Fairy stories are sometimes the ‘dumbing down’ of mighty ancient myths. The shining, highly evolved beings of other realms are reduced to improbable little flittering creatures that hide among the bluebells. But nevertheless their stories can still give us the insights we need, and the sentence that starts them all off ‘Once upon a time’ is relevant to this talk. It implies that there is more than one Time, and what we are about to hear is happening in a different Time to the one we know.
A herd boy falls in love with a beautiful maiden he sees standing at the doorway into a hollow hill. He follows her and enters ‘faeryland’ – a realm of great beauty, where nothing is as it is in the world he has known. He has a blissful visit with her of a few days and returns to the ordinary world only to find he has been away for 50 years and everything has changed. His parents are dead, his old companions changed.
This has to be an allegory of the moment we enter the Quest, the path of seriously exploring the Unknown Spiritual realms. It is out of Linear Time. It could take fifty years or a moment. While we are exploring we are on a ‘high’ of spiritual endeavour. When we look around us again – our old companions have changed. This happens all around us. How many marriages do you know that have gone sour because one partner has explored further than the other?
Read these old fairy stories with new eyes. ‘Redeem the unread vision in the Higher Dream’, says T.S. Eliot in his poem Ash Wednesday.
Irish Folk Tales ed. By Henry Glassie Penguin Books 1987 p.256
Usheen’s Return to Ireland (Galway) by Lady Gregory 1926:
Usheen was the last of the Fianna and the greatest of them. It’s he was brought away to Tir-Nan-Oge, that place where you’d stop for a thousand years and be as young as the first day you went.
Out hunting they were, and there was a deer came before them very often, and they would follow it with the hounds, and it would always make for the sea, and there was a rock a little way out in the water, and it would leap on to that, and they wouldn’t follow it.
So one day they were going to hunt, they put Usheen out on the rock first, the way he could catch a hold of the deer and be there before it. So they found it and followed it, and when it jumped on to the rock Usheen got a hold of it. But it went down in to the sea and brought him with it to some enchanted place underground that was called Tir-Nan-Oge, and there he stopped a very long time, but he thought it was only a few days he was in it.
It is in that direction, to the west he was brought, and it was to the Clare coast he came back. And in that place you wouldn’t feel the time passing and he saw the beauty of heaven and kept his youth there a thousand years.
It is a fine place, and everything that is good is in it. And if anyone is sent there with a message he will want to stop in it, and twenty years of it will seem to him like one half-hour. But as to where Tir-Nan-Oge is, it is in every place, all about us.
Well, when he thought he had been a twelvemonth there, he began to wish to see the strong men again, his brothers; and he asked whoever was in authority in that place to give him a horse and to let him go.
And they told him his brothers were all dead, but he wouldn’t believe it.
So they gave him a horse, but they bade him not to get off it or to touch the ground while he was away; and they put him back in his own country.
And when he went back to his old place, there was nothing left of the houses but broken walls, and they covered with moss; and all his friends and brothers were dead, with the length of time that had passed.
And where his own home used to be he saw the stone trough standing that used to be full of water, and where they used to be putting their hands in and washing themselves.
And when he saw it he had such a wish and such a feeling for it that he forgot what he was told and got off the horse.
And in a minute it was as if all the years came on him, and he was lying there on the ground, a very old man and all his strength gone.
I sometimes wonder if the tales we hear about the abductions by aliens in spacecraft are not of the same order as these ancient tales of fairy abduction. They could both be symbolic tales thrown up by a powerful subconscious yearning for spiritual enlightenment – or they could be quite literally tales of abduction by extra-terrestrials – both in fairytale times, and in the present day. Who knows how long we have been visited by beings from other worlds?
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 1
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 2
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 3
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 4
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 5
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 6
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 7
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 8