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Flora, Fauna, Persona
the art & writing of Desirée Isphording
Some brief musings on the Otherworld 
4th-Jun-2007 12:55 pm
Otherworldy should not necessarily be taken to mean supernatural or extraterrestrial. Otherworldly simply and literally means "of another world", and "world" is a thoroughly human idea: a globe criss-crossed with imaginary tracery segregating political, social, cultural realms of influence. "World" is an abstract created by humans for human use. The Earth, on the other hand, existed long before humanity and will continue to do so regardless of regime changes, revolutions, and the redrawing of boundaries.

Faeries belong to another world, one not defined by humans and our social conventions and mores but irrevocably tied to our own nonetheless. Like the worlds of animals, plants, fungi, and the elements themselves, we perpetually live beside - even within - the Otherworld, yet just as with the animal and plant kingdoms (again, note more political terminology applied by humans to non-human Nature) these realms are generally inscrutable to us. They can certainly seem alien to us at times, but flora, fauna, and faery are certainly not alien to this planet.
"Fairyland is a state or condition, realm of place, very much like, if not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men alike place the souls of the dead, in company with other invisible beings such as gods, daemons, and all sorts of good and bad spirits. Not only do both educated and uneducated Celtic seers so conceive Fairyland, but they go much further, and say that Fairyland actually exists as an invisible world within which the visible world is immersed like an island in an unexplored ocean, and that it is peopled by more species of living beings than this world, because incomparably more vast and varied in its possibilities."
- W.Y. Evans-Wentz in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries

"The Underworld is not just under the ground; it is under/within the surface of every leaf, under the surface of every human thought, under the surface of every pool or water, and deep in the infinite heart of even a tiny pebble."
- Robin Artisson in The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill

"The Otherworld begins where this world ends. Tradtionally it is imagined as a parallel society of daimons or animals or the Dead. It can even be adjacent to us, in the forest or wilderness outside the sacred enclosure of the village. It can be underground, or in the sky, or in the west - or even, like the land of the Sidhe, in all of these places. Indeed, 'it may not be far from any of us'. [...] The Otherworld lies, as it were, all around us, at the points where our world ceases. It lies beyond the edge of the maps where 'there be dragons', or below the threshold of consciousness where there be archetypes.[...] The boundaries where this world ends and the Otherworld begins are always shifting - but Nature contains them both."
- Patrick Harpur in The Philosopher's Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination

"Sometimes Faerie is not a country but a shifting light upon the land, a wistful song, a moment in between other moments. Some people have a greater facility for feeling its presence than others. Children see it easily and often. So do the mad. Shamans and visionaries can travel there and back again. So can the artist who humbly gives his life over to mystery."
- Ari Berk in the foreword to Brian Froud's World of Faerie
5th-Jun-2007 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if this will post as LJ is being heartless with my comments at the moment, but the concept of the 'otherworld' and otherworlds changes from culture to culture, but what seems to remain the same in paleopagan cultures that believe in the otherworld/s, is that they are not off in space somewhere, but superimposed over our own world to a vast degree.

In my own practices of Russian shamanism, we have three otherworlds, the upperworld isn't necessarily 'on the clouds' even though we may use sky pathways to get there, and the underworld is no more 'in the ground' than I am. I believe they have laws that bind them, which make them different to the fantasy land of visualisation (where anything can happen) and I believe they have some fairly universal landmarks too, such as the world tree.

I wrote an article on what I was taught as a child, and my own perspectives: http://www.wildspeak.com/vilturj/otherworlds/otherworldsoverview.html

But if people are contacting all three elements of the otherworlds in 'one otherworld,' I think that's more than possible too. Science can't begin to explain shamanism.
5th-Jun-2007 03:29 am (UTC)
I do admit I'm using the term "Otherworld" in a somewhat general (at least to everyone outside of my own head ;-) and very personal way, and I should preface this entry, along with the whole journal to a large degree, with a caveat which makes this more clear. Over the past year or so a lot of very significant threads in my life have begun to weave themselves together, and this journal is in many ways a way of documenting that process.

It wasn't really my intention for this to be an overarching, academic statement about every culture's view of the (generally) Unseen. My statement regarding the Otherworld(s) as "not off in space somewhere, but superimposed over our own world to a vast degree" as you mention, is based on my actual studies of folklore and myth, etc. but, of course, I cannot claim to speak for the diverse traditions of the world.

For myself personally, I tend to regard the Otherworld as a word encompassing various realms and states in itself. I have been focusing primarily on what might be called the "Underworld" and the more chthonic aspects of the Otherworld, which in the lore of both Teutonic and Celtic peoples has often been poetically described as being within the Earth or under the water.

5th-Jun-2007 03:33 am (UTC)
I should preface this entry, along with the whole journal to a large degree, with a caveat which makes this more clear.

Nah, it's your journal, you don't need a caveat for anything. *grin* :)

It wasn't really my intention for this to be an overarching, academic statement about every culture's view of the (generally) Unseen.

I didn't take it as such, and hope you didn't take offence to my comment. It was more just that I have contrasting but also somewhat similar experiences, being a shamanist and someone who journeys regularly, and hoped that I might have something to add or offer.

As for your being drawn to the Underworld, I can relate, since I do most of my healing and soul retrieval for others there, and it is a very dynamic place for change and healing. :)
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