The Lands Beneath – Intermediary Beings and Dirty Deals
Robert Kirk was born in Aberfoyle, a parish of Perthshire, Scotland, in 1644. He was the seventh son of James and Mary. Kirk was a studious individual who attended the University of St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, respectively. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became an Episcopal minister in Scotland. In the Christian world, Kirk is known for completing and publishing one of the first translations of the Bible into Gaelic. However, he spent much of his life fascinated by faeries, which has brought him recognition in the field of folkloric research.
Kirk’s most notable work, “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Faeries,” is regarded as one of the best contributions to modern scholarship on the faery realm. Initially, this text was believed to be a collection of legends and myths that Kirk had gathered throughout his life. However, more recent interpretations suggest that the earlier versions of Kirk’s manuscript might be more personal, reflecting his own beliefs and experiences.
According to scholar John Matthews, an early edition of Kirk’s manuscript, titled “The Secret Lives of Elves and Faeries,” reads like a journal and recounts Kirk’s journey from Aberfoyle to the “Lands Beneath,” the faery realm below the earth. This work details Kirk’s encounters with the Seelie and Unseelie Courts (the good and bad faeries), as well as their food, dress, “books of light”, and tales supposedly told to him by the faeries themselves.
Kirk’s journal reports that he was warmly welcomed into the kingdom of the Seelie Court but broke the rules of the Unseelie Court by entering their domain, which was forbidden for mortals. This led to a trial where Kirk was given the choice between death or living out his days in the faery realm. He chose the latter and requested a brief return to the human world to settle his affairs. This choice is believed by some to be the true reason behind Kirk’s mysterious death in 1692.
Kirk enjoyed taking walks in the evening, visiting the faery mounds of Aberfoyle. After his death, his body was found on a faery hill, leading to legends that he had gone to live among the faeries as the chaplain to the faery queen. His writings on faeries were discovered posthumously and published by Walter Scott in 1815. Despite their posthumous publication, Kirk’s writings led to his recognition as an expert on the “Lands Beneath”. Over the years following his death, Kirk himself became a part of faery legend.
The Seelie Court is a term that originates from Scottish folklore and is used to describe one of the two main classifications of faeries or elves. The term “Seelie” comes from the Scottish word “seely,” which means happy, lucky, or blessed. Thus, the Seelie Court is often associated with the more benevolent, or at least less malevolent, kind of faeries. However, it’s important to remember that in traditional folklore, even the faeries of the Seelie Court can be unpredictable and dangerous to humans if offended or crossed.
Faeries of the Seelie Court are often depicted as being more inclined to seek peaceful interactions with humans. They might be seen helping out with household chores, blessing crops, or playing pranks that are more mischievous than harmful. Some stories also tell of them granting gifts or wishes to those who are respectful and abide by their rules. They are believed to be responsible for positive occurrences or good luck, and they might provide help to those in need.
The Seelie Court is typically depicted as a grand, ethereal place, often located in the faery realm beneath hills, within forests, or in other natural settings. It’s portrayed as being filled with light and beauty, with grand halls, lush gardens, sparkling streams, and splendid palaces. The faeries themselves are often depicted as being exceptionally beautiful and graceful, adorned with natural elements like flowers, leaves, and vines.
The appearance of the Seelie Court and its inhabitants would likely have varied throughout history, reflecting the changing nature of human beliefs and our relationship with the natural world. In earlier times, when people lived closer to nature and depended on it more directly, the Seelie Court might have been seen as a vital, active force that influenced everyday life in many ways. They may have been invoked for a good harvest, a successful hunt, or protection from natural disasters.
In later periods, as human societies became more urbanized and the wild places of the world receded, the Seelie Court might have become more remote and romanticized. It could have been seen as a symbol of a lost connection with nature, a place of beauty and magic that existed just out of reach. The faeries of the Seelie Court may have been seen less as active participants in human life and more as elusive, enchanting beings who could only be encountered in special circumstances or in certain liminal places.
In more recent times, with the rise of environmental consciousness, the Seelie Court might be seen as representing the spirit of nature that needs to be respected and protected. The faeries could be seen as guardians of the natural world, and their court as a reflection of the health and vitality of the earth.
Please note that this is all speculative and based on a blend of folklore, historical trends, and modern interpretations. The Seelie Court, like all aspects of mythology and folklore, is subject to many different interpretations and can be seen in many different ways depending on one’s cultural context, personal beliefs, and imaginative vision.
The Unseelie Court, like its counterpart the Seelie Court, is a term from Scottish folklore used to refer to a group of faeries or elves. The term “Unseelie” translates roughly to “unholy” or “unblessed,” and it’s often associated with the more malevolent or unpredictable faeries.
Faeries of the Unseelie Court are often portrayed as being mischievous, harmful, or outright hostile towards humans. They might be blamed for a range of negative events, from spoiling milk to causing illness or death. These faeries are often thought to take pleasure in causing trouble for humans, and they may be more likely to kidnap people, replace human babies with changelings, or lure travelers off their paths.
The Unseelie Court itself is often depicted as a dark, eerie, or ominous place. It might be located deep underground, in a twilight realm beneath the hills, or in the depths of dark forests. The court might be filled with stark, uncanny beauty, with twisted, thorny gardens, dark pools, and shadowy halls. The faeries of the Unseelie Court are often portrayed as being eerily beautiful or grotesque, and they might wear clothes made of shadows, ice, or other unsettling materials.
The perception of the Unseelie Court and its inhabitants would likely have changed throughout history, paralleling shifts in human beliefs and attitudes. In earlier times, when life was filled with more obvious dangers and uncertainties, the Unseelie Court might have been a very real and present fear. They might have been invoked as the cause of inexplicable misfortunes or tragedies, from failed crops and sick livestock to sudden illnesses and unexplained deaths.
As societies became more urbanized and life became somewhat more predictable, the Unseelie Court might have been pushed to the edges of consciousness, becoming a symbol of the wild, untamed dangers that still lurked beyond the safety of human settlements. They could have been seen as a reminder of the dark, chaotic forces that still existed just beyond the reach of human control.
In more recent times, the Unseelie Court could be seen as a metaphor for the darker aspects of the human psyche or for the destructive forces unleashed by human activity. The faeries of the Unseelie Court might represent our fears and anxieties, or the damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world. Their court could be a symbol of the shadowy, uncomfortable truths we’d rather not face.
As with the Seelie Court, interpretations of the Unseelie Court can vary widely depending on cultural context, personal beliefs, and individual imagination. This speculation is based on a blend of folklore, historical trends, and modern interpretations.
The concept of intermediary beings is prevalent in many cultures and belief systems around the world. These beings, such as faeries, angels, and demons, serve as a bridge between the human realm and the divine or supernatural realm. They can communicate or interact with both realms, often acting as messengers, agents, or mediators.
In Christian tradition, for instance, angels are often portrayed as messengers of God. They act on God’s behalf to communicate with humans, deliver divine messages, or carry out divine will. Similarly, demons, in many traditions, are thought to be fallen angels who interact with the human realm, often in destructive or deceptive ways.
In the realm of faerie folklore, faeries are believed to dwell in a parallel world to our own, often hidden but nonetheless closely intertwined with the human world. They can move between these worlds and interact with humans, often in unpredictable or enigmatic ways. Their actions can bring blessings or curses, depending on their disposition and how they are treated by humans. This places them in an intermediary role, bridging the gap between the mortal and the supernatural.
This intermediary status often imbues these beings with a dual nature. They are neither wholly divine nor wholly mortal but share characteristics of both. They are often depicted as possessing superior powers or knowledge compared to humans, yet they also interact with the human world and can be subject to certain human-like limitations or emotions.
The idea of intermediary beings reflects a common human desire to understand and relate to the divine or supernatural. These beings serve as a tangible or comprehensible connection to the intangible, allowing people to navigate and negotiate their relationship with the larger universe, the unknown, and the divine. They also embody the mystery and paradox of the coexistence of the mundane and the miraculous, the earthly and the divine, the human and the beyond.
The theme of rules and taboos is a common one when it comes to interactions with supernatural beings in folklore and mythology. These rules often govern how humans can safely interact with these entities, and breaking them can result in dire consequences.
In faerie folklore, there are numerous examples of such rules. For instance, it is often considered dangerous to eat food or drink offered by the fae, as doing so could trap a person in the faerie realm. Another rule is the prohibition against thanking a faerie, as they might take it as a sign that they are owed a debt. Respect for faerie sites, like rings of mushrooms known as ‘faerie rings’, is also a common motif. Trespassing or damaging these sites can lead to misfortune or the wrath of the fae.
In the lore surrounding angels and demons, rules and rituals also play a significant role. In many traditions, there are specific rites and incantations used to invoke the protection of angels or ward off demons. For example, in Christian tradition, the sign of the cross is used as a protective gesture against evil forces, and specific prayers are recited for the intercession of angels.
The breaking of divine or moral laws, often referred to as sin, is associated with demonic influence or possession in many cultures. To avoid this, people are expected to live virtuously, follow religious laws, and seek divine protection.
These rules and taboos serve several functions. They create a sense of order and boundary between the human and supernatural worlds. They also convey moral and social values, as many of these rules revolve around themes of respect, humility, and the importance of maintaining harmony with unseen forces. Moreover, they add an element of danger and consequence to interactions with the supernatural, enhancing the sense of the supernatural as something powerful, capricious, and not to be taken lightly.
Remember, these rules can vary greatly depending on the specific cultural or religious context, and the interpretations and practices can be diverse even within a single tradition. Here is a deal imagined and realized…
In the cool twilight of a midsummer’s eve, a lone traveler, Ewan, found himself lost amidst a labyrinthine forest. As dusk settled, he spotted the warm, enticing glow of a fire dancing in the distance. Following the beacon, he arrived at a clearing where a group of radiant beings were feasting around the fire, their laughter echoing through the trees. They were the fae folk, resplendent in their ethereal beauty, their eyes gleaming with mischievous delight.
Their leader, a charismatic faerie named Finvarra, greeted Ewan warmly, inviting him to join their feast. The food looked incredibly tempting, the finest fruits he’d ever seen, honeyed cakes, and a goblet filled with a sparkling drink that smelled of sweet summer berries. Ewan remembered the old tales warning against eating food offered by the fae, yet the hunger gnawing at his belly was overpowering.
Sensing his hesitation, Finvarra presented a proposition. He produced a small, intricately carved bone flute and promised Ewan that if he could play a tune that pleased the faerie court, he would be permitted to eat without becoming trapped in the faerie realm. The condition, however, was that if his music failed to enchant them, Ewan would owe Finvarra a year of service in the faerie realm.
Driven by hunger and pride in his musical skills, Ewan agreed to the deal. He accepted the flute and started to play a haunting melody he had learned from his grandmother, a tune said to be blessed by the moon herself. The faeries listened, their expressions unreadable.
When the final note faded, the clearing was silent. Then, Finvarra broke into applause, followed by the rest of the fae. They praised Ewan’s music, and true to his word, Finvarra granted Ewan permission to partake in their feast. Ewan ate his fill, finding the food as delicious as it appeared.
However, when Ewan attempted to leave the clearing, he found himself disoriented, each path seeming to twist back to the faerie’s fire. Panicking, he demanded Finvarra to let him go. The faerie leader merely laughed, his eyes gleaming with cruel delight.
“You may eat our food without being bound to our realm,” Finvarra said. “But who said anything about leaving the clearing? Your year of service begins now, Ewan.”
The faerie’s laughter echoed through the trees as Ewan realized he had been tricked. In his hunger and confidence, he had overlooked the specific wording of the deal. While he had been allowed to eat the faerie food without being trapped in the faerie realm, nothing had been said about him being able to leave the clearing. And now, he was bound to a year of service under the cunning Finvarra.
It was a costly reminder that dealing with the fae was a perilous business, their words as twisting as the forest paths, their promises fraught with hidden traps. And it highlighted the importance of understanding the rules and taboos when dealing with such capricious and powerful beings.
The Gaia Hypothesis, proposed by scientist James Lovelock, suggests that all life on Earth interacts with the physical environment to form a complex, self-regulating system that maintains the conditions for life on the planet. Now, let’s imagine a world where fae folk are real and part of this self-regulating system.
In this speculative scenario, fae folk would serve as an essential part of the planet’s regulatory mechanisms, perhaps in ways that conventional science has yet to understand or acknowledge. They would exist in a symbiotic relationship with the natural world, functioning as stewards and caretakers of various ecosystems. Let’s consider a few possibilities.
One, fae folk could serve as catalysts for biodiversity. Their presence could promote growth and evolution in the plant and animal life around them. They might have a unique ability to nurture new species into existence or to guide existing ones towards beneficial adaptations. They would contribute to the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem, ensuring its continued flourishing.
Two, they could act as regulators of elemental forces. Fae associated with water, for instance, could maintain the purity of rivers and lakes, or regulate rainfall to prevent floods and droughts. Earth fae might ensure soil fertility and mineral balance, while air fae could help purify the atmosphere and control the climate.
Three, they could serve as intermediaries between humans and the natural world. Their interactions with humans could carry a message of environmental stewardship, reminding us of our responsibility to the planet and its many forms of life. Through their actions, fae could guide humans to live in greater harmony with nature, encouraging sustainable practices and respect for all life.
In this speculative scenario, the existence of fae would add a layer of complexity to the Gaia Hypothesis, introducing elements of magic and mystery into our understanding of the planet’s self-regulation. They would exemplify the interconnectedness of all life, demonstrating how the health and well-being of one species can impact the entire ecosystem.