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Thursday, December 17, 2020

2020 In Review

 This year has been a chaotic one for many people, myself included. Last year I had debated archiving this blog but ultimately decided not to, however I definitely didn't get much content up here, about on par with 2019 which was also a skimpy year for content. I'd like to think what did make it to the digital page was decent quality but obviously going from an average of 60 posts down to a bit over a dozen is a big drop.

My most popular blog in 2020 was 'Fairy Help, Fairy Harm' with 1397 views, followed by 'A Critical Look at the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries' at 1180 and 'Sources for Working with Fairies' at 1029. I don't have my numbers for the material I write on Patheos or Witches&Pagans but I'm proud of the pieces I wrote for those venues. 

I had 7 books published this year, 4 through Moon Books and 3 self published. Through Moon Books there was A New Dictionary of Fairies, Pagan Portals Thor, Pagan Portals Raven Goddess, and Pagan Portals Living Fairy. I'm especially proud of A New Dictionary of Fairies, which I feel is one of my best works. I self published my full English translation of the Cath Maige Tuired, as well as an anthology 'Wandering' and novel 'Convergence' in my Between the Worlds urban fantasy series. This has been one of my busiest years for publishing and I anticipate next year will be quieter. I have one book set to come out through Moon Books and another on contract that I'm working on, and I'd like to get another novel out next year, so we'll see.

I had 5 articles published in magazines:
“Queens of Fairy” The Magical Times, Oct 2019 – March 2020, issue 27
“Conceptualizing Fairyland” Pagan Dawn, Imbolc 2020 no 214
“The Divinity of the Tuatha De Danann”, Pagan Digest volume 01, May 2020
“The Power of Transformation”, Witch Way Magazine, Midsummer special issue 2020
“Fairies and the Stars”, Pagan Dawn, Lammas-Autumn Equinox 2020, no 216
As well as publishing an article on academia edu that had been through peer review:
“Sexuality and Gender Among the Good Neighbours: the Intersection and Inversion of Human Norms in Fairylore”

I taught at a variety of online conferences, including the Morrigan's Call, ADF's Wellspring, and Changing Times Changing Worlds, and taught one longer online course through the Irish Pagan School. With everything moving online this year I was able to participate in more conferences than I would have if they'd all been in person. That's one of the odd side effects of 2020, and while next year will certainly mean fewer conferences for me it was interesting to be able to participate in so many different things. I've also been doing a lot more interviews which has been fun. 

Other than all that I've just been writing away as normal, working on books and papers and articles. Several projects in the works that don't have specific deadlines, a new translation project I'm working on, and a presentation for another academic conference. I've added videos to my youtube channel and have started making some videos on tiktok as well, so that has been keeping me busy in addition to writing.

That pretty much wraps up my 2020, work wise. I'll see you all in 2021!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

My Fairy Writings

 I've been asked several times about what I've written on fairies by people looking into my writing on the subject. I finally decided it would just be easier to write a quick bit here about it. I'm including articles, presentations both on fairy witchcraft specifically and on fairies in general. I am not including the range of my blog material here or on Patheos Agora: Irish-American Witchcraft or Witches&Pagans On the Fairy Road. 


      “The Witch, the Bean Feasa, and the Fairy Doctor in Irish Culture”. Air n-Aithesc, vol. 1 issue 2, Aug. 2014

“Fairy Witchcraft Master class”, Spirit & Destiny, July 2016

“Enchantment in the Modern World”, Mystic Living Today ezine July 2016

“Scottish Fairies and the Teind to Hell”, Pagan Dawn, Spring 2017

“Fairy Witchcraft: Old Ways in New Days” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Spring 2017

“Fairies, Word and Deed” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Autumn 2018

“Fairy Queens and Witches” Pagan Dawn, Lammas 2019 no 212

“Queens of Fairy” The Magical Times, Oct 2019 – March 2020, issue 27

“Conceptualizing Fairyland” Pagan Dawn, Imbolc 2020 no 214

“The Power of Transformation”, Witch Way Magazine, Midsummer special issue 2020

“Fairies and the Stars”, Pagan Dawn, Lammas-Autumn Equinox 2020, no 216


On Academia Edu


The Good Neighbours: Fairies in an Irish and Scottish Cultural Context, Air n-Aithesc 2015

Two Views of the Leannan Sidhe, Air n-Aithesc 2016

(Conference Presentations)

Álfar, Aelfe, and Elben: Elves in an historic and modern Heathen context, HWU conference 2019

Evolution of the Fairy Courts: from Scottish Ballads to Urban Fantasy, OSU Fairies and the Fantastic Conference 2019



A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith, 2012 (out of rpint)

Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft, 2014

Fairycraft 2016

Fairies: A Guidebook to the Celtic Fair Folk; 2017

Travelling the Fairy Path 2018

Pagan Portals Fairy Queens 2019

A New Fairies Dictionary 2020

Pagan Portals Living Fairy 2020

Euphemisms for Fairies

 It's been a common practice for centuries to refer to fairies by euphemisms, terms that are intentionally more positive than the beings being referred to. I'm going to start a list here which I'll occasionally update of these terms and, where possible, the oldest known dates of their uses. This is a work in progress, if you have references to uses of any of these terms in specific dated works please share in the comments. 


Aes Sidhe [people of the fairy mounds, modern Aos Sidhe]  circa 7th-9th century Echtra Condla

Gáethshluagh [host of the wind] circa 13th century Accalam na Senórach

Túathgeinte [leftwards turning folk] circa 16th century O'Davoren's Glossary

Sidaige [dweller in a fairy mound] circa 16th century O'Davoren's Glossary

Daoine Sidhe [people of the fairy mounds]

Daoine Uaisle [Noble People]

Na Uaisle [the Gentry]

Na huaisle bheaga [the little gentry]

Uaisle na gcnoc [gentry of the hill]

Daoine Maithe [Good People] in use by 19th century/early 20th, ref.

Daoine Eile [Other People]

Slua Sí [fairy host] old or middle Irish Sidshlúag

An slua aerach [the host of the air]

An slua bheatha [the living host]

Slua bheatha na farraige [living host of the sea]

Slua sí an aeir [fairy host of the air]

Slua sí na spéire [fairy host of the sky]

Sióg [given as fairies, possibly sí + diminutive óg] probably 20th century^

Bunadh na gcnoc [people of the hills]

Cuid na gcnoc [part of the hills]

Dream na gcnoc [people of the hills]

An dream aerach [the people of the air]

An dream beag [the little people]

Lucht na mbearad dearg [people of the red caps]

An mhuintir bheag [the little family]

An bunadh beag  [the little people]

Bunadh beag na farraige [little people of the sea]

Daoine beaga [the little people]


Daoine Sith [people of the fairy hills or people of peace]

An Sluagh [fairy host]

Sleagh Maith [good people] ref 1691 rev Kirk


Gude nichtbouris [good neighbours] ref 1585 the Flyting Between Montgomerie and Polwart

Subterranean ref 1691 rev Robert Kirk

Fairfolkis, fairy folk, ffair folk  ref 1518 Douglas's Aenid translation; 1576 Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland from AD 1488 to AD 1624

Gude Wichtis/Gude Wichts [good beings] ref 1576 Criminal Trials

Seelie Wicht [blessed being] as 'celly vichtys' 1564, William Hay; as 'sillyie wichts' 1572 Criminal Trials

Seelie Court [blessed company] 1783 ballad of Alison Gross

Seily Queen ref 1827 Crawfurd's Collection v II, A Fairie Sang

Unseelie Court** [unholy company] ref. 1819 Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany vol 84 

Gentrie ref 1827 Crawfurds Collection v II, notes on 'A Fairie Sang'


Tylwyth Teg/Tylwythen Deg [Fair Family] ref in the 12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis

Plant Annwn [children of the Otherworld]

Bendith Y Mamau [Mother's Blessing]


Guillyn Veggey [little boys]

Vooinjer Veggey/Dooiney Veggey [little people]~

Little Fellows


Les bonnes dames [the good ladies]
Le peuple de la paix [the people of peace]
Les douces [the sweet ones]
Les petites dames des futaies [the little ladies of the tall trees]
Les bienveillantes [the benevolents]
Les fileuses de destin [the spinners of destiny]
Les exquises marraines [the exquisite godmothers]


Little People ref 1726

Wee Folk ref 1819 

Fairy (suggested as possible euphemism imported from French to avoid saying elves^^^)


Pulchrum Populum [fair folk] ref 1586 Bromyard Summa Predicantium (originally 14th century text)


Gentle Folk


Honest Folk ref 1908 Simpson Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland

Hill Folk ref 1908 Simpson

Silently Moving People, ref 1900 Campbell, Gaelic Otherworld

Still Folk ref 1900 Campbell




Grey Neighbours (Orkney)


Shining Ones

The Honest Folk (Scotland, ref Henderson)

The Forgetful People (Scotland, ref Henderson)

The Restless People (Scotland, ref Henderson)

*with thanks to Shane Broderick for many of the Irish terms. English translations and any errors in translating my own

^ per discussion with Shane Broderick

**Technically not a euphemism, as it is a negative term

~ related by Adam Cain via Twitter, 5/22

^^ thanks to Allie Valkyrie for the French terms and translations

***the Latin here was used by an English writer and in my opinion reflects English euphemism of the time

^^^  suggested by prof Ronald Hutton in a lecture 'Traditional Fairies' 21/9/21


Henderson & Cowan (2007) Scottish Fairy Belief

1908 Simpson Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland

1900 Campbell, Gaelic Otherworld

1586 Bromyard Summa Predicantium

12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis

1585 the Flyting Between Montgomerie and Polwart

Crawfurds Collection v II, notes on 'A Fairie Sang', 1827

1819 Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany vol 84

1518 Douglas's Aenid translation; 1576 Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland from AD 1488 to AD 1624

1576 Criminal Trials

 1564, William Hay; as 'sillyie wichts' 1572 Criminal Trials

1783 ballad of Alison Gross

Echtra Condla

 Accalam na Senórach

O'Davoren's Glossary

Robert Kirk, 1691, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves Fauns and Fairies

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

History and Meaning of the Word Fairy

This is a question from social media, and also a topic I see a lot of misinformation floating around about so it seems like a good topic to dive into today. What exactly are the origins of the word fairy and fae? How do they relate to each other and what do they mean?

Fae - also spelled fay* - is from the 12th century old French, likely from the older Latin Fata, meaning spirits of fate, and Williams suggests it entered French as a term for Celtic goddesses later shifting to women of supernatural power, then to an adjective meaning roughly enchanting, and finally to the place of Fairyland itself (Williams, 1991). This initial use for the place of Fairy is how the term enters English in the 13th century and we see it developing as both an adjective describing things with the nature of that place as well as a term for beings from that place. Briggs suggest that the initial adjective form may have been fay-erie, to indicate something that was enchanting or had an enchanting nature (Briggs, 1976). 

In the oldest English sources we see fairy used as an adjective as well as a noun and this adjectival use continued for hundreds of years. For example, in Milton's 17th century work Paradise Lost, book one line 781 he refers to 'fairy elves' where fairy here is an adjective describing the elves. The noun is something of a catch all for any being from the land of Fairy or with a fairy-like nature and we see it used synonymously with elf, goblin, and incubi. This 16th century example from a poem by Alexander Montgomerie illustrates this well with fairy, elf, and incubi all being used interchangeably: "The King of Fairy, and his Court, with the Elf Queen,with many elvish Incubi was riding that night.". The terms don't have a fixed description or meaning beyond 'of Fairyland' and an implication of the enchanting and supernatural. Williams perhaps summarizes this variety of application best: "...fairy in particular, but more generally any supernatural name, is necessarily amorphous, and...from its earliest use in single meaning has ever been paramount." (Williams, 1991, p 457). The term is used less as an adjective now but still retains it's use as a noun, indicating and Otherworldly being; it has also had secondary pejorative meanings over the centuries of both a promiscuous young woman and a homosexual man.

The  meaning of the terms, applied to Otherworldly beings, remains vague through today with applications as an adjective and noun for both a place and beings from the place, although the application as a noun is the main one. We can find examples of fairy with both of these usages across folklore, modern anecdotes, and academia. Patricia Lysaght discusses the Bean Sidhe, an example where fairy is used as adjective**, in her book 'The Banshee'. The Fairy Investigation Society's 2017 Fairy Census offers examples of fairy as applied to various described anecdotal accounts. In some demographics the word fairy has become hyper-specialized to indicate only a type of small winged sprite, however across many other demographics the word retains its older broader meanings. This dichotomy of use by different groups means that context may be required in order to understand what the word means within any source. An academic paper using the word fairy is likely to be adhering to the broader meaning, as are occurences within folklore or traditional belief, but personal use or use within a specific group may follow the specialized meaning. This is an important distinction as the meanings have drifted so far from each other as to be nearly antithetical in nature now. 

Fairy has multiple spellings across the written record because English had a non-standard orthography until relatively recently. This means that words were spelled in any way which might phonetically convey the sounds of the spoken word. Hence we see fairy as everything from feirie to phary to faerye. There are 93 different variant spellings noted by Williams with fairy being the most common at 724 occurrences followed by faery at 131, fayry at 55, and faerie at 49 (Williams, 1991, p 459). In current academic and folklore usage fairy is the usual preferred spelling, however as with the specialized meaning of fairy gaining popularity in some niches there has been an effort by some people to distinguish fairy from faery with the prior supposedly indicating twee, Victorian fairies and the latter supposedly indicating real or legitimate fairies. Similarly there has also been a push in some demographics to use fae as a term to indicate Otherworldly beings generally where fairy is used to mean only a specific type. These spelling and semantic issues, as touched on in the previous paragraph, can cause confusion in communicating between people or groups ascribing different meanings to the terms. 

It should also be noted that fairy and fae in modern usage are English language terms and have only existed as such for about 700 years. These do not reflect Christianization as Western Europe was Christian for several hundred years prior to fae coming into French (arguably with a strong pagan connotation initially) but rather the evolution of the languages, particularly English. There were and are non-English terms within the cultures that now use fairy in an English language context, and these terms pre-date the word fairy but often have related or parallel meanings in context. As previously touched on the words elf and fairy are used interchangeably and that likely stems from the Anglo-Saxon term aelf which predates fairy but describes a similar type of being who was also equated later broadly to fairy, goblin, and incubus (Harper, 2020). In the same way in the Irish we see the Daoine Sidhe or Aos Sidhe [people of the fairy hills] or sióga whose name intrinsically implies that connection to the sidhe, the fairy hills or Otherworld. The word sidhe - modern Irish sí - like the word fairy indicates both the place (fairy mounds) and as an adjective things with the nature of the place hence sidhe, fairy hills, but also slua sidhe, fairy host, or cú sidhe, fairy hound, and in modern slang sidhe can also be used to refer to the beings of that place. Every culture will have its own terms like this, for which the English fairy is simply the best equivalent term.

It should also be noted that in many places there is a prohibition about using the term fairy and euphemisms are used instead. Euphemisms go back to at least the 14th century and can be found in across Celtic language speaking countries, as well as in older English material. One 16th century example from England uses the term Fair Folk in Latin, pulchrum populum (Green, 2016). The term Good Neighbours, in Scots, can be traced back to the 15th century. The concept behind the use of these terms rests in the belief that calling them fairies offended them and so one would want to use a term that was appealing or positive in case fairies passing by invisibly overheard the comment. 

This summarizes the pertinent information relating to these words, and hopefully may offer some clarity to the subject, which is admittedly opaque. 

End Notes
* fae and fay not to be confused with fey, a Norse originating word for someone or something doomed or fated to die
**Lysaght's book is primarily focused on Irish language terms for the Bean Sidhe, however she does touch on translations of these terms which reflect the use of fairy as an adjective

Harper, D., (2020) Fairy Retrieved from
   (2020) Elf Retrieved from 
Williams, N., (1991) The Semantics of the Word Fairy: Making Meaning Out of Thin Air; 'The Good People'
Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
Green, R., (2016) Elf Queens and Holy Friars

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Benefits of Fairy Work

I will be the first to admit much of what I write is aimed at sharing the more dangerous sides of fairies and fairy work with people, even those interested in connecting to them, because I think many are coming to this subject with an ingrained sense of human superiority and fairy diminishment. But of course there is a beneficial side to this connection and that's also worth discussing. There's a whole history of humans engaging with the Good People and the Fair Folk teaching and aiding those they favour and that deserves air time as well.

I am usually more hesitant to write about that side because I worry that people will focus on the good and ignore the warnings to their own detriment, and also because even the good side of this work has a certain alluring enchanting quality that can consume a person. I have said before, after my 2016 experience at the Sidhe of Cruachan, that I will never be wholly in this human world again because part of me perpetually and painfully longs for the shining, golden hall I saw there.

Everyone's connection and relationship to the Good Folk is different and I do not think I am in any way a model for others to base their own path on. I share so that people may feel less alone if they do see similarities in what I do or perhaps take inspiration for their own practices. That said I think it's important to be clear about my own position in the context of the rest of what I'm going to say because I absolutely don't want people measuring themselves against me or my experiences in any way. I have been doing this for nearly my entire life and have been seriously engaged with this work for many years. I have a fairy familiar (or he has me) and I belong to a fairy queen, in the early modern witchcraft sense of those concepts. Tá mé eachlach Aoibheall. Is é mo obair saoil sin, an saol seo agus an saol eile.

The positive things for me that have come from these years of work and relationship building - at least the ones I can publicly discuss - are many, and range from educational to healing.

  • In 2012 they saved my life by intervening during an anaphylactic reaction so that someone would call 911 when I wasn't. I have told this story before but the short version was I was having a serious reaction to something I now have an epi pen for but in the moment I made the choice to go to bed. My spouse was awakened when what he described as a palm sized white moth flew into his face then disappeared when he turned the light on to look at it. I then admitted I was in trouble and he called paramedics. 
  • I have been taught many things by them, usually in dreams. I was given two different recipes, one for little cakes and one for something like a pasty, both proved to be not only edible but tasty when cooked. I've been taught about herbs I was unfamiliar with and the information was always confirmed when checked later, as well as being given magical practices. I've also been given several charms or songs in Irish, including one longer lullabye and a shorter healing chant. 
  • They got my attention as I was leaving my house and drew me over to an outlet just before a plug caught fire, allowing me to immediately intervene and save my home. 
  • They helped me find my way back to other people when I was lost
  • When I was sick in Iceland they healed me. In 2018 I was helping co-lead a tour in Iceland and while we were in Akureyri I became ill; fevers, body aches, chills, all that fun stuff that is the last thing you want to happen in a foreign country. I went out during the day and ended up following a trail of mushrooms and fairy rings until I wandered into a very strange place. I spent some time there, just talking to the Hidden Folk. That night I awoke from an uneasy sleep to see three figures standing around my bed. Instead of being alarmed I felt very calm as if this was perfectly normal. I went back to sleep and when I woke up the next morning I was fine and remained fine for the rest of the trip. 
  • They healed my daughter's back. She was diagnosed with scoliosis and was being monitored as the curve worsened. She was a few degrees away from needing a back brace to address the issue, which I was extremely worried about because she has sensory processing issues and I knew that would be difficult for her to go through. At her next appointment her back was straight, baffling the doctor. 

These are perhaps a handful of ways that having a good connection to the Fair Folk can manifest in a positive way in a person's life, although I think they will be different for everyone. But when people ask why is this worth doing, that is what comes to my mind. Because they teach me useful things and they protect me and they healed my daughter. 

Ideally I think that fairy amity is possible and essential for certain types of witchcraft. At its most basic being on good terms with the Good Neighbours means understanding what they expect from a human and what will offend them. Respect their places, and what belongs to them. Give them what is their due, which includes the first of any alcohol, a bit of milk, and whatever food falls to the floor (as I was taught anyway). Don't say thank you but show your gratitude with your actions.

A closer working relationship is also vital for those predicating their witchcraft on these spirits. This is achieved through the slow building of relationships and allies among the Othercrowd and a careful respect for Them. I usually recommend beginning by reaching out to and connecting with one's house spirits/fairies and those beings that are most connected to where you live and therefore generally most inclined towards interacting with humans in a positive way. This can be done by giving them their own space in your home and acknowledging their presence. The next step, in my opinion, is to reach out to a fairy being that is willing to act as your guide or friend; this process can be as involved as making a human friend. You may use journey work or meditation, or verbally ask out loud, or even ask your house spirits for assistance once that relationship is established. This is also the point at which its really, really important to have a good understanding of fairy etiquette, be able to distinguish a fairy from a different type of spirit, and know the basics of making deals with them. 

Beyond that we get into the level of deeply personal connections, service, and a relationship which transcends what is usually discussed or understood in these contexts. This degree is too personal, in my opinion, to dig into here and I think would truly be unique for each person. You go where you're meant to go.

On any level a good relationship with these beings should look like a good relationship with your human neighbours and friends or family. Respect their boundaries and their rules, give good gifts, know when to ask and when to be silent. Keep your word, always, and don't lie to them ever. Don't make any agreement you won't or can't keep and understand that breaking an oath or going back on your given word will have consequences. Appreciate the goodness that comes to you from them, but don't brag or boast about what they gift you with, any more than you would (should) with the same equivalent concept from humans. And ultimately once you build that trust with them trust them and let them help you move forward.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Fairy Help, Fairy Harm

Modern paganism, and perhaps more broadly mainstream Western culture, seems to constantly be trapped in a mobius strip argument about the potential help or harm caused by fairies. There is one side that argues, staunchly, that the Good Folk are entirely benevolent and benign to humans. In contrast there is another side that argues just as fervently that the Othercrowd should be entirely avoided and warded against because of the danger they represent. And then there's the people, like myself, who argue for a kind of middle ground that acknowledges the very tangible dangers but also the potential advantages to fairies. When in doubt however always act with caution and keep the risk in mind because there are serious and sometimes permanent consequences.

What I want to do here is look at the evidence we have for both sides in folklore. I think too often people, especially outside places that have maintained some degree of belief in these beings, rely entirely on their own personal experiences and perceptions. I'm not saying to ignore your own experiences of course but I am suggesting that one person's experiences don't a body of lore make. I have never drowned for example but I fully believe that people who go swimming may drown under various conditions - because I know that my personal experiences are not the sum total of the subject. Hopefully the following material will provide a wider view.

The Blessing
First let's look at a few examples of fairy help. These are harder to find in the source material and often come from folk tales rather than folklore, which should be noted. This may be because there have long been prohibitions in many cultures that believe in these beings that to brag or boast of the good they might do a human will result in that goodness being revoked. This extends to talking about a wide array of fairy interference in one's life including having a leannán sidhe [fairy lover] or learning from them. That all said:

  1. Healing physical maladies. This can include both illnesses and deformities. There is a very famous story, often repeated sometimes under the title of 'Lushmore', of a man with a hunchback in Ireland who was passing a fairy fort, heard the fairies singing, politely joined in and was reward by having his back healed. Several versions of the tale can be found on the site, but one example: "He heard the fairies singing - Monday, Tuesday. The man said Monday Tuesday and Wednesday. The fairies ran up to the man and asked him to teach them that song. The man taught them the song. The fairies asked him that gift die he want he said to take the hump off his back. The man went home without the hump." (Duchas, entry 453). 
  2. Help with work. There are accounts of fairies doing work for humans they like. Often there isn't any reason given to explain why they liked that person, as we see in this example: "This man was supposed to have something to do with the fairies. The fairies used to do all the work for him at night time." (Duchas, entry 246).
  3. Money - in one late 19th century story an Irish Fairy king helps a man about to be evicted pay his rent by giving him gingerbread made to look like gold. The man is told to get a receipt when he pays, which he does, so that when the gold turns back to gingerbread the next day he can't be held accountable. This story is inline with wider tales of fairies giving money or support to people they favour or take pity on.
  4. Removing curses. In the ballad of Alison Gross a man who has been cursed by a witch is rescued by the Queen of the Seely court who removes the curse. 
I have also had what I would describe as blessing experiences, including the apparently miraculous healing of my middle child's back deformity, and I do think it is important to understand that the Good Folk can interact in a positive way with people. The possibility of positive results however should not negate the dangers. 

The Dangerous
Now that we've established the Good Neighbours can be helpful let's look at a fraction of the evidence that they can represent risk to humans. I have seen some people try to argue that all of these examples are either propaganda from those antithetical to fairies or the result of people with the wrong mindset who expected bad and so got it. I want to say this as nicely as I can: the entirety of folklore and many, many people's modern experiences are not lies or wrong because a person doesn't happen to like the way they depict the Shining Ones. If we look beyond western Europe and the diaspora we can find a multitude of examples from other cultures, including those that are still non-Christian, of equally dangerous or ambivalent spirit beings. I am actually not aware of any culture that has only benevolent spirits in their belief system, so it strikes me as extremely odd to view fairies that way.
   In the below examples we will be looking strictly at direct harm caused to humans in the human world by fairies. One can argue that such things as fairy abductions and possession also qualify as harm but those topics are nuanced and deserve a fuller discussion than what we will be doing here.

  1. Causing deformities. In point 1 above I mentioned fairies straightening a man's back in a story; that story ends with another man similarly afflicted trying the same cure and getting twice the hunch on his back for his efforts: "The fairies did not like his song and instead of taking the hump off him they put the other man's hump on him and the man went home with two humps." (Duchas, entry 454). Briggs attributes anything that deforms or warps the human body to possible invisible fairy blows or injuries, particularly issues of the joints or spine. 
  2. Killing or sickening livestock. Fairies are very well known for afflicting domestic animals, especially cows. This was sometimes called 'elf-struck' or 'elf-shot' and may be marked by a mark or lump on the animal to indicate where it was struck (Narvaez, 1991). Accounts of this can be found in the archives describing the results: "Also we are told that fairies used to shoot cows, when the cows would "graze on a "gentle" spot. We call a place "gentle" when it is supposed to belong to fairies. A "shot" cow became weak and would not eat." (Duchas, entry 231).  
  3. Exhausting people nearly to death. There is another account on Duchas of a man who saw the fairies hurling in a field and went to join them only to be kept playing until he almost died of exhaustion. In folklore we find tales of fairies making people dance until they collapse or die. 
  4. They will kill you. There are many accounts of fairies physically harming or just directly killing people for offenses, so much so that Patricia Lysaght says "That physical disability or even death can result from interference with fairy property such as a rath is well attested in Irish tradition. Many examples are evident..." (Narvaez, 1991, p 45). These are often related to harm a human has done to a fairy place or fairy tree. However sometimes it's just because the person offended them by breaking the fairies' rules of etiquette, as in this example where death was threatened for trying to join a fairy song: "All the fairies went in to Harvey's fort, and they began singing and dancing and inside in the fort. One of the men had a fiddle and he began to play a tune the fairies were playing One of the fairies came out of the fort and told the man that if he played that tune again he would kill him and the man ran home as fast as he could." (Duchas, entry 75). Even into the 21st century there are stories of people dying after damaging fairy trees. 
  5. Blinding. The fairies are known to blind people, something that is found as a staple in the 'Midwife to the Fairies' stories where a midwife who accidently touches her eye with fairy ointment lets slip she can see them and is blinded or has her eye put out. An anecdotal account from late 20th century Newfoundland describes a man harrassed by faires who is eventually blinded by them (Narvaez, 1991). There is an account on the Duchas site of a fiddler who refused fairy food and was blinded in one eye by an angry fairy woman. 
  6. Tumours. Multiple accounts support victims of a fairy blast or fairy wind suffering from immediate and inexplicable swellings which are found to be tumours; there are also anecdotal accounts of people with these swellings where random objects like bones, grass, or straw are found inside them (Narvaez, 1991). 
  7. Madness or loss of cognitive abilities or speech. Anecdotal accounts from Yeats 'Celtic Twilight' to Narvaez's 'Newfoundland Berry Pickers in the Fairies' discuss the fairies driving people mad or taking away their cognitive function. Narvaez also discusses accounts of encounters which resulted in speech impairment and there are folktales of fairies taking a person's speech entirely something that is also discussed by Emma Wilby in relation to a Scottish witch who dealt with fairies.  
  8. Strokes - the term stroke for a cerebral accident or aneurysm comes from the term 'fairy stroke' or 'elf stroke' and the idea that a blow from the Good Folk could cause this physical issue. Briggs mentions this as a method used by the fairies to steal humans and livestock, but the concept behind it is also mentioned as kind of fairy punishment in 'The Good People' anthology. Paralysis is also attributed to fairy anger in some cases (Briggs, 1976). Alaric Hall discusses elf-shot at length in his book, and mentions its use on humans and animals as well as its usually permanent effects on a person. elf stroke in itself is a complicated subject and being shot by the fairies can have multiple effects on a person including many of the other issues listed here. 
  9. Bruising and Muscle Cramps - on the mildest end fairies are known to pinch, hit, and otherwise assault humans resulting in bruising and cramping (Briggs, 1976). The fairies are not averse to beating a person into cooperating as we see in an account by Wilby relating to a Scottish witch reluctant to do what the fairies were asking her; they are also not averse to beating a person because they want to as we find in an account on Duchas where a man who sees the fairies and acknowledges that he can see them is attacked and beaten nearly to death by them. 

I also want to include some anecdotal examples, both my own experiences and those that have been shared with me to demonstrate that this isn't all just old stories:

  1. Blindness - going temporarily blind for not doing what the fairies ask. 
  2. Madness - driving a person crazy to try to force compliance on an issue
  3. Physical marks - ranging from bruising to scratching
  4. Trying to Kill Someone - I have heard a few accounts of the Fair Folk causing serious bodily harm bordering on near death

Final Thoughts
There is a reason that all cultures which believe in the Good Neighbours have so very many protections against them and such caution in dealing with them.

Narvaez, P., (1991) The Good People: New Fairylore Essays
Duchas (2020); Fairies Retrieved from
Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
Hall, A., (2007) Elves in Anglo-Saxon England
Wilby, E., (2009) Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits

Friday, June 12, 2020

Book Review: Royal Roads

So time for another book review. Today I want to write about my friend* Dana Corby's book 'royal Roads: Pilgrimages through the Four Elements and Beyond' co-authored with Bjeon-Erik Hartsfvang. I'm friends with Dana on social media and became aware of this book when I saw her posting about it. Its a bit outside my usual purview but I think it overlaps enough with my own witchcraft practices that it makes sense to review it here.

Royal Roads, on the surface, would appear to be a book about connecting to the four elemental realms of Wicca and most popular forms of paganism. However this slim books is about far more than just that, digging into vital topics like spiritual journeywork and warding. I particularly liked that it used practical examples to illustrate points and also included a lot of clear instructions for the exercises. It's the sort of book that manages to convey more complicated material in a very accessible way, and that is something I wish I could say about more books.

After the introduction the first three chapters teach the reader how to make a scrying mirror, create magical fluids, and cast a circle. Although my own witchcraft has a different flow to it I appreciated learning these methods and understanding the concepts behind them. It was particularly nice to see the older method of creating a scrying mirror described, as that's something I haven't seen discussed in a long time. I also very much liked that the chapter on circle casting laid out various reasons why a person might cast a circle, another subject which often tends to be ignored or only get a surface treatment.

Possibly my favourite chapter was 5 'Standing Black Watch'. This revolves around the wider concept of properly warding a ritual space by having a person outside the ritual activity guard the area and people. It is particularly essential in group workings (as well as some types of ritual seeing or oracle practices) but isn't something I have personally seen written about very often. I think the authors here handled it very well and loved that they included practical examples of the concerns that come up when a group isn't properly warded or the energy handled as it should be. Honestly I would recommend this book just for this chapter.

The chapter 6 gets into how to engage in spiritual journeywork through guided relaxation and 7 through 11 are various suggested 'pilgrimages' or journeys. Some of the initial structuring is heavily focused on a specific Wiccan approach, which isn't my personal path, but even for people like me who don't tend to be correspondence heavy with their approach I think these exercises have a lot of value. The actual guided script is very good and takes a thorough approach to getting people in and out of themselves.

Chapter 12 is a short discussion of the post journey experience, including a method to retain as much information as possible. Again this is something that other books often lack and although its a short chapter it includes an excellent group of questions to answer framed to help maximize how much is retained. I've always been an advocate of journaling immediately after journeying but I had never thought to use a specific set list of questions to help with that. Its an idea I intend to use myself going forward.

The last few chapters are lists and discussion of elemental correspondences, with a final discussion on the value of elemental focus and connection. This nicely wraps up the small text and emphasizes the value of the work that has been suggested throughout.

Overall I found this book valuable, despite its divergence form my own personal practice, and enjoyed both the material I was familiar with as well as that which was new to me. I think the book would be useful for those just starting out but can also offer some useful tips for more experienced people. The exercises are some of the best I've seen and I believe the results people can get from them will be both interesting and useful.

*I am friends with Dana Corby on social media, however that has not influenced this review. If I had not liked the book or thought it was worth recommending to others, I would simply not have reviewed it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Sources for Working with Fairies

Since I am asked pretty regularly for opinions on specific books relating to Fairies or more generally recommendations on the wider subject I thought I'd do a full blog on it.

My main resources are folklore, mythology, folk practice, and academic articles and books. I encourage everyone to start there. There's a large number of books I could recommend here but for a half dozen suggestions:
  1. Elf Queens and Holy Friars by Richard Firth Green. focusing more on British fairies but extremely indepth look at the earlier beliefs around fairies and how those beliefs were influenced and shaped by Christianity
  2. Emma Wilby's Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits and her The Visions of Isobel Gowdie. Both explore beliefs intertwining fairies and witchcraft in the early modern period
  3. Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies by Claude Lecouteux. Including an array of cultural evidence across Europe that explores the connection between witches and supernatural beings
  4. The Good People edited by Narvaez. A late 20th century work that includes a variety of articles form different authors focusing on fairy belief across the Celtic language speaking countries and diaspora.
  5. Airy Nothings edited by Olsen and Veenstra. Another anthology of collected articles this book discusses aspects of fairylore across Europe within very specific contexts.
  6. Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits edited by Ostling. Again collected articles from various academics, but offers some very good insight into fairylore and belief and crossover with related subjects. 
When it comes to folklore my own focus is Irish and my sources are based there. There are a handful of books that are valuable here from Lysaght's 'The Banshee' to Sneddon's 'witchcraft and Magic in Ireland', but the best resources in my opinion are from people in the various communities actively recording the living folk beliefs. This would include Michael Fortune on Youtube, Lora O'Brien, Circle Stories on Facebook, Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland, and the website. For people who have a different focus I recommend seeking out solid resources within that culture. 

I would also add to the above:
  1. Katherine Briggs is a good resource to begin with. Although  a bit dated now Brigg's writing will give anyone seeking to engage in this work a solid foundation to work from.
  2. John Kruse's book Faery is a really solid intro to who and what (British) fairies are and can be foundational for engaging with them
I fully admit I am very, very picky when it comes to modern practical material. I also fully admit I am no fan of post Victorian new age fairies. This inherently affects which modern pagan-aimed books I will prefer. I always encourage people to begin by studying the folklore so that actual practice is rooted firmly in something solid.
That all said what do I recommend for actively working witchcraft with fairies?

  1.  Seo Helrune's forthcoming book or any of their online writing about elves
  2. Lora O'Brien's online fairy material. Also, not fairy specific per se but intersectional with the concepts, I'd add in Lora O'Brien's 'Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality', 
  3. Lee Morgan's Deed Without A Name is a good primer for witchcraft that intersects with Themselves, as is Morgan's 'Sounds of Infinity'
  4. Nigel Pearson's 'Treading the Mill', 
  5. Gemma Gary's 'Traditional Witchcraft', 
  6. Peter Paddon's 'A Grimoire for Modern Cunningfolk'
  7. Nigel Kackson's 'Call of the Horned Piper'

The last four are traditional witchcraft specific rather than fairy specific but offer a good workable framework to integrate fairy beliefs into if a person is seeking such a structure. 

Obviously I have also written about fairies and fairy witchcraft myself.

If older grimoire material interests you then the Book of Oberon is a good resource. Not my jam but its solid.

That's it.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Book Review: Breaking Silence by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a sequel to 'Silence' and continuation of the SERRAted Edge series.
It is a significant improvement on the last book: the plot is tighter, the characters have more depth, and the book feels more a part of the wider series.

First things I liked. The book is written in limited third person and like most others in the series does offer glimpses into other characters points of view. This is useful in context because it allows the reader a better understanding of what is going on. The characters are fairly well developed and feel like individual people, and the elves are each clearly different characters. The characters are nicely nuanced, and the relationships are complex. As with the previous book there is a lot of shades of morality and I really enjoyed the way the authors made characters that seemed to be 'good' or 'bad' be much more ambiguous than that. The big open question in the plot does get answered in a very satisfying way by the end which made the ending feel more complete.

The reason I'm only giving it 3 stars however is much like the previous book there are some significant continuity errors and plot holes. I don't want to list them here and give any spoilers, but for a couple mostly spoiler free examples: in the last book we were told the main character had Elven ancestry on both sides but now apparently it's just from her mother, and the elves refer to the mc as everything from half-elven, to part fae, to human. For another, there's a scene where 2 elvensteeds jump somewhere then on the next page...2 elvensteeds jump somewhere, as if the authors forgot that had just happened. It really would have benefited from beta readers or a good editor.
There were also some story details that I found difficult. I could have suspended my disbelief enough to ignore that the characters seem to live in a perpetual summer; Staci arrives at the beginning of summer, the events in Silence take weeks at a minimum, months have now gone by and weeks pass in Breaking Silence but its...still the same summer? Honestly it would have made a lot more sense if it was et a year later rather than 'a few months'. And much like the last book this one leans heavily into the 'wonderkid' trope and that gets hard to ignore. I had a difficult time accepting that the teenage main character was the only one actually taking down any monsters or that the adults followed her lead. The idea that a who knows how old elf would panic during a magical attack and need the teenage human to take charge was just nonsensical.

That all said it's still an improvement over Silence and the characters are likeable. I'd read a new book in the series if there was one.

Expanded form my Goodreads review here:

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Critical Look at Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries

   One of the most commonly recommended books I see in groups and on reading lists is the 1911 work 'The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries' by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. The book is often hailed as the benchmark in fairylore and a staple of study in the field or for anyone interested in the subject. I also personally suspect its rampant popularity in modern pagan groups is due in part to it being in the public domain and easily found free online. However the book is often recommended and read by people who take everything in it equally and out of context so I think it would be helpful to discuss the text here.

To start let's be clear for what it is and when it was written 'Fairy Faith' is a very good book. It includes material from scholars who were pre-eminent in the field at the time, such as Douglas Hyde and Alexander Carmichael. It also is a treasure trove of anecdotal material of the early 20th century (found in section 1) and for that alone I recommend it. It does a wonderful job of clearly stating exactly where anecdotal material comes from which allows us to get a regionally specific look at the beliefs, something that is essential in understanding them, contextualizing them, and correlating them with current beliefs in those areas.

All of that said the book is not a perfect work (if such a thing even exists) and it is important to read it with an understanding of the flaws so that the valuable material can be found and appreciated. Let us begin by putting it in the context of the time period it was written in. Evans-Wentz began this work as a dissertation in which was first reviewed in 1907 and published the final book as we know it now in 1911. This was before the Republic of Ireland existed - Ireland was still an English colony during the entirety of the research and editing of this text. An Gorta Mór* was barely 60 years prior meaning there were people alive in Ireland who had lived through it when these interviews were done. This was, obviously, also before both world wars. The discipline of psychology was less than 40 years old and Freud had only just began corresponding with Jung, vital to remember as the book claims to incorporate ideas from that field into its approach. My point in emphasizing this is that one must read this book with an understanding that it was written in the early 20th century not the 21st century and in many ways reflects a very, very different world from our own.
Academia of this time was also different and often included personal opinions presented as if they were facts, meaning that material may be read as if it were authoritative when it is not. It wasn't uncommon for a scholar to put forth a theory with absolutely no supporting evidence beyond tenuous suppositional connections between superficially similar material, for example the idea that the visually similar words sidhe (Irish, fairy hill, pronounced shee) and siddha (Sanskrit, perfected one, pronounced sid-uh) were directly connected. The burden of proof and requirement for supporting a theory were not what we might expect of academia today.

The people who wrote and contributed to this book were not writing their own beliefs or recording their own stories. They were people of a higher social class, well educated, who may or may not speak the language of the people they were talking to, going into various areas as visitors or guests and then asking about these beliefs and stories. I often talk about discernment when it comes to reading material and I emphasize looking at who is writing the material down and this is true here. You cannot read The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries without keeping in mind who wrote that material down; as much as we might like to see it as a natural snapshot of belief at the time it is more accurately understood as a posed portrait of the beliefs, fitered through the lens of the writers.

I mentioned that not all the writers necessarily spoke the languages they were recording material from and that is an issue. There are multiple places in the book where the Celtic language material given does not align with the translation and Anglicization of that same term. For example on page 81 the author claims that suidheadchan means 'the housekeeper's little seat' while the word simply means 'seat' or 'chair'. I strongly urge readers of the book to double check all non-English terms within and never take any of it as accurate.

There is a lot of classism and bigotry that appears throughout this text, predicated largely on the fact that the people writing were often upper class educated people who considered themselves better than the 'peasants' whose stories they were recording. Evans-Wentz falls into this trap as well, describing the so-called Celts with a strong noble savage angle: "This immersion in the most striking natural and social environment of the Celtic race, gave me an insight into the mind, the religion, the mysticism, and the very heart of the Celt himself" (Evans-Wentz, 1911, page xvi). There are a multitude of references to the 'Celtic race' or the 'Irish race' (for example) because these were writers who believed that the Celtic language speaking peoples were in fact a distinctive race who was less than and more primitive than the British. This romanticism of the Celtic language speaking cultures into something simultaneously more primitive and more spiritual is something I still see in some places and it needs to be addressed and stopped.

Another major issue with this book is the outdated theories to be found in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sections. These theories are long disproven yet keep showing back up, particularly in paganism, because people are reading works like Evans-Wentz's and taking it as accurate. One glaring example is the long discarded idea that fairies represent a folk memory of a pygmy race of humans driven out by the iron age and celtic migrations. As on page 398: " of the many threads interwoven into the complex fabric of the Fairy-Faith round an original psychical pattern may have been bequeathed by a folk-memory of some unknown, perhaps pygmy, races, who may have inhabited underground places like those in certain tumuli.". This is put forth as a theory but many seem to read it as a fact, however this one has been disproven on multiple fronts. There is absolutely no archeological evidence of a culture of smaller humans inhabiting Ireland or the UK. The cairns and tumuli are burial mounds, many with human remains found within. And the theory of a celtic population migration has largely been disproven by genetic studies (rather the Celtic influence seems to have been a shift in culture rather than mass population movements).

In general when reading this book you have to keep in mind that it was written by people who were either outside the culture being discussed or had a very high social place within them, which distorts their perspectives. The anecdotal accounts are indeed invaluable but they too must be understood for what they are which is not any kind of definitive statement but often personal opinions and experiences. The so-called scholarly sections - 2, 3, and 4 - should be taken as opinion pieces and fact checked with modern scholarship.

There is a lot of value in The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries, but there is also a lot that needs to be questioned or ignored. I recommend the book and encourage people to read it but with a discerning eye and an understanding of the context in which it was written. It is 109 years old now and the world it was written it is very different from the one we live in; academia then was very different from what it is today. None of this is to discount the value this book can have, but that value rests on understanding the contents for what they are and not seeing them as unassailable truth in all aspects. If you read it with an understanding of the things discussed here then the book can be very useful; if you don't, if you read it all as equally true, then you will be working from a lot of inaccuracy.

*An Gort Mór, the Great Famine, which decimated the Irish population