I Don’t Actually Mean Beauty When I Say Beautiful.

*I just realized this one needs a language warning. And maybe a content warning. So there you have it. I swear.

I had a conversation this week that involved the show Beyond Belief, a deer that lives in some bushes, and an elf.

This is the nature of my life.

Apparently it was also International Faerie Day (and National Catfish Awareness Day) earlier this week. But of course when people say faerie now, they don’t actually mean faerie, they mean ‘fairy’ and bring on the Disney wings and glitter. Because that’s all that’s left anymore.

The elf conversation is related to a very long running and odd situation involving a lot of bizarre occurrences, most of which most people are completely willing to believe are nothing at all beyond overactive imaginations and maybe some air currents. What gave me some pause however is that enough of them do link back to things that relate to fae interactions, folklorically speaking, that a little voice in the back of my mind worried about what we just did and if I shouldn’t get some salt and milk.

I’ve mentioned the nature of fae in passing several times but there is one aspect that modern folklore has stripped out of the Mounds Folk. These are not ‘pretty’ creatures.

I’m flying by the seat of my pants on this one, as well as working with a lot of oral tradition that I’ve been taught directly, but the basic reality of it is this-the Victorians had a habit of making things ‘quaint’. Couple that with the rise of a middle class, the modern concept of childhood, and an increasing interest in scientific reasoning you have a social environment that began the evolution away from the slaugh and towards Tinkerbelle.

If you ask modern readers why the fae are the Beautiful Ones, you end up with an answer that makes sense for the current understanding-because they’re beautiful, obviously. They’re attractive and mischievous and sweet. They’re the hot men on romance covers, and they really just want to play.

Except that they’re gorgeous because they want to be and they need to be so you’ll approach them (I do have an entry on glamouring already, that explains the concept with a deeper understanding).

The other issue is that for a lot of these spirits, they came with a certain amount of danger so you approached in a way that would cause the least potential for offense. So they were beautiful because you didn’t want to say ‘you sort of scare the shit out of me, you know that right?’ I dealt with a situation where this modern sensibility (isn’t it adorable how they steal the silverware and do cute things!?) and a historically driven practice (I have to put out the first splash of milk or it’s going to get pissed) ran into each other and led to a lot of flailing, ‘please don’t invite anything to the party if you don’t deeply understand who you’re about first’.

So the thing is this: the folklore that is driving modern fae thought isn’t wrong, it’s just not that old and ignores a great deal of preexisting thought. If you lean to the woo-woo side and think that the fae are nothing but sweetness and light and a magpie tendency to stealing shiny things, then I really hope you don’t run into the dullahan, the slaugh, the cu dubh…you get the general idea. Because I’m not certain you’re going to have the party that you think you’ve been invited for.

Or you’re just going to slap the ‘demon’ label on it and not understand that there’s a whole wealth of stuff out there that doesn’t get talked about because it doesn’t make for cute animations.



      1. It’s a “Maya thing.” According to legend, aluxes guard property and reflect the owner’s characteristics. They can be mean or kind, and they might also frighten off intruders.

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