A Headache of Fairies

The Scintillating Scotoma is a very common visual precursor to the dreaded painful migraine. But it also looks like what I would think seeing fairies could look like. Pulled from the vast image library at Wikipedia Commons, this is a remarkably accurate visual of what the Scintillating Scotoma looks like:

Harvested from Wikimedia Commons

This image is a spiral, but the visual phenomenom can also manifest in a growing circle. Either way, the last time I personally experienced a Scintillating Scotoma, a thought occurred to me: Were I less aware of the science behind it – that is, were I a child, or someone living in the days before an understanding of science, I would absolutely believe I was seeing fairies. (Or in the case of a Joan of Arc or other overly devout individuals, angels – though a comparative look at beliefs in fairies vs. angels would be a discussion for a different post.)

Harvested from Wikimedia CommonsPatterns within the Scintillating Scotoma arc have also been known to share striking similarity with Widmanstätten patterns, found on certain types of meteorites, as seen on the cross-section at right (also from Wikipedia Commons). These Widmanstätten patterns are reminiscent of various artist renditions of fairy wings. David Delamare for instance, and specifically perhaps in The Deep Wood:

(Does anyone have a suggestion for a visual of fairy wings that get even closer to a Widmanstätten pattern? Please leave a comment below!)

I wouldn’t go as far as to wish for a migraine to be able to see this, though for a small percentage of migraine sufferers, however, this is the only symptom of the entire migraine experience. It’s called Acephalgic migraine, and when I get it, I see the wildly disorienting scotoma, but thankfully not the blinding pain. But during the experience, it definitely helps to understand the utter belief in fairies that were so prevalent in generations past.