The Houses of Fairy
“I met a lady in the wood,
Most beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her step was light,
And her eyes were wild.
I walked with her in the green shade,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sideways would she lean and sing
A fairy’s song.”
— by D. G. Rossetti in 1848
The term “fae” can be applied to any and all of the creatures whose ancestors were born in the realms of Alfheim or Svartalfheim. Before the gods fell, these people moved freely between their native realms and Midgard, the realm of men. “Fae” is a generic term, even as “human” might be applied to any child of man. However, there are many kinds of fae. Some are tall, some tiny. Some are painfully beautiful, others are deformed (even grotesque, by human standards). Many have amazing magical abilities; others have little or no magic of their own. In short, the fae are as wide and varied in their pedigree and abilities as humankind.
The Sidhe ~ Children of the Air
The people known as the “Sidhe” or “the lordly ones” or “the good people” are the most powerful of the fae who remain. They are very human-seeming (when they choose to be seen), on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery speech. For this reason, we often refer to the Sidhe simply as “the gentry”. Their lords and ladies have fantastic sithens where they feast every day and play the most exquisite music.
As a society, they revel in the arts of love and war, and most Sidhe spend hundred of years in military service to the Empire.
They are very long-lived and reproduce slowly. The standard human lifespan in our empire (if not killed in war or contest or accident) might average 200 years. The corresponding Sidhe life might average 8,000. The Sidhe do not die of old age, they die in contest with each other or in battle …or they sometimes destroy themselves, when the burden of time and loss becomes too much. The Sidhe care not so much about death, as about winning. If they are alive, they can plot to win next time. If they die with honor, then that is winning, too, and they are remembered for their triumph and will be exulted.
The Sidhe studied occult lore and sorcery, the druidic laws, witchcraft and other magical skills, until they surpassed all who breathed in the arcane arts.
This makes them masters of magic and it is the glue which helps them to bind our interstellar empire. In the Gaelic language, sidhe means wind and the good people have much to do with the wind. They journey in whirling winds, these winds are sometimes called the dance of the daughters of Dana. [Should you see leaves whirling on the road, bow your head in greeting, as it may be one of the Sidhe passing by.]
Like the wind, they can be both seen and unseen. Called the “fairy glamor” (or enchantment), the Sidhe can appear to change form or may put on the “feth fiadh” (cloak of concealment) at will. They can also have power over the weather, and have been known to cause great gales in service to a military campaign or their own whimsy.
The qualities the Sidhe hold in high regard are strength, courage, beauty, joy, honor, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, creative vigor, and respect for tradition. To express these things through action is virtuous. Their opposites: weakness, cowardice, adherence to blind dogma and the like, are vices to be avoided.
Proper behavior in Sidhe society consists of maximizing one’s virtues and minimizing one’s vices.
This code of conduct reflects the highest and most heroic ideals of these people, and is built into the command structures of our military and civilian institutions. For these reasons, the Sidhe do not lie. But neither do they always volunteer the truth. To politic within their walls is to play at a never-ending game of strategy.
The Nyx ~ Children of the Waters
Their magic centers upon this element, whose course and function they can control. There are many types of water fae, though all hold one thing in common: they can shift their shape. While some favor humanoid forms, others prefer the slip-silver bodies of creatures who cannot breathe the air.
Like the element that hosts their powers, the nyx are changeable, calm one moment and full of fury the next. They may often appear almost child-like, when engaged in conversation. Some have great powers to heal. Many are tied to a particular body of water, so if that water-source is damaged, the fae tied to it will also suffer. Pollute the water-home of a Nyx and they may appear in the form of an angry hag and douse you with the results. Show their homes respect and they may appear in the form of handsome youths or beautiful maidens.
The seas are densely populated with these beings. They can control the weather and the water, raise storms, and have the power to cause shipwrecks, or keep to keep a ship safe. In ancient times, it was human practice to placate them with a sacrifice before setting out on a voyage.
Here follows a short list of the most well-known: Alven (tiny, wingless and travel through the air enclosed in a water bubble); Bean-Fionn (always female, they live beneath lakes and streams and have no love of humans); Beansidhe (also known as banshees, they have the ability to foretell death); Kelpies (humans are among the favorite meals of these cannibalistic, web-footed water fae); Mer (beautiful humanoids from their torso-upwards, their lower bodies are those of fish, complete with scales);Pookas (deft shape-shifters, they are known to enjoy beer, wine and mead); Selkies (their true shape is humanoid, but they use a kind of enchanted pelt to take the form of large seals when traveling the oceans); Sprites (can breathe water or air, and in some cases, can fly); and Undines (elemental fae who exist within the water itself and cannot easily be seen by humans).
These fae are the most familiar to humans, as many of them enjoy to live in human households. Others prefer the forests and meadows, where they care for the natural world. Most earth fae are small and beautiful. They passionately love music and dancing, and live under the hills or in the trees. They also delight in good wines, and are careful to repay the donor in blessings, for most have a kind heart.
Here follows a short list of the most well-known: Attorcroppe (these fae look like serpents with arms and legs); Bally-bogs (small, mud-covered creatures which guard bogs, swamps and bayous); Bean-Tighe (housekeepers that watch over children, hearth and pets); Black Angus (appearing as large black dogs with yellow eyes, only visible to humans about to die); Boggarts (exceedingly ill-tempered, they will enter a house and destroy everything inside); Brownies (always male, they will help out around the house and chase away the wicked); Bwbachs (always male, they are very mischievous house faeries and are not very helpful); Draoi (or Dryads, live in and protect the trees); Duergarrs (malicious small fae who prey on unwary travelers); Gnomes (they appear quite old, their main occupation is the protection & healing of wildlife); Gruagach (extremely grotesque, found in the pastures guarding the livestock); Pixies (tiny, whimsical, willful, and beautiful. These live in communities and are very friendly); Tomtra (housefae who lend energy to home protection spells);Trolls (large, hairy and bipedal, they hate humans, animals and other faeries); and Trows (round faeries with no legs, they move around by rolling or bouncing like a ball).
“Let no man carve runes to cast a spell, save first he learns to read them well.”
~ a Viking poet
To truly control a thing, one must know it completely; this is the deep knowledge of rune magic. But, to know a thing completely is, in a way, to become the thing; this is the danger of rune magic. It is what we bring to the enchantment that matters, more than what the enchantment may disclose.
The first systems of writing developed and used were runic alphabets. Runes function as letters, but they are much more when compared to how we use the 26 characters of the Latin alphabet. Each rune is a symbol of some cosmological principle or power. To write a rune is to invoke and direct the force for which it stands. That is why the word “rune” means both “letter” and “secret” or “mystery”.
Being eternal, the runes were never invented, but rather, discovered by Odin through a tremendous ordeal. The tale has come down to us in the old Norsk poem Hávamál (“The Sayings of the High One”): Odin discovered the runes by ritually sacrificing himself to himself and fasting for nine days while staring into the waters of the Well of Urd; it was he who taught the runes to the first human rune-masters.
When humans practice runic magic, it entails their being in possession of a physical entity that is engraved with the individual runes, so as to practically work with their energies. Depending on the nature of the spell, the runes are colored with blood, water, dyes, paints or fire. The act of possessing the rune-stave in its final form serves the purpose of affecting the physical world with the might of that particular rune-stave.
Egill Skallagrímsson, the warrior-poet, was a devotee of Odin and master practitioner of runic magic. In the Egils saga, he uses his knowledge and abilities to detect poison in a drink, cure a sick girl, communicate with the earth fae, and curse a rival king and queen. His deeds are fine examples of how runic magic may be practiced.
When the fae practice magic, they use the secret sound of each rune. This act of singing or chanting has more or less the same effect of using the rune-staves in their physical form. Sometimes, their innate power lets them paint the runes they chant into the air. For particularly powerful spells, they use sound, fairy light and a physical rune-stave.
There are thousands of runes. Some are known. Some have been forgotten. Some may never be known.