Toward an Account of Faeries

When we use the term ‘faerie’ (or ‘fairie’ or ‘fae’), we bring a lot of treacly associations with it. One of the first things that you see folks who talk about faeries do is combat these images, noting that faeries have a wide range of forms and expressions, and very few of them are particularly sweet in the Tinkerbell sense. R. J. Stewart, in his Living World of Faery, jars the reader’s Romantic expectations and suggests that the legends of Bigfoot likely have their roots in faery encounters, for example.

These same people often undermine this by making use of a style of illustration and design that has its roots in the same Neo-Romantic Celt-wash that gives birth to Tinkerbell. The cover to Stewart’s aforementioned book or its illustrations? Almost exclusively suggest a rural and British pastoral-pagan scene. To the extent that faerie acquires any aesthetic bite, it tends to be a simple variation on this theme, limning it with gothic or, occasionally, punk elements (I’m looking at you, Changeling). This strips away the alien of faeirie and, at best, makes it the human weird.

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Lovecraft and Modernity (Take 1)

I keep hammering on about this connection between modernity as a literary sensibility and modernity as a spiritual/religious/occult one. I’ve admitted that I have more a sense of how not to talk about it than I do of how to talk about it. It seems like what I need is a figure I can pore over easily–I love Benjamin and I’m enjoying Baudelaire, but that is too far-removed from what I know to provide a ready handle. Which, well, makes me think about H. P. Lovecraft.

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The Capitalist Situation and Spiritual Life

Aye l’oja, orun n’ile (The world is a marketplace we [all] visit, [and] the otherworld is home)

(Yoruba saying, quoted/translated by Wole Soyinka)

When we start talking about capitalism’s role in the modern spiritual world, it’s useful to start with a little advice from Michel Foucault. When he was pressed as to whether he was anti-psychiatry, he stated that he didn’t think psychiatry was ‘bad.’ Rather, he said, psychiatry was “dangerous…but everything is dangerous.” When we talk about capitalism’s influence in our spiritual lives, I suggest thinking like that–it isn’t bad, but dangerous; there is no way to escape danger in this life so we should appreciate the nature of that danger.

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Modernism’s Soul?

I haven’t done a link roundup post in a bit and I have stumbled across a few somewhat disparate tidbits that are worth mentioning, even if I don’t have a precise way to talk about them yet. There is something here about the interconnection of the poetic and the spiritual, the fictional and the spiritual, with inspiration defining their joint.

These links can all be grouped by their common focus on an aesthetic sensibility and its relationship to Modernism and spiritual experience. I have beat this drum before, but there is so much to appreciate about the spiritual contributions of the 20th century.

First up, I came across a paper (“Chthonic Powers” by Charles Elliott) while considering a post on precisely the subject matter it details: the common aesthetic framework from which both T. S. Eliot and H. P. Lovecraft operated. I have only skimmed it, but I like what I see, especially how he notes the importance of the cosmic backdrop for both writers. The fear and dread of both men, their more or less conservative tendencies…something to be looked into.

There is this steampunk Lovecraft-Eliot mashup called Fallen London. It is an online game and while I find grinding of any sort tiresome, there are some genuinely beautiful vistas described therein. It feels like it occasionally taps a spiritual…something…in the Eliot-Lovecraft-Modernist region.

I find myself thinking about Jack Kirby’s aesthetic and discovered these two articles over at the Secret Sun: Kirby as gnostic and Kirby’s art compared to visionary art. That last bit comparing the vivid colors and densely packed frames of Kirby’s panels…

There is a discussion going (here and here) about consumerism and spirituality. Consumerism cuts a sharp and zagging line straight through Modernism. Consider how important it has been to the dispersion of both Lovecraft and Kirby.