Running with the Fairies: Towards a Transpersonal Anthropology of Religion
Author: Dennis Gaffin
Date Of Publication: Jun 2012
Running with the Fairies: Towards a Transpersonal Anthropology of Religion is a unique account of the living spirituality and mysticism of fairyfolk in Ireland. Fairyfolk are fairyminded people who have had direct experiences with the divine energy and appearance of fairies, and fairypeople, who additionally know that they have been reincarnated from the Fairy Realm. While fairies have been folklore, superstition, or fantasy for most children and adults, now for the first time in a scholarly work, highly educated persons speak frankly about their religious/spiritual experiences, journeys, and transformations in connection with these angel-like spirit beings.
Set in academic and popular historical perspectives, this first scholarly account of the Fairy Faith for over a hundred years, since believer Evans-Wentz’s 1911 published doctoral dissertation The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, integrates a participatory, “going native” anthropology with transpersonal psychology. Providing extensive verbatim interviews and discussions, this path-breaking work recognizes the reality of nature spirit beings in a Western context.
Through intensive on-site fieldwork, the PhD cultural anthropologist author discovers, describes and interviews authentic mystics aligned with these intermediary deific beings. With an extensive introduction placing fairies in the context of the anthropology of religion, animism, mysticism, and consciousness, this daring ethnography considers notions of “belief”, “perception”, and spiritual “experience”, and with intricate detail extends the focus of anthropological research on spirit beings which previously have been considered as locally real only in indigenous and Eastern cultures.
Dennis Gaffin, PhD, is a Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Gaffin’s earlier fieldwork was on the Faeroe Islands. In recent years he has traveled and conducted research primarily in Ireland and India. He teaches comparative religion, cultural ecology, and medical anthropology. In addition to the ethnography In Place: Spatial and Social Order in a Faeroe Islands Community, he has published articles in academic and popular journals.
''[...] a bold work that attempts to invite both general readers and academics to gain a better understanding of the fairy faith. The writing is personal, honest, and informative, and readers are instantly aware of the author's passions as he attempts to convey his beliefs and experiences within the framework of anthropology and religious studies. [...] A useful, innovative work for specialists or general readers interested in fairies.'' Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 50: 06, 2013
“Gaffin’s book, enlightened by very recent studies made by other practitioners of religions or holy ways of life, is of great value because it is by a practitioner/scholar of fairyhood and because the field is only sparsely covered in our time. Gaffin shows that his type of fieldwork is appropriate to the evanescent subject matter, fairies: I deeply respect his method here.
We see the difference between these figures and those in straight Chrisitianity. We badly need the fairies’ lightening up, humor, and love of fun. Here is a profound critique of Jung, who termed his spirit figures ‘archetypes’ – which is a word that doesn’t work – and who reckoned always from inside of the person, the individual, not seeing that a great many of us have indeed had visitations from outside ourselves.
This book plays on the leading edge of anthropology, using a relatively humble theme, the personal experiences of a group of people. But for those familiar with spirituality, the book has made a great advance. The innocence of the phenomenon, showing no binding laws or exclusivisms, no structures, is of the very stuff of spirituality. We have now learned about a beautiful new country which grows naturally in its own right. Fascinating.
This book will be immensely popular and most definitely appealing and useful across disciplinary boundaries, to audiences in religious studies departments, anthropology, art, psychology, medicine, Celtic studies, and philosophy.”
– Edith Turner is a distinguished anthropologist who teaches at the University of Virginia. She is known for her fieldwork in Africa with her late husband, Victor Turner, and for her more recent work among the north Alaskan Inupiat. She is the author of numerous books and articles including Communitas: The Anthropology of Collective Joy; the autobiography Life of an Anthropologist; The Hands Feel It: Healing and Spirit Presence Among a Northern Alaskan People and the groundbreaking article “The Reality of Spirits”. She is an Associate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
“This is an important work, a careful analysis of the nature of belief in a realm of the supernatural dismissed as childish or superstition by adherents to mainstream religions. It is well-written and well-argued: and packed with data. There is a definite need for this kind of study in anthropology today.
Gaffin quotes recent statements of other mainstream respected scholars in different social science disciplines in support of his approach. I would say that his work fits squarely within this important but under-represented realm of the anthropological study of human experience.
Gaffin’s recognition and admission that he has crossed over into a realm which his professional colleagues eschew, renders his study the more important. He experiences what probably a majority of the world’s people experience – indeed, what is fundamentally human, and the subject of increasing neurological research today. He knows that his attempt to objectively analyze his beliefs is professionally risky, yet he boldly does so, convinced that such analysis is important. And I agree.
This study is valuable, it is well-organized and well-written, and it can be an important contribution to anthropological understanding. Anthropology desperately needs more such careful detailed examinations of the development of beliefs in extraordinary phenomena. The psycho-neuro-bio-cultural processes by which people come to a ‘supernatural’ experience are insufficiently described in anthropology, and here is where Gaffin’s book can make an important contribution.
An important project, very well conceptualized, well constructed, and well-written.”
– Phillips Stevens, Jr. is a Professor of Anthropology and Religion at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. Author of numerous works, he is the editor of the 2011 four volume Anthropology of Religion: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (Routledge) and contributor to the Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals.
“The book […] provides another anthropological account that takes into serious consideration the lifeworlds, ideas, and practices of people which are radically different to the mainstream. This is the book’s forte and its publication contributes to this genre. It will be of interest to anyone interested in studies in religion, spiritual/transpersonal anthropology, consciousness studies, and alternative religions, and to those about to embark on anthropological fieldwork.”
- Lynne Hume, Journal of Contemporary Religion.
Price Uk Gbp: 39.99
Price Us Usd: 67.99
Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)