Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Lecture on the Morghanti

Professor Edmund Cowley is recognized throughout the Empire as a leading authority of the subject of fae psychology. His eight-volume Introduction to the Study of the Fae Mind is recognized as the definitive work on the subject written by a human, and is used even by some fae authorities.  These article is distilled from his remarks at a recent lecture at the Royal Academy


The first and most important thing to remember about the fae is that they are not human.

This seems obvious, given that they are by definition another species. But given the close physical resemblance between humans and fae, it is easy to forget that they are not merely unusually tall, unusually long-lived people.  They have climbed a different evolutionary ladder, developed under different pressures, and present a dramatically different constellation of strengths and weaknesses. To encounter a fae is not just to encounter a "strange human."  Rather, to encounter a fae is to encounter The Other in the most profound sense.

I propose that it is in the area of the mind in which humans and fae display their most dramatic differences. In addition to their well-known gifts for magic and illusion, the fae have a dramatically different set of cognitive processes and emotional responses. Given these differences, it is not surprising that they also present a dramatically different set of mental disorders.  It is one of those disorders which I've been asked to address tonight, the disorder that the fae refer to as the morghanti.

I must begin by acknowledging that when we speak of the morghanti, we are dealing with a very thin skein of data. The fae are reluctant to speak of it, even among themselves.  This is especially true for the dark fae, for whom any sign of weakness is socially dangerous.

I was fortunate in my studies in being able to obtain the cooperation of a few fae healers, who shared details of a few cases with me under conditions of strict anonymity, in hopes that I could offer some insight to heal their patients. In a very small number of cases, I was consulted by the suffering fae directly. Unfortunately, as I shall relate, we were unable to do anything for any of our patients.

Loosely speaking, the morghanti is an obsession.  The object of the obsession may be a place, another fae, a project, a physical object or in extremely rare cases, a human. However, regardless of the object, the effect on the afflicted fae is single-minded focus on the relationship with the object. An afflicted fae will abandon all other goals and relationships to support this morghanic bond. In this respect, it is much like human addiction to alcohol or certain drugs. However, the morghanti is not satisfied by anything as simple as consumption of a substance.  The bound fae feels compelled to focus all their efforts on the object.

If the object is a place, they must live there. This is normally the most benign of morghanic attachments, and the one most likely to go unnoticed by others. However, in one case I studied, the victim was living on a slowly-collapsing limestone stack in the Ipateus Sea.  Once, it had been an outcropping along the coast, but over the long years of the fae's life, the shoreline had retreated, leaving the isolated and shrinking rock formation. Despite this, the fae was only able to leave the place for a few weeks at most. I visited this particular sufferer, and found myself stranded on the rock for ten days because rough seas made it impossible for a boat to hold a safe position off the rock.

If the object is another fae, they must be together and the afflicted fae must share in every aspect of the object's life. The afflicted one will take on the goals of what I like to refer to as their morghanic partner as their own. And they will do almost anything to assure the success and safety of this partner.

If the object is a project or quest, they will put in years, decades or even centuries of focused effort in attaining their goal. In the course of my researches, I once discovered a fae who remained focused on an obscure problem of alchemy for over 175 years, a fact I verified by spending twenty straight months searching original source archives by hand.

Humans are more problematic. Sometimes, the mere presence of the human object is enough. It is believed that the stories of the fae kidnapping humans and keeping them in the Seelie or Unseelie courts may represent this kind of binding. In other cases, the bond with a human manifests much like that with another fae, as an intense need to share in and support the life and projects of the object.

If a fae is prevented from the fulfilling their bond, the consequences are devastating. The earliest symptoms of separation from the object of the morghanti are listlessness and something like depression. A fae with magical aptitude will often find that their powers begin to fade, as the magic, and indeed their entire personality, seems to be turning inward. Symptoms include lassitude, lack of appetite, and numerous aches and pains. They may also descend into madness, experiencing hallucinations, paranoid fantasies, and extreme anxiety. In the final throes, some become violent, lashing out at those around them with renewed power and focus before their death.

These final throes can be terrible to witness. I remember one such maddened fae, whose morghanic partner had perished, despite his best efforts. In the advanced stages of withdrawal, he became delusional, was pursuing the healer and I though the Thorn Forest, wielding a magic-infused blade and intent on murdering us both. And yet, even in that advanced state, I believed is was possible to cure the poor unfortunate’s condition, and I was still attempting concoct such a remedy as I ran. 

The origins of the morghanti are mysterious. Current theory holds that like human mental illnesses, the morghanti is an unhealthy exaggeration of an important or even necessary mental state.  Among humans, a necessary realism can become depression, concern for safety can become anxiety or even paranoia. With creatures as long-lived as the fae, the mental focus necessary for pursuing long-term goals can become morghanti. What is not understood is how this normal, healthy focus can become the mental illness that consumes the lives of many fae.

There is still no reliable cure. For centuries, fae healers have tried various combinations of natural cures and intricate spells, to no avail. A few have even tried various synthetic treatments, either alone or in combination with more traditional means, but these have failed as well.

It was because of the promise shown by one of my compounds that I was able to set up a relationship with several fae healers, under conditions of strictest anonymity. Unfortunately, I was able to offer only minor relief, and that proved temporary. Within less than six months, with all my pateints, the morghanti had resumed its course with the same or greater force.

Sometimes, of course, the morghanti lifts of its own accord, vanishing from the life of the sufferer as suddenly and as mysteriously as it came. It's in the hope of this that the families of the afflicted offer prayers and sacrifice, often for hundreds of years, usually to no avail. And yet, the hope remains.

And so my hope remains as well, for a reliable and replicable cure for those who suffer from this illness.  They have inspired me with their tenacity and their ability to adapt to whatever circumstances they are driven. That is, perhaps, why I feel so compelled to continue the work of finding a cure, despite numerous setbacks and disappointments. I feel that I would be abandoning something of myself if I abandoned my attempts to find a cure for the morghanti.

Eric James Spannerman has been a farmer's son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. He currently lives near Des Moines, Iowa with his wife and daughter. Applied Natural Magic is his first book.  

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