Guest Writer – Essay Seven – Fantastic Realms 1: Genius Loci by Horatio Grin

This essay follows on from the six that I featured last week and can be found in this directory:

Fantastic Realms 1: Genius Loci by Horatio Grin

During the introduction in ‘Lost Beginnings of the Fairy Races’, I distinguished between the two types of fairies haunting popular imagination. The first were the fairy races of Chinese and Indo-European myth, who are described as essentially human but with extraordinary abilities. The second group I called nature spirits or elementals.

I realise this is hardly an all-encompassing description given the number of preternatural entities occupying the astral planes surrounding the physical realm, but I needed to be quite firm due to the enormous diversity of such phantasmagorical creatures. Given the complex relationships between the plethora of beings occupying the ethereal, I feared being drawn into labyrinthine byways of definition and distinction, and losing the thrust of my argument all together.

In occult lore they range from said elementals, goblins and shape-shifting sprites, to djinn races, great and minor demons, as well as the angelic choirs. It must be said some are closer to human than others. At the fringes exist creatures that literally defy comprehension in their strangeness.

Now I have secured my theories concerning what, for the sake of ease, I refer to as the humanistic Fairy Races (those evolving alongside man from an ancient common ancestor), it is time to redress the balance and explore the myriad of magical beings in existence.

The Ancient Romans used the all-encompassing term Genius Loci to describe the guardian spirits of holy places. It included the nymphs of trees and water and half human wild creatures such as satyrs; as well as non-human hauntings and inexplicable sensations associated with sacred places: glades, temples, standing stones, wells, springs, lakes, mountains and a thousand and one other places. Such sensations include feelings of déjà vu, pricking of the skin, shivers down the back, the small hairs on the neck and arms standing on end, and sudden violent overwhelming emotions such as hysteria, euphoria or melancholy.

Today the old word Genius means something entirely different. It conjures up knowledge and skills far beyond normal human ability. This is because it originally signified someone who was temporarily or permanently possessed by one of the greater or lesser gods.

Even today we refer to ‘flashes of genius’ and believe genius sits next to madness (another sign of possession by a god).

There is one more modern word whose origins we ignore: inspiration. Inspiration was a gift of the gods like prophecy. A prophet was not merely a soothsayer but someone possessed by a god and whom the god spoke through. This often included the ability to foretell the future as nothing was hidden from the gods.

The Celts believed Gwyn ap Nudd (Lord of the Otherworld) kept a pearl rimmed cauldron filled to the brim with mead, a drink made from fermented honey, which granted the gifts of poetry and eloquence (for which of us are not wiser, more insightful and loquacious after a few drinks). The mead was warmed by the breath of nine maids. This is an uncanny parallel to ancient Greek myth where we find the Nine Muses of Mount Parnassus.

In ancient times these minor goddesses were responsible for Poetry, History, Song, Dance, Drama and Astronomy. Originally there were only three muses; the significantly older and more powerful goddesses of Song, Memory and Practice. In earlier times song and poetry were one the one and the same. Music, drama and dance are still considered gifts of the muses. Creative people will tell you they genuinely fear their muse deserting them.

From the Roman word Genius meaning spirit, Islamic scholars coined the word Djinn. Djinn were originally elemental forces: dust devils, mirages, makers of mysterious patterns on the dunes, wind sculpted rock faces, voices heard in forsaken places and in the eerie singing desert winds. Eventually, the name came to includes unearthly beings possessing both divine and demonic qualities; but more of that later.

Genius Loci residing in ancient magical sites may not necessarily be human. Indeed they may not even constitute what we understand as beings or intelligences. They may be elementals; forces which hold the world in balance by maintaining the equilibrium of their assigned element within the natural order. They are essentially composed of etheric matter from one of the four elements and are able to move through their native element as man moves through the world.

Elementals usually consist of air spirits called Sylphs, who possess a cloud like form; Undines with bodies of glimmering blue green water and eyes like pools in a featureless face; Salamanders possessing bodies of smokeless fire and the Gnomes of the earth.

Across the world there is a huge array of animal and vegetative life elementals belonging to the Eros life force and an equal number of lower demons, representing ill luck and disease, belonging to the death force: Thanatos.

Other examples of Thanatos sprites include the Irish Banshee who wails at the impending death of certain noble families; the Scottish Washer at the Ford who also foretells death; the ghostly black dogs giving a similar warnings and apparitions (white ladies, headless horsemen and phantom armies) haunting old scenes of violence. For none of these spectres have an independent existence outside their primary purpose.

As elementals arise where they are needed to keep their part of the world turning, they may in fact be different aspects of the same force. The Gnostics referred to this primal force as the Demiurge. Taking their name from the Greek work for knowledge, the Gnostics were an ancient mystical Christian sect whose origins lie in the religions of Judaism, Babylon, Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The Gnostics did not believe a Supreme Being would make a world so flawed and marred by misery, disease and death. They credited the creation of the world to a rebellious subordinate with ambitions above his station, who they called both the ‘Demiurge’ and ‘The Lord of this World’: a name more recently acquired by the Christian devil. It is from the primal force of the Demiurge that the lower ethereal beings including elementals and the minor demons emanate.

Although powerful elementals and the lower demons have no reason or free will, they have cunning. To mortals they appear to possess personality traits associated to their native element: be it mercurial, calming, tempestuous, quick and angry or solid and dependable. If properly bound, they make good magical servants. But their powers are limited to a range encompassed by their native element. As they have no human intelligence, the magician must bond with an elemental to harness and direct its powers. This often results in possession, leaving a carless magician exhibiting outbursts of raw emotion and monomaniacal compulsions that are often deemed as madness.

Similar to elemental possession, but of a lower order, are atavistic resurgences. Artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare believed there were chaos elementals within the lower demonic orders. He argued spiritual development paralleled physical evolution. Just as a fish’s fins became animal limbs and we have vestigial organs like the appendix, and the primitive cerebellum that underlies our complex rational brain, so we retain remnants of primitive souls. These revenants contain violent mindless emotional energies from the time when the universe was chaos. It is these unconscious irrational impulses (collectively referred to as the id by Freudian psychoanalysts) chaos elementals ignite within their host.

When chaos elementals violently unleash subliminal energies they can literally overwhelm and consume the rational mind in a similar but more devastating way than nature elementals. Through learning techniques to control elemental forces, atavistic resurgence can be made to serve an initiate in much the same way as totem spirit animals guide Shamans through the astral planes.

Lying above the orders of minor demons and mindless elementals sit the ‘little gods’ of nature and the home. While the little gods are closer to the man in thought and appearance, they are not the same as us. Due to their wholly or mainly human appearance, and natural empathy with the human spirit, they can unwittingly deceive humanity into thinking they are kin. Beware, for they are not. They are not blessed with either free-will, morality or rationality. Under their human veneer lurk wild creatures of impulse. Esoteric doctrines that speak of the soul’s evolution claim their apparent humanity is a direct result of being in our presence.

The household gods gave rise to stories of Brownies – tiny elves who help around the home. It may surprise you to know when the Girl Guides created a junior branch they took the name Brownies from these helpful domestic creatures. Originally the intended name was ‘Rosebuds’.

Brownies, and their kind, are unequivocally dependent in some way on man’s spirit for their human attributes, for they only exist around humanity. They do not demonstrate higher faculties or intelligence, preferring instead routine repetitive tasks. They find it difficult to communicate with man, though they chatter incessantly among themselves. Brownies and their ilk do not easily adapt to change and will continue to haunt abandoned mine workings, farms and villages, even though lack of human contact drives them mad turning them into malevolent goblins and boggarts.

The word ‘nymph’ meant a girl of marriageable age – judged to be so when she became nubile, or womanly; as opposed to looking like a child. There were nymphs of fresh water (Naiads) and the sea (Nereids). Both become foam when they die as in Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. There are two types of tree nymphs. Hamadryads die when their tree dies, the others who do not. They are collectively known as dryads, although this is a misnomer. Each type is individually known by their chosen tree: dryads are only spirits of the oak; meliai of the ash; caryatid of the walnut and epimaliad of the apple. Their male counterparts are the vegetative principle and the rutting beast.

The vegetative principles are jointly Named ‘Green Man’ and ‘Old Man of the Woods’. They are linked to the spirits of winter and summer and often wedded to Eostre: the goddess of spring, or Ceres: the goddess of harvest. Each year the Old Man of the Woods is murdered by his rival and successor the Green Man, who ages over the year to be murdered in turn by the new Green Man.

The Arthurian romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late and somewhat glossed over retelling of this myth. The Old Man of the Woods is the name given to a poisonous psychoactive mushroom, an intoxicant fed to the human sacrifice before the rite to allow the nature spirit to inhabit him.

Satyrs are the male animal procreative drive, the rut of spring or autumn that drives out every other instinct, while Silenes, associated with Bacchus, signify intoxication; originally considered a way of directly communing with the gods.

Occupying much the same niche as the nymphs and satyrs of classical mythology are the Huldr or hidden folk of Northern Europe. The Huldr and their kin, the Nixe, bridge the humanistic fairy races with both the angelic races and nature spirits. They are creatures of the forest, known for their great kindness to woodsmen and charcoal burners. While male Huldr are incredibly ugly, Huldr women, like fairy queens are seductively beautiful, except they possess a fox’s tail.

It is incredible the Huldr from Scandinavia and Lapland have counterparts in the fox spirits of Chinese mythology. At 50 years of age a Chinese fox spirit can take the shape of a beautiful woman who visits men while they sleep. At 100 it can also become a handsome man that preys on sleeping women. At 1,000 years of age it becomes a celestial being taking its place in heaven.

This is almost identical to the succubus of European legend, a demon who assumes a female shape to visit sleeping men and then become a man impregnating sleeping women with stolen seed. The wizard Merlin’s father was such a creature. In this way the Chinese fox spirits reveal a forgotten tradition that links the Huldr to the angelic realms, for angels and demons are surprisingly not that different.

Nixe or nekker are water sprites who also shape change to lure people to their death by drowning. They appear as beautiful women with siren voices to lure men, or naked youths tempting women with ravishing tunes from their violin. Despite both sexes appearing as handsome seducers, it is believed Nixie have no natural shape. Often they appear as a beautiful white brook-horse. Anyone foolish enough to climb on its back is held fast until the horse dives into the water to drown them. They also take the shape of white water-wyrms to trap unwary swimmers.

In the second part of this chapter I discuss the angelic and demonic realms

©HoratioGrin 2017

A brief bio for Horatio Grin

Horatio William Grin was born 29 July 1940 in the village of Kingstone Warren, Oxfordshire, in the shadow of White Horse Hill. His parents were William George Grin, Barrister and latterly King’s Counsel and Beatrice Caroline Grin nee Lough, a younger daughter of Squire Horatio Arthur Lough of the Oxfordshire Loughs.

After matriculating from Whychwood and Rye School, where he stayed as a day boarder, Horatio Grin went up to Girton and Caius College at Cambridge to read Particulate Physics, graduating with First Class Honours. For his Masters he read Russian and Mandarin. Eschewing a career with his alma mater, he joined military intelligence at the age of 23. Little is known of him for the next twenty-five years except for small snippets from diverse sources.

H. W. Grin is credited as a Research Assistant in the abstract of a paper from a team headed by Professor Able Epstein of Cambridge University. Professor Epstein acted as a Senior Researcher at the Los Alomos Facility in New Mexico during the atomic bomb tests. The research paper is not particularly significant, a description of the projected paths of post-collision sub-atomic particles.

His latest work on fairy lore called ‘Fairies: a Hidden History, the Collected Essays of Horatio Grin’, again containing no publisher’s mark, is a series of articles rumoured to be from the Archives of the Magi Temple of Central England. The essays are remarkable for effortlessly marrying ancient mythology and fairy folklore with the latest discoveries in the scientific disciplines of archaeology, genetics and physics. They are currently the subject of controversy among different schools of occult thought.

Please follow the link to read the full biography of this remarkable man:

You can read all the previous essays by Horatio Grin in this directory:

As always Horatio would appreciate your feedback.. thanks Sally

18 thoughts on “Guest Writer – Essay Seven – Fantastic Realms 1: Genius Loci by Horatio Grin

  1. Pingback: Guest Writer – Fantastic Realms 1: Genius Loci by Horatio Grin | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Pingback: Guest Writer – Essay Seven – Part Two – Fantastic Realms: Angels and Demons | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Magic, Music and Master storytellers oh and a bit of a laugh | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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