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Autumn Fairy [1918] (Public Domain Image)

The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries

By W. Y. Evans-Wentz


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This is one of the most in-depth and scholarly attempts to explain the phenomena of the Celtic belief in fairies. Based on Evans-Wentz' Oxford doctoral thesis, it includes an extensive survey of the literature from many different perspectives, including folk-lore, history, anthropology and psychology. The heart of the book is the ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Evans-Wentz, an invaluable snapshot of the fairy belief system taken just on the cusp of modernity. There are regional surveys of the fairy-faith in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany and the Isle of Man. Evan-Wentz later went on to become one of the leading authorities on Buddhism, and published many of the key documents of Tibetan Buddhism including the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Evans-Wentz examines each of the hypothetical explanations of the fairy phenomena. Among these are the theories that fairies were a reclusive race of dwarfs, that they are disembodied spirits, or that they are a figment of our imaginations. Evans-Wentz concludes that they may indeed be a manifestation of inhabitants of a higher reality that only some of us are able to view, let alone understand.

We come away from this study with a multi-dimensional view of the fairies, who, much like the grey aliens of UFO belief, inhabit a narrative which seems too consistent to be the product of insanity, yet too bizarre for conventional explanation.

Production Notes: This is a complete overhaul of this etext. I have added linked footnotes, anchored page numbers, the table of contents, a previously missing chapter, and corrected numerous formatting and transcription errors.

--John Bruno Hare
January 27th, 2004

Title Page

Section I: The Living Fairy-Faith

Chapter I: Environment
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: I. General Introduction
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: II. In Ireland
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: III. In Scotland
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: IV. In the Isle of Man
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: V. In Wales
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: VI. In Cornwall
Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: VII: In Brittany
Chapter III. Anthropological Examination of the Evidence

The Recorded Fairy-Faith

Chapter IV. People of the Goddess Dana
Chapter V. Brythonic Divinities
Chapter VI. Celtic Otherworld
Chapter VII. The Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth

Section III. The Cult Of Gods, Spirits, Fairies, and the Dead

Chapter VIII. The Testimony of Archaeology
Chapter IX. The Testimony of Paganism
Chapter X. The Testimony of Christianity

Section IV. Modern Science and the Fairy Faith; and Conclusions

Chapter XI. Science and Fairies
Chapter XII. The Celtic Doctrine of Re-Birth and Otherworld Scientifically Examined