Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Is seeing believing? Or, is believing seeing? An exploration of the enduring belief in fairies and little people among contemporary persons with Celtic ancestry
by Parry, Leona Anne, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2013, 350; 3688091
Abstract (Summary)

This Humanistic Social Science Dissertation is an exploration of the continuing belief in fairies as real in spite of over a millennium of sociopolitical and religious pressures aimed at the extinguishment of fairies. In this qualitative, phenomenological study, the belief narratives of eight subjects' encounters with fairy beings are examined.

For the purpose of this dissertation, the word fairy is based on but not limited to fairy scholar Katherine Briggs' definition and classification, which includes all spirits of the supernatural realms, except for angels, devils, or ghosts (i). Thus, "fairy" includes sylphs, subtle or intermediate beings, light fairies, nature elementals, pixies, leprechauns, elves, changelings, and brownies to name but a few. The fairy beings encountered by the interviewees are reflected against Celtic folklore established in classic works like Reverend Robert Kirk's 1691 manuscript (47) and Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz 1911 thesis.

Depth Psychology and science provide two additional lenses to explore fairy phenomena and belief since this dissertation seeks to investigate the relationship between reality and imagination, and between tradition, experiential knowing, and belief. Moreover, counterevidence and arguments to the prevailing cultural wisdom and beliefs that fairies and imaginal beings are impossible are examined. This study approaches the interviews from a perspective of cultural mythology and phenomenology with both emic and etic interests. The subjects experienced a moment of gnosis with fairy encounters and subsequently believed with unshaking resolve that fairies are real and true. In this context, C.G. Jung's concepts of the archetype and Henri Corbin's theories regarding the psychoid realm are helpful in understanding the Celtic Otherworld and Land of Fairy.

A constituent invariant model was developed to organize the data, and facilitated the emergence of key themes, including corroborated sightings, surprising shadows, and messages from nature beings. The belief in fairies continues and is part of an evolving, contemporary, and nature-based mythology that is very much alive.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Terzian, Elizabeth
Commitee: Gaffin, Dennis, Shamas, Laura
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Folklore, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Belief narratives, Celtic, Fairies, Mythology, Phenomenological, Real encounters
Publication Number: 3688091
ISBN: 978-1-321-66223-8
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