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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dangerous Fairies and Knowing Your Limits

When I was at Pantheacon this year I taught a class about the Unseelie Court. It was a fun class to teach, late at night and with a good crowd. I may have been slightly delirious from jet lag and sleep deprivation. I may also at one point have uttered the now somewhat infamous line in response to what to offer them 'I wouldn't offer meat because then you're going to attract the sorts of things that eat meat. And you know, we're made of meat.' So it was that sort of class, which is really the best sort of class in my opinion.

My purpose in teaching it was to address some of the misinformation that goes around about the Dark Court, painting them as more sympathetic and more kind than they generally are, but also to discuss ways that we can work with the more dangerous members of the Othercrowd safely. That may sound like a contradiction, but it isn't - like most things in life it isn't that all of the dangerous beings should be avoided completely but that they should be understood for what they are and respected. Part of dealing with dangerous Otherworldly beings safely, probably the most essential part, is knowing your own limits, because we have to know where and what our boundaries are in order to know how we can safely push those limits.

In the course of the class I mentioned that in the area I live in I am aware of the presence of an Each Uisge [water horse] in a local reservoir* that has drowned many people over the years. These types of fairies are definitely considered Unseelie Court and have a penchant for tricking people into riding them and then drowning and eating the person. Someone asked what I had done about the Each Uisge being there and I told them I tried to spread the word that it was a dangerous place. But people wanted to know why I didn't try to go in there and actually get rid of the Water Horse or fight it, so I said, rather bluntly, that a Water Horse was beyond my ability to safely deal with. People were quite surprised to hear this and wanted to know how I could know it was there and dangerous and not try to do something about it. I had to try to explain that even in folklore that sort of being is notoriously hard to deal with and extremely dangerous. It's a thousand-plus pound animal with human intelligence. Its fierce. It's fast. And if you touch it you can't let go again.

Let's be realistic here, I may be fairly experienced with these sort of things but I'm not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I'm not stupid. I know my limits and taking on a homicidal fairy horse on its own turf is not going to end well.

A local water-horse free lake
For those who seek to truck with uncanny things, to create allies among the Otherworldly folk, to work with the Good Neighbors one of the most important things you must always keep in mind is your own limitations. Magically and physically know exactly what you are capable of doing. Especially when you're dealing with things that are known in folklore to consider humans a food source. Because this isn't a fun exercise in visualization, a game, or the plotline of a teen novel, and there can be some real and serious consequences when you mess up. You can be hurt physically, you can be hurt emotionally, and what I've seen most often is you can be deeply wounded in the soul or spirit. And sometimes those consequences are permanent and sometimes those consequences are fatal.

This is true with any kind of magic or working with spirits (angels scare me spitless, quite frankly with their Old Testament activities) but it should be common sense if you know you're intentionally going to be dealing with something dangerous to treat it as something dangerous. In the mundane world you wouldn't walk up to a wild bear or wolf and try to pet it, and in the same way in the non-mundane you should approach Other Folk with caution. But just like you can handle a wild animal safely if you know how and you know exactly what you personally can and can't do, what your physical limitations are, just so you can often handle spirits and Otherworldly beings as long as you know your capabilities. And even in unexpected situations you can bluff or manage your way out provided you know your own limitations - and a good grounding in folklore doesn't hurt.

There's a certain amount of risk that's required of anyone who seeks to connect to the Good People. But be wise in what you risk, and know exactly how far you can push.

*I call it an each uisge because that's the name that seems to describe it best. Its a large dark horse that lives in the water and drowns people. It doesn't physically consume them as far as I know, but it does feed on their emotions and spirit - if it isn't an actual Celtic water horse then I don't know of any local folklore that explains what it could be.


  1. This is great advice. I hope that everyone that reads it takes it to heart. I am really enjoying your blog. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and interesting posts.

  2. "And you know, we're made of meat."

    This is great, and I wish I had been there for that talk!

    What kind of shocks me (but probably shouldn't by now) is the assumption that it is in any way appropriate to try to "get rid of" a dangerous fairy creature - even if it were possible or safe to do so. The spirits do not exist solely for our benefit or amusement, with ones not kindly inclined toward humanity destined to just be run off or destroyed - when applied toward animals, that kind of attitude has resulted in extinctions and destruction of habitat that most pagans would lament, and yet they don't bat an eye proposing such a fate for unpleasant wights. To me, the proper response was exactly yours - to warn people away from the danger.

    1. From what I've seen people are so used to being at the top of the perceived food chain (though we aren't, even in purely mundane terms) that they find the idea of apex predators targeting them successfully really disturbing. And since most people also believe that humans are the most powerful things out there non-mundanely - whether they admit it or not - that idea carries over to Otherworldly interactions as well. We don't respect the right of a being to exist in its own environment and we would rather destroy something than leave it alone to do what it does.
      What kind of shocks me, but probably shouldn't by now, is the number of people who think we all are basically comic book super heroes who can 'take out' any type of dangerous spirit. Even getting past the issues of whether or not we should do such a thing (and I obviously don't think we should unless we absolutely have to) there's the assumption that we *can*.

  3. Amazing to finally come across some one with real experience in this work. I have been exploring the nature spirit realm for two decades. I'm looking forward to reading more. Your correct about working with the other side. They let me know where I can connect and with whom. I've learn't kind of the hard way to be careful.

  4. Exactly, Dver! I'm glad you read Morgan's excellent blog, too! So, so stupid I can hardly stand it. I am glad you taught them their place in the universe. ;-)

  5. Enjoyed reading the article... One should think twice before getting involved with forces they don't understand.....

  6. As always,a good article and good advise. Our ancestors knew not to meddle, but we think with our technology, that we are invincible and immune. Often those items make us even more vulnerable.

  7. did something about that water horse. you warned people to stay away from it. that's not doing nothing.