“Whether or not Shakespeare believed in fairies is irrelevant.”
He probably did though. We all do, deep down, and tonight is midsummer night.
Actually, it isn’t. Midsummer Eve is the evening before Midsummer Day (as in Christmas Eve), and Midsummer Day is 24th June. It’s not tied to the solstice, but to the Feast of St John the Baptist. It’s one of the old Quarter Days – the others are Christmas Day, Lady Day (Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March), Michaelmas Day (Feast of St Michael and All Angels, 29th September).
Nicola, thankyou for this.
Sufficiently pedantic to imply you don’t believe in fairies either 🙂
More informed rather than pedantic, and for Swedes Midsummer day is June 25th this year. That’s pedantic.
The writer forgets the proliferation of magic realism in the 1980s, where novelists like Rushdie, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson and Marquez peppered their books with fantastical elements. But she is right, and this is why authors such as Tolkien, Rowling, Pullman and Ursula le Guin were often dismissed or patronised as children’s writers and not proper literature. You will not find fantasy on many literature syllabuses, although such books can be brilliant studies of psychology alternative realities.
In an interview at an Oxford College to be admitted to their teacher training course (many years ago- I am many years retired now) I was asked for my favourite book. When I said Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – at the university where he taught many years before- I realised I had eliminated myself from any acceptance. Pre- the films generally snobbish tutors despised you for enjoying it!!
And a great, big, giant “Amen”.
Amen from me too. The challenge with introducing elements of the supernatural into a story is doing it in a way that doesn’t seem contrived or childish. I’ll check out the recommendations of effective stories with elements of the supernatural the author provides in her article.
An excellent addition to the thousands of arguments on the need to re-enchant the world, made over the centuries since the industrial revolution. Makes me want to check out ‘the Gardener’, looks like it may be a great book to give to any who need some healing after having a bad childhood.
Yet I’m fairly sure the article contains a gross simplification of McGilchrist. It would probably be more correct to say he contends that consciousness is distributed among centres of consciousness (e.g. minds) and all matter – thats a big over simplification too of course. Not for nothing is his latest book almost a million words long!
True wonder can only be positively experienced in life when life is slow, low stress, familiar and secure, in that subtle environment the natural mysteries reveal themselves and spiritual life is possible. Modern life in post industrialised nations is too stressful and unfamiliar, we are buried in gross weight and craving desires for escape.
Your post would be better served if it were prefaced by “For many people, perhaps…”
I personally have no problem experiencing true wonder. And your claim that we crave desires for escape pretty much sums up the need for some to believe in fairies.
It’s a fair representation of the level of the modern cultural conversation, most people in British culture are in a state of complete deluded blindness of the non-material reality that surrounds them inside and out and those that aren’t are silent.
Crispy rashers, t’iz,
No festive sausages
Here, have a bun
It’s a happy one.
In the meantime.
By invoking a supranatursl presence in the world, and bemoaning its seeming demise, the author declines to consider the possibility that those of us who don’t pay attention to it are so overwhelmed with the beauty and unfolding complexity of the cosmos, both at a micro and macro level, to have much time to consider other potential realities.
She invokes the past as a golden age, but one which was far less able to marvel at the world we can only now perceive since the advent of the microscope, the telescope (including its latest iterations named after Hubble andJames Webb), not to mention the Large Hadron Collider.
I’m all for using our consciouness to its fullest possible extent, and have no problem with accepting the possibility of paranormal phenomena; I simply don’t have enough time within an entire lifetime to take much notice of the subjective imaginative constructs which previously filled a psychological void which no longer exists.
That’s the paradox, the spur to invent such tools as the microscope and telescope inspired the interpretation of what was seen through them. I hear of all this talk, about how ‘wonderous’ science has revealed the universe to be, yet its interpretation is nothing but a conglomeration of particles with no meaning or purpose, turning the true wonder of universal sentience into just a material lego world ripe for corporate determinism to exploit to its, lack of a hearts, content. This physicalist interpretation is highly delusional and dangerous.
As an artist, i’m more than familiar with the dangers of a “physicalist interpretation” which you wrongly ascribe to my post. My point has less to do with physicalism than the unfolding beauty of what is observable, which far transcends what was observable before the invention of the quoted instruments.
What we see – what’s observable – doesn’t require a meaning or purpose imposed upon it, other than it exists. I would claim that the efforts of humanity to impose meaning and purpose (most directly through religion) have had a less than positive effect upon our species, and as such need to be treated with a great deal of caution. That’s not to say there’s been no positive effect, but mainly in the area of controlling populations during periods in our history when it was perhaps necessary. Today, it no longer is; or if an individual feels that it is, that’s a self-imposed psychological straightjacket.
The realms of fairies, goblins, wizards etc. are simply a throwback to a more childlike state. The works of J K Rowling are an example of wallowing in that state, although well done; and rather interesting that the author doesn’t mention JKR when she’s certainly the most popular exponent of the genre.
Reading this, I was reminded of how fearful images of dark powers rising was conjured out of a largely peaceful demonstration and a snake oil preacher, in another article in todays Unherd.
Loved this essay… I wish Unherd would publish more pieces of this ilk rather than yet another diatribe about the culture wars
Thank you. I agree
All is not lost? We are now actually living in a macabre Orwellian Kafkaesque internet plagued racism LGBT eco obsessed fairy tale perhaps ironically because so many people most especially in the UK and US have the average intelligence, gullibility, and naivety of the 4 year olds who believe fairy tales…
I couldn’t agree more with this post. My partner Amrita Mohanty has published a fabulous book this year, A Child of Intention, with a Brit-Indian main character set half in our modern world and half in the world of the Fae. It’s a wonderfully grown up work, with lots to say, it’s such a shame that many consider such subject matter childish.
“Fairies, gods, and angels can, and should be, thought of as manifestations of the mysterious untold aspects of a world whose multiple facets are not easily apparent to us but nonetheless have salience, responsiveness and place” can I have that in plain English please?
Fairies, gods and angels represent the mysteries of the world that we know exist but can’t see.
There is truth that we physically cannot see. At least that is how I have always thought of it.
I read many science fiction and fantasy novels and enjoy many of them. The ones I find unsatisfactory are the ones where our hero or heroine can do vast magic with just a flick of a finger – the ‘magic’ is too easy and makes it difficult to suspend disbelief.
I feel that there is a danger with the “invisible realities that we have internalised” if we allow any old cobblers to be ‘maybe true’. That’s the way that some religious leaders and political ideologues seize control of peoples’ thoughts.
You might like my new novel then – its magical realism semi-autobiographical. Weaving shamanism, psychotherapy and healing into a story of love, self-love and finding your inner magic. I’ve written it as a trilogy -The Inner Compass. First book is called Awakening. I’d love it if you would give it a review, I’d be happy to send you a copy.
After that shameless bit of self-promotion I would add that it’s mainstream that’s lost it’s magic – there’s plenty of it everywhere, if you dare to look!
We don’t need fairies. We need Gods
The pendulum is in for a hard swing against scientism and materialism. See the philosopher Bernardo Kastrup. See the DMT “elves” or “jesters” who call you out on your own bullshit when you ingest the drug. See what more than 10,000 people at Fatima saw on the last appearance of “Our Lady,” including the spinning of the sun in the sky.
All of this is about to be blown open by the UFO/UAP phenomenon, where the last gasps of US governmental razzmatazz signal an imminent disclosure that will shatter the certainties of both the pious and the impious.
Oh dear. Keep taking the pills.