There are several very similarly named traditions of witchcraft connected to fairies out there and this has long caused confusion. Which, given the subject relates to fairies, is perhaps inevitable or at least predictable. Nonetheless I thought that today it would be helpful to offer as much clarity on this as possible by briefly discussing the different traditions to illustrate how they are similar and different and how they may choose to incorporate - or not - fairies. It may be impossible to dispel the confusion entirely, particularly as each different group tends to claim it is the most accurate and genuine or the only one passing on the true beliefs. Hopeful this article will still offer some clarity on an admittedly muddy subject.
This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive discussion of these groups but only a basic outline to give readers a general idea of what they are and how they began, and hopefully a place to start digging further if they choose to.
I am going to present everything in chronological order to help illustrate the flow with this and also show readers a rough evolution of these groups within the last hundred years or so.
The Fairy Faith
Although not a tradition, per se, or witchcraft in any way, the Fairy Faith is an important place to start with this subject. The term Fairy Faith was coined in the late 19th/early 20th century by folklorists studying fairy beliefs who needed a simple term to describe what they were studying. The Fairy Faith is the collected beliefs and practices of people who believe in fairies as contained in folklore and anecdotal accounts; as such it is less a cohesive system of faith as it is a loose collection of concepts that all relate to fairies. There is no prerequisite to this belief (beyond the belief itself), no required religion, no initiation or acceptance. And as with all such folk traditions the name it was given by outsiders is not generally what people within the 'faith' call what they believe and do. The general focus of the Fairy Faith is on protecting against fairies and mitigating harm caused by them, and most stories have this focus.
The Feri Witchcraft tradition was founded in the 1960's by Victor and Cora Anderson.
Author and Feri initiate Sara Amis describes Feri as a strand of Trad Craft, that is a non-Wiccan initiatory approach to witchcraft. Feri is often conflated with or confused with various forms of Fairy Witchcraft, something that is exacerbated by the alternate spelling 'Faery' sometimes used for Feri by other initiates or more widely with the Fairy Faith but it is its own distinct tradition. Feri is based heavily on Anderson's teachings which in turn were heavily influenced by his own ecstatic and experiential beliefs rather than older or traditional folklore, although Anderson himself claimed his tradition was identical, except for cultural framework and terms, to the 'Faery Tradition' taught by RJ Stewart which is more strongly drawing from older folklore. Opinions among modern initiates about how much fairy material is included in Feri varies, with Amis saying there are some ties to general fairylore (non-culture specific) and inclusion of some fairy beings, an anonymous source saying that they felt fairies and fairy folklore didn't play a significant role, and a third initiate Shae saying that fairies are important but are understood through a different lens based on the traditions approach to several things. Amis and the anonymous source agree that a fairy king and queen play a role in Feri, however not a king and queen found elsewhere in folklore.
Founded by an offshoot of the MacFarland Dianics; this group isn't specifically fairy focused, per se, although it does include fairies but rather loosely 'Celtic' and uses Graves' Tree calendar as a framework for teaching. It blends an array of concepts from Bach flower essences to Jungian archetypes into its system which emphasizes cohabitation with the unseen world.
Created in the 1980's by RJ Stewart this approach blends older fairylore, especially from the ballad material, with new age ideas and Kabbalah to create a unique new system. Stewart has written several books about Faery Tradition and also teaches widely on the subject. The Faery Tradition views fairies, generally, as allies to humans and protectors of nature. Teachings within the tradition seem to be aimed at helping the human connect to and work with these spirits for positive ends.
Founded in the 1990's by author Kisma Stepanich (now Kisma Stepanich-Reidling) it is very loosely based on Irish and wider Celtic language speaking folklore heavily mediated through the author's personal lens. The original books about this tradition were pulled from publication and have long been overshadowed by accusations of plagiarism. Despite the name this tradition of modern Wicca is only tangentially connected to fairies or fairy beliefs, with its primary focus on a pseudo-Celtic framework applied to a more standard neo-Wiccan approach.
An Creideamh Sí
The name for the Fairy Faith as Gaeilge [in Irish] this term was coined around the turn of the 21st century by Catholic priest Sean O'Duinn as an Irish language alternative for the English 'Fairy Faith'. As with that term this is not, of course, what people in Ireland who believe in fairies would call their system of belief which generally has no name.
Founded in the mid 2000's by Orion Foxwood Faery Seership is a collection of beliefs and practices shaped by both European and Appalachian culture which takes the view that fairies are 'earth angels' and cousins to humanity and seeks to help humans realign with the earth and all living beings. Foxwood has several books on the tradition as well as a CD, DVD, and offers classes.
A tradition founded in 2014 by me, based on my years of practice and experience. Fairy Witchcraft blends early modern witchcraft, neopagan witchcraft, and folkloric fairy beliefs into a cohesive system with an emphasis on allying with and connecting to fairies and the Otherworld. The name for the tradition is descriptive, as it is basically witchcraft focused on fairies; even the Gods acknowledged are ones connected to or based in Fairy folklore. No initiation or formal training is required and the tradition is mostly a personal one that anyone can claim if they follow the basic tenets outlined in the books describing the practice.
Publicly appearing in 2018 with the publication of a book describing the beliefs and practices of the tradition, Fayerie Traditionalism was founded by author Robin Artisson from an amalgam of source material and the author's own practices and experiences. It incorporates an understanding of fairies and animism into its framework, through the interpretation of the author, as well as blending in material relating to fairies from the grimoires. Artisson has several books out on the subject now as well as a website.
Witchcraft with Fairies
The concept of witchcraft with or connected to fairies is an old one which can be traced back at least four hundred years (see Emma Wilby's 'Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits' for more on this). Besides the specific traditions and groups discussed here there are of course a multitude of personal approaches and practices today which may be based on what would be called the Fairy Faith but aren't as cohesive as a a formal tradition. It is impossible to know how many people may follow this system or a spirituality that incorporates these beings in any sense - folkloric, popculture, or new age - and to what degree.
|The Fairy Wood, Henry Meyenell Rheam, 1903|
I hope that this quick guide can offer some clarification for those who find the many similarly named groups confusing or who are just starting to explore the idea of witchcraft connected to fairies. I have done my best to present all of this without any bias and not to insert my own opinions on each of the groups/traditions being discussed but its impossible to do so completely so I do encourage readers to explore further on their own and to ask others in the community for opinions.