A Word. Or Two.

February 26, 2021

The Light Of Ancient Wisdom

Nomenclature. There are two words I’m using, and may reluctantly continue to use as they are so embedded in our collective consciousness, that are wholly inadequate and inappropriate for meaningful exploration and understanding.

Faery. There are many spellings but they all have their etymological roots in faie, a woman skilled in magic. But the meaning has devolved through history to become a trivializing expression for all manner of unseen entities. Shakespeare was apparently the first to give them wings and that image is now pervasive. Mythical and magical, these figures are now generally considered capricious and even dangerous. 

This transformation was no arbitrary accident. As author David Sivier writes, the metamorphosis from nature spirits to quaint sprites was the artistic counterpart of the taming of the wild, natural world by industry and human rationality. What was once common, familiar, and accepted in ancient cultures around the world became unnatural and in this shift we became even more estranged from the natural world. Which brings me to the second unfortunate word.

Otherworld. This word is really bothersome because it suggests that what is unseen is not part of this world. It posits that what we cannot see, hear, taste, touch or scientifically prove and verify is not real and therefore not part of our world. Unseen entities and energies are dubiously regarded and relegated to another world. An otherworld. Increasingly, those who report otherworldly encounters are regarded with suspicion. I would argue that this is even true for those who profess a belief in an unseen god. While it’s one thing to share a collective, in most cases biblical, story of a god and angelic beings, it’s quite something else when someone reports a personal encounter. Such experiences are often considered in the rarified realm of miracles and even Holy Rome demands proof.

Early and ancient cultures around the world held no such differentiation. It was all part of this world, all part of the here and now. It was all part of the great mystery and fabric of life and in the living of it no proof was needed. People didn’t believe it, they knew it. Although threads of this knowing have become increasingly tattered over time they are still there. They are woven through the folk tales and traditions of Ireland. They are woven in the spiritual traditions of many other cultures and countries. In Australia and China the threads are still vibrant.

Judith – judith@stonefires.com