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Common examples of such charms include church bells, wearing clothing inside out, four-leaf clover , and food. Fairies were also sometimes thought to haunt specific locations, and to lead travelers astray using will-o'-the-wisps. Before the advent of modern medicine , fairies were often blamed for sickness, particularly tuberculosis and birth deformities. In addition to their folkloric origins, fairies were a common feature of Renaissance literature and Romantic art , and were especially popular in the United Kingdom during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The Celtic Revival also saw fairies established as a canonical part of Celtic cultural heritage. The English fairy derives from Old French form faierie , a derivation from faie from Vulgar Latin fata with the abstract noun suffix -erie. In Old French romance, a faie or fee was a woman skilled in magic, and who knew the power and virtue of words, of stones, and of herbs.

In the sense of "land where fairies dwell", archaic spellings faery and faerie are still in use. Latinate fay is not related the Germanic fey , meaning "fated to die", [3] but some dictionaries do list "fey" as a kind of fairy. Various folklore traditions refer to fairies euphemistically as wee folk , good folk , people of peace , fair folk Welsh: Tylwyth Teg , etc. The term fairy is sometimes used to describe any magical creature, including goblins and gnomes , while at other times, the term describes only a specific type of ethereal creature or sprite.

Fairie was used adjectivally, meaning "enchanted" as in fairie knight , fairie queene , but also became a generic term for various "enchanted" creatures during the Late Middle English period. Literature of the Elizabethan era conflated elves with the fairies of Romance culture, rendering these terms somewhat interchangeable.

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The Victorian era and Edwardian era saw a heightened increase of interest in fairies. The Celtic Revival cast fairies as part of Ireland's cultural heritage. Carole Silvers and others suggested this fascination of English antiquarians arose from a reaction to greater industrialization and loss of older folk ways. Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Diminutive fairies of various kinds have been reported through centuries, ranging from quite tiny to the size of a human child.


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Some depictions of fairies show them with footwear, others as barefoot. Wings, while common in Victorian and later artworks, are rare in folklore; fairies flew by means of magic, sometimes perched on ragwort stems or the backs of birds. Early modern fairies does not derive from a single origin; the term is a conflation of disparate elements from folk belief sources, influenced by literature and speculation. The Scandinavian elves also served as an influence.


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Folklorists and mythologists have variously depicted fairies as: Folklorists have suggested that 'fairies' arose from various earlier beliefs, which lost currency with the advent of Christianity. King James , in his dissertation Daemonologie , stated the term "faries" referred to illusory spirits demonic entities that prophesied to, consorted with, and transported the individuals they served; in medieval times , a witch or sorcerer who had a compact with a familiar spirit might receive these services.

A Christian tenet held that fairies were a class of "demoted" angels. In England's Theosophist circles of the 19th century, a belief in the "angelic" nature of fairies was reported. The more Earthbound Devas included nature spirits , elementals , and fairies , [22] which were described as appearing in the form of colored flames, roughly the size of a human. Gardner had likened fairies to butterflies, whose function was to provide an essential link between the energy of the sun and the plants of Earth, describing them as having no clean-cut shape A theory held that fairies were originally worshiped as minor deities, such as nymphs and tree spirits , [25] and with the burgeoning predominance of the Christian Church , reverence for these deities carried on, but in a dwindling state of perceived power.

Many deprecated deities of older folklore and myth were repurposed as fairies in Victorian fiction See the works of W. A recorded Christian belief of the 17th century cast all fairies as demons. Lewis cast as a politic disassociation from faeries. The Triumph of the Moon , by Ronald Hutton. This contentious environment of thought contributed to the modern meaning of 'fairies'. One belief held that fairies were spirits of the dead [32]. This derived from many factors in common of various folklore and myths: There is a theory that fairy folklore evolved from folk memories of a prehistoric race: Proponents find support in the tradition of cold iron as a charm against fairies, viewed as a cultural memory of invaders with iron weapons displacing peoples who had just stone, bone, wood, etc.

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In folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to the fairies as " elf-shot ", [38] while their green clothing and underground homes spoke to a need for camouflage and covert shelter from hostile humans, their magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry. In a Victorian tenet of evolution, mythic cannibalism among ogres was attributed to memories of more savage races, practising alongside "superior" races of more refined sensibilities. A theory that fairies, et al. Much folklore of fairies involves methods of protecting oneself from their malice, by means such as cold iron , charms see amulet , talisman of rowan trees or various herbs , or simply shunning locations "known" to be theirs, ergo avoiding offending any fairies.

More dangerous behaviors were also attributed to fairies; any form of sudden death might have stemmed from a fairy kidnapping, the evident corpse a magical replica of wood. In Scottish folklore , fairies are divided into the Seelie Court more beneficently inclined, but still dangerous , and the Unseelie Court more malicious.

While fairies of the Seelie Court enjoyed playing generally harmless pranks on humans, those of the Unseelie Court often brought harm to humans for entertainment. Trooping fairies refers to those who appear in groups and might form settlements, as opposed to solitary fairies, who do not live or associate with others of their kind. In this context, the term fairy is usually held in a wider sense, including various similar beings, such as dwarves and elves of Germanic folklore.

A considerable amount of lore about fairies revolves around changelings , fairy children left in the place of stolen human babies. In pre-industrial Europe, a peasant family's subsistence frequently depended upon the productive labor of each member, and a person who was a permanent drain on the family's scarce resources could pose a threat to the survival of the entire family.

Beasts, slugs, Minion, Bleak Beastie; this book story was written for teens. Towards the end the winged creatures were sent out to find the abandoned faerie child with her name, the name given at birth of the human child she had replaced. Now this book finally made sense. Mar 18, Sorry for the delay in getting back, and thank you for reading and reviewing my first book. This can result from eating a greasy meal and then touching one eye with greasy fingers. Most of the time, however, it occurs when the woman is asked to rub the eyes of the child with a Faerie ointment and then inadvertently touches one of her own eyes as well.

Though the exact formulation is unknown, traditionally the ointment is supposed to be made from shamrocks. The treatment seems to be permanent, but the woman invariably betrays her secret, usually by seeing an invisible Faerie and greeting him, at which point he puts out the eye she sees him with. It is also curious that these women usually do not receive a rich reward, though they can be paid their usual fee.

It is almost tempting to believe that their newly acquired Faerie sight is their reward, which they lose when they infringe on Faerie privacy. One other point is that the fate of these half-human children is never revealed in the legends or folktales. However, being raised in the Faerie realm, eating Faerie food, it can probably be taken for granted that they grow up to become fully Faerie.

However, as in most things, if the Faeries need humans for some reason, they just kidnap them. Though people are occasionally taken for what amounts to slave labor, there are generally two reasons why Faeries kidnap humans: It is more common for Faeries to kidnap a young woman to be a wet nurse or a nanny than to hire one, though usually the women are still let go after their use is fulfilled.

It is rare to kidnap a man to participate in a war or ball game, possibly because his cooperation is crucial, but it does happen and again he is usually let go afterwards. However, a man with a special talent or who is especially skilled at a craft, music, or singing, or a handsome youth who has caught the eye of a Faerie lady, is generally taken forever.

In those cases, a stock is usually left in his place. This is a piece of wood about the same size and general shape of the victim, crudely carved to resemble a human, then ensorcelled by glamour to make it look like the victim. It is made to look as if it is sick or unconscious, and after a short while it appears to die, at which point the humans duly bury it. In that way, the victim is not missed and no attempt to rescue him is made.


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  • The same is true of women taken to be nurse maids or nannies. By far, though, women, children, and babies are the most common victims of Faerie kidnapping, and they are invariably used as breeding stock.

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    Apparently, Faeries need to invigorate themselves with human blood — i. Men taken by fairy women are used as lovers, though their use for stud cannot be ruled out. However, beautiful young women taken by fairy men are used in only one way, as brood mares. Legends and folktales refer to them as brides, but this may be a euphemism for concubine. There is no evidence in the stories that these women were treated the same as real fairy wives. In fact, the closest analogy would probably be that of Homeric Greece, in which the Achaean heroes captured women on their raids and took them back to their city-states to first service them in their beds and then serve them as slaves on their estates.

    It is therefore likely that, after bearing one or more children, the human women were put to work under the supervision of the fairy wives. That humans are kidnapped for recreational sex should not come as a surprise. Faeries are, of course, the patrons of fertility, and sex is intimately coupled to fertility. As such, Faerie amorousness is legendary, and it isn't limited to the Trooping Faeries. Wild Faerie men often try to seduce or lure women into their dwellings, and they will extort human men into surrendering their wives or daughters to them, or blackmail human women into living with them.

    Others will rape women who spy on them, though most of the time they can mesmerize the women to keep them from resisting. Many wild Faerie women use sex as a form of punishment for infringing on their privacy, and their love-making is so intense few men can survive it, and those who do pine away and die. A few will even punish human women in this same way.

    Others demand the man marry them or he will be killed, while others simply take him if they are enamored with him. Some can be wooed into becoming mistresses, but only if the man keeps their secrets and agrees to honor certain difficult conditions. Taking captives may also have a more sinister purpose. Every seven years, the Faeries must pay a teind , or tithe, to the Devil, one of their own given to him as tribute.

    Many legends and folktales hint that human captives are used to pay the teind so that Faeries will be spared. Nonetheless, a captive can be rescued as long as he or she does not consume any Faerie food or drink, because otherwise he or she will be trapped forever, having partaken of the Faerie nature. Even then the rescue will have to be made before seven years has passed, otherwise another attempt can not be made again until seven years later. There are many methods that can be used to free a captive; indeed, the method may be unique to each case.

    One that seems to work often is to throw milk or Holy water over the victim as he or she rides by in a rade. Another common method is lay hold of the victim and hang on to him or her as tightly as possible, ignoring all the frightful sights and sound the Faeries create, or the horrific forms the victim is forced to take on at the Faeries' command. Still another method is to threaten to dig down into a Faerie mound or an underground Faerie residence and expose it to the light of day.

    Even so, courage is required when using these methods, because they put the rescuers in direct confrontation with the Faeries. As such, the primary reason most rescue attempts fail is cowardice: Another important reason is that sometimes the rescue attempt comes too late, after the victim has eaten Faerie food.

    Jealousy is another strong reason for failure. A man who loses his young wife shortly after child birth may not discover that she didn't die but was taken by the Faeries until after he has remarried. His new wife may then thwart his attempt to rescue his old one by sabotaging his attempt. But if attempts to rescue a captive sometimes fail, so too can the attempts by the Faeries to kidnap their selected victim. As with rescues, the methods used may be unique to each case, but in the absence of a protective charm or ritual, the most common method is to simply hold on to the victim despite all attempts by the Faeries to force his or her release.

    One unusual method takes advantage of a Faerie trait, that they must agree to exchange anything a human has for anything they have, no matter how unfavorable the trade is. One story tells of a man who watched a group of Faeries flying overhead, carrying something with them. Curious to know what it was, he threw his hat into the air, crying, "Mine be yours and yours be mine! Many more children and babies are taken than even women, because it is easier to assimilate them into Faerie society. Sometimes a stock is left in their place, but usually it is a changeling. A changeling is a Faerie left in place of the child or baby, ensorcelled by glamour to look like the kidnapped youngster.

    Sometimes it is a baby Faerie that does not thrive and eventually dies, but usually it is an old worn-out Faerie too weak to engage in Faerie society anymore. The best way to guard against the Faeries kidnapping a child or baby is to use a protective charm, such as an open pair of scissors hung above the cradle or a daisy-chain necklace.

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    Keeping a vigilant watch is also effective, though it can be hard to watch children all the time. If the Faeries do manage to take a child or baby, it can be difficult to discover this fact, but a drastic change in behavior is often the key. A healthy baby or child who is found dead the next morning may be a stock; one that suddenly sickens may by a Faerie baby or child; or one that becomes cantankerous and difficult to control may be an old Faerie.

    There is little that can be done if a stock is left behind, short of threatening to attack the Faeries. If a Faerie baby or child is left, mistreating or threatening to mistreat it can sometimes cause the Faeries to remove it and bring back the human baby or child. Mistreating an old Faerie can work as well, but generally it is better to get it to reveal its true age or nature, at which point it will flee and the human child or baby will be returned. A good way to get it to reveal its nature is to remember how much Faeries love music and dancing, while a good way to get it to reveal its age is to brew beer or boil water in eggshells.

    As with any captive in Faerieland, time is of the essence, but it is even more critical since babies and children are more likely to eat the food offered them. The second major way humans and Faeries interact with each other is when Faeries become involved in human affairs on a personal level. This is done in one of the two ways. The first is when a Faerie patronizes a promising human , while the second is when a human takes a Faerie wife. Though the "Fairy Godmother" is a relatively modern motif, it can trace its roots all the way back to the Fatae, who often meddled in the affairs of humans, usually with tragic results.

    Though Faerie patronage generally produces happier results, it is fundamentally different from the gifts Faeries gave out of gratitude. Faerie patronage usually takes one of two forms: Chivalric patronage generally involves a Faerie lord patronizing a human lord or a Faerie noble woman patronizing a knight. The Faerie lords seem to act as they do simply out of friendship. This is unusual to say the least, but in the legends and folktales, the Faerie lord often sounds like he is one of the half-human children born of a human women taken by the Faeries.

    If true, this might explain why they are eager to help a human lord for no reward. The Faerie noble woman often finds an abandoned child or steals one away, and raises him to be brave, generous, and kind. When he comes of age she then sends him back into the human world to be trained as a knight, and if he proves himself worthy she advises and protects him all his life. Sometimes this Faerie mother becomes the knight's Faerie mistress as well.

    Though in later literary works these Faerie noble women were euhemerized into powerful human sorceresses, the legends and folktales seemed to show that they have a strong maternal instinct. This may also explain why some Faeries, usually from among the gentry, patronized peasants. Most of the time, this took the form of female Faeries patronizing young girls, since they were on the lowest rung of the social ladder, but could climb the highest by marrying a prince or king. The legends and folktales generally took two forms.

    One involved a girl encountering a Faerie and being tested by it. If she was kind, polite, and generous, she would be rewarded with rich gifts, but if she was rude, insulting, and selfish, she would be cursed. The other form involved a girl required to perform a task for which she had no talent. The female Faerie would grant her the skill she needed to complete the task, but her skill would be so great she would become famous and attract the attention of the local ruler, who would ask her to marry him.

    An offshoot of this kind of story would be the girl who is helped in her chores by the little rustic Faeries, but not granted any talent directly. However, some stories tell of a young man whom some Faerie, usually male, helps to advance socially by passing him off as a rich young noble and conniving to marry him to the daughter of the local ruler. Perhaps the most unusual interaction between humans and Faeries is the Faerie bride phenomenon. This is when a human man takes a Faerie woman to be his wife. Though a paternalistic concept — virtually the only time a human woman takes a Faerie husband is when he kidnaps her — the marriages seldom end happily: Even so, the children seldom suffer, unless at the hands of their fathers, because many inherit some of their mothers' power, and often the mothers grant them gifts as well.

    Some Faerie brides are taken by force, while others are wooed. The classic example of a bride taken by force is the seal maiden.

    What the Faeries Left Behind

    She lives in a secret land under the sea, but occasionally she comes to the surface to dance in the moonlight with her sisters. However, to cross the water, she must wear a seal skin, and if she loses it she cannot return.

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    A man who can steal and hide it away can force her to become his wife. They may live happily for many years, and she may give him children, but if she ever finds the skin, she will abandon her family and return home without hesitation. Similar legends and folktales are told about mermaids, swan maidens, river and forest women, and even female Trooping Faeries, the common denominator being that the man somehow discovers her vulnerability and exploits it.

    Other Faerie brides have to be wooed like a human woman. The classic example is the Lake Maiden. She also lives in an underwater kingdom, but she can come and go through the water as she pleases.