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Llewellyn.com - Monthly e-Magazine - February 2010

The Faeries of Shakespeare
by Kenny Klein

Llewellyn.com - February 2010

We all know him as the rock star of A Midsummer Night's Dream: Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, that mischievous sprite who has this to say of himself:

The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
(II:i:50-57)

Puck is such a dynamic figure on stage, and has such a history in the annals of folklore, that he is almost like a long lost friend when he appears and gloats over the feud between his master Oberon and his mistress Titania. And of course, we all recognize the Faerie King and Queen themselves, though Shakespeare might have given them names that differ a bit from what British lore calls them. The play is set in an Athenian grove, after all.

But why did Shakespeare write about Faeries? Most of the dramatist's work recounts the deeds and tragedies of kings, princes, and emperors. Why write about the denizens of the Faerie world?

Shakespeare grew up in the central English Midlands, in Stratford-Upon-Avon. In the playwright's day, the Midlands were a maze of farms, fields, and forests. Shakespeare would have absorbed a good deal of local folklore, and like anyone in the area would have held a belief that Faeries lived in every garden, grove, and thicket. That he was well versed in Faerie lore is evident in the play here, as well as in the Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet, and the legends of the forest spirit Hern that play prominently in The Merry Wives Of Windsor. In each of these plays the Faerie lore is well presented and accurate, proof that Shakespeare was paying attention when Faeries were being described by the storytellers and farm wives of his community. Though he became the toast of aristocratic London, Shakespeare never lost the Faerie beliefs of a Midlands farm boy.

And while Puck and Oberon prance about wreaking magical havoc on unsuspecting mortals, there are several smaller roles given to Faeries who may be worth thinking about. Let's take a peek at five Faeries to whom Shakespeare assigned minor roles, but whom the iconic playwright seems to know well and to regard perhaps lovingly.

The Five Faeries of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

While Shakespeare paid his due to Faerie royalty in the figures of Titania and Oberon, the Bard of Avon seemed just as taken with the less stately Faeries of forests and gardens. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the first Fairy to appear is a sweet little thing whose name we never learn (she is simply called Fairy), but who is very much tied to the green and growing flowers of the thicket. On first meeting her Puck asks where her travels have taken her, and she answers:

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Llewellyn.com - Author Interview - February 2010

An Interview with Kenny Klein, Author of Through the Faerie Glass
by Llewellyn

1. How exactly would you define “faerie?” Do you ascribe any difference to the various spellings of faerie? Through the Faerie Glass

In my book Through The Faerie Glass: A Look At The Realm Of Unseen And Enchanted Beings, I explain my belief that our Faerie lore comes from several sources. The names seem to come from a race of enchanted beings that the Celts and Germans encountered when they first arrived in Europe. These people lived close to nature, and were mysterious and elusive. The Celts called these people Picts, from which we get the word Pixie. The Germans called them Peri or Feri, which the British changed to Faerie, and also Feinan, Fair Ones, which became Fairy or Fae.

Faerie lore also contains a good deal of sacred Pagan mythology. When Europe became Christian, people who refused to give up the worship of the Old Ones morphed the myths of their Gods and Goddesses into legends of the Faeries. Underworld Goddesses were especially treated this way. We see Morgan in the Arthurian legends called Morgan Le Fey (Morgan of the Faerie), and Mab called the Queen of Faerie. In some locales, Herne and Odin are also said to be enchanted Underworld beings who ride at night across the wild forests.

And finally there are the true Faeries, enchanted creatures that take human, animal, and other natural forms, and inhabit both our world and a Faerie world. These may be large or small, good or bad, beautiful or hideous, well mannered or rude, funny or serious, and may dress in anything from royal robes to tree bark. There is a myriad of folklore, folk song, legend and myth about these creatures, and my book sorts through a bit of it to get at the bottom of who and what Faeries might be.

I use the term Faerie to signify true Faeries from folkloric and historical sources, rather than Fairy, which can sometimes be more of a fantasy or a cute ideal.

2. Why do we have such a love affair with faeries?

I think people in this modern world need magic in their lives, and while some media depictions of Faeries might be cutesy and fantasy-inspired, we know Faeries wield stark, wild, sometimes perilous magic, and many of us want to know and experience that enchantment.

It wasn't always that way. In the Middle Ages people were taught to fear and avoid faeries. In Through The Faerie Glass, we look at the many ways people protected themselves from Faerie magic and seduction: an iron knife stuck in the carcass of a hunted animal being carried home; a nail in the bed of a pregnant woman or new mother; a tromb or Jew's harp, a musical instrument made of iron. This last one saved a young Scots hunter from being seduced and murdered by a Faerie called a Glastig.

But in later times, Faeries became thought of as very lovable and sweet. Part of that was Shakespeare's depiction of Titania's retinue, with enchanting Mustardseed, Cobweb, Moth, and Peaseblossom sweetly singing over the sleeping queen. Later there were illustrators like Cicely Mary Barker, who painted the charming Flower Fairy books. Then came J. M. Barrie, who introduced Tinkerbell to the world. I imagine now most people think of Tinkerbell rather than the Glastig when someone mentions Faeries. But when you dote over adorable Tink, do keep in mind that Tinkerbell tried to have Wendy murdered. She's not the sweet adorable Faerie she appears to be!

3. Can faeries be separated into groups of good and evil, or are all inherently one or the other?

Oh, just as in the human world, there are Faeries of every type. Many are pretty nasty. The Lorelie is uncannily beautiful, and sings so sweetly from her home in the Rhine river that men cannot help but fall hopelessly in love with her. When any young man would embrace her, she allows it! But as they kiss, she drags her would-be suitor to her home deep beneath the river. What a way to go, huh?

And we mentioned the murdering Glastig. Other water Faeries, like the Finfolk of Norway or the Selkies of the Hebrides steal young women and men away to their home in Hildaland; there their victims drudge away their lives as servile mates. And there are the demon dogs, like Black Shuck, who in 1577 ran wildly through a church in East Anglia killing two people and destroying the church building!

But there are also Faeries who live and work well alongside humans. The Kobold, star of the Grimms tale "The Shoemaker and the Elves," is seen in that tale to be very helpful to the titular shoemaker. In Germany women would often do spells to invite Kobolds into their house to help with chores. The creatures would take the form of children of nine or ten years old, and were hard workers who never ate and were always merry. And in Norway, people wait on long winter nights for the Julipukka, an enchanted goat, to slide down their chimney and leave gifts of food and useful objects.

The Irish welcome the Faeries, but are ever mindful to stay on their good side. For this reason their names for the Fae are The Good People or The Kindly Ones. Every old Irish grandma leaves a plate of milk or a bit of whiskey out on the back porch for the Fae, and will drop a bit of silver in the old well from time to time. This keeps the Faeries from doing harm, and encourages them to help with chores like churning butter.

4. Some people go to great lengths to ensure that their homes and gardens are welcoming to faeries. Are gardens the only places to connect with faeries?

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Llewellyn.com - Llewellyn Journal - February 2010

4 Ways to Heal Using Divine Energy
by Douglas De Long

Our modern world is rife with conflict, stress, and despair. In today's society, how can we use the divine energy of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to heal ourselves and others? Douglas De Long, author of Ancient Teachings for Beginners and Ancient Healing Techniques, explains.

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Healing Body and Soul Through Divine Gnosis
by Tau Malachi

When we look into the stories told about the life and teachings of Yeshua (Aramaic-Hebrew for “Jesus”) we find a very luminous Jewish teacher and mystic, an amazing prophet and wonderworker, and most important of all a holy man who embodies the fullness of the presence and power of God, the Divine—hence, the Messiah, the anointed of God. Likewise, orthodox and mainstream forms of Christianity teach that Yeshua is the Son of God who comes for the forgiveness of sin and the negation of negative karma. There is some truth in this, but from a Gnostic perspective, the Messiah is not only the Savior who releases souls from sin, but it is also who imparts knowledge that allows us to be co-creators of the world. If we are co-creators, can we be co-healers? Tau Malachi, author of Gnostic Healing, explains.

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Court Cards, Part I: The Kings of Tarot
by Barbara Moore

Learning the meanings of tarot cards is generally not that difficult; even small children can learn to associate a meaning with a particular card or describe what is happening (as far as illustrated Minor Arcana are concerned) in an image. That said, the majority of taroists will agree that the trouble lies in the Court Cards. In this first installment in a series on the Court Cards, tarot expert Barbara Moore delves into the regal Kings of the Tarot.

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Llewellyn.com - Try This! - February 2010

Finding Your Power Animal

Easy Moon Gardening

Affirmations for Neptune (and for Pisces)


Llewellyn Journal - February 2010

4 Ways to Heal Using Divine Energy

Healing Body and Soul Through Divine Gnosis

Court Cards, Part I: The Kings of Tarot



Llewellyn's New Release Sale!


 
Llewellyn.com - New Releases - February 2010




Gnostic Healing
Gnostic Healing
by Tau Malachi & Siobhán Houston


Goddess Aloud!
Goddess Aloud!
by Michelle Skye



Growing Up Psychic
Growing Up Psychic
by Michael Bodine


In the Shadow of 13 Moons
In the Shadow of 13 Moons
by Kimberly Sherman-Cook


Merlin
Merlin
by Gordon Strong




Through the Faerie Glass
Through the Faerie Glass
by Kenny Klein


The Wild & Weedy Apothecary
The Wild & Weedy Apothecary
by Doreen Shababy


Llewellyn.com - Reader's Top Picks - February 2010

  1. Cunningham's Book of Shadows
    by Scott Cunningham

  2. The Real Witches' Kitchen
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  3. Destiny of Souls
    by Michael Newton, Ph.D.

  4. Rose Quartz Chakra Pendulum
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  5. A Practical Guide to the Runes
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