I decided last night any hope of catching sight of fairy belief was going to be rather a forlorn hope. Spent a few days looking at legal sources relating to witchcraft, they are highly localised.
What I am going to have to do is to keep things fluid, messy and build a picture from the ground up.
One of the most significant issues is how do you classify what a fairy is? Any structure here is going to have to take situational features into account. Is for example the wild hunt a fairy concept? Its certainly often associated with fairies. I suspect I may find it is perhaps a subject that will prove interesting when it comes to ask, who actually catches sight of such things? I think with the hunt, I will find a more diverse base of observers.
Can any folk theories on sight and its interpretation help me here? I think the answer here may be yes. Supernatural forms of vision are subject to convention, its a feature found in elite belief and one we will later find in late 17th century peasant culture in Scotland. I will cite some examples next.
Issue here it does not help me understand how people saw faeries more how people viewed the operation of what what we would now term second sight.
More general comparative points, its the subject of convention, what people see is understandable and meaningful to others as it forms a shared symbolic system.
The other thought I am finding useful to hold onto here is the different ways in which the supernatural was viewed in the past. The supernatural realm was real and whilst memorable, a part of everyday life that operated at a domestic level.
Its at this domestic level that we catch sight of fairies in the trial records relating to witchcraft. Symbolic system and meaning here may be viewed as highly localised. The supernatural here is at its most mundane and ordinary, part and parcel of everyday being, intimately confined within a small group of people, captured and playing within it’s rhythm
Supernatural here is small-scale, entangled, within grasp. This highly intimate domestic level is where face to face encounters with the creatures of such realms occur in peasant society.