Tuesday 16 September 2014

Review: The Book of Faerie - Elves, Faeries & Goblins

There are an awful lot of books about faeries about these days and it can be hard to pick one that gives you the kind of information you are looking for. However, if you are a pagan who wants to find out about the genuine folklore of the faeries of the British Isles, The Book of Faery - A Guide to Faeries, Elves and Goblinsby Michael Howard is a book I would thoroughly recommend.

Publisher Capall Bann says about The Book of Faery on its website: "This is not a New Age work on cute, gossamer winged flower faeries. It is based on historical and folklore sources and personal experiences that reveal the truth about the realm of Faerie or faeryland and its inhabitants. This truth encompasses the dark side of faery lore as well as its bright aspects."

The first part of the book looks at the etymology of the word "faery" - deriving from the French and Latin terms for fate, but coming to mean "otherworldliness". It talks about how people have envisaged and depicted faeries over the centuries, differing suggestions as to their origins and perceived links between faeries and witches. Changelings, Arthurian faery legends, the Fairy Faith as a folk belief system, explanations of the nature of faeries and accounts of faery sightings right up to modern times are all covered.

After this, the much longer second part of the book is an A-Z of Faery Folk. This is full of superb folkoric research and is fascinating to read. As well as elves, goblins, gnomes, piskies and the like, it includes mythological figures with faery connections, such as the Irish goddess Aine, who is queen of the fairies as well as being the goddess of summer, and Cailleach, the Scottish goddess of winter who became demoted to being a faery hag. There are named faeries linked to specific regions - such as the hideous Nukelavee who terrorised Orkney islanders of bygone times - and even faery items, such as the Faery Flag of Dungevan Castle.

For those who are unsure whether faeries exist and are looking for help to understand the phenomena, here is what the book's introduction has to say: "Since prehistory the human race has believed in the existence of spirits cohabiting with it on this planet. Over the centuries a vast amount of myth and lore has built up about those known as faeries who are described in dictionaries as ‘small imaginary [sic] beings of human form with magical powers’. The fact that there is so much historical information available about these entities and even today people are still encountering them suggests they have a separate existence outside of the human mind and imagination."

However, the tone of the book is balanced  and based on solid research. Whether you are an academic interested in folk beliefs, a writer looking for inspiration for a fairy tale or someone who, like me, thinks they might have had a personal glimpse of faeryland, I am sure you will find The Book of Faery offers plenty to interest, inspire and help you come to a better understanding of elves, goblins and their kin.

Links and previous related posts
The Book of Faery - A Guide to Faeries, Elves and Goblins

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