Friend of Foe?

Fairies and butterflies remain very popular tattoo designs, especially amongst the fairer sex. For centuries children grew up with the idea of fairies, just think about the tooth fairy. Heck I believed in her till I was about 13 years old!

Typically we like to think of fairies as the bearers of good fortune, happiness and freedom, but this was not always the case. In my research on the origins of these mystical creatures, I came upon some really interesting information.

Did you know that in ancient times people who believed in the existence of fairies did not always ascribe to them a definite origin, and explanations varied culturally, regionally and temporally.

One popular belief was that they were the dead, or some subclass of the dead. A "fairy woman", was sometimes described as a ghost or as a harbinger of death. One tale was about a man who was caught by the fairies. He found that whenever he looked steadily at one, the fairy looked exactly like a dead neighbor of his. This was among the most common views expressed by those who believed in fairies.

Another view held that they were an intelligent species, distinct from humans and angels. They were regarded as elementals, such as gnomes and sylphs. This is uncommon in folklore, but accounts describing the fairies as creatures of the air have been found popularly.

A third belief held that they were a class of "demoted" angels. One popular story goes that when the angels rebelled, God ordered the gates shut; those still in heaven remained angels, those in hell became devils, and those caught in between became fairies. Others believed that they had been thrown out of heaven, not being good enough, but were not evil enough for hell.

A fourth belief was the fairies were devils, entirely. Dealing with fairies was in some cases considered a form of witchcraft and punished as such.

A less-common belief was that the fairies were actually humans. There is a “Fairy tale” that tells us about a woman who had hidden some of her children from God. When she started looking for them later, is was in vain, because they had become the hidden people, the fairies.

Another interesting theory for the source of fairy beliefs was that a race of diminutive people had once lived in the Celtic nations and British Isles, but been driven into hiding by invading humans. They came to be seen as another race, or possibly spirits, and were believed to live in an Otherworld that was variously described as existing underground, in hidden hills, or across the Western Sea.

The fairies fear of iron was attributed to the invaders having iron weapons, whereas the inhabitants had only flint and were therefore easily defeated in physical battle. Their green clothing and underground homes were credited to their need to hide and camouflage themselves from hostile humans, and their use of magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry.

Practical beliefs and protection

When considered as beings that a person might actually encounter, fairies were noted for their mischief and malice. Some pranks ascribed to them, such as tangling the hair of sleepers into "Elf-locks", stealing small items or leading a traveler astray, are generally harmless.
If fairies could be dangerous, it stands to reason that they should be avoided and all precautions should be taken to please them incase you do encounter them. In terms of protective charms, cold iron is the most familiar, but other things are regarded as detrimental to the fairies: wearing clothing inside out, running water, bells (especially church bells), St. John's wort, and four-leaf clovers, among others.

In Newfoundland folklore, the most popular type of fairy protection is bread, varying from stale bread to hard tack or a slice of fresh home-made bread. The belief that bread has some sort of special power is an ancient one. Bread is associated with the home and the hearth, as well as with industry and the taming of nature, and as such, seems to be disliked by some types of fairies.

Certain locations, known to be haunts of fairies, are to be avoided. Locations such as fairy forts were left undisturbed; even cutting brush on fairy forts was reputed to be the death of those who performed the act. Fairy trees, such as thorn trees, were dangerous to chop down; one such tree was left alone in Scotland, though it prevented a road being widened for seventy years!

People who saw the fairies were advised not to look closely, because they resented infringements on their privacy.

Despite all these negative beliefs about fairies, there were some instances where the fairies were employed by humans in a positive way, en were awarded by the fairies.

Superstitious communities believed that the miller must be in league with the fairies. In Scotland fairies were often mischievous and to be feared. No one dared to set foot in the mill or kiln at night as it was known that the fairies brought their corn to be milled after dark. So long as the locals believed this then the miller could sleep secure in the knowledge that his stores were not being robbed.

John Fraser, the miller of Whitehill claimed to have hidden and watched the fairies trying unsuccessfully to work the mill. He said he decided to come out of hiding and help them, upon which one of the fairy women gave him a double handful of meal, and told him to put it in his empty store, saying that the store would remain full for a long time, no matter how much he took out.

These are just a few beliefs surrounding fairies and their origins that I came upon, and although most of them paint a pretty unpleasant picture of fairies, I choose to belief that they are the kind, dainty beings that help people and grant wishes with the wave of the magic wand!

My few fairy designs are evident of my belief, by the way, most of the information that I came upon was from wikipedia.com.

So whatever your beliefs are around fairies, make sure that you know why you want a fairy tattoo design.

Enjoy my designs!

If my fairies are not quite what you are looking for, check out my design gallery. I am sure you will find something there that you will like.

The alternative is to go back to my home page and make another selection.

If you really cannot find anything that you like on my site, I stumbled upon this really cool ebook, with tattoo designs especially for women. There are some really cool tips and beautiful designs in there. Unfortunately the designs are copywrited so I cannot give you a sample of what is inside, but check it out for yourself.

If none of these options work for you, my last suggestion is to search Google for more choices.

Good luck and have fun!

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