Having looked briefly at the Picts and demonstrated their arrival in mainland Europe from Crete, it is necessary to mention the Alfar. These sailors are found in the Icelandic Edda – see Keightley Fairy Mythology – in which they declare they are from ‘under the Earth’ and that there are many great cities in their homeland, and there are different sorts of Alfar, including Svart Alfar.
When we consider that the horizon reaches to a certain point and that the rest of the world disappears below that imaginary line we get a very different insight into what ‘under the Earth’ means. Instead of placing these people as some kind of subterranean ‘little people’, we should be thinking in terms of those who have sailed so far North that their homeland is far away beneath the horizon, and that there there are many people, even some black people.
The Alfar are the elves, and indeed the fairies, the Fair folk, the Fir Bolg of Irish mythology, who left their name and their traits behind them as they sailed. They left their name in the Faroes Islands, and Fair Isle. They left their name on the Capo de Faro, Sicily, where the island leans towards the toe of Italy. They left their name with the Pharos Lighthouse, that illuminated Alexandria’s harbour and they left their name among the rulers of that land.
These were Fair – Fer – P(h)er folk. They came from ‘Per-sia’ and left their memory among the Berber whom the Greeks called barbarians. These are the Parisii that Romans found when they entered France, and these are the same people – the Fer-anks – who later came to give their name to France. But all of this is ages apart so let’s retell the story.
From the land of Per came the notion of legality and ‘fair play’. They would set up a settlement and surround it with some form of limit, was it a stockade or simply a ditch? This came to be known as a ‘par-ish’ boundary. Within the boundaries Par or Fer law ruled. And whether you were a sailor shortly ashore or a mountain man visiting the town if you broke the law you would be punished, and punished by beating, imprisonment or death according to the seriousness of the offence. The law was impartial. Everyone was subject to it and each was given the same punishment for the same offence. Hence the system was deemed ‘fair’.
These were slender people with light hair whether blonde or dark. They set up stalls and markets and offered food for the wanderer come to see what all the fuss was about. So we find two words in English ‘fare’ for food and ‘fair’ for a place of diversion and a market. Did they bring ‘pears’? Or show it was equal by making a pair balance on scales?
They brought the gifts of civilisation. They brought flour and the means to make it – the French still call it ‘farine’. They brought iron and all the arts of smelting – fer and ferrous, ferric. Without too great a stretch comes ‘pyr’ – ‘fire’ – with which to melt the ore. These were kiln users, skilled in the arts of fire. From this too comes ‘pure’ and ‘purification’. Don’t be blinded by letters. The letter ‘y’ can be ‘-ai’ as in English apply, fry and try, or it can be ‘ü’ as in ‘tymian’ (toomian) in German, that is the herb ‘thyme’ (time) in English. Pyre may sound very English, and it is. But when it becomes pür (poo-r) the shift is small but the meaning great. To make pure cleanse it with fire. Most purifications involve either fire or water, or indeed both.
All of this from those little men under the earth.
And who are the Pixies? You might ask. Well if you have read this far it will come as no surprise I believe they are the Pictish people.