one fine spring morning my oldest cousin on my mother’s side stepped outside onto the back step and saw a row of tiny people sitting on the side fence laughing at her. i never asked her, but i always imagined she heard them laughing, but she was quite sure she’d seen them and that they were laughing. she screamed uncontrollably and had to be heavily sedated for months afterwards. the psychiatrist who counseled her put it down to the stress of her first year of teaching, and they called it a ‘nervous breakdown’. she lived in another state but came to stay with us for a few weeks, away from the scene of the terrifying event, close to a beautiful tranquil beach where nobody knew her.
i remember my mother and my cousin and i watching an afternoon movie together, with the French windows open and the salt breeze fanning us. i was 13. i’d been swimming and was still in my bikini, which glistened with salt. my hair was still ropy and wet. they were talking about the movie, and i was only vaguely interested. i was totally interested in her little people. what did they wear? did they have feelers? turned up noses? long beards and pointy caps? but nobody ever mentioned them at all, not in my hearing. i never dared to ask. but with all my heart and soul i wanted that gift, i wanted those little people, to see them laughing, even if they laughed at me. i wouldn’t scream. i wouldn’t. i would try to keep sight of them, i’d laugh right back, i’d call out to them and see if they’d reply, or what they’d say. i despised my poor cousin a bit – just like a girl, to scream at a mouse or a pixy. a disgrace to her sex. why waste such gifts on sooks?
i was surely the right recipient of that gift. i was the one for fairies and pixies. had i not drawn such beautiful pictures of winged fairies on mushrooms when i was six? had i not fantasised fraternising with fairies, hobnobbing with hobgoblins, knowing gnomes, playing with pixies, and gambling with goblins, 24/7, from the age of three until i turned nine, when they turned me into a horse instead? wasn’t it stated plainly on every school report card since i started school that i was the dreamer? inclined to daydream? off in some other world? you might say i was jealous, and ashamed of myself for it. nothing totally excellent ever happens to me so i just must get used to it.
at that time i was in a bit of a stew with my personality. i was seriously under-achieving at school. no one knew why, least of all me. these days they’d call in experts and they’d have a name for the disorder and there’d be strategies for the management of my symptoms, but in the 1960s they just branded you a rebel and occasionally hauled you onto the mat to be berated. they still used to cane boys. the headmaster’s office was often the warmest place to be after getting to school late again on a wintry morning while everyone else shivered and stamped in freezing classrooms where the heater warmed only the area immediately surrounding the teacher’s desk.
they did name the malaise, but not till later, when in the late sixties there arose an awareness that there existed among the baby boomers many whose lives were disjointed and purposeless and who felt alienated from their own culture. alienation was the malaise of the times. we were called drop-outs, because we often dropped out of formal education, and many of us became hippies. yes, i was an intensely alienated child, immensely proud of my tightly defended inner integrity and determined to keep it, but i had no social skills. i never ventured to ask my cousin about her glimpse of the little people because i was too shy. now i see this alienation as part of a process of reorientation from prewar to postwar mentalities, and it is this shift that brings with it the easier access to the little peoples’ worlds.
because talking of norms, we can examine societal norms in the light of postmodernism only so far before we come up against the limits set by the most powerful defenders of norms, because so many of the norms promoted by the powers that be are indefensible by fair means and so are routinely defended by foul. academics and students and intellectuals from all walks of life are howling about a perceived ‘dumbing down’. i learned in the 1990s in a university course called knowledge and power that our current sense of what knowledge is, and what scientific knowledge is, and what is truly academic and what isn’t and in what sense, are out-moded, hidebound, and needing radical revision in the light of cross-cultural knowledge-exchanges which were then in full flow and full of exciting insights into the nature of knowledge itself. twenty years have passed and still the archaic models of knowledge of mainstream english speaking societies are being vigorously and unacademically defended because they support the structures of power that maintain the dominant culture in situ to preserve and impose its own norms -as if all the other cultures were piddling around with what they feeble-mindedly thought was knowledge until whitefella came and showed him the blackboard and chalk which is where real knowledge begins. but don’t get me started on it.
our culture is egocentric. it thinks its norms are human norms, that it’s behaviours are dead centre of normality and the less a culture resembles it or the less a cultural practice resembles its own practice the more ‘extreme’ it is considered to be. perhaps this egocentricity is a feature of all cultures.
there’s a fair extent to which our experience is determined by our senses. it’s unlikely that any two people ever see exactly the same thing, even when standing in the same place and looking at the same object. there’s a lot of very variable biochemistry involved in registering a colour, a line or curve, a distance etc, and psychological predispositions play a part too in ensuring that while completely within the range for our species, we see and respond in our own totally unique way. we hear uniquely and coordinate our hearing with our sight via lots of very variable biochemistry, and the other three senses, taste, touch and smell are very well documented also. some people are colour blind, others see a ‘whole’ spectrum, as if we know what one is! some people can smell distant places, across miles and miles of snow. some people can find water underground using senses other than the five of our culture’s norm. i’m not talking about oddities. i’m talking about other cultures’ norms. some people can see fairies.
now in the cause of the maintenance of norms, the dominant culture defines ‘normal’ as ‘sane’ or ‘good’ and anything different may then be declared ‘abnormal’, ‘insane’ or even ‘evil’. people migrating to a new country find their customs considered strange and so they often have to give them up, to appear normal. or if a nation is conquered, the conquerers’ norms may prevail, forcing people to forgo their own visions or shut up about them. this has happened in celtic countries, in England, in Germany, and wherever the church held sway. only angels might be considered holy – all other apparitions, including fairies, were of the devil and to be exorcised with great severity. any who communed with them or called them up were witches to be burned. it was illegal to possess those senses, which were previously normal for the people concerned.
the humanistic view has not been much better. it sees all apparitions not accessible via the ‘normal’ five senses as delusions, part of serious mental ‘illness’, psychosis even. now there’s a terrifying name you can slap on a poor innocent fey for the seeing of fairies – a name that lumps her in with mass murders, bizarre fanatics and totally off-their-face lunatics. cute, eh?
but if that’s not enough, she can get (hahaha) ‘help’ (!)for her ‘disease’! my cousin did. she was cured in a short time, and i now believe it was by passing the ‘gift’ to me, because by god i wanted it. but some like her, who had no one to pass the gift on to or fob it off on spend life-times, albeit short nasty ones, in loony bins on crippling drugs that reduce them to zombies and have never been known to make anyone well. all for seeing fairies.
is it a gift then, genetically determined, if it can be passed from one to another? well, we both had a lot of shared ancestry. two of my grandmother’s children, my mother and her father, had both married irish catholics, with their fairy faith still crackling through the cráic. you have to have the right genes, and it is to do with your racial inheritance and what you have or haven’t been able to sublimate or repress. but we humans are only one side of the interface. those little people are very real. less than a fortnight ago i actually touched one. it was a very intense experience and i nearly fainted but it will get easier. the electromagnetic forces were very intense and gripping. a sort of well or brief tunnel formed in the fabric of this reality, about as big as a wheat bag, leading from this reality to his. i’d didn’t really notice it until my hand was through it, and there he was smiling and holding up his leg, and i heard him say ‘here’s my little leg,’ and my ears buzzed and rang for a bit but not too much. he’s one i know called sproggins and there’s a picture of him somewhere on-line. we’ve been working together since i first drew him over a year ago, and we’re making good progress. he sits on a four inch high seat at my fireside in the mornings and we let our streams of consciousness flow together for a while, communing pleasantly, feeling the way towards each other. his skin is soft and whitish, and his legs are firm and strong.
oh people, believe me, they are real, these little people, and they’re not just passively sitting around being seen by sheer accident. they’re working hard to reach us. so what we have is purpose built receptors, people born with a predisposition to see them, born of races with a predisposition to produce them, and for the sake of our races and the planet as a living being, our genetic predisposition to receive them contracts us to the duty. they undertake the psychic education of a child with the potential to see fairies in each generation. in our family, their first choice abdicating, i got the job and they left my cousin alone – as far as i know. i’ve never regretted it. the only serious danger is if the kill-all-witches, norm-bound, let-not-a-wizard-to-live, scripture-zombies and their thugs catch you at it and send the men in white coats to drag you off drugged but still screaming to the impeccably equipped dungeons and pharmaceutical tortures reserved for lunatics.
nothing much happened to the way i experienced life after that for a very long time. it did not improve my performance in the classroom. everyone scolded and shouted and raged and berated and bullied and punished and withheld privileges and detained and threatened and gave me dire warnings of disaster to come but i still daydreamed my way through lesson after lesson and had no desire whatsoever to conform to the norms. in fact that’s about when my infatuation with the beatniks, which had been creeping up on me for some years, really took hold, just as the hippy movement, which had stopped the Vietnam war, began to gather momentum under the enchantments of Dylan, Donovan and the megastars of the time. it took years for the fairies to reach me. and before they could i had to make that vital connection with my grandmother.
she was long dead and gone by then, but this is a strange country, and strange things happen when you bring new magic into lands whose existing enchantment has been built and elaborated and regulated and ruled in various ways over a very long period of time, in isolation. we encounter a highly developed reality thesis, the dreaming, and all our magic must be intelligible in terms of it, and vice versa, or we’re all up the creek without a paddle, magically inter-muddling from many cuturally diverse positions and the strongest trying to get away with blaming the underdog. fortunately, we’re all realising that our realities must handshake successfully on terms of equality or all will be dysfunctional. you have to have mutual respect as a basis.
the first any non-koorie kid learns about aborigine thinking is via folk-culture, that in terms of dreamings, which is like every existance is a narrative, that there is not this straight road through nowhere called time, there’s this timescape you can navigate in every direction via these mind-maps crossed by songlines that lead to magic places that are places of nexus with everything from far off celestial dreaming places of earthly animals, visible in the night sky only as a faint constellation of stars – which anyway, is magically related through morphic resonance to a corresponding ‘dreaming place’ within the human body. forget tardises, you can meet your great grandfather without leaving home. you just have to get savvy with the timescape (and the ever-evolving law) and you can walk across any time.
anyway, it was the mid-eighties during that planetary alignment that brought on the light-workers and the new age in such a blossoming, that i made a vital connection obliquely across the timescape with my grandmother. i was nuts at the time, you might say, having surrendered to the not entirely unpleasant mental confusion, dizziness and faintness, voices and noises and distortions of vision that preceded my earliest visions, which were of quite a different kind of fairy, more like my grandmother’s winged garden fairies, and so she was on my mind. i remember thinking about her a lot, and perhaps we communed, me in the 1980s with her in her hospital bed in the 1940s. i sat bolt upright and sang shrilly for the fairies as she had done. suddenly i saw a wise old fish, not in the transom as hers had been, but on my wall, where i had pasted a picture of a fish and given it a bowler hat. i didn’t easily connect it with her transom fish and not till much later. it talked to me in a loud rumbling voice, as it must have talked to her. perhaps it talked of the planet Jupiter, the power of magic, the legal ins and outs of it and the permitted and the unpermitted paths, or the fairies did or both, because these were among the themes i was developing then, or were being developed in my stream of consciousness. but i came to understand then that i had taken from her, like a cloak of office, the family madness; and was assuming it on the understanding that for most who take it on it means anathema, ignominy at best in the eyes of the community and an end to all social comfort, until the fairy faith be vindicated and the seers set free from the social oppression that threatens to drive us truly insane.