Faeries on the Road

Dancing Fairies, August Malmström, 1866. Courtesy of The Art ProjectNon-visual evidence of faeries is readily experienced by humans, as anyone who has had the misfortune to live in a house built across a faerie road will acknowledge. Traditionally, such houses had the front and back door placed opposite each other and the inhabitants were sure to leave the doors wide open on Midsummer Eve and at Halloween when the faeries ride and would leave gifts of milk, cream and butter to appease them. Failure to leave the doors open, or worse, failure to build the doorways opposite each other would lead to violent shaking of the entire house and in rare cases demolition as the faeries vented their anger. Plainly, we are not immune from faeries but merely unable to see them.

This raised an interesting question for folkloric research and early experiments in paraphysics confirmed that certain animals have far greater visual awareness of faerie phenomena and entities than others and many are more aware than the average human, of which I am firmly one. Dogs are frequently seen to bark at invisible objects, cats will refuse to enter a room, horses will spook for no apparent reason and some varieties of birds will often seem to be chasing shadows in frenzied alarm. Most of these events will have a physical explanation but certainly some of them are down to genuine encounters between animal and the world of faerie.Beras Island, coconut fruitQuite why horses, and other creatures such as cats, dogs and many species of bird, are visually aware of faeries when man is not remained a great mystery until the last few decades when the answer came indirectly from a study of the evolution of colour vision in primates. All fish, reptiles, amphibia, most species of birds, and several species of primate, including, obviously, humans, have trichromatic vision enabling them to distinguish shades of red and yellow; however, the great majority of placental mammals (this excludes the marsupials) have dichromatic vision which cannot distinguish between shades of yellow and red. The study indicated that trichromacy had been lost in early mammals but later re-evolved among certain primate species. Further study of these primate species proved that all were, or had evolved from, frugivores – fruit-eaters – suggesting that trichromacy had re-evolved to discriminate between ripe and unripe fruit.

skye-sporting-estatesThese studies were published in the relevant scientific journals but made little impact outside the field of evolutionary biology until Professor Leon Heidenreich of Berlin University’s Paraphysics Faculty noted a correlation between those animal species with dichromatic vision and those said to have a visual awareness of faerie, or paraphysical, phenomena. Remarkably, all the higher mammals with dichromacy have at least partial visual awareness of faerie phenomena while all those with trichromatic vision have none. In conclusion, Professor Heidenreich theorised, when our distant primate ancestor gained the ability to identify if a fruit was ripe to eat they lost the ability to detect faerie, or ‘bright colours’ as they are known. Professor Heidenreich’s findings led to a rush of new research, some credible, much less so, but the most interesting proved a correlation between colour-blindness and psychic awareness in humans. This is not to say that all with colour-blindness can see faerie colours, (thanks heavens!) merely that there is a greater chance they might do so. Curiously, colour-blindness is far more common among males, at an estimated one in twelve of the population, than in women where only one in two-hundred is affected. I am myself a sufferer and it always made offering my wife advice on her latest dress – she would insist on asking me – diplomatically awkward and perhaps exacerbated our estrangement, along with her affair with Rupert the riding instructor.Tartan of the MacStrangiesA few years ago I was invited to Holyrood Palace in Edenborough for the 150th anniversary of the publication of MacGregor’s Edmund Pevensie. As this was an official gathering there was a dress-code with the men in traditional highland garb. As it happens, I am one quarter Scottish on my maternal grandmother’s side and though I could have rented a kilt for the evening I became keen on the idea of wearing my ancestor’s tartan. Learning that there was no tartan registered for the MacStrangies I paid a visit to Beavers on George Street, Edenborough, and attempted to design my own. It is unfortunate that tartan cloth is traditionally a pattern of green, red, blue and yellow and only the good-guidance of the staff at Beavers prevented my attending Holyrood more MacPopinjay than MacStrangie!The most celebrated, if not notorious, psychic of our times, Hendryk van Zelden is a noted sufferer of colour-blindness but while I suffer from the same complaint I have the psychic perception of a gate post so plainly one does not determine the other.

Some of the less creditable research following Professor Heidenreich’s findings has certainly been intriguing, if far-fetched. The most curious, to my mind, was that propagated by Julius Endicote, a homeopath and animal psychiatrist with no obvious scientific or medical training, who concluded that the Judeo-Christian account of the Fall of Man was a race-memory of the loss of dichromacy millions of years ago in our ancestry. He drew a parallel between the evolution of trichromacy in primates and our loss of visual contact with the faeries and our estrangement from God following the Fall of Man in the Bible and earlier Hebraic texts. In both, Endicote said, citing the evolutionary biologists, the ultimate cause was fruit: the ripe fruit desired by the primate and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge eaten by Adam and Eve. Desiring the fruit brought our fall from grace. Needless to say, the theories of Julius Endicote do not appear in the scientific journals.Adam and Eve, Hans Thoma, 1897Of the Bright Colours themselves I will have much more to say later, but it will suffice for the moment to state that they do not resemble ordinary colours; grane is not, for example, a shade between blue and brown. Rather, they are the colours of moods or sudden emotions or of times of day and natural phenomena. Orbrous, for example, is in all cases the colour of the unlit portion of the moon, whether it appears to our eye black, dark grey, or even that ruddy tone familiar from a lunar eclipse, while yenever is the colour of the first thing seen in the morning and lychre that of the last thing seen at night, usually the lingering glow on the eye after switching out the light. Conversely, malacore is the colour of lust and envy and judish is the colour of beauty.Illustration from Alfred Smedberg's The seven wishes in Julbocken, 1907Faeries, like humans, build their roads sensibly; neither too steep nor too winding. Hence, when topography demands it both faerie roads and those made by man coincide so it is entirely likely that man and faerie will meet on the road, albeit only the wariness of your horse will alert you to a faery’s presence for while they are often curious about humans they generally leave us alone. Thus, while Tormod M’Neis intends his remark ‘Have the little-folk crossed the road?’ as a joke it is not without substance for they quite probably have crossed the road or walked beside us at one time or other.


Bard of Tweeddale

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