My “Fae/Faer” rant

My internet said “f u” so I will be composing this rant from the mobile app which means there will be a lot of grammar issues. I’d like to apologize in advanced.

So! It has come up a few times on Twitter (because Twitter is a trashfire and the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” applies) that the pronouns fae/faer are “cultural/religious appropriation” and if you can’t tell that’s just transphobic/enbyphobic/queerphobic nonsense at first glance I will be more than happy to go into greater detail of why it’s actual horse shit.

Some background context: there’s this ace kid who is fairly well known in the inclusionist/exclusionists debate; and for those not caught up on Twitter drama the separatist movement has been rebranded as “exclusionists” and these are people who typically believe that the acronym is “LG(B)(T)” (sometimes they include the B and the T, sometimes they’re masks off cis gay/lesbian separatists) and the opposition is branded as “radical inclusionists” and they’re typically people who believe queer is a valid identity label, not a slur, and asexuals, aromantics, neo-pronouns and xenogenders are all valid means of identifying within the LGBTQIA+ community.

So, this rando ace kid made a name for themselves making IG posts that are literally the worst text-on-BG designs possible so the posts are barely even readable and using “scientific references” to support exclusionist/separatist talking points. Their Twitter account is currently deactivated and the Instagram is on private. Considering some of their more outlandish claims, I’m not actually surprised by this development.

Obviously the lesbian thing is not my wheelhouse. I’m not a lesbian and I didn’t get the opportunity to take any queer studies classes in college. The fae/faer thing that they linked earlier in the thread, however, I am more than happy to break down.

Since the IG account went private I only have access to the four (out of seven, Yikes) slides that were saved to Aphobehottakes. As you can see I’m still adhering to my censorship policy of blocking the @’s and usernames because most of the time these are just random kids on the internet, not public figures. If public shaming actually worked, the 2016 US presidential election would have gone very differently.

Slide 1 transcription: title “Fae/faer”, subtitle “and religious appropriation”, author comment “weeeeeeee’re back folks”

Slide 3 transcription: “The Fae are apart of many belief systems stemming from Celtic beliefs. There are mostly thought to be two courts of Fae: the Seelie and Unseelie courts…”

I’m gonna stop right there because we already have problems. First and foremost “faerie” is the Latinate word, meaning it entered the English vernacular through Norman French. Celtic languages are a whole different language family. The Irish Gaelic equivalent(ish) thing to the English word “fairy” is aos sí. Which brings us neatly to our next problem, “Celtic”. The word Celtic is a modern invention used as an umbrella term to describe tribes of people from the Bonze and Iron Ages that shared similar family structures, artifact styles, a language family, and religious and war practices. It was coined during the revival movements of Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany as a political movement to save their dying languages and cultural heritages.

There are two lecture series that are available through a 7 day free trial on Amazon Prime or check your local library because the Celtic revival is an interesting topic:

Since “Celtic” is an umbrella term you can’t just mix and match who you’re talking about; because as someone who is both of Irish and of Welsh decent let me tell you those are definitely two very different culture things starting two different languages.

Irish Gaelic: Tá m’árthach foluaineach lán d’eascanna. Cuir an domhan ina stad, ba mhaith liom teacht anuas!

Welsh: Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod. Stopio y ddaear, dw i eisiau disgyn!

English: My hovercraft is full of eels. Stop the world, I want to get off!

If I remember my linguistics classes accurately, Spanish and Portuguese would probably be closer than Irish and Welsh are because while Spanish and Portuguese aren’t technically mutually intelligible, Portuguese folks could probably get the gist of what a Spanish speaker is saying.

Hearing is believing! These are living Celtic languages that people actually speak and and produce media in!

Alrighty, I had to get the language tangent out of the way because that detail alone tells me that the author of the slides didn’t actually consult native sources. Like, what the hell? Even the wikipedia pages have the native pronunciations. Did they just read Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy and call it a day?

Slide 4 transcription: “According to many beliefs and practices, the Fae are not to be messed with. They are not akin to Tinkerbell or the mystical, glittery, cute figures we see in story books…”

There’s not a whole lot “wrong” with this section other than, once again, they’re mishmashing “many beliefs and practices” without specifying who they’re talking about which is easy enough to do when you actually consult native sources because they will tell you exactly which creature they’re talking about.

I just need a moment to find where I- ah ha! Here it it. A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend and Folklore that I just happen to have on hand. W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory were prominent figures in that revival movement I mentioned previously.

Who are they? ‘Fallen Angels who are not good enough to be saved, nor bad enough to be lost,’ say the peasantry. ‘The gods of the earth,’ says the Book of Armagh. ‘The gods of pegan Ireland,’ say the Irish antiquarians, ‘the Tuatha De Danān, who, when no longer worshiped and fed with offerings, dwindled away in the popular imagination, and are now only a few spans high.’

Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, “The Trooping Fairies”

Up the ary mountain/Down the rushy glen,/We daren’t go a-hunting/For fear of little men;/Wee folk, good folk,/Trooping all together;/Green jacket, red cap/And white owl’s feather!

The Fairies by William Allingham

“Trooping” and “solidarity” are the word I keep seeing pop up in Irish folklore, not “Court”. The first time I had even heard of the Court lore was through Holly Black’s young adult series. It also pops up in the Dresden Files TV series with vampires. The court trope is something in the popular consciousness because you have diametrically opposed groups in a lot of world mythologies. Greek and Hindu would be my go-to examples, but the Irish example would be the Tuatha De Danān (mentioned earlier in the quoted passage) and the Fomhóire. Well, sort of, it’s complicated.

So, here’s the thing. You can’t talk about Celtic Mythology (Irish, Scottish, Welsh, etc…) without addressing the elephant in the room: Christianity. I need everyone to understand how fucking long Christianity has been in the British Isles. Since the time of the Romans.

Christianity has been doing its thing in England before the English language was even a thing. That’s a fucking long ass time. So, here’s the problem. We know a lot about Greek mythology because they, after many many years of maintaining a rich oral tradition, wrote it down. We know a lot about Egyptian Mythology because they write it down. We know a lot about Hindu mythology because they wrote it down. We know a lot a Roman mythology because, once again, they wrote it down. Do you want to guess who wrote down everything we know about Irish Mythology? Christian monk scribes literally hundreds of years after the region had been christianized.

I just so happen to have a copy of Ireland’s mythological cycle, Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland, on hand and right here in the introduction the editor has side by side the Old Testament verse the scribes copypasted into the Lebor Gabála:

Old Testament:

Shem is selected and his genealogy is followed out…until we reach Terah and his son Abram, upon whose family the historian specializes down to the two wives and the nunerous sons of Jacob.

A servitude in Egypt begins with a friendly invitation from an Egyptian king…and the children of Israel are delivered by the adopted son of an Egyptian princess.


Lebor Gabála:

Jephet is selected and his genealogy is followed out…until we reach Nēl and his son Gāedel, upon whose family the historian specializes…down to the two wives and the numerous sons of Mīl. An oppression in Egypt begins with a friendly invitation from an Egyptian king…and the children of Nēl are delivered by the son-in-law of the Egyptian king

Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Vol 1,

What neo-pagans and traditionalists have to do is very carefully review the surviving texts and try to carefully peel back the Christian influences and make educated guesses on what the orginal pegan traditions might have looked like and adapt it to a more modern, living tradition.

The Irish Pegan School offers some free classes if you were interested in reviewing native sources on the topic of Irish Paganism

Slide five transcription: “Witches and those who work with the Fae have told me how much of a serious matter this is. There is a very serious give and get relationship, and there is no ‘taking’ from the Fae. You offer worship at shrines and they may help you out with small things in life. So to see people ‘taking’ the name of the Fae just because they think it’s pretty is disrespectful and for many, concerning. They give nothing to the Fae, and take their honor, so it’s not uncommon to see people who are worried about those who use them as pronouns”

So,the thing that pissed me off is this person is using someone else’s religion as an excuse to be a bigot. It’s actually glaringly obvious that they didn’t actually contact native sources because they’re not using native terms or titles when refering to practitioners of Irish or Scottish peganism. Even wikipedia spells out the native terminology so I have no idea what sources they’re even getting their information from because they’re being so vague about it that as far as I can tell, it’s just pop culture knowledge. And for someone so worried about people offending the Fae by taking their name in vain, they sure use that word a lot in their own essay. So, who gave them the right to “take” it and use it freely?

I will give them this, messing with fairies is serious business in Ireland. On my trip last year I picked up two new fairy stories that are my new favorites. The fairy tree that detoured a motorway and the reason why the delorean car was featured in the Back to the Future movie franchise but you’ll never see one driving down the highway.

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