The nature of our relationships shapes our stories about those relationships – our stories in turn shape the nature of our relationships. When the power balance in a relationship changes the stories change and we see this played out in the shifting relationship of the Irish with faery and Otherworld realms.
Where once there was relationship with Earth and Otherworld energies and entities, the church launched a shift of dominion/power over the Earth and a shift of Otherworld powers over people. Changing the power balance changed everything, especially the stories of faery and Otherworld encounters. That people came to fear these relationships and encounters is reflected in faery stories like this one from W.B. Yeats, written in 1902.
A little girl who was at service in the village of Grange, close under the seaward slopes of Ben Bulben, suddenly disappeared one night about three years ago. There was at once great excitement in the neighbourhood, because it was rumoured that the faeries had taken her. A villager was said to have long struggled to hold her from them, but at last they prevailed, and he found nothing in his hands but a broomstick. The local constable was applied to, and he at once instituted a house-to-house search, and at the same time advised the people to burn all the bucalauns (ragweed) on the field she vanished from, because bucalauns are sacred to the faeries. They spent the whole night burning them, the constable repeating spells the while. In the morning the little girl was found, the story goes, wandering in the field. She said the faeries had taken her away a great distance, riding on a faery horse. … On her way her companions had mentioned the names of several people who were about to die shortly in the village.
Yet even as he collected faery stories, Yeats seemed to question the new nature of these relationships, for after sharing this story he writes the following.
And after all, can we come to so great evil if we keep a little fire on our hearths and in our souls, and welcome with open hand whatever of excellent come to warm itself, whether it be man or phantom, and do not say too fiercely, even to the dhouls themselves, “Be ye gone”?