This is my entry for Mahud’s fifth synchroblog, on the subject of Mythical Monsters and Otherworldly Entities. Go to his site for a full list of participants!
Otherworldy beings are terrifying to many people. I remember being afraid of some of them too, when I was younger – not all of them, but there were wee things that went bump in the night that could frighten me. I haven’t encountered a truly frightening Otherworldly entity in a long time, though. I’m far more afraid of what beings from this world can do to me than I am of anything I might encountering traveling Over There. The fear I’m talking about isn’t the fear of truly frightening or malevolent monsters, though – it’s the fear of any contact with any nonordinary being. Some people, for some reason, are unreasonably frightened by this. I’ve seen otherwise reasonable people thrown into hysterics by utterly benign manifestations.
I’ve run across quite a few books that say that pathworking or astral travel or whatever the author calls it is terribly dangerous and should only be undertaken with elaborate safeguards and in the company of trusted guardians. I can understand an author wanting to cover the bases and attach warning labels of the “caution! contains peanuts!” type for those who have particular sensitivities, but there is often a broader implication that the very act of entering the Otherworld is fraught with peril. Monsters lurk around every corner, apparently.
I have Mam Adar to thank for recommending “The Forge of Tubal Cain,” by Ann Finnin. While the book is mostly concerned with describing the establishment and growth of a particular magical system, the Roebuck, the chapter on “the Magical Mindset” is of more general interest. Finnin has an explanation for this kind of thing that makes a lot of sense to me. She describes the experience of a child who has a natural tendency to see into the non-physical realms. Finnin writes, “Parental and societal pressure to find purely physical causes for fear, anger and love is tremendous and can cause much emotional and psychic trauma to children who are naturally aware of unseen realms. By the time these children grow into adults, they not only have repressed the sensory awareness of the unseen, but also the trauma.” She goes on to describe a scene where a child is terrified of the monster under the bed, and the mother dismisses the threat as unreal. In Finnin’s analysis, the fear is repressed and refocused onto something “real.” She uses this as an explanation of why people in magical circles can get so emotionally weird when the work gets intense.
I think this explains a lot about the kinds of fear I’m talking about (which is a little different than what Finnin is getting at). If you have been told since childhood that seeing the nonordinary is something worthy of punishment, then you’re going to get nervous if you see it. Especially, as Finnin also points out, since as a species we have a long history of attacking, ostracizing, and even killing those who have this kind of sight. If you’ve repressed all this, then its return can only be seen as a threat, and that threat gets transferred onto the one being seen. Since people tend to use their own internal fear as evidence of external danger, that could make seeing fairies (for instance) utterly terrifying. No wonder they see monsters.