According to a study by the Eastern Virginia Medical School, approximately two-thirds of the American population reported having a mystical experience they could not easily explain. Over in Iceland, 55% of people surveyed in 1970 believed that Elves definitely existed or there was at least a strong possibility. It is also worth noting that most people have a narrow definition of ‘fairies,’ an issue we are about to tackle.
What Are Fairies?
This is not an easy question to answer because there is no hard and fast definition. It varies according to culture with numerous nations having their unique tales. Let’s take a look at just some of the definitions.
Spirits of the Dead
At the beginning of the 18th century, famed anthropologist, W.Y. Evans-Wentz, visited Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Brittany, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man to gather stories regarding fairies from the locals he met. He learned that the people of these regions believed there was a strong connection between fairies (also known as Fair Folk) and the dead.
In Ireland, the belief was that fairies were the spirits of the dead who returned to provide warnings and wisdom. In Wales, fairies were known as the Tylwyth Teg, and unlike the stereotypical view of fairies, Welsh natives believed these ‘ancestor’ spirits were over 6 feet tall.
Over in Cornwall, fairies are people who were deemed not good enough for heaven but not bad enough for hell. They are shapeshifters, but they become smaller with every transformation.
Angels & Devils
Another assertion is that fairies are from the ‘lower end’ of the angelic ranks and they have come to watch over us. In Gaelic speaking regions of Scotland, the belief is that fairies are ‘fallen angels’ as written by Alexander Carmichael in Carmina Gadelica.
Another old Irish belief is that fairies were the children of the goddess Don. The Tuatha de Danann, as they were known, had incredible powers. After suffering conquest at the hands of the Milesians, they hid in the hills to become the Daoine Sidh. Over the course of a few centuries, they mated with Fianna Finn warriors, but these children became smaller and eventually, they were smaller than babies when fully grown.
There are a multitude of other beliefs but suffice to say; the notion that fairies are tiny winged creatures is mainly something that came into being around the Victorian age. In ancient times, fairies were often adult size, and the Irish Sidh were said to be up to 14 feet tall.
While the number of people that still believe in fairies has dwindled markedly in the modern era, a significant number of individuals not only believe in these beings, they claim to have seen them and some people have even photographed fairies.
You may be surprised to learn that at the beginning of the 20th century, large swathes of rural Ireland and Britain had a steadfast belief in the existence of fairies. The term ‘fairy’ comes from the word ‘fay,’ which in turn derives from the old French word ‘feie.’ This word came from the Latin word for Fates ‘fata’. The Fates were supernatural beings that played a major role in the fortunes of humans.
There is some confusion over the origin of stories involving fairies. Given the propensity of the Ancient Celts to worship nature, plus the fact that fairies are often associated with the elements, there was an insistent sentiment that fairies were worshipped as deities in pre-Christian times. It was a common belief in the Victorian era that modern anthropologists have debunked.
What we do know is that the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries wrote about ‘faeries’ in the 14th century. According to writers of the age, these beings were capable of enchantment and illusion. It was commonly understood that fairies either lived underground or in prehistoric cairns, forts and earth mounds. As a result, sites such as Fairy Hill, Fairy Mound, and Fairy forts received their names.
Fairies around the World
While the existence of fairies is commonly associated with the United Kingdom and Ireland, most nations around the world have their own version of this magical creature. For example, the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina refer to fairies as Yunw Tsunsdi. These little people are effectively elf-like natives. The Cherokee have great respect for these elves as they believe they are spirits belonging to an age before man.
Over in Eastern Europe, a number of countries have tales relating to fairies. In Germany, they had evil spirits working in mines that caused havoc. Whenever miners heard the knocking of the kobolds, they knew not to work. One Hungarian author saw the outlines of tiny creatures with a vague resemblence to humans that were ‘black and grotesque’.
Fairyland of course refers to the residence of fairies, but yet again, there are different versions of where and what it is. Believers point out that there are a variety of spiritual realms; the likes of Tír na nÓg are relatively close to us while others are so rarefied that a human being will never reach them.
In Cornwall, descriptions of Fairyland range from the sublime to the ordinary. In the epic tale ‘The Lost Child,’ written by Robert Hunt, a young boy follows enchanting music, meets a beautiful woman and is brought to a fabulous glistening palace. However, another Cornish account suggests Fairyland was nothing more than a regular place visited by goats!
Tír na nÓg is where the Tuatha de Danann lived while in Welsh lore, Fairyland was apparently seen by sailors; they described lush meadows between Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. According to Old Norse mythology, there are Nine Worlds where different enchanted beings such as elves and fairies live.
We wish it were possible to give a definitive answer to the question: “Do Fairies Exist?” Of course, naysayers will suggest that there is no conclusive evidence to prove the existence of fairies. The main problem with producing such evidence is that when someone does have it, they are immediately ridiculed.
Ultimately, much like the existence of ghosts and other paranormal activity, proving that fairies are real is virtually impossible. However, one could make the argument that proving they are definitely figments of the imagination is just as difficult. To all readers, we ask: Do you believe in fairies? Have you ever encountered any? If so, we would love to hear your stories or comment below with your thoughts.