The sleep of reason produces monsters; inversions, caricatures of what we know to be right and sensible. Sometimes the fancies of the night seem more substantial than the sober thoughts of daytime. The dreams of a folklorist are especially subject to this kind of inversion. Consider two magazine pieces published by that Victorian litterateur, Grant Allen of Haslemere. One is a serious contribution to folklore scholarship, while the other is its dark parody. But the night-time version is far more revealing. It says a great deal about the mind of its author; but it also tells us something about a hidden strand in twentieth-century paganism.
The death of Bridget Cleary, killed for being a changeling, brought together many different strands of politics, folklore and literature. It made literal the folk culture that Revivalists like Yeats and Lady Gregory were studying, but in a horrifyingly realistic way – a woman burned and beaten to death because of the “fairy-faith”. Or was it a perversion, as Yeats and others argued?
Áine is the Celtic Goddess of love, the sun, fertility, water, summer and sovereignty. She is honored for her ability to grant abundance and fertility over the land. Being a Goddess of the sun Aine is said to have been given the nickname “bright”.
The pastoral cowslips are our little pets,
And daisy stars, whose firmament is green;
Pansies, and those veil’d nuns, meek violets,
Sighing to that warm world from which they screen;
And golden daffodils, pluck’d for May’s Queen;
And lonely harebells, quaking on the heath;
And Hyacinth, long since a fair youth seen,
Whose tuneful voice, turn’d fragrance in his breath,
Kiss’d by sad Zephyr, guilty of his death.’
There are elder trees all over Europe and Asia, but no one has been able to trace a root word common to the Indo-European languages for it. Considering that other widespread trees like birch and oak do have names that are clearly related across the whole language family, it seems strange that a useful tree like the elder should be overlooked. (Hyllested: 119) Or was there a reason behind this refusal to name the tree?