A 1909 illustration of kings in a dark forest peering into mystical realms.

Mysterious Worlds: Travels to the Faerie and Shamanic Realms

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There are many accounts of a land of immortality and eternal youth in world myths and legends, as well as shamanic and indigenous spiritual traditions.

Mysterious Worlds

Writing in his recent work, Sky Shamans of Mongolia , Kevin Turner tells us that the three worlds or realms of the Mongolian Darkhad shaman don’t consist of a traditional upper, middle and lower world but are instead overlapping dimensional realities, more in line with a holographic outlook. These places are populated by deities, spirits and ancestors. In Irish lore it is the land of Tir na Nog where a race of supernatural beings is said to reside, although this otherworld adapts itself to incorporate the afterlife, the Summerland of Wicca, as well as shamanic realms according to other interpretations.

Often these dimensions are seen to be accessed across an ocean, leading many to associate Tir na Nog with the mythical island of Hy-Brazil, an island that was said to rise from the sea every seven years and which was populated by a race of advanced antediluvian beings.

Hy Brasil island was believed to appear and disappear.

Hy Brasil island was believed to appear and disappear. ( CC BY-ND 2.0 )

However, the realm of fairy or the crypto-terrestrial is more often encountered through places considered sacred or having an alignment of some kind in relation to auspicious days in the yearly cycle, such as solstices, equinoxes and new moons. In many legends passed down from oral traditions the liminal moments at dusk, between sunset and moonrise, are when the ethereal forms of these beings are best seen.

Trapped in Magical Realms

Perhaps one of the most famous anecdotes relating to this is that of the Rev Robert Kirk who was a Scottish scholar and clergyman. His book The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies was published in 1691 and collected many instances of encounters with these elemental creatures and what a person could do to either avoid or come in contact with them.

Rev Kirk wrote of the fairy realm.

Rev Kirk wrote of the fairy realm. ( Public Domain )

At this time the Inquisition was still in full force across Europe so Kirk’s interest in what some saw as Demonic entities put him at odds with many of his religious colleagues. Some, in fact, speculated that Kirk himself might be a changeling sent by the devil in order to corrupt the faith of his parishioners and to lead them back to ancient pagan ways. Kirk was also a seventh son which lent him an aura of the otherworldly , as this was a particular sign of association with second sight and affiliation with the fairy folk.

One summer evening, Kirk, while out walking, collapsed and died upon a fairy hill. Or so it seemed.

In the days following his funeral, a cousin of Kirk’s had a strange dream in which the reverend pleaded with him to rescue him from fairyland. Kirk told his cousin in the dream that he was not dead at all but was in a magical swoon caused by his supernatural captors.

Kirk had promised his cousin that he would be able to appear for just one moment at the baptism of his child and when this occurred his cousin was to throw a ceremonial knife over his apparition. This would have the effect of releasing Kirk from the fairies’ spell.

At the baptism it is said that when Reverend Kirk appeared his cousin was so shocked that he forgot the instructions about the knife and Kirk then vanished, doomed to live in fairyland for eternity.

Altered Time and Space

This concept of eternity and that time can run faster or slower in these realms has been part of fairy myth for thousands of years. The Japanese legend of Urashima Taro is a good example. In this story a fisherman visits the supernatural undersea kingdom of Ryugu-jo and discovers that the three days he spent there had been three hundred years in his homeland.

The season of autumn in the kingdom under the sea; The fisherman Urashima Taro, is transported to undersea kingdom of Ryugu-jo.

The season of autumn in the kingdom under the sea ; The fisherman Urashima Taro, is transported to undersea kingdom of Ryugu-jo. (Bodleian Libraries/ CC BY 4.0 )

Ryugu-jo has some specific architectural symbolism relating to the earth’s cycle in that each side of the kingdom was said to be a different season. Perhaps we are seeing an association with the solstices and equinoxes once again, which in themselves have a history of being doorways for the legendary beings like the fairies and various elementals to appear through.


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