Deadbutdreaming usually attempts to interpret the faerie phenomenon from as much of an objective viewpoint as possible. The complexity of the subject matter demands an uninvolved assessment if any sense is to be made of it. But as pointed out in a previous post, the entire substance of both historic faerie folklore and modern faerie experiences is made up of subjective anecdotal testimonies; and the plural of anecdote is data. This data allows analyses. The following article is a personal testimony of my own experiences – a series of data points reliant on my own subjective memory and perception. As such, it does not provide evidence of the reality of the faerie phenomenon, but my own experiences do, I hope, add a small amount of data, which may help in the ongoing exposition of what the faeries are and why they might have been interfacing with humanity for such a long period of time. I have talked and written about some of these experiences before, but thought it might be time to round them up in one place. All my encounters with faerie-type entities have been induced by altered states of consciousness of different types, something which I believe is a strong common denominator in a majority of historic and modern testimonies. The journey begins in a Neolithic long barrow in 1996.
Meditation and the Faerie Code
In the summer of 1996 I had just completed the first year of my BA in Archaeology and History at the University of Southampton. I was using the summer break to travel around Britain and Ireland (sometimes with a good friend, sometimes alone) visiting various archaeological sites. Although I was already beginning to specialise in medieval archaeology/history, I had, for a long time, been interested in prehistory, especially the Neolithic and Bronze Age. The fossilised Neolithic landscape around Avebury, Wiltshire held a special fascination for me, and by 1996 I had already spent much time there. But my interest in such prehistoric places had shifted away from the straight materialistic study of them (as interesting as that was) and towards more esoteric interpretations of what they might represent. I had just read Michael Dames’ books The Silbury Treasure and The Avebury Cycle, and instinctively knew he was on to something, in terms of the deep, spiritual connection to the landscape the Avebury monuments and earthworks represented. So, one evening, about an hour before sunset, I found myself at West Kennet Long Barrow, enjoying the warmth of the fading day and the ambience of this amazing structure. I pitched my tent to one side of it (would I get away with this today? Probably not) and made my way into the chamber with a view to meditate, a practice that I had developed over the course of the previous year to deal with the stresses and strains of university life.
West Kennet Long Barrow is a structure built c.3,500 BCE, and, like all such barrows, was used for burials of human remains already stripped of all flesh and organs. It would also have been used for other, unknown, ritual purposes. It was excavated in the 1950s, and is one of the most complete examples of its type in Britain. It is faced with huge sarsen stones, which lead into a cave-like interior, consisting of small side chambers (where the human remains were excavated) and an end chamber about 3x3m. It’s atmosphere is very distinctive, and the scent of the damp interior stones is sometimes overbearing. I settled in the end chamber and dropped into a meditative state, hoping no other visitors would disturb me. It took me about 20 minutes to get into ‘the zone’ and relax. At this point, there was a low-level buzz, which I had experienced before when meditating. My eyes were open, and I was staring intently down the passage that lead from the entrance. And that is where the faerie appeared. A small character, about two feet tall, strode up the passage towards me, stopped about five feet away and stared at me. There was no sound apart from the continuing buzz. It stayed there for maybe ten seconds and then seemed to back away, disappearing into the light from the entrance. The whole incident lasted for no more than half a minute.
The faerie (as I thought of it then, and still do) resembled an entity illustrated by Brian Froud in his 1978 book with Alan Lee: Faeries. The image below is a close correlation. I had imbued Froud’s illustrations of faeries for several years before this incident, and had been interested in his somewhat ambiguous statements about how he viewed the entities he manifested in his artwork. So, whatever I actually experienced, was I predisposed to see this type of being while in a meditative altered state of consciousness, sitting in an ancient burial chamber? Was the experience coded to my expectations? These are questions I’ve never answered (more on this later), but the sense of presence in the chamber was overwhelming. There was no fear, perhaps due to the meditative state, only a feeling of joy, even amusement, at what I’d experienced. I felt as if the entity had sought me out and was examining me – it was as though it somehow belonged to the barrow, and was simply interested that I had turned up and tuned my consciousness into a place where it could interact with me, however briefly and with no apparent purpose. I sat there for another ten minutes, wondering if it would return, and also assuring myself that I hadn’t fallen asleep and dreamed it. But the special moment had passed. I got up, left the barrow, got into my tent and fell asleep quickly.
This was quite a pivotal moment in my life. Although I had been investigating Fortean and esoteric subject matter for a few years, I had never experienced anything that might be termed supernatural. But this encounter was definitive. It was a gnostic realisation, facilitated by coming face to face with a non-human intelligent entity. The intensity of the moment stayed with me for years afterwards, but I had no further similar experiences, despite spending much time at various prehistoric sites in the hope of a repeat encounter. It was only when I decided to experiment with various psychedelic compounds that I once again experienced faerie-type entities, albeit it in a very different context.
Between 2000 and 2012 I took a range of psychedelics. I always did this alone, and my purpose was primarily to look within myself – it was a spiritual investigation. I was always very careful taking these substances; they should never be taken lightly, as without the proper research and understanding of what they can do to consciousness, they can be problematic. I did do my research, and over the course of that decade I took a range of psychedelic substances including LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, Salvia Divinorum, and various phenethylamines and tryptamines. The experiences, while profound, did not usually involve any type of entity encounter such as I’d experienced at West Kennet Long Barrow. Perhaps the closest I got to experiencing faerie-type entities was one night as I was sitting outside my tent while camping at Glastonbury (not the festival, but rather a small campsite just outside the town). I’d taken a rather large dose of 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI), which is one of the few psychedelic amphetamines. In a very short time, there were small humanoid creatures bustling around in the hedge next to my tent. Once again, my experience may have been coded by having recently watched the film Photographing Fairies, where the faeries are portrayed as diminutive amorphous light-beings, with insect-like buzzing wings. The entities I experienced matched this, and they were definitely diminutive humanoids buzzing around in the hedge. The experience lasted a long time, although DOI is well known for distorting time, so I cannot put a definitive time-frame on the encounter. But once again, as per the West Kennet experience, there seemed no purpose to me seeing these entities. There was no sound or communication, but there was a distinct feeling they were aware of me, and that they viewed me with amusement. At one point, a (seemingly) female faerie jumped up and down on a large leaf as if it were a springboard; apparently just for my edification. But most of the experience consisted of about half a dozen entities simply jumping, dancing, sitting and climbing in the hedge within a few feet of me. Although this experience affected me deeply, I put it aside as an unexplainable anomaly, induced by the psychedelic state. It was numinous and profound, but there seemed no meaning to it. Likewise, the brief episodes of wispy humanoid entities encountered during various other psychedelic trips were not anything I could claim to have been faerie experiences. But there is one psychedelic that is almost guaranteed to invoke an encounter with non-human intelligent entities: N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
DMT has received much attention in recent years, and is currently being used in several clinical trials as a treatment for various mental health issues. The seminal published clinical trial using the compound is Rick Strassman’s study from the 1990s at the University of New Mexico, where sixty volunteers were given intravenous doses and their experiences recorded. The results were published in the book DMT – The Spirit Molecule in 2001. The participants in the study regularly encountered entities, ranging from giant insectoids to faeries, and often within the context of a sci-fi reality very different to our own. There have also been several surveys carried out, which record the experiences of people who have taken DMT. One of these is by the computational physicist Peter Meyer from 2006, where the anecdotal accounts are reported. Many of them include interactions with faerie-type entities, such as this one (#65), which articulates the experience beautifully:
‘This time I saw the ‘elves’ as multidimensional creatures formed by strands of visible language; they were more creaturely than I had ever seen them before. The message was changing from the initial ‘OK, OK, safe, safe… The elves were dancing in and out of the multidimensional visible language matrix, ‘waving’ their ‘arms’ and limbs/hands/fingers? and smiling or laughing, although I saw no faces as such. The elves were telling me (or I was understanding them to say) that I had seen them before, in early childhood. Memories were flooding back of seeing the elves: they looked just like they do now: evershifting, folding, multidimensional, multicolored (what colors!), always laughing, weaving/waving, showing me things, showing me the visible language they are created/creatures of, teaching me to speak and read.’
The most important aspect of the DMT experience is that the person taking it is transported into an alternative reality. This makes it different from most other psychedelics, where, despite the possibility of a radical change in consciousness, the experiencer remains rooted in consensual reality. With DMT consensual reality is simply replaced with another reality, and there are almost always non-human intelligent entities awaiting the participant.
This is what I experienced during the two times I took DMT. Within seconds of taking it, normal reality was closed down and my consciousness entered an entirely different reality, where the geometry of existence was altered. I was in a space similar to a dream, but with a hyper-reality that allowed no doubt as to its absolute substantial authenticity. The experiences were shocking – I was utterly astounded that my normality had been overhauled and replaced by it. The space was filled with metallic cubes and impossible avenues of light, all of which seemed alive with vibrancy. And, sure enough, there were inhabitants here. They were akin to the faeries I’d encountered before, but they matched the environment in being metallic and machine-like. They communicated with me somehow – not in words but in feelings, much as in a dream, overwhelming me with emotions. This communication was neither friendly nor hostile, but rather neutral – they were attempting to convey some information, but it was garbled and I felt as if I were in the presence of intelligences superior to me; who just knew more than me. I couldn’t understand what they were attempting to tell me, and I felt shame at my ineptitude. They knew this and seemed to find it amusing. The DMT experience lasts only about twenty minutes, and I felt as if I were sucked out of it back into my material reality before I’d had a chance to get used to it, or to attempt further communication with the entities I’d experienced within the DMT-space.
I’ve spent many years trying to come to terms with these experiences, and how they might relate to the faerie phenomenon. With the help of other people investigating the phenomenon from a Fortean or esoteric perspective I am starting to make sense of it, as discussed below, but beyond my meditative and psychedelic episodes with the faeries, I have also had a continuing relationship with non-human intelligent entities predicated on my loss of eyesight, which has brought me into regular contact with them.
Charles Bonnet Syndrome and the Faeries
Charle Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) is named after the Swiss naturalist, who first described the condition in 1760. The standard NHS description of CBS is that it is: ‘a condition experienced by people who are losing, or have lost, their sight. It involves seeing things which are not really there (having visual hallucinations). The hallucinations are most marked in low light or when relaxing and are often complicated scenes involving faces, children and wild animals.’ However, this is simply a description from a materialist, reductionist perspective, that assesses anything without material substance as ‘not real’. My own experiences do not feel like hallucinations, and this is a common thread of many people who have CBS visual encounters. They will frequently describe humanoid entities (sometimes cartoon-like) that appear, usually fleetingly, in what remains of their vision. But there is usually interaction with these entities, and a feeling of something real being present, much in the same way as if another person were in the space. The correspondence between these descriptions and folkloric descriptions of the faeries and modern anecdotal testimonies of a variety of supernatural beings (including, but not limited to faeries) is distinct and noticeable.
I lost most of my sight in my left eye through a central retinal occlusion in 2014. In late 2015, after knocking myself unconscious through a fall, my visual cortex was damaged and limited the vision in my right eye as well. Shortly after this the symptoms of CBS began to manifest. I had never heard of CBS, and it was only after a discussion with my then psychiatrist that I was made aware this syndrome might be causing the unusual visuals I was experiencing. I then discussed the issue with my ophthalmologist, who termed the condition Visual Release Hallucinations. An ophthalmologist will not diagnose a person with CBS/VRH as such, but mine did take the time to discuss the condition with me, explaining that it is an uncommon, but well-known symptom of people with my type of optical problems. I have regular annual ophthalmological assessments for my eyesight, and each report now contains a short section describing the continuing symptoms.
The visual entities I experience with CBS usually (though not exclusively) appear in low light, but never in total darkness, and I am always alone when they eventuate. This has happened several times a week since damaging my visual cortex in 2015. Sometimes the visuals are simple lights or smoke-like wisps, and occasionally geometric patterns, which are usually just glimpsed in my peripheral vision, last only a few seconds, and there is only a limited sense that there is something ‘present’. But often the visuals are more substantial, and will manifest as slightly cartoonish humanoid entities, frequently dressed in either archaic clothing or in garb that seems to emit a dull glow. The most fascinating aspect of these visuals is their apparent concrete reality, and even more compelling is the awareness that something is most definitely present. This usually includes a form of telepathic communication, often in the form of a series of phrases, which I never seem to be able to reply to. I can’t stress how real these communications are – as real as if someone were sitting next to me and talking.
These interactions usually last between a few seconds and several minutes. Any attempt to stare at the entities will halt the experience; they do seem to exist only in the periphery of vision. I’ve learnt to not attempt to look straight at the visuals if I want the encounter to continue. A recent example involved a small, mechanical gnome-like entity who materialised on the arm of my sofa and proceeded to communicate the repeated words: ‘Everything will be ok, let go of all anxiety… everything will be ok.’ I do realise that this sounds quite insane, and when these manifestations first began (although I was never frightened by them – they never seem to emit any hostility or malevolence, only empathy), I thought that the trauma of losing so much eyesight was taking me towards a mental breakdown. This is a common feeling of people with CBS. But after a while I just accepted the experiences as part of everyday life. I have to admit that I have come to enjoy the unusual nature of the experiences.
The voices are never present without the visuals, and it is always quite clear they are coming from the same source. Again, when this first started to happen I did a lot of research into the symptoms of schizophrenia, one of which can be hearing disembodied voices, but I quickly satisfied myself that I was not suffering from this disorder. Having spoken with several people with schizophrenia since, I have realised their experiences are very different than mine.
The CBS experiences happen probably twice a week on average, but sometimes they’ll be absent for as long as a fortnight, while other times I’ll experience them more than once a day. There is some type of link to how anxious I am feeling; they are more likely to appear during periods of anxiety. But this is not always the case – they seem to have their own timetable.
In essence, I think that perhaps CBS may be one among many ways of allowing access to non-material phenomenon. If we are willing to accept that consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of the brain (thereby allowing CBS visions to be relegated to brain-generated hallucinations), but rather that consciousness is primary, and the instigator of reality, then these visuals may be allowed to take on an autonomous reality of their own. One way of looking at it is by seeing the brain as a reducing valve of a greater consciousness (à la Aldous Huxley), and that if it becomes damaged or altered in any way, it may allow in aspects of consciousness that are usually filtered out, thereby altering the genuine perception of an ulterior or supernal reality experienced by the person with the damaged/altered brain. CBS seems to be a type of altered state of consciousness. For me, the entities experienced during CBS more often than not take a form that many people would describe as faeries. It seems to me as if a change to the brain can, under certain conditions, allow us to perceive what is usually suppressed in waking reality. Perhaps, as with my experiences with meditation and psychedelics, my long interest in faerie folklore has predisposed me to interpret the appearing entities as faeries (rather than, say, aliens or ghosts) but I cannot emphasise enough the vividness of the experiences and the apparent substantiality of the visions and the communications they impart.
Altered States of Consciousness and the Faeries
The three types of interface that have allowed me to encounter faerie-type entities – meditation, psychedelics and Charles Bonnet Syndrome – have resulted in differing phenomenological experiences. But they have all, in different ways, altered my usual state of consciousness. But why would such an altered state produce the visual and audial experience of interacting with faeries? The previously made point about my long-standing interest in faerie folklore perhaps predisposing me to interpret whatever I am experiencing as faeries is probably cardinal. This does not apply to the DMT experience, as many other users of that substance (who have not necessarily had any interest in, or knowledge of faeries) report contact with faerie-type entities. But the ontological consistency of my experiences does seem to suggest that I am encountering these beings through my own cultural and psychological lens, much as the testimonies of historic folklore were dependent on people believing in the faeries, and having an ingrained idea of what they were, how they acted and what they looked like. I am, however, experiencing something, which is, for want of a better term, supernatural. The faeries I have seen, sometimes heard, but never touched, are not part of consensus reality, and only seem to appear during an altered state of consciousness. This altered state seems to be the key to me accessing them, or for them to access me. But what are they?
In order to part-answer this question I have quoted the following assessment in several previous posts, but it remains the most succinct and viable way I have found of getting close to understanding the phenomenon. It is David Luke’s three-part interpretation (based on Peter Meyer’s original eight-points) for metaphysical entity contact. He used it to assess a study into the otherworldly beings (many of which had faerie-attributes) encountered by people who had altered their states of consciousness with DMT, but it is also a valid tool to evaluate what may be happening to anyone who reports a numinous experience that includes interaction with non-ordinary entities such as the faeries:
- They are hallucinations. The entities are subjective hallucinations. Such a position is favoured by those taking a purely (materialist-reductionist) neuropsychological approach to the phenomena.
- They are psychological/ transpersonal manifestations. The communicating entities appear alien but are actually unfamiliar aspects of ourselves, be they our reptilian brain or our cells, molecules or sub-atomic particles.
- The entities exist in otherworlds and can interact with our physical reality. A numinous experience provides access to a true alternate dimension inhabited by independently existing intelligent entities in a stand-alone reality, which exists co-laterally with ours, and may interact with our world when certain conditions are met. The identity of the entities remains speculative.
Of course, any one of these interpretations could be valid at different times and for various experiences. From my own experiential perspective, I find number 1 incompatible with my contacts and observations. Calling something an hallucination seems to be a reductionist get-out clause, which is the only explanation possible from a materialist perspective. Numbers 2 and 3 are, to my mind, better possible explanations for what may be happening when non-human intelligent entities are encountered, either within our physical reality or (as with DMT) within an apparent exterior reality. This does not, of course, explain what the faeries are (‘the identity of the entities remains speculative’), but it does go someway to giving an explanatory model for how we may be interfacing with forms that are not part of ordinary physical reality. Number 2 suggests the faeries are aspects of ourselves, which might explain why they appear as they do to anyone who has an interest in folklore, manifesting from within cultural and psychological belief systems. Number 3 suggests that our narrow view within the electro-magnetic spectrum is simply locking out unseen worlds and the entities that reside there, and that when our state of consciousness is altered (by whatever means) these otherworlds and entities are allowed temporary access into our physical reality, or that we are allowed access to the otherworlds.
This type of approach to understanding the faerie phenomenon seems promising, and it is something that has been gaining traction over the last decade or so. Previous to this there were very few commentators (I can only think of Patrick Harpur) who were approaching this particular subject matter from the perspective of consciousness and transpersonal studies. Perhaps this approach is the best way for us to attempt to unlock the faerie code in the future. Whatever the case, I feel blessed to have had these gnostic experiences, and I will continue to respect and appreciate the opportunities I have to interact with the faeries that have been a part of my life since that summer day at West Kennet Long Barrow in 1996.
The cover image shows the entrance to West Kennet Long Barrow, constructed c.3500 BCE.
Anthony Peake talks extensively about non-human intelligent entities and Charles Bonnet Syndrome in his 2019 book The Hidden Universe.
Deadbutdreaming makes it in at number 11 on the ‘Top 25 Best Folklore Blogs and Websites in 2022’ by Feedspot. There are some great resources in the list.
Dead but Dreaming the novel is available now…