Tag Archive | brownies

brownies – willing helpers


brownies are the gentle and wise lawgivers of the fairy realms

People who want to make shamanic connections with the fairy peoples usually start by learning as much as they can from books, other seers and folklore to add to their natural awareness and compare notes. You learn quickly that there are many different kinds of fairies, and that they vary from culture to culture.
Then as you become adept at seeing, your notion of what a fairy is usually undergoes a wild transformation. You begin to encounter the many varieties of fairies, elves, nature spirits etc, little and large, pretty and ugly, wise and silly, kindly and malevolent, sick and healthy, friendly and hostile, that your rapidly improving fairy sight reveals to you.

At this stage you may feel a need to focus on direct communion with just one kind of fairy at a time, usually using meditation and attunement techniques you may have learned as a part of a pagan, esoteric or new age teaching programme or similar. You set the scene with beautiful music, crystals enchanted for the purpose, and incense or aromatic oils, herbs and flowers. You centre yourself, your clear your mind, perhaps you might play a drum or a flute, and you open your eyes to the fairies around you.

The fairies will be aware of your preparations and they’ll crowd around to get a glimpse of you, and to let you see them. You get used to the fact that these are indeed people, high-strangeness people, indeed very high-strangeness people; and that some of them are intensely aware of you and are manipulating you with their powerful wills into their view, sometimes competing with each other for access to you. This can be frightening, but don’t panic. When it happens, you can always expect a Brownie to be there for you, to be your trustworthy guide and protector if you ask.

Brownies are among the easiest of fairies for humans to commune with. They are saintly little people about nine inches to just under a foot high, sometimes appearing in hooded garments of soft brown, grey and green colours. They are usually surrounded by a kind of courtly retinue which includes the astral forms of little human girls in their brownie uniforms, and other children.

Probably the word Brownie was originally Brehonie, and referred to a pious and much-loved legal fraternity that was quashed in Britain in mediaeval times so completely that history seems to be repressing the memory of them. Progress in translating their law texts has been slow and very, very fraught.

But folklore recalls the Brownie as an outlawed exile in wild places, sometimes protected by remote households for whom they very generously did useful work in exchange for nothing but food and clothing – taking offence permanently if offered payment. In the old ballad Brown Adam he was banished into the woods where he lived by hunting birds with a bow and arrow.

Children’s lore, often wiser and better informed than folklore because intuitive, situates them deep in the wildest and remotest parts of the mossiest, most mysterious green woods, where they have become invisible to humans, diminished in size to about a foot high. As Brehons once were among the peoples of old Britain, Brownies are are the wise law-givers, counsellors and peace-makers among all the wild woodland fairies, animals, birds and fishes, plant spirits, aerial and water beings, fire spirits and earth kin.

Real brownies are accessible to us through contemplation of this highly developed, consistently recurring image. If you ask them to they are willing to work closely with you as guides and negotiators on your behalf. They aren’t the only wise, human-friendly fairies you’ll encounter in the early stages, but they are omong the most adept at helping us to reorient ourselves appropriately in your newly expanded reality. And they do appreciate their annual gift of a new linen shirt and a good bannock bun – and firewood; only tokens now but once so meaningful!

Paradigms shift again when you realise that to the fairies, you are just one more kind of fairy. We are certainly giants to them, and if we think we’re not magical, there’s many a fairy, and many a quite justly aggrieved fairy, willing to prove to us that we’re just as magically dangerous to them as ever they could be to us. Without some training in stillness and receptivity, our fear paralyses them, our distrust binds them, our mis-visions distort and deform them, our disbelief disables them. The brownies are not just our guides, but our ‘handlers’ as well, to prevent us from harming the other beings with our unruly, lawless untamed magic.

Like many other fairies, Brownies remember being human, indeed many of them periodically incarnate as humans, and may even still think of themselves as human even though they have evolved since their banishment from human culture. They tell me their story as follows. Banished during the Conquest from their honoured place in British society, the few survivors fled singly to remote wild places, hiding in the deep forest to evade the hounds that were used to hunt them. In remote wild lands they survived, but were soon forgotten, except in folk-lore. Others, driven deeper into the forest, found food in abundance there, but were intensely alienated, often utterly devoid of all human company, and dependent on prayer, fairy magic and the guidance of Gaia (who knew just what she was doing) for their sanity.

A kind of sensory deprivation along with the effects of breathing the fungal spore laden air and of eating the occasional dodgy mushroom made these fugitives, credited anyway with magic powers, psychically hypersensitive. They soon began to hear the whispers of the forest, to understand the speech of animals and birds. Sleeping in the moss, feeding on the mushrooms, bark, herbs, nuts and berries of the forest’s bounty, drinking the dew and the heavy nectar of flowers, denied human companions, they soon fell under the spells of the forest fairies. Experiencing themselves to be more and more of their reality and less and less of this, they grew old and died, or they died through illness or the poison of a mushroom and so became part of the woodland community.

Over the centuries, their mentality and their appearance was greatly altered by their new environment, and geophysics of their new world diminished them in size. but they brought their legal expertise to bear upon the many problems that diverse and often competing fairies, fauns, birds and animals encounter in their efforts to create a viable and harmonious community of spirits. Our world was becoming less and less relevant to them, but Gaia had plans for them and us, and in accord with these there emerged the Brownie movement, the organisation for little girls that focused the potently magical attention of generations of eight-to-ten-year-old girls on just the kind of fairied forest environment in which these highly-evolved souls now have their spirituaL centres.

Aided by guiding angels and fairies, during the twentieth century the brownies and these little girls effected a cross-dimensional hand-shake of great importance to our planet, and it was a handshake of such good-will and delightfulness that brownies remain among the best-loved and most trusted of fairy characters in literature and lore. They are good little people, full of kindly charity and love, sweetness and joy, which they spread with the greatest ease wherever they go.

And nowadays they go about quite freely in all sorts of places, appearing in suburban gardens, Japanese parklands,city balconies and the Australian bush, and will appear in a well designated corner of almost any sincerely friendly, safe room if invited. They make charming use of those commercially available little toy doors that you affix to tree trunks and other likely places – not just for fun, but because they help to manifest the magic.

My Brownie guide ‘haunts’ or ‘inhabits’ a 14 inch high paper-maché toadstool with a nine inch diameter top. He explains that he magically bonds with the paper toadstool in such a way as to become sensitive to the thoughts and emotions going on around it. Thus it acts like a remote sensory organ, to which he can bring his whole mind’s attention at will, manifesting visibly beside it for me if he chooses. It’s like having a mobile phone.

His sense of humour is delightful, but he seems full of knowledge to impart as our relationship deepens. I service this shrine and others outside with gifts of food and drink and pieces of shiny metal which they use for money in one of their new toyland-like realms, which they develop for sound reasons, hilarious as they sometimes are.

Toylands? Yes, because expert as they are at bringing peace and sanity into communities of diverse beings, Brownies have learned from watching children play that a being is a being, whether a toy whose soul has been bestowed via the inarticulate love and fantasy of a child, or an angel spirit born triumphantly from the spent corpse of a dying human being, they are all sentient spirits, all worthy of their rights and responsible for their own karma. I suspect they’d find a use for anything if you offered it as a token of good-will.

Between small children at play and all manner of fairies, new worlds of solid reality are being woven all the time from the fantastical logistics and creative imagery of play, and because these new worlds have need of good, wise, fair laws to integrate them into the greater reality, Brownies are invited to participate in the building of them principally as law-givers.

Rapport with Brownies is based upon a mood-sharing which manifests quite strangely to an adult, because it is much more in the emotional idiom of children, or of medieval Brehons. It’s hard to put into words, except words so simple they might even sound facile, yet they possess all the more power for being so comprehensible. They teach that happiness is a medicine, something radiant and good that we infuse our surroundings with when we feel happy within.

We have a duty to be happy. Happiness is an elixir we brew in the chalice of our being, and it is a positive virtue to generate and emanate a radiance of happiness for the healing and comforting of our sad and damaged worlds. They know it isn’t always possible, but they urge us to be happy, to have fun, to make whoopee now and then, and follow your bliss wherever possible, making real inner happiness a goal, really caring about making ourselves truly happy in innocent ways that harm no one. They urge us to cultivate an optimistic disposition, to carry us through the sad times, and to gravitate (perhaps i should say levitate) back to as soon as things improve.
It doesn’t have to be noisy, visible happiness; you don’t have to smile all the time. Just consciously begin to liberate all the natural joy within you. That will not only improve your health and well-being, your luck and your whole quality of experience, it will also make you a well-spring of healing for everyone else around you.

i believe that asimov was an incarnate brownie, and that his laws for his sci-fi robots are real.

fairies – size continua

as a seer i see many different kinds of people smaller than we are, and they range in size from just about shoulder high to me (i’m 5’8″) to about a cm high (tiny mushroom fairies). i’ve also seen extra-dimensional human-like people ranging from about nine or ten feet tall all the way to too vast to measure. each type is embedded in its own reality just as we are in ours. no reality is more real than any other (except the ones that aren’t!!! – we’ll get to them later).

as you embark upon the path of seer, especially as you advance towards becoming adept, one important thing is to understand that there is a size continuum that includes us; that our reality is only a matter of a few strategic shifts of emphasis away from a whole array of others, and that we are their fairies, just as much as they are ours. they are just as truly people, committed to life-styles just as vital to gaia as ours are.

these do exist

these are real

norse elves talk of logical departures, where differences of perception are all that separate us though we live side by side in shared realities, and our lives intertwine in so many hidden ways.

gnomes are metaphysical shifts away from us, their reality hidden from us by our closed-mindedness as theirs is from us by theirs. our minds open as they become ready, like flower buds unfurling, and we perceive these new dimensions of the reality we share more and more.

the more congenial brownies create beautiful picture book pathways to these perceptions, and we find them in fiction and fable – they help us through a credibility shift as we help them, each as awed as each other.

the tall slender english-style elves (chest high, elaborate clothes, pride of lineage, courtly manners) reach us via fantasy. magic music brings the tall celtic gods in: nine feet or twenty feet, they smile sweetly down on us as we do on the little people we see. the dreamtime spirits and the hadean gods rise up out of myth and ritual, transcending matters of size and locus.

these are only a narrow selection of the fairies i myself see – every culture evolves within a reality interwoven with its own array of fairy worlds.  sometimes you get hints that there is real anxiety among some of them about humano-centric descriptions of the human world with its ‘peripheral’ worlds haunted by fairies who are less real than we are. not surprising when you consider how crass that is. they’re our ‘good neighbours’ and it helps if we’re ‘good neighbours’ to them too. humility is the key, and not all of them have learnt that yet. they’re often no better or worse than we are.



brownies are the gentle and wise lawgivers of the fairy realms

brownies are supernatural diminutive woodland beings, although accounts of them as somewhat larger and less supernatural exist.

the oldest tales depict them as sometimes irascible but usually honorable solitary beings who might associate themselves with a household and help with the work in exchange for a good bannock bun once in a while and a new clean shirt once a year.  in some accounts this must not be given to him but left where he can find them.

both male and female brownies are recorded.  modern children’s lore depicts them as diminutive, male, aged and bearded, about knee high to a six year old, dressed in soft brown leather and scented with the odours of the forest floor. they commune with nature, exercising authority over birds and beasts and the fairy folk too, settling their disputes and giving wise council to all who consult with them.

what are they really, then, and how does the folklore arise?  has the idea of them any basis in fact? the clue first came to me while listening to danny spooner, the melbourne ballad singer, singing the following song:

brown adam the smith.

oh wha would wish the wind tae blaw

and the green leaves fa’ therewith

and wha wad wish a lealer love

than brown adam the smith.

his hammer’s o’ the beaten gowd

his stood is o’ the steel

his fingers white are my delight

he blaws his bellows weel.

but they hae banished him brown adam

frae faither and frae brither

and they hae banished him brown adam

frae sister and frae mither

and they hae banished him brown adam

frae the flower o’ all his kin

but he’s bigit a bower in the gay green woods

twixt his fair lady and him

and it fell oot all on ae day

brown adam he thought lang

that he wad tae the hunting gae

tae fetch some venison

and he shot high and he shot low

the bird all on the briar

and sent it tae his lady fair

saying “ye’s be o’ gude cheer!’

and he’s shot high and he’s shot low

the bird upon the thorn

and sent it tae his lady fair sayin’

“i’ll be hame the morn.”

and when he came to his lady’s bower door

he stood a little forebye

and there he heard a foul fals knight

attempting his fair lady

and he’s ta’en off a ring a ring

which cost him many a pound

says “grant me love for love lady

and this shall be thine own.”

“i lo’e brown adam weel,” said she

“god wot sae does he me,

i ne’er shall be your lemen sae true

for any gowd ring that ye gie.”

and he’s ta’en oot a purse o’ gowd

twas fu’ untae the string

says “grant me love for love, lady

and this will a’ be thine.”

“i lo’e brown adam weel” said she

“god wot sae does he me!

i neer will be your lover sae true

for all of the gowd that ye gie.”

and he’s ta’en oot a sword a sword

and flashed it in her ee

says “grant me love for love, lady,

or through thee this will flie!”

and sighing says this fair lady

brown adam tarries lang

but he’s stepped oot frae the gay green woods

saying “i’m just tae your hand!”

he’s gar’d him leave his sword his sword,

he’s gar’d him leave his brand.

he’s gar’d him leave a far better pledge

four fingers of his right hand.

now in nearly every instance of the occurrence of the name brown adam in this song, the word brown is started on one note and switches to another in mid-diphthong, so that it is very tempting to split it into two separate vowels, and because the tune is bouncy there’s a tendency to insert into it an h.  if you yield to this and your accent is southern, not northern, you end up singing not brown but brae-hon adam, and while that isn’t exactly the word brehon, it resonates undeniably with it.

(there is a tension between the southern words and northern treatment the song is given, as if it were a southern song preserved in the north by the border singers.)

likewise the character resonates well with the image of the sterner sort of not very supernatural stern hardworking brownie associated with households who might take offence rather suddenly and turn morose on you.

banishment was a brehon punishment, and perhaps our adam had transgressed a brehon law, at least, in an older version of the song, which might have depicted quite another escapade.

but also, during the roman occupation and the time of the persecution by the early church of celtic heretics, brehons, witches and druids were banished or fled, taking refuge in the woods.  both brown adam and the classic helpful but secretive brownie may have been in hiding from one phase or another of the persecutions.

the ‘foul false knight’ in folklore is nearly always a roman.  it’s true that they left native institutions in place when they took control, but they used to kill or put to flight all native office holders (or marry them by force if they were women) and replace them with heartily hated false office bearers who fawned on caesar in the name of the helpless subject nation.

we can easily imagine a brehon in roman britain hiding out in the woods and emerging to protect his lady, perhaps from his own roman substitute.

in real life we can imagine that he might have had a large company of followers.

(just think, if he did wear what children’s book pictures show him in, i.e. a robe and hood, there you’d be, rob’n’hood, hiding out in the greenwood depending on his bow and arrow to feed and defend himself, and adept at both.)

but during these persecutions in which brehons, druids, and witches of all kinds were hunted in the woods hedges and moors with hounds and on horseback, our brehon adam would not have fared so well.  in winter the leafless forest would have hidden him less effectively and the smoke of any fire would give him away, so he was cold.  anyway, not all brehons were strong hunters and swordsmen.  some of the most powerful, magical and highly educated of them were gentle scholars.  as the woods were divided up among clergy, and later normans and so on, communities of surviving brehons would have got smaller and smaller and the survivors more and more solitary and retiring.

imagine if while still young you had had to flee to the woods, and conditions made it unsafe to appear even to your own kin, so that you had to spend the rest of your life alone in the forest.  your loneliness would give way to a sort of surrender, in which you would begin to be aware of the minute subtle details of forest life, of the birds songs and the small animals behaviour.  you would sleep in the moss, breathing mushroom spore-laden hallucinogenic air, which would show you fairies and plant spirits and the beings who haunt trees.  when you died, after feeding exclusively on forest fare, nuts and berries and game and mushrooms, and being exquisitely attuned to the woodlands for forty or fifty years you’d be so well attuned to them, so much a part of the fabric of the forest glades that you’d haunt them.

and perhaps under the influence of gravity, or perhaps as a result of the anathematisation of the brehonie folk by the church, your ghost might even shrink away to almost nothing, not stopping till you were knee-high to a six year old . . .

. . . who would to your utter amazement understand all about you and all the other woodland sprites because she’d have heard it all from brown owl . . .

the leprechaun.

le brehon

le brehon, leprechaun

i was sternly told by an irishman i got talking with one day that the ch in leprechaun is pronounced h not ch: lepre-h-aun, not lepre-c-aun or even lepre-ch-aun, and i’ve always be careful to pronounce it with an h ever since, although in another part of ireland, perhaps they’re not so adamant. not having been there yet, i don’t know. but the intensity with which that irishman insisted impressed me deeply, so i’ll take that as my starting point in my quest for this magical little shoemaker of irish tradition.

basically, he lives under hedges and in ditches, he hammers away at his last, cobbling boots, and he has a crock of gold which you might try to steal from him, but he’ll trick you every time. he dresses in green, and he almost certainly speaks in pure gaeilge. nobody’s ever added much to that as far as i know, although, of course, there’s a lot i don’t know. the oed has it from old irish luchorp/an via a middle irish (!) luchrup/an, adding in a small voice that lu means ‘small’ and corp means ‘body’, and they say it means a ‘pigmy sprite’.

i find this unsatisfactory. a syllable like prech just doesn’t turn into chorp with the passage of time, not even in ireland, not even over the famous p-q- divide. let’s have a peek under that hedge. who would ever be hiding in ditches and hedges in ireland, dressed in green, cobbling his boots and guarding his crock of gold? to be hiding, he’d have to be being hunted, and to be guarding a crock of gold, he’d have to be very rich and there’d have to be thieves after it, and to be cobbling his own or anyone else’s boots, he’d have to be among the best of the noble irish, because the best of the noble irish have always taken care of their own menial tasks, hating slavery, servitude, and the abuse of the weak to serve the strong. (we’ll not look too closely at the worst of them just now.)

that crock of gold may tell us something. we normally envisage it as what a crock is in english: a stoneware jar or vessel for storing bread or pickled onions or similar in, about knee high and filled, in the leprechaun’s case, with glittering golden coins. we imagine it secreted somewhere beside him in his hidey-hole in the hedge. if only we could sneak past him and seize it, off we could run with it and it would be ours! but what if it means what crock means in irish? it would be spelt cnoc, and that means ‘hill’. then we’d have a little man in green cobbling his shoes and guarding not gold, but the secret of the whereabouts of the gold, the particular hill around or within which the store of gold might be hidden. (ireland is full of hollow hills.)

but hidden from whom? the romans didn’t conquer ireland, but the roman catholic church did. it suppressed celtic christianity in ireland as elsewhere and along with it, all the other magical systems and political systems that got in their way. druids, brehons and witches were persecuted there as in england and throughout christendom. you’d find them hiding in ditches. merlin too, hid, guarding his treasure, in a cave.

history relates that, at the time of the forcible conversion of the irish to roman christianity, there was a high king in tara, but i think the records might have been tampered with. ard ri where ard means high and ri means king is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. adjectives follow nouns in irish, and so it should be ri ard. secondly, ri isn’t the irish word for a king. well, all right, i mean it wasn’t, and unless you squint and look sideways till it hurts, getting your gaeilge from the woefully inaccurate dictionary of the irish language as the so-called standard irish tries to do, it still isn’t. conn- might be nearer the mark, though scholars are in denial over it. there were all sorts of ris, righs and res and there’s nothing but a forced analagy with the latin rex to elevate them above the reeves of england, petty officials of limited local power. conns moghs caidhs and caths and all the other notables of ireland were high above them.

the druids anyway we are constantly being reminded, were revered above any king, allowing for good times and bad times, and so we’d be looking for a druid to be the highest authority in tara, wouldn’t we. the people would call her (or him as the case may be) ‘the druid’, or in irish, an draoi, (pron. a’ dree) and that would make more sense to the irish. you’d have to be thinking in latin to write that down as ard ri.

so having that much power, many a druid would be evading torture and death, perhaps by crucifixion, by hiding in the open country, and where they belonged to rich irish clans, they’d have knowledge of the whereabouts of at least one cnoc of gold. clan leaders too, and nobles in the know. maybe the original idea was to winkle out his secret not by innocent wiles, but in the methods more usually employed by the not yet benevolent roman catholic church.

we know that members of the irish intelligentsia were still conducting hedge schools in secrecy on pain of death by hanging if discovered, well into modern times, and perhaps some druids and brehons were among them. as the roman church gained control, language difficulties must have been horrendous. to get a position in the church you had to know latin very well, and only romans tended to, or those who had been educated by romans since childhood, and they’d have spoken almost no irish. communication would have been hit-and-miss to say the least.

we assume that leprechaun is an irish word, but what if it’s latin, a word used by romans to denote irish magicians? the ‘le-‘ is from a norman or roman article, which is ‘an’ in irish. ‘an’ is pronounced (in certain dialects) like the english a to which it is related: an indeterminate vowel sound. before a consonant the n is silent, although it is pronounced in some dialects. but in the past, an was in, so that vowel varies. ‘an leprechaun’ is pronounced ‘uh-le-pre-haun’, then, or rather ‘uh-le-pre-hon’ as most irish people say it.

now we’re getting somewhere. if you were to hear that as latin, what you’d hear would be about as close as you could get to ille prehon and you’d want to add latin endings. (a celtic b often becomes a p in latin).  it is possible that the persecutors may well have been using the term brehon indiscriminately for any kind of magician, as the irish now use the word draoi, especially if they were coming from england where especially in the north, the brehonie were already being persecuted in the same way. or they might have enjoyed insulting them, because using wrong names for people and peoples was a favourite roman war strategy for demoralising the enemy. UBI EST “ILLE BREHONNUS”? (OO-bi EST il-luh-bre-HONNus) (where is the brehon? – latin) le breHON (norman) cá bhfuil “a(n) leprechaun”? (pron. kah’l – uh – leh -(b)pre- hon (where is the (le) prechaun?) try it a few times.

i think it’s a latin word meaning ‘the brehon’. i might be wrong, but i find that more convincing than the oed’s suggestion about the luchorpan. it may date back only to norman times, when ‘le brehon’ would have been the term used, but i don’t know that the normans persecuted the brehons, whereas the romans certainly did.

but what about the shoe last? would a brehon cobble his own boots? i’m reminded of the scottish song about leezie lindsay, in which the aristocratic lassie initially refuses the hand of a suitor because she knows nothing about him, not even who he is, but accepts it gladly when she learns that he is a great chieftain. off they go to his highland home, not to a palace full of servants, but to a humble cottage like those of all their clan, where she is on scrupulously equal terms with everyone and has to milk her own cows and sweep out her own cottage and get the breakfast herself, the same as any woman in the land.

the use of the weak and poor to serve the strong and rich was deplored there too, and these celts were proud of that. perhaps it was so with ‘ille brehon’ as well. the romans, on the other hand, counted themselves noble only when they could command a whole household full of slaves, and they scorned menial work as degrading. their accounts of slavery in ireland at the time of their occupation of britain and of their infiltration through the church were often naive interpretations of scenes in which they called anyone they saw doing menial work, or in a serving role, a slave, because that’s what they would be in their own lands. so before the persecutions began, while the church was still negotiating with druids, they must have been shocked to find them living in unpretentious cottages, getting their own breakfasts, and on one memorable occasion at least, which is here preserved as legendary, hammering his own shoes on a last he held between his knees, and that though he might be the highest in the land. they’d have ridiculed him hugely for that, if only to save face.

so there’s ille brehon for you! slán! in the peace of the grove

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