The Faerie Banquet by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1859 (PD0)

Faeries have been an important part of the folkloric repertoire for hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of years, and while they are portrayed in the popular imagination through faerie tales, and have become disneyfied through the 20th century, their main presence is in the myriad of folklore from every part of the globe. They usually (though not always) take a humanoid form, and interact with human societies as amorphous supernatural entities, appearing in our world to both co-operate with people and as general arbiters of discord, while also living in their own Otherworld, sometimes accessible to humans either through accident or design. While the phenomenon is ancient, the belief in these metaphysical beings continues, and there are thousands of encounter reports from all over the world every year, as demonstrated in the recent survey by The Fairy Investigation Society, which includes c.500 testimonies.i

But folklorists are often ambivalent about the faeries; they are likely to keep their distance from them, so to speak. While happy to record and discuss the beliefs of people who tell stories and anecdotes about them, most folklorists speak the language (at least in official publications) of the reductionist, materialist worldview, and they’ll often be reticent about assessing the potential actual reality of supernatural beings. In the materialist’s world, faeries simply cannot exist. They must be reduced into a categorised cultural belief system, and any discussion of them will usually be couched in the accepted language of scientific rationalism. This creates a problem for any folklorist (or anybody else) who wants to look behind the stories and investigate the possibility that the faeries can be incorporated into our consensus reality as a genuine phenomenon.

But the reductionist scientific orthodoxy has been challenged recently by a range of philosophical hypotheses such as Panpsychism and Idealism, backed up by quantum theory and experiment, which reinstates consciousness (not matter) as the primary mover and creator of reality.ii When this is done, entities such as faeries are allowed back into the universe as a potentially authentic phenomenon.

The Origins of the Faeries in Altered States of Consciousness

Our earliest known artistic portrayals of the world, and how human consciousness interacted with it, come in the form of cave paintings from all parts of the globe, starting c.40,000 BCE.iii Many of these cave paintings include humanoids and therianthropes; otherworldly entities that have been recorded alongside geometric imagery, stylised animals and landscapes. The paintings are in effect our earliest known folklore. But what state of mind were our Palaeolithic ancestors in when they were painting these strange entities in often difficult to access caves and shelters?

Parietal art in cave systems at Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria, c. 7,000 BCE (PD0)

The anthropologist David Lewis-Williams has made the convincing argument that these cave and rock-shelter paintings were produced by shamanic cultures to represent reality as perceived in an altered state of consciousness.iv Thirty years ago this idea was anathema to anthropologists, but since the work of Lewis-Williams, and many others, the theory has tipped over to become more orthodox. There are hundreds of motifs in the cave paintings that correlate with the visionary states of people in an altered state of consciousness, brought about most especially by the ingestion of a psychotropic substance. The basic premise is that the shamans of these Palaeolithic cultures transported themselves into altered states of consciousness and then painted the results of their experiences on the walls of caves and rock shelters — experiences that frequently included therianthropic beings and supernatural humanoids that correlate in many ways with later faerie types.

In his 2005 book Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, Graham Hancock vividly utilises Lewis-Williams’ work to discuss the continuity through time of entities experienced in altered states of consciousness, coming to the conclusion that the faeries of our historic period are perhaps one and the same as those portrayed in prehistoric caves.v And writers such as Carlo Ginzburg and Emma Wilby have argued that there is a direct link between prehistoric shamanic storytelling and the folklore embodied in classical, medieval and later periods, that often incorporate entities such as nymphs and faeries; supernatural beings that interact with humanity when the conditions are Those conditions may well be reliant on the human participants undergoing an altered state of consciousness as a result of the ingestion of psychotropic compounds. There is certainly a preponderance of mushroom imagery associated to historic depictions of faeries, most especially the highly psychedelic red and white Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) mushroom, and the psilocybin mushroom, both prevalent in Europe and Asia. If these historic folkloric manifestations of interactions with supernatural entities can be linked to the cave art of prehistory and preliterate societies, then we have a continuation of relationship with an alternative reality, accessed through altered states of consciousness, over a very long period of time.

17th-century English woodcut for a chapbook, with dancing faeries, burial mound (hollow hill with door), fly agaric mushroom and the face of a ‘spirit’ in the tree (PD0)

Many of the European faerie motifs repeated in stories and anecdotes through the centuries to the present day were already in place during the medieval period. When folklorists began to collect these stories in earnest from the 19th century onwards, they found a belief in faeries amongst rural populations that was probably very close to the medieval belief and understanding of what faeries were and how they interacted with humanity. Many of the stories include situations where the protagonist(s) interacts with the faeries in what seems an altered state of consciousness; consistently inhabited by strange humanoids and therianthropes (the faeries), and there are lots of recurring story motifs that are highly suggestive of an autonomous reality being described. But this is not consensus reality, this is the folklore recording stories from people operating outside consensus reality. The folklore about faeries has been overlain with much allegorical storytelling, but at their root the realities they describe are of people in altered states of consciousness (facilitated by a range of agents), perhaps not too far from the realities experienced by the Palaeolithic cave painters and shamanic practitioners.

Clairvoyance and the Memory of Nature

When the folklorist WY Evans-Wentz travelled around the Celtic world at the beginning of the 20th century, collecting stories and anecdotal experiences about the faeries, it was clear that many of his interviewees rated clairvoyance as the best way of altering the conscious state to a position where it could interact with the faeries.vii Seership or second-sight was the method of entering, or at least viewing, an alternative reality inhabited by a relatively consistent cast of characters, usually recognised as the faeries. He met one such (un-named) Irish clairvoyant in Rosses Point, County Sligo. This seer talked about various types of faeries that inhabited the landscape of Sligo, ‘making them sound like a cross between nature spirits and mystical visions.’ But Evans-Wentz was just as interested in the mechanics of interacting with the faeries as he was with the stories themselves. How did the seer interface with them?

‘I have always made a distinction between pictures seen in the memory of nature and visions of actual beings now existing in the inner world. We can make the same distinction in our world: I may close my eyes and see you as a vivid picture in memory, or I may look at you with my physical eyes and see your actual image. In seeing these beings of which I speak, the physical eyes may be open or closed: mystical beings in their own world and nature are never seen with the physical eyes.’viii

The rural people interviewed by Evans-Wentz consistently affirmed that clairvoyant alteration of consciousness was the best sure-fire way to see the faeries. By the time Evans-Wentz visited these communities, there was a sense that the number of people gifted with second-sight was dwindling; cutting down on communication with the faeries. But at the same time as these rural communities were feeling the increasing pressures of modernism there was a reaction by organisations such as The Theosophical Society (first founded in 1875), which attempted to incorporate supernatural entities into an understanding of reality.ix And their prime metaphysical technology was clairvoyance. The Austrian Theosophist Rudolf Steiner attempted to explain the mechanics of clairvoyance, when a person must transform their usually passive thought forms into something more dynamic. In normal consciousness, thoughts:

‘… allow themselves to be connected and separated, to be formed and then dismissed. This life of thought must develop in the elemental world a step further. There a person is not in a position to deal with thoughts that are passive. If someone really succeeds in entering the world with his clairvoyant soul, it seems as though his thoughts were not things over which he has any command; they are living beings… You thrust your consciousness into a place, it seems, where you do not find thoughts that are like those in the physical world, but where they are living beings.’x

Rudolf Steiner in 1905 (PD0)

Steiner described the specific elemental animating forces at work in the natural world, when perceived clairvoyantly, in what he calls the Supersensible World. For Steiner the elementals in the Supersensible World existed as a range of beings, from devas, which are responsible for entire autonomous landscapes, through to the smaller nature spirits charged with the growth of vegetation. Steiner (basing his epistemology on that originally developed by the 16th-century alchemist Paracelsus)xi divides these entities into four main types corresponding to earth (Gnomic), water (Undines), air (Sylphs) and heat/light (Salamanders). This is the faerie realm, existing as a non-material autonomous reality that crosses over with ours, and which can be accessed via a clairvoyant altered state of consciousness. Steiner thought everyone has this innate ability, but they had to be taught how to use it; it had somehow become almost forgotten amongst humanity.

This idea finds common ground with the recent work of biochemist Rupert Sheldrake, who proposes that morphogenetic fields are the formative causation allowing life on earth.xii Sheldrake’s description of this organising principle behind the natural world is issued in the language of biochemistry, but in effect, what he postulates is the same as Steiner’s vision of nature spirits in action. There are invisible forces that are as essential in ordering life on earth as accepted non-material forces such as gravity. Sheldrake calls these morphogenetic fields ‘the memory of nature’ (echoing Evans-Wentz’s Irish seer). In effect, Steiner saw nature spirits as anthropogenic representations of these morphogenetic fields, imposed upon them through the thought forms of the observer, who perceives them clairvoyantly.

The Faeries and DMT

But what allows this access to otherworldly realms and the entities that seem to exist there? What causes clairvoyance, or second-sight? Many of Evans-Wentz’s respondents and Theosophists such as Steiner seem to suggest it is a natural attribute — a gift of consciousness. However, there may well also be a chemical component: N, N-dimethyltryptamine – DMT. This molecule is one of the main active ingredients utilised by Amazonian shamans: the Psychotria viridis and Diplopterys cabrerana plants, containing DMT, are used in conjunction with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine to produce the brew usually known as Ayahuasca, which invokes radically transformed states of consciousness, and often entity encounters.xiii But DMT is also produced endogenously in everyone’s brain, potentially in either the lungs or the pineal gland.xiv It seems that under certain circumstances, it can be released in higher quantities, causing an altered state of consciousness. This would require the DMT to be released in conjunction with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI), which inhibit naturally occurring enzymes in the human body. This may allow a surge of DMT production to have full effect and create radically transformed states of consciousness.

While there remains a lack of definitive evidence that endogenously produced DMT might be responsible for altering states of consciousness and potentially allowing experiences with non-human intelligence, there is no doubt that when DMT is insufflated or injected the results often invoke entry into non-physical realities inhabited by a range of entities, many of which adhere to a faerie taxonomy. The late Terence McKenna was an enthusiastic user of the synthesised form of DMT to access different realities, and coined the term ‘self-transforming machine elves’ for the creatures he regularly found there. As if to confirm Terence’s assertions, a research study conducted between 1990 and 1995 in the General Clinical Research Center of the University of New Mexico Hospital, by Dr Rick Strassman found that volunteers on the study injected with varying amounts of DMT underwent profound alterations of consciousness.xv This involved immediate cessation of normal consciousness and transportation to a different realm of reality with divergent metaphysical properties, and inhabited by a range of creatures described as elves, faeries, lizards, reptiles, insects, aliens, clowns and various therianthropic entities. One woman even describes a pulsating entity that she called ‘Tinkerbell-like’. The experiences, especially at higher doses, represented to the participants a parallel reality that was ‘super real’; not an hallucination, not a dream, but a substantial built reality with full sensory interaction and often telepathy with the resident entities.

The experience reports from the study are irrational, absurd, frightening, illogical and surreal. There is no question of any of the volunteers physically leaving the hospital bed during their experiences, but for all of them (without exception) the DMT-world was every bit as real as the one their minds left behind. After the injections participants frequently talked about ‘blasting through’ or ‘breaking through a barrier’ after which they found themselves in a realm with its own laws of physical space and movement, and its own inhabitants.

There are over a hundred recorded experiences from the study, where the participants all engage in a non-physical reality directly with their consciousness, seemingly separated from their physical selfs. There have been several more surveys (although no further clinical research) delineating the faerie-type entities experienced through DMT, most recently by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, where 2561 testimonies were assessed.xvi Many of the experience reports do correlate closely to the folkloric faerie phenomenology. But what the research demonstrates is that under the right conditions, human consciousness can operate within a distinct and separate universe inhabited by a range of apparently autonomous entities. These entities may be one and the same as those recorded in prehistoric cave art and historic folklore, by people who were describing the beings encountered during various types of altered states of consciousness, brought on either actively or passively. The faeries may change superficially through time, adapting to the expectations of the culture they are part of, but if it is human consciousness they are interacting with, this is no surprise. Underneath the cultural masks, the faeries begin to reveal their true selfs.

Certain medical conditions also seem responsible for periodically transporting people into a non-material environment inhabited by entities. This is certainly the case with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. This condition may be the root of the unusually well-documented 17th-century Cornish story of Anne Jefferies’ abduction by diminutive faeries when she suffered a ‘convulsion fit’ and was transported (at least in her mind) to a numinous world inhabited by the faeries.xvii The author Eve LaPlante has used historic and contemporary examples to demonstrate that Temporal Lobe Epilepsy can provide access to an altered state of consciousness where the human mind participates in a reality several steps removed from the consensus material world.xviii This often includes full immersion in alternative landscapes and contact with non-human intelligence.

Illustration from Robert Hunt’s Popular Romances of the West of England (1865) (PD0)

Perception via the brain certainly gives us a very limited view of what is actually going on around us. Altering the usual transmission of consciousness through the brain (actively or passively) seems to allow non-material awareness more of a free rein. As in a dream, an altered consciousness is able to construct metaphysical realities. It is able to communicate with the entities it finds there, and bring back a report. The relative consistency of the inhabitants of this alternative reality may suggest that they live there all the time, non-physical, and only able to interact with our physical world when conditions are right for an individual’s consciousness. This is the crux: does consciousness create physical reality, or is consciousness an epiphenomenon of the brain? If the former, then the realities experienced in altered states of consciousness can be accepted as potentially real, with their own autonomous existence. If the latter, then while entities such as the faeries may be subjectively real, they do not exist objectively within the electromagnetic spectrum.

Faeries and Aliens

The ontological reality of faeries has in recent decades also become linked to other ‘paranormal’ activity types, primary of which is the intrusion into our consensus reality of entities usually known as aliens. The first person to suggest a definitive link between the the reports of folkloric faerie experiences and alien encounters was the astronomer and computer scientist Jacques Vallée. In his 1969 book Passport to Magonia he put forward the theory that the faeries were one and the same as the alien beings who had been purportedly abducting people around the world for a couple of decades by that date.xix His hypothesis is that there is a commonality to the experiences reported in alien abduction scenarios, and the reports of interactions with faeries in folklore. He suggests the aliens and the faeries are essentially the same phenomenon, tuned through the cultural receptors of the time and then interpreted accordingly. He makes special reference to the regular motifs in folklore of the abduction, by various means, of humans by faeries. There’s a lot of data here – it’s the commonest motif in faerie folklore. For a variety of reasons humans are taken to an alternative faerie reality, either as midwives or nurses for faerie children, as servants to the faeries, for sex, as punishment or reward, or just because the faeries feel like it. These motifs, of course, coincide with many aspects of the consistently strange phenomenon of alien abduction, reports of which have grown at an exponential rate since the early 1950s. Vallée uses a range of evidence to tie-up faerie abductions from folklore and alien abductions from modern reports, and goes as far to state:

‘… the modern, global belief in flying saucers and their occupants is identical to an earlier belief in the fairy-faith. The entities described as the pilots of the craft are indistinguishable from the elves, sylphs and lutins of the Middle Ages. Through the observations of unidentified flying objects, we are concerned with an agency our ancestors knew well and regarded with terror: we are prying into the affairs of The Secret Commonwealth.’xx

The Secret Commonwealth was the term coined for the faeries by the Reverend Robert Kirk in a manuscript of 1691, which includes a detailed description of their appearance, habits and exploits, gleaned from both his own experiences and those Scottish Highlanders purporting to have second-sight, or clairvoyance.xxi As Vallée points out, Kirk’s descriptions of the faeries and their modus operandi bear more than a passing resemblance to the alien visitors of the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Faerie Passage by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1864 (PD0)

Among their attributes was an ability to float through the air with insubstantial and fluid bodies, that they could make appear and disappear at will. This allowed them to ‘swim’ through the air and carry off mortals, usually to large circular abodes, that Kirk presumed were underground, and which were lit by a dim, unknown illumination. They even had ‘ætheriall vehicles’ to carry them around the sky. Kirk also asserted that the faeries had a nature intermediate between humans and angels. Their habit of abducting humans was usually for the purpose of wet-nursing faerie children or as midwives; a theme that fits in with the deluge of recent alien abduction reports (subsequent to Vallée’s investigations in 1969) that would suggest one of the main reasons for abduction is to obtain both parents and wet-nurses for hybrid human-alien offspring. Vallée quotes the 19th-century folklorist Edwin Hartland’s suggestion that such a programme of hybridisation was a primary reason for faerie abductions:

‘The motive assigned to fairies in northern stories is that of preserving and improving their race, on the one had by carrying off human children to be brought up among the elves and to become united with them, and on the other hand by obtaining the milk and fostering care of human mothers for their own offspring.’xxii

In 2005, Graham Hancock followed Vallée’s lead and took the comparison of faerie and alien abduction much further in his book Supernatural (after dealing with the elements of prehistoric shamanic cave-painting depictions of entities, discussed above). He compiled a range of faerie abduction reports from various time periods and geographical locations and set them against modern-day alien abduction events. He pays special attention to the faerie abduction of young women, such as Mrs Sheridan, an Irish woman, who seems to have spent much of the last decade of the 19th century being whisked off by the fairies for wet-nursing duties:

‘Where they brought me I don’t know, or how I got there, but I’d be in a very big house, and it was round, the walls far away that you’d hardly see them, and a great many faeries all about… but they wouldn’t speak to me nor I to them.’xxiii

These ‘long-faced’ faeries had a definite purpose for kidnapping her and weren’t too concerned with her tearful appeals to release her – she had a job to do, and that was feeding their faerie babies. The correlation between these types of folkloric encounters and the alien abductions of women is striking. Hancock surveys the work of the late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and the cultural historian David Jacobs, who have made extensive studies of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, often using hypnotic techniques to extract memories from amnesic events.xxiv It’s a minefield subject (mostly due to the vagaries of extracting memories from hypnosis), but John Mack in particular is a convincing advocate of the notion that whatever the experiences represent, they are genuinely real to the participant. A typical scenario might involve the abductee being floated or beamed aboard a UFO, and then taken to a part of the ship where there seem to be drawers or tanks of hybrid alien-human babies, which they are sometimes expected to nurse. There is a consistency to these experiences that provides a dataset of testimony that Mack insists must be taken seriously as a phenomenon. For the abductees, the experience is often highly traumatic (Mack states that the best psychiatric diagnosis for many abductees is post-traumatic stress disorder), and no wonder, when they are confronted with alien hybrids often described as more like foetuses than babies. One abductee described to Mack their appearance, which is fairly typical:

‘Their bodies were short for their heads. Their heads seemed oversized. They had very blue eyes. They had very thin, wispy hair… I would say they were probably three and a half feet tall, but they all looked the same age. ‘You’re our mother and we need you,’ they said.’xxv

The evidence presented by Jacques Vallée and Graham Hancock makes a convincing argument for the tight relation between faerie behaviour in folklore and alien abductions in the 20th/21st century. The experiences are culturally coded to time and place, but the correlations and similarities are intriguing, and suggest the possibility of a common source for the phenomena. But what is that source and where is the metaphysical intersect?

‘Walking on the Edge of Your Mind’ © Ylenia Viola, used with permission.

Ontological Faeries

This brings us back to the ontology of faerie experiences; what are these entities that have been a part of humanity for thousands of years, and where do they come from? They may be adapting to cultural codes, even evolving into new forms, but at what level of reality do they exist? An answer may be to utilise David Luke’s three-part interpretation for non-physical entity contact.xxvi He used it to assess a study into the otherworldly beings (many of which had faerie-attributes) encountered by people who had altered their states of consciousness with DMT, but it is also a valid tool to evaluate what may be happening to anyone who reports a numinous experience that includes interaction with non-human intelligent entities such as the faeries:

1.They are hallucinations. The entities are subjective hallucinations. Such a position is favoured by those taking a purely (materialist-reductionist) neuropsychological approach to the phenomena.

2. They are psychological/ transpersonal manifestations. The communicating entities appear alien but are actually unfamiliar aspects of ourselves, be they our reptilian brain or our cells, molecules or sub-atomic particles.

3. The entities exist in otherworlds and can interact with our physical reality. A numinous experience provides access to a true alternate dimension inhabited by independently existing intelligent entities in a stand-alone reality, which exists co-laterally with ours, and may interact with our world when certain conditions are met. The identity of the entities remains speculative.

Of course, all three interpretations may be true at different times and under various circumstances. From a materialist-reductionist standpoint, all faerie experiences could be reduced to hallucinatory events. There is no physical residue as an after-effect of the interactions, and the reports are all limited to visual and audio experiences. While the specific adjuncts allowing for the hallucinations to take place cannot be properly analysed, seeing them all as aberrations of visual and audial fields remains one legitimate interpretation.

This explanatory model is reliant on the theory that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. The implication is that the brain, for whatever reason, is simply misconstruing sensory input from a physical world where things like faeries simply do not exist. This is the hard and fast materialist-reductionist standpoint, which is deeply embedded in Western culture. But, as discussed above, it is a standpoint that is now challenged at a fundamental level not only by religious and mystical traditions, but also by the recently reinvented philosophy of Kantian Idealism and by a growing number of quantum physicists, who (using a wide range of methodologies) suggest that the brain is a reducer of consciousness, not a creator of it.xxvii This model sees consciousness (not matter) as primary; it is everywhere and it is everything, and individual human (and animal) brains are merely conveying it within the remit of what then becomes physical reality. For the most part, this physical reality has a closely defined rule-set, but under certain conditions the usual laws break down and supra-normal events can occur. These supernatural occurrences are thus as legitimate as any natural occurrence.

This helps us to perhaps understand preternatural faerie experiences as something non-material being allowed to ‘pop in’ to physical reality from either a greater, transcendent form of consciousness, or from an alternative reality to which humans do not usually have access. This would fit with either of David Luke’s second and third interpretations for supernatural entity contact. Simply put, a numinous zone has been entered and the participant is able to make contact with what usually resides external to their ordinary consciousness.

Experiences in numinous zones could be extended to a variety of preternatural encounters, from ghost apparitions through to Near Death Experiences and UFO abduction scenarios, but it would seem that the faeries, as an ontological taxonomic, remain a consistent, even persistent, form of entity that interact with our consensus reality. While reports of the faeries from history have often been turned into allegorical folkloric stories (frequently with a moral lesson inserted into the plot line), modern encounters usually take the form of simple anecdotal testimony. But the phenomenological types of faeries retain an adherence to their folkloric roots. They can receive an updated appearance, and cultural coding, but they remain recognisable as faeries. Graham Hancock has summed up what may be happening if we allow the faeries some type of metaphysical reality:

‘If we are prepared to set aside the automatic scepticism and reductionism of our age, and if we spell out the problem in plain language, then we find that we are contemplating the existence — and powerful intervention in our lives — of highly intelligent discarnate entities belonging to an order of creation fundamentally different than our own… it really is almost as though the beings we are dealing with have been changing and developing alongside us for thousands of years, and that they therefore cannot simply be mass delusions, but must have a definite, independent reality outside the human brain.’xxviii

Whatever their true nature, it seems that for the faeries to make contact with humanity they require our consciousness to become loosened from the usual restraints, and to enter an altered state — a numinous zone. If the model of reality affirmed by Idealism is correct, then this zone may be allowing us to access a greater Over-Mind, where exist entities that represent either a stand-alone autonomous class of their own, or perhaps aspects of the human collective unconsciousness (as explicated by Carl Jung), which is usually filtered out through the reducing valve of the brain.xxix Either way, it appears that the faeries are here to stay, functioning in some nebulous region where any interpretation of them is reliant on us finding a way to incorporate consciousness into physical reality. This is something that has eluded both philosophers and scientists for millennia, and so perhaps it is no surprise that faerie entities – whether nature spirits, inter-dimensional beings, aliens, or products of our collective imagination – for the moment, remain an intangible, but enduring, part of our cultural zeitgeist.

The Death of a Faerie by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1860 (PD0)

Books by Neil Rushton

Dead but Dreaming


i Young, S. (2017). ‘The Fairy Investigation Society Census 2014-17’.

ii See especially the work of the computer scientist and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup. His work with quantum physicists is summarised in: Kastrup, B, Stapp, HP and Kafatos, MC. (2018). ‘Coming to Grips with the Implications of Quantum Mechanics’, Scientific American.

iii Clottes, J. et al. (2016). What Is Palaeolithic Art?: Cave Paintings and the Dawn of Human Creativity. University of Chicago Press.

iv Lewis-Williams, D and Dowson, T. (1988). ’The Signs of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic Art’, Current Anthropology 29, 201-45.; Lewis-Williams, D. (2002). The Mind in the Cave. Thames & Hudson, London

v Hancock, G. (2005). Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind. Century, London

vi Ginzburg, C. (2004). Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath. University of Chicago Press; Wilby, E. (2005). Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic. Sussex Academic Press.

vii Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (2004, first published 1911). The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, NJ. A version is available online at:; See also, Rushton, N. (2016). ‘Evan-Wentz’s Celtic Faeries’.

viii Evans-Wentz. Op. cit., p. 87

ix Lavole, J.D. (2012). The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement. Brown Walker Press, Irvine, CA.

x Steiner, R. (1995) Nature Spirits, Rudolf Steiner Press, Forest Row, pp. 177-78. The quote is from Steiner’s 1913 lecture ‘Perception of the Elemental World.’

xi Rushton, N. (2019). ‘Paracelsus, Nature Spirits and Faeries’.

xii Sheldrake, R. (2012, 4th ed.). The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Memory of Nature, Park Street Press, Rochester, VT.

xiii Shanon, B. (2002). The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience, Oxford University Press.

xiv Ask Erowid (2013)

xv Strassman, R. (2001). DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Park Street Press, Rochester, VT.

xvi Davis, AK, et al. (2020). ‘Survey of Entity Encounter Experiences Occasioned by Inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, Interpretation, and Enduring Effects’. . See also: Rushton, N. (2020). ‘Faerie Entities and DMT’.

xvii Rushton, N. (2017). ‘The Faerie Abduction of Anne Jefferies’.

xviii LaPlante, E. (1993). Seized: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy as a Medical, Historical, and Artistic Phenomenon, Harper Collins, London.

xix Vallée, J. (1993), first published 1969). Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds, Contemporary Books, Chicago.

xx Vallée, Op cit., p. 57.

xxi Rushton, N. (2016). ‘The Secret Commonwealth’.

xxii Vallée, Op cit., p. 105.

xxiii Hancock, Op cit., p. 375.

xxiv Mack, J. (2000). Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, Harper Collins, London.

xxv Mack, Op cit., p. 117.

xxvi Luke, D. (2011). ‘Discarnate Entities and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): Psychopharmacology, Phenomenology and Ontology’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 26-42.

xxvii See especially: Kastrup, B. (2019). The Idea of the World: A Multi-Disciplinary Argument for the Mental Nature of Reality, iff Books, Winchester.

xxviii Hancock, Op cit., pp. 398-99 & 412.

xxix Jung, C.G. (1991). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Routledge, London.


The Faerie Phenomenon in Folkloric and Modern Experience – Bibliography

Briggs, K. (1978) An Encyclopedia of Fairies. Pantheon, London

Clottes, J. et al. (2016). What Is Palaeolithic Art?: Cave Paintings and the Dawn of Human Creativity. University of Chicago Press.

Cutchin, J. (2018). Thieves in the Night: A Brief History of Supernatural Child Abductions. Anomalist Books, Charlottesville, VA

 Davis, A.K, et al. (2020). ‘Survey of Entity Encounter Experiences Occasioned by Inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, Interpretation, and E nduring Effects’.

Esbjörn-Hargens, S. (2020). ‘Our Wild Kosmos: An Exo Studies Exploration of the Ontological Status of Non-Human Intelligences’.

Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (2004, first published 1911). The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, NJ. A version is available online at:

 Ginzburg, C. (2004). Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath. University of Chicago Press

 Hancock, G. (2005). Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind. Century, London

 Harpur, P. (2003). Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld. Pine Winds Press, Enumclaw, WA

 Kastrup, B. (2019). The Idea of the World: A Multi-Disciplinary Argument for the Mental Nature of Reality, iff Books, Winchester

 Kastrup, B, Stapp, HP and Kafatos, MC. (2018). ‘Coming to Grips with the Implications of Quantum Mechanics’, Scientific American.

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Neil Rushton attained a PhD from Trinity College, University of Cambridge (Archaeology/History) in 2002. He is now a freelance writer, who has published on a wide range of subjects from castle fortifications to folklore. His first novel, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun was published in 2016. Dead but Dreaming is his second novel and brings together his research into folklore, social history and the philosophy of consciousness. He writes about the faerie phenomenon on his website: and can be found on social media:


8 thoughts on “The Faerie Phenomenon in Folkloric and Modern Experience”

  1. Lourenza Adlem says:

    Fascinating how the faerie and alien phenomena correlate. They probably are from the same origin! A deft and thought-provoking summary of the state of our understanding right now. An excellent article.

    1. Neil Rushton says:

      Thank you – there is, I feel, much more to discover about the correlation.

  2. Edmond Furter says:

    Thank you for comparing cultural content across apparently different media, or apparently different sources of inspiration. The ‘same origin’ that Lourenza refers to is, of course, archetype. Tales of fairies are anthologised in the Aarne -Thompson -Uther (ATU) catalogue of European folktales and legends, but they are also recognised as apparent manifestations in the media of all cultures. The core content of culture is unaffected by apparent themes or styles. See a comparison of art styles, including ‘mushroom’ and ‘fairy’ or faerie art, here:
    The fairy art and photos are near the end of that article

    1. Neil Rushton says:

      Interesting observations Edmond – I will certainly check out your art styles article, as this is not something I’ve looked into in any detail.

  3. Edmond Furter says:

    The layers of archetypes in these two Fitzgerald fairy artworks, are demonstrated here:

  4. Edmond Furter says:

    Your article, like Steiner, McKenna, Lewis-Williams, and Hancock, discusses many aspects of archetype, without recognising that philosopers such as Plato have already developed the concept. You mention Jung just once, in passing. Most anthropologists and popular anthropolgists do not even mention the term archetype.
    You write of a “consistent, persistent, form of entity that interact with [shape] consensus reality. Hancock writes of ‘existence and intervention [with] intelligent discarnate entities belonging to an order of creation fundamentally different than our own [consciousness]… changing and developing [apparently] alongside us.’ [Yet there is no evidence of consciousness evolution, and you and Hancock acknowledge that folklore is tinted by current technology expectations, as Jung was first to point out in his treatise on UFOs as contemporary myth].
    Your conclusion of “access [to] a greater Over-Mind… aspects of human [natural] collective unconsciousness [subconscious] (as explicated by Jung),” is correct.
    If “faeries are here to stay,” they have been here before us, and before life, thus part of the guiding principle that shapes the way that matter and energy transform into one another. They are as archetypal as the Periodic table and physics laws that pre-exist matter and energy. f
    Archetype is known only by its manifestations, including dreams. Archetype does not evolve, only technology does, and along a predictable curve driven by population density.
    The crux of your article is not in the limiting hypothesis of ‘either fantasy, or alien’, but in the function of shape or morph. Archaeology recognises the recurrent motif of ‘formlings’, that I have isolated as usually expressing the type 7-15 or ‘Child-Maker’ axis in artworks. Fitzgerald over-works this axis and slightly ambiguates it with the adjacen 6-14 or Exile-Mixer axis. Anthropology has to borrow some terminology from other fields, as your article recognises.
    My criticism is against your conclusion that the subconscious reality is “something that has eluded philosophers and scientists for millennia.” The concept of archetype is well developed in philosophy, which unfortunately did not sufficiently inform structuralist anthropology, and fortunately did inform depth psychology. Yet these fields are ever and always relegated to the uncomfortable overlap between science and cultural crafts, as you recognise near the start of your article.
    I agree that physics has made the greatest advance in conscious access to consciousness. The humanities should catch up.
    Fairies are enduring, and ‘part of our cultural zeitgeist’ in the sense that nature and culture both express archetypal structure.

  5. Allen S. Belgarde says:

    Several months ago I was unable to sleep so I got up from bed and went into my living room at 3 am. I turned the television on and out of the corner of my right eye I saw what I thought was a big flying insect launch itself from my dining room wall and fly around the corner of my kitchen. Thinking that I would see where it went I got up from my easy chair to take a look. It was nowhere to be seen in the house. I later thought about it and deduced that it was probably a fairy. A young female psychic was contacted via face book and asked if there is a danger from the sighting. She said only if I pissed it off. I have not seen one since that time. I consider myself attuned to unexplained events.

    1. Sakib says:

      It is likely that Earth has been home to another race of beings that are composed of some sort of non-physical energy that reside on another dimension that overlaps with ours. Not only are they able to interact with physical matter, they can seem to shapeshift into anything they want. 3am is a classic time for weird non-physical stuff taking place, all I can think of is that there are certain times that portals between dimensions open up. I think a tiny portion of the global population have extra spiritual perception that most people don’t have.

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