Monday, January 18, 2016

The Faeries Go To War

In my contemporary dark fantasy Thorn Jack, the Fatas (the faeries) need mortals to accomplish certain things in the true world, even to wage war among themselves. They are, as Shakespeare said, but shadows.

The Faery folk have always needed mortals to engage in sports or battles. The Sidhe, the Tuatha de Danaan, the Seelie court, might have been a darkly divine race, but they also needed to manipulate human beings in order to accomplish certain goals, especially warfare: *"And there arose also the satyrs, and sprites, and the maniacs of the valleys, and the witches and goblins, and owls, and destroying demons of the air and firmament, and the demoniac phantom host; and they were inviting and sustaining valour and battle with them." And: *"Mortals found near dead bodies at such a time were in great danger of being taken by those spirit hosts of the Tuatha de Danaan." And these are the good faeries! A Celtic hero, meeting three red-haired, red-clad warriors on the road, hears these unsettling words from them: *"Though we are alive, we are dead. Great are the signs: Destruction of life: Sating of ravens: Feeding of crows: Strife of slaughter: Wetting of sword edge." Faery warfare is a nasty business.

There are Irish folk stories of people stumbling upon the Others playing a game of hurley and being forced to participate. Then there are the infamous faery dances, which lure the unwilling into a night that might become one hundred mortal years. And it isn't only faery warfare and games in which mortals must be involved like lucky talismans. There are tales of women being stolen to be faery midwives. Human witnesses to faery funerals and faery feasts. Mortal musicians are always in danger of being taken. Human children are snatched away and replaced with sickly changelings.

As for warfare, whatever side the faery folk favor when mortals battle, that side wins. *"When the fairy tribes under the various kings and queens have a battle,one side manages to have a living man among them, and he by knocking the faeries about turns the battle." It's as if to establish any sort of act of life or death among the faery folk, flesh and blood is needed.

 But these human talismans must beware, for a taste of faery food or a faery kiss will trap them forever in the world of spirits, a world which even the spirits seem to long to escape.

*The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz

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