“Fairy Dust” from Wyrdology
The modern concept of a fairy is closely linked to fairy dust. The fairy is frequently depicted leaving a trail of magic dust and/or sprinkling it from her wand. Sometimes the fairy is said to carry the dust in a small pouch. Perhaps the most well known example of the image is the Disney version of Tinkerbell. You can, of course, buy a whole range of stuff called “fairy dust” in the store. But what exactly is real fairy dust?.
What Is Fairy Dust?
There seem to be few references to fairy dust in the old folklore – but then, the ancient image of a fairy was very different to the diminutive winged figure we know today.
One early(ish) reference is the the Danish Ole-Luk-Oie, the “Dream God”. Ole-Luk-Oie is described by Hans Christian Anderson as a story teller who blows magical dust into the eyes of children to prevent them from seeing him. It’s interesting to note that there have also been suggestions that Santa uses a similar “invisibility dust”.
Some versions of the Cinderella tale also have the fairy godmother using magical dust to transform Cinderella.
In Peter Pan, fairy dust is required to fly. It is reported that J.M. Barrie added this idea to prevent children from being hurt by jumping off of furniture trying to fly!
Where did the concept of fairy dust originate? One possible origin of the fairy dust idea is the association between fairies and butterflies. Butterflies and moths are part of the order Lepidoptera. This name comes from the Greeklepido-pteron which means “scaly-wing”. Butterfly wings are covered with many tiny scales, which rub off easily, giving the appearance of a magical dust.
The idea of fairy dust is often used metaphorically. It is a precious thing that can turn the ordinary into the special and make everything right. It has sometimes been described as representing a “sugar coating” on life.
We all need a little fairy dust at times.