Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Faerie

There are many possible origins of our word "fairy," like the Persian "peri," and is ultimately believed to be derived from the Latin "fatum." The meaning and associations with the word have changed over time, as has the spelling.

According to wikipedia, the original word was "faie"; the "-erie" was added as a suffix to mean that which is associated with the Faie, thus becoming "faie-ery," like the word "theivery".

Art by Gustav Dore

Thomas Keightley has a section in his book Fairy Mythology on the origins of the word, and he discusses the different uses of the word Faerie.

1. Illusion and enchantment
2. The Land of the Faie
3. The people (in general) who live in Faerie
4. Individual people who live in Faerie-from what we consider to be fairies today, to the elves and other magical creatures.

Keightley says, "We find in most countries a popular belief in different classes of beings distinct from men, and from the higher orders of divinities. These beings are usually believed to inhabit, in the caverns of the earth, or the depths of the waters, a region of their own. They generally excel mankind in power and in knowledge, and like them are subject to the inevitable laws of eath, though after a more prolonged period of existence."

And, to bring the Fae folk into more relevant, modern life, these are some of the Fairy doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Beginning in April 2005, these tiny doors began appearing in various places in and around the town. My favorite (from the description; I've never seen these) is the one at the end of the Folklore and Fairytale section in the youth department of the Ann Arbor library. Every book lover knows instinctively that libraries are simply brimming with portals to other worlds...

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