a curse if the object is misused… or used by someone not authorized to handle it.

Categories of dwarves: In many cultures, dwarves are divided into three categories, depending on how benevolent, mischievous or malicious they are.  White dwarves are good, brown dwarves are pranksters or unreliable, and black dwarves are evil.  (Literature is inconsistent in explaining those color notes, as the dwarves aren’t colored that way and their clothing may not match the colors, either.)

In Ireland, the three groups aren’t quite so dark or dangerous.  There, an example is the leprechaun, cluricaune, and the fir darrig (or fir dhearga – literally, the red man, but that form of the word “red” is usually associated with red light, not red hair).

The fir darrig/dhearga is usually about 2 1/2 feet tall, wears a red, conical cap and generally looks like a garden gnome figure.

The best references for information about dwarves include The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Andrew Lang’s fairy tale books.

Click here to listen to Dwarves in Faerie Lore (MP3)

Music: The Moods of Man, written & orchestrated by James Underberg

Elves of Ireland? and other questions

Faeries podcast - freeWho are the elves of Ireland?  In this 14-minute podcast, Fiona talks about this question and several others.

What surnames see the Banshee?

Anyone can see a Banshee, but you’re not likely to.  They rarely appear to humans.  However, since Banshees are real, it’s possible for anyone to see them.

For more information about the faerie-related families protected by Banshees, see Fiona’s article, The Banshee.

The Banshee is real; stories connect Banshees with specific Irish families.

You can see (or, more often, hear) a Banshee whether you’re related to an Irish family or not.

Do people actually see faeries?

Fiona says that this question is like asking if people actually see elephants.  In both cases, the answer is yes… if you’re in a place where they are, and you know what you’re looking for.

Is this website a hoax/fake?

No. Many of Fiona’s faerie articles have been online for over ten years.  (They were originally at HollowHill.com, which later became Fiona’s ghost-related site, and at Suite101.com, where Fiona worked as a journalist for three years.)

Fiona isn’t sure why anyone would think an academic site like this — especially one that’s been online for so many years — would be a hoax.

She also explains that the majority of faerie (or fairy) related websites are happy fantasy sites, and delightful to visit.  She doesn’t like the words “hoax” or “fake” used with any serious, fae-related website.  (Also, it’s not wise to insult friends of the faeries.)

Can you describe the different kinds of dragons?

Fiona talks about dragons in several articles at this website, and gives a general outline of the kinds of dragons, as well.

In future articles and podcasts, she’ll explain more about them.

Who are the elves of Ireland?

“Elves” is not a word that originated in Ireland.  Some Irish people have adopted the word, elf. It appears in various histories and mythologies, notably English history where the word initially meant all faeries.

Soon, the word “elf” was used to describe specific, small creatures that have supernatural powers and may be shape shifters.  The term may sometimes be used in place of boggart or gnome.

Elf men are usually described as kings and they’re elderly, or have small, wrinkled faces.  Elf women are usually described as young and beautiful maidens wearing grey dresses and white veils.

Some cultures’ stories — including Algonquin (Native American) and Teutonic mythology — describe “elves of light.”  Their counterparts would be “elves of darkness,” similar to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of the Scottish faeries.

The word “elf” has many spellings, from Aelf to Ylf, and is primarily featured in British, Teutonic, Icelandic and Scandinavian lore.

Elves in Ireland — or at least the use of the word, “elf” — probably arrived in Ireland from one or more of those countries.

Click here to listen to this podcast online (MP3)
(or, you can download it at iTunes)

References

Briggs, Katharine: An Encyclopedia of Fairies

Rose, Carol: Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins – An Encyclopedia

Smith, Peter A.: W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu

Music:
The Moods of Man
written & orchestrated by James Underberg

Faerie Terminology

Faeries podcast - freeIn this 14-minute podcast, Fiona Broome discusses three main topics:

  1. The words we use to describe faeries.
  2. Poltergeists – faeries or ghosts?
  3. Who has faerie ancestry.

Terminology

Faeries, pixies, goblins, elementals… what are they?  Are they connected?

Fiona describes the problems in using labels and categories to describe faeries.  She traces the history of the term “elementals” to describe nature spirits — sometimes faeries — and how extreme the connections have become over many centuries.

For example:

  • Elementals of the ground are usually called gnomes, related to the element of Earth, the direction of North, the Moon, and the season of autumn.
  • Sylphs are the elementals of the air, related to the east, the sun, and spring.
  • Salamanders are elementals of fire, the south, Mars, and summer.
  • Undines are elementals of water, the west, Jupiter, and winter.

However, that’s just one way to categorize faeries.  We can also categorize them by size, by whether or not they seem to remain in groups (or troops), whether they’re helpful or mischievous, how they dress, and so on.

As Fiona explains, we’re guessing. Our labels may be very wrong.

We continue to use these labels because they’re popular and — like using the word “ghosts” for everything from apparitions to poltergeists — when we say “faeries” or “pixies” or “gnomes,” people generally know what we’re talking about.

However, we are aware of the historical and cultural influences (and interpretations) of those words.  They can change slightly with popular use.

Poltergeists

While some people call poltergeists elementals, most ghost researchers consider poltergeists part of ghost-related phenomena.  Usually, a poltergeist seems to be an entity that is using the energy of a human, and creating mischief around that human.

To learn more about poltergeists, see these notes from one of Fiona’s 2010 podcasts: Poltergeists – What they are, and famous poltergeists.

Faerie ancestry

Many  people have heard about Fiona’s article, Faeries in your family tree.  In this podcast, Fiona explains that most (and perhaps all) nationalities have an historic tradition related to the roots of their people.  Those roots usually have some connections with gods and/or faeries.

Though Fiona draws upon her Irish heritage to explain that many people are descended from faeries, the Irish aren’t the only ones with fae family trees.

References

Though most of Fiona’s information is drawn from a variety of sources, she confirmed the Pagan-Elementals information at Elements and Elementals.

For additional information about faeries, you may enjoy the encyclopedia,  Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins, by Carol Rose.  It provides information about many faeries and faerie-related creatures, as well as a helpful section with cross-references that link one culture’s faerie names with another’s.

Click here to listen to this podcast online (MP3)

Music: The Moods of Man, written & orchestrated by James Underberg

 

Green Faeries

Faeries podcast - freeMany green faeries protect the forestGreen faeries are among the strongest traditions in faerie lore.  They’re usually associated with nature, the trees or even the forest.

In this 12-minute podcast, Fiona Broome talks about the following green faeries and related entities.

The Green Man

This “wild man” of the forest may be a faerie.  He — and his fellow Green Men — usually protect the forest and sometimes the animals in it.

The original “Green Man” may be Merlin, who was said to go mad for several years and, during that time, lived in the forested areas around the border between England and Scotland.  (His sister lived nearby, with her husband and family.)

The Green Man may be related to these other traditions, as well:  the Green Knight, Green George, Jack in the Green, Latzman, the Leaf King, corn babies and corn dolls, the Wicker Man, or even Robin Hood.

There may be benevolent, female counterparts in the woods, but Green Women in folklore are very different.

Green Women

The Green Women traditions seem to be well-established in the Scottish Highlands.  In fact, there is a Glen of Green Women and a related ballad by Sir Walter Scott.

Green Women are usually beautiful women dressed in green.  They usually appear at night, and seem in distress.  One of them will appeal to a kind-hearted man, and lead him away from his friends.  His lifeless body will be found in the morning, drained as if attacked by a vampire or a demonic entity that consumed the victim’s life energy.  In some cases, only the bones remain.

The distinctive feature of Green Women is supposed to be their feet.  (Some stories also talk about odd hands.)  The feet are actually hooves, similar to what you’d see on a deer.  Usually, the women go to extremes to cover that strange characteristic, and wear a long gown that reaches the floor.

They may be dark faeries, vampires, or something related to demons.  They may also be related to the Baoban Sith legends of Scotland.

The Green Women are usually different from green ladies, though some Green Women have been called Green Ladies.

The Green Lady

Also well-founded in Scotland, the “green lady” (sometimes all lower-case letters) is more likely a ghost than a faerie.  Though there are many of them, people usually talk about them in the singular.

The classic green lady ghost appears at Skipness Castle at Loch Fyne.

In most cases, the green lady protects the home or castle where she once lived, and the family in it.  Often, the home displays her portrait from centuries ago.

Unlike the Banshee (bean sidhe), the green lady stays with the home she’s protecting.  Banshees will move from house to house, protecting “their” family and its descendants.

One notable exception is Judith Thompson Tyng, a green lady ghost who moved from home to home in 18th century Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.  For more about her, read Tyngsboro – The Haunting of John Alford Tyng.

The Scottish green ladies may be related to brownies, the Gruagach, and especially the Grogan family.

If you’re interested in the green lady ghosts, you may enjoy Scottish ghosts – Where to find a ‘Green Lady’ ghost.

Green Children

Green children are definitely faerie children.  They have green skin and wear green clothing.  They’re usually seen at a distance, in wooded areas.  Reports of them date to the 13th century, in the writings of Ralph of Coggeshall, as well as Sir Richard deCaine and William deNewburgh.

Listen to this podcast right now, on your computer [MP3]

Music: The Moods of Man, written & orchestrated by James Underberg

Faeries, Angels, Ghosts and Aliens

Faeries podcast - freeIn this 13-minute podcast, Fiona Broome discusses the differences and similarities among four groups of entities:  faeries, angels, ghosts and aliens.

For the purpose of this discussion, Fiona assumes that all of these groups are real, and descriptions in legends and folklore are accurate.

Faeries – Can be big or small, winged or not.  They like things tidy, or they’ll hide things from people.  Some of them seem to think it’s funny to tease or torment pets.  Except for leprechauns, there’s little evidence that faeries actually work.

Angels – Can be big or small, winged or not.  They seem to have tasks, but — like faeries — people rarely see angels doing manual labor.

Ghosts – Are usually the same size as people, and act like people, including work.  They’re never reported with wings.  They don’t seem to care if a home is tidy, but they prefer the house as it was when they lived or visited it.  Animals can seem fearful around ghosts, but ghosts aren’t likely to torment them.

Aliens – Appear in all sizes, but if they have wings, they’re not described as faerie wings or angel wings.  Animals seem frightened of them.  Aliens don’t seem to linger at a location as faeries and ghosts can.

There seems to be considerable overlap in some characteristics, and broad differences in others.  However, when people describe an encounter with an entity that’s the size of a human but seems from another time or realm — even if they want to insist that it’s a ghost — they could be describing a faerie, an angel, a ghost or even an alien.  More information is necessary.

With this kind of insight, it’s possible to look at popular TV shows differently, and consider that some “ghost encounters” are actually faerie experiences.

This may also explain why modern reports of aliens (UFOs, Bigfoot, etc.) are in the same areas where faeries were reported during eras when faeries were considered more “normal” in daily life than aliens.

Here’s what’s especially interesting:

We have a fairly reliable understanding of angels due to religious documents and interest.  Aliens and UFOs have been documented thanks to the interest of governments and scientific groups.  Ghost evidence is plentiful thanks to interest generated by TV shows.

However, if faeries aren’t real… why do we have so much cross-cultural information about them?  They’ve been described consistently for centuries, from every corner of the world.  If this was all make-believe, we might have “fairy tales,” but not the scope of faerie history and lore that exist around the world.

Listen to this podcast on your computer (MP3)

Music: The Moods of Man, written & orchestrated by James Underberg

(Note: On February 19th, we’ll be back on schedule.)