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The Hidden History of Fairies - Were They Real?

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posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:39 AM
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Everyone is familiar with fairies, the ethereal and beautiful Disney-styled spirits. But a closer look into Scottish folklore reveals a different side to these beings. Many stories tell of the dangers of fairy folk and their malicious nature. Fairies were said to steal babies, and leave sickly fairy babies in their place. Worse still, they would leave crudely carved wooden effigies in the cot having snatched the real, healthy infant. They were known to spirit people away to their own lands, where time was different to ours and if a wanderer ever returned, he would come back a very different man. They were said to be warded off with both iron and a rowan tree.
So who were they? Why did generations of families fear these creatures and why are their tales so prevalent in our lore? It seems unlikely that our ancestors were all plain stupid, and relied on superstition to explain life as they knew it. And yet that is the rather smug myth that permeates society; we are now cleverer, smarter, more scientifically minded than our family from centuries ago.
Really? I’m not so sure.
In the late 1890’s Scottish folklorist David McRitchie put forward a theory that many later folklorists would adopt. This was the idea that fairies were actually memories of a tribe of Northerners, the Picts (the painted/tattooed ones). The Picts inhabited the north east of what we now call Scotland from around the late Iron Age. Although no written history or language survives, they have left us carved stones and crosses which allow a glimpse of their culture. The earliest stone to have been dated comes from 6AD.
Little is known about the Picts, why no record of their language exists or where they went. But are they now our fairies? A Norwegian excerpt from the 12th century tells us that “the Picts were little more than pygmies in stature. They worked marvels in the morning and evening buildings towns, but at midday they entirely lost their strength and lurked through fear in little underground houses.”
But let’s not forget that these ‘pygmies’ were also capable of holding back the invading Roman legions so this could well be an exaggeration!
But what then of the story of the Bean sidhe (pron. Banshee) literally ‘woman fairy’. Lore tells of this spirit crying by a river, eternally washing clothes who could predict the names of those who were bound to die soon. And yet there are many tales of a Beansidhe marrying mortal men. ‘Second sight’ and ‘seers’ are commonplace in Scottish history. Could these have been mortal Picts with a gift of sight who have been immortalised as spirits?
R.L.Brown explains that “early Scottish tribes had the custom of kidnapping the children of their enemies and leaving sickly ones in their place.” Is this more evidence that fairies have their roots firmly in reality rather than the supernatural?
I’m not sure if I can attribute all of fairy doings to the Picts, and wonder if some tales were not perpetuated as some kind of racist propaganda of the times. Memories, embellishments, tall tales have all fused to give us our modern day fairy. But this does help me to feel closer to our ancestors too; to feel that they were real humans with a fear and wariness of strangers, and the necessity for passing on these stories. We know we humans have the propensity for racism and tribalism, so this idea fits with what we know of us. Or maybe the demonic and the mortal have blended through stories over time?
You will have to make your own mind up as to the verity of these theories, but me? I like to imagine that my great, great, great...etc grandmother was a fairy!


Sources and further reading:
The Quest for the Celtic Key – K.R. MacLeod & I. Robertson
Scottish Folklore – Raymond Lamont Brown
The Supernatural Highlands – Francis Thomson




posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:45 AM
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I like to imagine that my great, great, great...etc grandmother was a fairy!





I like to keep my thoughts in reality.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:46 AM
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A thread on fairies and no Tuatha de Danaan??

Hadnt heard the Picts were Pygmys, interesting stuff.
Ill check out the links S&F

EDIT: theres no links???
Would you be able to link a couple of your sources for further reading?
Myself and many others on here are too lazy to use google
edit on 9/12/2013 by IkNOwSTuff because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:50 AM
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IkNOwSTuff
A thread on fairies and no Tuatha de Danaan??

Hadnt heard the Picts were Pygmys, interesting stuff.
Ill check out the links S&F

EDIT: theres no links???
Would you be able to link a couple of your sources for further reading?
Myself and many others on here are too lazy to use google
edit on 9/12/2013 by IkNOwSTuff because: (no reason given)


Hi no, Irish folklore is beyond my scope, I'm afraid! I'll add on some links you can go straight too asap.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:52 AM
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EA006

I like to imagine that my great, great, great...etc grandmother was a fairy!





I like to keep my thoughts in reality.


It was a wee joke, albeit #e. My great, great etc was probably a Pict. Thanks for reading, though.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 05:53 AM
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The Picts weren't pygmies. Nor were they fairies. Okay they've not left a huge trace in the archaeological record, but there is more than enough that we have a semi-clear picture on who and what they were.

Here:

www.archaeology.org...

Just regular people.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 06:02 AM
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reply to post by beansidhe
 


I grew up in rural Scotland and as a child believed in Faeries, and spent a lot of my childhood in the woods. I also read a few books on the Picts as a teenager and continued studies whilst researching Wicca and historical paganism, including that of ancient Scotland.

There are a lot of interconnected pagan beliefs, suggesting that there was a common ancestry or a common tradition base, such as that of the Gaulish Keltoi populating Britain from Europe and being later collectively known as ''Celts'' however misleading the term is.

My own feelings on this is that there is definitely a 'supernatural' element to humanity and there are those more sensitive to and in tune with such forces.

And, that probably tribal lore entwined with various legends,tales of yore, the human need for recognition of 'higher forces', and historical references that bind these folk memories into the psyche of nations.

Nationalism in the style of Braveheart the movie has a lot to answer for. If only schools taught real history. Some decent reading here on the origins of the Picts etc:

www.electricscotland.com...
www.academia.edu...
smartin.bol.ucla.edu...

Interestingly, the Pictish short, dark look is believed to have come from Spain via Ireland and can be seen in Irish, Welsh and Scottish communities predominantly in the UK where DNA from early populations is less diluted. The common ancestry is probably ultimately from a specific region, far from the UK.

smartin.bol.ucla.edu...
DNA maps
edit on 9-12-2013 by theabsolutetruth because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 06:04 AM
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reply to post by Painterz
 


Hi, I don't think I can have been very clear in my original post. The Picts were unlikely to have been pygmies, but their customs and memories of them may have led to the idea and stories of fairies.
Thanks for the link, much appreciated.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 06:07 AM
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reply to post by Painterz
 


Those fairies sound a bit like neds. It would make sense then that there's little history.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 06:20 AM
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reply to post by theabsolutetruth
 


Hi, thanks for your reply. It would be arrogant and wrong of me to suggest a definitive answer to this question as greater people than me have tried! Like you, I think there is a wealth of woven history, reality and probably a bit of supernature existing in these tales. What intrigues me is our need to perpetuate these stories, even though we have no reason to now. It seems to be a deeply ingrained knowledge of something that we should do, although we are no longer sure why.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 08:33 AM
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i]reply to post by IkNOwSTuff
 


A couple of online links to similar discussions. Please note, these are not my references, but the content is similar.

Were the Picts fairies?
The picts in Zetland[
edit on 9-12-2013 by beansidhe because: Added another



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 08:47 AM
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From what I know, the "tooth fairy" phenomenon exists so I try to stay open minded.

No this isn't a joke.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:04 AM
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theMediator
From what I know, the "tooth fairy" phenomenon exists so I try to stay open minded.

No this isn't a joke.


You've caught me..and yes I exist.

I know I shouldn't be saying this but I am the tooth fairy (in my household at least) and whilst I'm sneaking around, lifting pillows and leaving pound coins, I've never once bumped into anyone else on my patch.

I wonder how many fairy baby abductions there were pre modern forensics in comparison to post modern forensics?

Playful, naughty, dangerous....sounds like pesky Humans again to me.


edit on 9-12-2013 by Jukiodone because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:14 AM
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off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


 



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:18 AM
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reply to post by beansidhe
 

Reading your thread when I first came across the name 'Picts' the word 'Pixie' popped into my head. Upon further looking into it I found that the origins of the name 'Pixie' is used sometimes as a synonym for fairies. Not much is know of its true origin except there is one belief that pixies may be a type of slang referring to the Picts.

Maybe this is the line that people crossed when associating pixies or Picts as fairies? It could be that fairies is a legend and pixies were actual real people with a small stature. The two may have gotten mixed together or maybe they are one in the same and the imagination ramped them up into winged baby stealing beings.
edit on 9-12-2013 by TheLieWeLive because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:22 AM
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reply to post by TheLieWeLive
 


Hi

That's a good point. It's possible that Pict Sidhe or Sith (pron. pict shee) is the origin for the word pixie. I think I read that in Lamont Brown's book. Pict Sidhe would mean Pict fairy.

I think that is well the case, that cultural racism may have tried to demonise a group of others (not necessarily Picts, there are arguments on both sides) and make them out to be less than human. Baby stealing does seem to be a very human trait, after all. As you say, there could easily have been more supernatural answers, which have blended with historical peoples to give us fairies.
edit on 9-12-2013 by beansidhe because: More to add
edit on 9-12-2013 by beansidhe because: Translation



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:39 AM
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Jukiodone

theMediator
From what I know, the "tooth fairy" phenomenon exists so I try to stay open minded.

No this isn't a joke.


You've caught me..and yes I exist.

I know I shouldn't be saying this but I am the tooth fairy (in my household at least) and whilst I'm sneaking around, lifting pillows and leaving pound coins, I've never once bumped into anyone else on my patch.

I wonder how many fairy baby abductions there were pre modern forensics in comparison to post modern forensics?

Playful, naughty, dangerous....sounds like pesky Humans again to me.


edit on 9-12-2013 by Jukiodone because: (no reason given)


Do you think the myth lives because we need a scapegoat from time to time? That element is possible, fairies definitely serve a purpose in the example you gave.



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 09:57 AM
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an interesting thought to ponder. there are two constants in almost all world cultures. one, large flying reptiles that spat fire. the other, little people. whether they are the menehunes from hawaii, kobolds, gnomes, brownies, or fairies, they all have a lot the same characteristics. small, mischievous, clever. makes one think, doesn't it?



posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 11:00 AM
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reply to post by beansidhe
 


My standard fairy thread contribution is timeless.




posted on Dec, 9 2013 @ 11:58 AM
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reply to post by randyvs
 


You gave this thread a soundtrack? You're too cool! Good job it's a classic x





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