Monday, 22 October 2012

I Don't Believe in Fairies, BUT . . .

     If a grown man believes in fairies, you would probably say that he has never outgrown his childish beliefs, but do children really believe in fairies? Well, I used to believe in the tooth fairy, but I gave up on her after I go my last threepence for my last baby tooth. (Santa Claus got a better run with me.) But, by and large, I viewed fairies the same as I did dragons (which used to give me the heebee-jeebies), witches, and talking animals: as "just stories", and I suspect that most children are the same.
     On the other hand, many people would be surprised to learn that belief in fairies, elves, dwarfs, and the like has a long and venerable tradition in Europe. Like belief in witchcraft, it is one of the last relics of paganism. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of studying genuine fairy folklore is that I can no longer tolerate the prettified, gossamer-winged monstrosities of children's books. The last stronghold of this tradition in Western Europe is Iceland, where even some politicians share the belief. There is even a government body dedicated to it. (This is not as stupid as it sounds. What do you do if citizens claim that problems with road construction are caused by the elves?)
     People may also be unaware that, when folklorists were researching fairy traditions in the British Isles during the 19th, and even 20th, century, they found people who not only believed in them, but also claimed to have seen them. Of course, they might have been making it up. Indeed, that is the only view you could take if you have already ruled out the existence of fairies. Now, I'm not saying that doesn't happen, but there is a certain fragility in any theory - such as the non-existence of something - which relies on the assumption that every piece of evidence to the contrary must be based on a lie.
     Of course, the term, "fairy" carries a lot of baggage - magic powers, underground dwellings, time dilation, changelings, to name just a few - and it would be unwise to assume the whole tradition if you did happen to observe what something small and humanoid. So, I don't believe in fairies, but ... there are still a lot of strange things being encountered. Like what happened in North Carolina in 1976.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Taboos of Tsodilo

     It is supposed to be bad luck for the groom to see the wedding dress before the wedding, but who takes notice of such superstitions? I must admit, it never entered my mind when I was helping my bride-to-be choose her dress. True, just after the invitations were sent out, the church did burn down. And a week before the ceremony, the reception restaurant closed down. And on the first day of the honeymoon, the car broke down. But that is all pure coincidence. And no doubt it was pure coincidence what happened to Laurens van der Post when he visited the Tsodilo Hills in what is now Botswana.