My “Fae/Faer” rant

[Edit notes: Since this is turning out to be my most viewed post I’ve touched up the grammar expanded to add additional sources and will continue to update as I work my way through primary sources. Last updated 12/28/20]

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. For those not caught up on Twitter drama, the separatist movements have been rebranded as “exclusionists”, these are people who typically believe that the acronym is only “LG(B)(T)” (sometimes they include the B and the T, sometimes they’re masks off cis gay/lesbian separatists). The opposition is branded as “radical inclusionists”, they’re typically people who believe “queer” is slur that can be reclaimed by the whole community, not just gays and lesbians, that queer is a valid idenity label, and that 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 themself making Instagram posts that are literally the worst text-on-Background designs possible so the posts are barely even readable and using “scientific references” to support exclusionist/separatist talking points. Some of their more outlandish claims include, rather infamously, that “lesbian isn’t a sexuality” and that using “Fae/Faer pronouns is cultural appropriation”:

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.

Twitter screenshot: “Is there another pronoun? Some people have a hard time using it because of its links to cultural appropriation”
Instagram screenshot: “Fae/Faer and religious appropriation”

I’m adhering to @Aphobehottakes’s censorship policy of blocking the @’s and usernames because most of the time these are just random kids on the internet doubling down on badly recycled shitpost logic and not public figures. If public shaming actually worked, the 2016 US presidential election would have gone very differently.

Instagram screenshot: “It is important to note that these ARE people’s beliefs. They deserve to be respected. Any disrespectful comments will be deleted”

This intro definitely just rubs me the wrong way because throughout this entire slideshow there’s not a single reference to a native source. They just keep waving hands and vaguely referring to “people’s beliefs” without dropping who they are specifically talking about or what specific beliefs. The Irish Pegan School literally has a free intro class, so if I wanted to educate someone I thought was appropriating “Celtic beliefs” my first instinct would be to redirect them to native sources that I know about and I trust because this isn’t a topic you could fully understand and appreciate after just a five minute Google search.

Instagram comment Screenshot: “it has been confirmed by multiple natives that it is CA because the fae are included in their cultures as well”

First and foremost I need to get the language thing out of the way. “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.

Email screenshot: “The term Celtic is just a scholarly descriptor, when used correctly, to talk about Indo-European tribes who were grouped together (by outside observers) based on ethnoliguistic similarities”
Email screenshot: Irish Pegan School subscription email with resource link

I’ve been on their email list for a little over a year now after hearing about it at scifi/fantasy convention in Dublin which is why I’m really fustrated that after I saved up the money to go and try and connect to my roots some kid on the internet can’t even be assed to drop a link to credit/support who they’re supposedly defending. In addition to blog and email subscriptions (which are free by the way) 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 with different languages on separate branches of the Celtic language family tree.

Irish Gaelic: Tá m’árthach foluaineach lán d’eascanna.

Welsh: Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod.

Yes these are from omniglot because I don’t speak any Irish and while I do know more Cymraeg (Welsh) than I do Spanish, that not a very high bar and any current attempts on my part would look more like a Monty Python sketch especially since “My hovercraft is full of eels” is what the example above translates to in English.

My Welsh-English dictionary

But 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 translations.

Instagram screenshot: “The Fae are apart of many belief systems stemming from Celtic beliefs. There are mostly

…No seriously did they just read Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy and call it a day? 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 because I’ve been researching this stuff off and on for 15 years now.

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

Short language tangent: I’m pretty sure that “seelie” is the anglicized form of the Scottish Gaelic “sìth” but it also could have possibly originated from the Nordic influence also. Nobody really knows for sure. Scotland has three(ish) languages; Gaelic, English (obviously), and Scots which hands down has some of the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever heard. Think English with more Nordic influence (“viking” is a profession, not an ethnic group) and less obviously-borrowed-from-Norman-French. I’m actually waaay behind on Scottish fairy lore and really want to know how much was borrowed from Nordic traditions.

The first time I had even heard of the “Court” lore was Holly Black’s young adult series because it’s not present in Irish and Welsh lore.”Trooping” and “solidarity” are the words I keep seeing pop up in Irish folklore. Funny enough the court thing also pops up in the Dresden Files TV series with vampires. I figure by this point the court trope is just something floating around in the popular consciousness because you have diametrically opposed groups in a lot of world mythologies. Olympians vs the Titans (Greek) and Asuras vs Devas (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. It’s time for another tangent:

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 wrote 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 (once again 15 years of on and off research) 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 modern, living tradition.

Instagram screenshot: “They are also known foe kidnapping infants and swapping them out for changlings”

…seriously? Out of all the super specific examples of fairy lore you pick changeling? This kid is just literally pulling examples from the Holy Black series. First of all, changelings or changeling-like lore is actually pretty universal across Europe, not just the “Celtic” cultures and was talking about disabled children.

Instagram screenshot: “Witches and those who work with the fae have told me…”

Who told you? I can’t stress enough how irritating it is that there are no name drops or citations and they’re just being super vague about what “practices” they’re referring to.

Instagram screenshot: “we should opt to respect people’s religions”

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?

Instagram screenshot: “Here are some pronouns with a similar feel”

Here’s the thing, one of the teachers at the Irish Pegan School actually addresses what she considers to be cultural appropriation: 1) using for monetary gain, 2) teaching at the expense of native teachers and 3) using it for clout and the original poster behind the the instagram slides is doing all of that. They’ve built a mini brand off of their Instagram and use it advertise art they have for sale, they pick a contraversal topic that acts a jucy clickbait and they fail to cite a single native source. While accusing people using fae/faer pronouns of cultural appropriation they’ve literally done the the thing they’re accusing other people of! The hypocrisy of it just blows my mind! People in general are so quick to jump in willynilly and talk about cultural appropriation like, for example, jump in and talk about costumes on Holloween without addressing that Holloween itself is culturally appropriated from “Celtic” paganism. How do you even begin to address that without consulting native sources? Are you just going to demand millions of people to stop dressing up on Oct 31st and consider that your activism for the day?

But 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. Most people in Ireland would probably tell they don’t actually believe in fairies, but there’s also no sense in taking unnecessary risks. I don’t think using fae/faer pronouns is offensive to anyone except for transphobes who don’t even bother to cite native sources in their essays on cultural appropriation.

Before we go here are some books in the public domain (meaning you can probably find a free copy or a free audio version online:

2 thoughts on “My “Fae/Faer” rant

  1. Iris

    I don’t want to leave hate or anything, I just would like to share my opinion. I actually do speak irish! And my whole family is from Ireland. I am not disputing that there are other mythologies from around the world that feature sídh-like beings, but they really are all their own thing. They all deserve respect and recognition! I don’t think they should all be clumped under “faerie”. Obviously that person’s entire post was BS and like…wtf but I do think it is a bit disrespectful to call yourself something that is very prevalent in someone else’s beliefs. And it is pretty disrespectful to the Irish Sídh. I can’t speak for other cultures, but I know that I wouldn’t be comfortable calling someone those pronouns. I will respect anyone’s pronouns as long as they aren’t disrespecting my ancestors. My culture had already been oppressed so much, and it should get respect. I also know the Irish pagan school and I have never heard either Laura or Jon say that it was okay to use those pronouns.

    Like

    1. Thank you for commenting. To clarify you, as a native Irish speaker would consider using fae/faer/fay and variants as names and personal pronouns to be cultural appropriation or at the very least proactive enough to draw the negative attention of the sídh? We would absolutely love to get the options of native Irish

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s