Book Club: Ch. 5-6

We started at: Ch.5, Sabbaths and Elf homes, p.84

Aleja: Endnote 42 & 43 discuss journeys into Fairy. I follow Ginzberg here: folkloric devil is a fairy king.

Cat: Did my undergrad thesis on Sir Gallant and the Green Knight. Folklorist Vladimir Propp: reading a tale with folklore and Christian lore, proof that the story is older than Christianity. So we have Pagan lore preserved in Christian context.

Me: In Scotland, both still exist rather than older. Oral fairy lore.

Cat: Propp goes into more analytical depth.

Cat: “They suggest that during the interrogatorial process, these fairyland experiences were moulded into sabbath experiences by zealous prosecutors eager to secure convictions of demonological witchcraft.” pg 85

Cat: Also “Their experiences of journeying to the sabbath or to fairyland seem to have become an integral part of their relationship with their spirit allies.” pg 85. Yay spirit allies!

Aleja: Why yay?

Cat: More inclusive? She hasn’t given us a great definition of “familiar”

Cat: last paragraph pg 86, “however, sabbath and fairyland experiences were not only associated with festivity and merriment, they were also sacred events associated with the more serious business of magic.”  That seems… more related than not.

Me: Another false dichotomy. Ecstatic ritual is a thing that exists.

Cat: Dionysus in ancient Greece, significant overlap

Me: Christianity even sometimes

Cat: Catholicism

Me: I was thinking more gospel songs and “speaking in tongues” but yeah.

Bottom of Pg 87: “As with so many generalizations concerning the practice of magic in early modern Britain, the correlation between bad magic and the sabbath and good magic and fairyland is an overly simplistic one. In many cases the moral ambivalence that we have already observed in both witches and cunning folk was reflected in their magical activities at these events. Some witches claim to have performed good magic at the sabbath, just as some cunning folk claimed to have performed harmful magic in fairyland.”

Both of us: then WHY??????????? Why use it.

Aleja: Deconstruct it to rebuild up afterwards??? But why not both at once??

Cat: But if so, Wilby doesn’t remind us of that or continue to in all her prose. Frustration.

Aleja: Could have given us a whole intro chapter about it being a false dichotomy and then used a different paradigm later, but, nope.

Aleja: Endnote 56: flight to Fairy in a whirlwind

Cat: Wizard of Oz

Aleja: it’s a damn fairyland

Cat: Do you think there are scholarly papers analyzing that?

Aleja: wasn’t he British?

Cat: American, 1856

Aleja: Ah no wait, getting him mixed up with Barrie (Peter Pan). Still British literary influences, though.

Aleja: More winds end note 59.

Aleja: Endnote 60 talks about shapeshifting, encounters with witches in animal shape.  Shows up in some fairytales, and the thing about the bird in Practical Magic

Aleja: page 89-90 talks about the familiars preferring the witch to keep things secret. Very similar/the same as fairy prohibitions. First rule of fairy club is don’t talk about fairy club.

Cat: Refrain from speaking of them to keep from summoning them

Aleja: like “Speak of the Devil”

Cat: Greek deities, too. Movie God of War gives accurate reason why you don’t attempt to get their attention

Aleja: Fairies more like the Furies: call them the Kindly Ones

Cat: What was the elite origin only theory? 

Aleja: trickle down of magical knowledge

Cat: oh, from page 48

Aleja: You’re not supposed to brag about having the help/friendship of the fairies, because they’ll revoke it and flip on you and punish you

Aleja: Endnotes 65 & 66 give examples of how they attempted to prevent confession. a bit gruesome, and obviously didn’t work since these are from trial records.

Cat: Could they write it down?

Aleja: could write it down in a grimoire and pass on to an apprentice.  That would mean bringing them into an oath rather than breaking yours

Cat: page 91, reluctant to talk about it is why we don’t have records.  You think?

Chapter 6

Cat: pg 92 “encounter-narratives describing the relationships between cunning folk and their fairy familiars closely resemble encounter-narratives describing the relationships between witches and their demon familiars.”

Aleja: page 93 “until recently the resemblances between the enounter-narratives of cunning folk and those of witches , and the significance which these resemblances may have for our understanding of popular magic in this period, have been largely overlooked by historians.” Okay so maybe she’s gingerly subverting an established dichotomy?

Cat: And into the next paragraph: anything not Christian is demonic, definition of demonic pact, woven into witches story.  Until recently most historians followed the elite origin theory.

Aleja: pg 94, historians Normand and Roberts use that theory and add “though we cannot be sure”. Stop!

Cat: Yeah, “A correlation which suggests that the folkloric contribution to encounter-narratives may have been far greater than in generally assumed.” pg 94

Cat: Also 94, under “Renunciation and Pact”, first line “STEREOTYPE”.  Use of word important based on Normand and Roberts. Elite interpretation created the stereotype.

Aleja: Core Demands maybe a better section title? I was confused by the repetition of the chapter title here

Cat: two demands: renounce Christianity, pact made. But wait pledge soul to whom? Devil, not specific demon?

Aleja: fairy queen, not specific fairy?

Cat: other demands are listed on that page. Renaming I thought was interesting.

Aleja: Catholicism gives a saint’s name at confirmation.  Does Anglicanism do that, too? But even if not, some Catholic traditions stayed in Scotland longer even after conversion, and there were plenty of Catholics of the highlands

Aleja: Endnote 4, example of prosecutors looking for unequivocal evidence of guilt (bottom page 94)

Cat: “non-visual” on page 95. This is a false dichotomy again.

Aleja: Yeah – a lot of people vaguely see?  I feel like communication is the more extraordinary.  Lots of people see fairies but they don’t fucking talk about it except to fairy doctors.  Yeats, Wentz. They saw, they turned away, They kept their mouth SHUT. The acknowledgement of seeing fairies to them is dangerous: tranformed into a horse and ridden, forced into games of hurling.

Cat: And killed for it.

Aleja: That’s mostly fairy midwives, and even then, more commonly blinded

Cat: Reminds me of the witch’s pyramid: to dare, to will, to know, to be silent

Cat: Also, Tom Reed is kind of an asshole.  Says to mend her relationship with god, then asks her to renounce Christianity

Aleja: Maybe he’s warning her against the path at first, but then whoops she took the help and now needs to pay up?

Aleja: Endnote 13: fairy tale “deals”, like Rumplestiltskin

Cat: That was one of the examples at the beginning of the chapter

Aleja: On page 96: “rather more surprising , however, is the fact that we can find the specifically demonological requests that the human renounce their Christianity and pledge their soul featuring among the contractual demands made by the fairy familiar”. Was it, though. Really.

Aleja: Endnote 18 has another example, of a fairy that hoped to be Christian.  I think we’re into the “dead” part of that triple venn diagram with these fairies, probably. There are fairies in Scotland who appear to be Christian.  Stories of fairies holding catholic funerals

Cat: “the distinction between ‘Christian’ and ‘pre-Christian’ beliefs was very blurred in the early modern period, particularly on a popular level. On the one hand, many common people, and in particular, popular magical practitioners, saw no inconsistency in juggling fairy beliefs alongside their Christian beliefs.” page 97  Also Katherine Briggs talks about that.

[We both want Brigg’s books *hearteyes*]

Aleja: page 98, the bit about the fishermen on Moray Firth not mentioning the church – there are definitely plenty of examples of fairy vs Christianity hostilities.  Old faith, new faith.  Breaking of the oaths of their ancestors to give a portion of the harvest, etc

Cat: hostile or just not testing it, maybe

Aleja: Endnote 27 has another example of the hand on your head thing

Cat: I’ve seen that in an urban fantasy series.  Urban Shaman by CE Murphy.  Cool, author did the research.

Cat: pg 100, “The argument for the implicit renunciation, of course, also strengthens the case for the explicit. To entertain the possibility that some individuals may have openly verbalized the normally tacit renunciation, particularly in the context of a believed visual encounter, is not unreasonable.”

Stopped before “The Demand for the Soul”.

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