|Faery Folk and Nature Spirits
"These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People...are said to be of middle nature between
Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable
bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight.
These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them
appear or disappear at pleasure."
- The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies. 1691 Reverend Robert Kirk of Scotland
|A Cloak for a Fairy
Spider, Spider, what are
A cloak for a fairy, I'm just
What is it made of, tell me
Threads of moonshine,
pearls of dew.
When will the fairy be
tonight when the glow
worms' lamps are lit.
Can I see her if I come
All good children must
then be sleeping.
|If you liked this, you might like these
|Faery painting by John Anster Fitzgerald
English Artist and Illustrator
Most stories of modern household spirits are ghostly tales bent on driving out a malignant spirit to stop
it from doing harm. But that was not alway so. Household spirits were once venerated. Homes were
built to appease the spirit of the land and coax it into becoming a household spirit. "The old spirits of
the Roman Lares type have always existed in the Indo-European region, and that belief has survived
through adapting to the evolution of society. Like his fellow creatures, the Brownie chose the house in
which he would live either out of sympathy for its inhabitants, or because he was a nature spirit who
entered the house with the wood used to build it, or because he was already living at the spot where
the house was built." Claude Lecouteux, Les Nains et les Elfes au Moyen Âge. If you wake to find a
project completed or a messy room tidied, it could be the work of one of these industrious house spirits.
According to English and Scottish folklore the Brownie is a small, brown, shaggy, nocturnal creature
that helps with domestic work. To have one in residence was considered lucky as they watched over the
family and brought good fortune. Gifts of the first cream, the first baked loaves of bread, or the first
slice of cake were left as payment for its attentions.
Another such spirit is the Hob, also known as Hobany, Hobredy, and Lob. The Hob is a helpful inhabitant
of the home, shop, and farm who comes out at night to help with chores, preferring not to be seen while
it works. Those who have caught a glimpse of the spirit describe it as small, brown, naked, and hairy.
The Hob spirit is attached to a family or a location. So if you find yourself unnerved by the attentions of
such a creature merely moving residence will not end its attentions. There is the popular tale of the
Farndale Hob who was upset by the farmer's new wife and who wreaked so much havoc that the farmer
decided to move. But as the cart containing his belongings was trundling down the dale he passed a
friend and said "We're flitting" whereupon a voice from among the furniture in the cart said, "Aye, we're
The English Dobbie is another sprite. Instead of helping with chores, the domestic Dobbie lives in the
barn or stable and keeps watch over the animals. It can also be invoked during times of trouble to guard
the family's treasures. An unattached Dobbie, or wild Dobbie, lives in ruins or near rivers and is a spirit
to be feared as they are known to lie in wait and attack lone travelers.
In Russia resides the Domovoi, a shape-shifting protector spirit who often appears as a hairy little man
with a long gray beard. The Domovoi is a guardian spirit attached to a specific family. If the family
moves, he will follow taking up residence in the oven or under the stove. The Domovoi keeps watch over
the family. It warns of trouble and defends the home against malevolent spirits.
Most societies have stories of these house spirits. In Finland there lives a small trickster called the
Haltija who acts as a protector to the inhabitants of its home. In northern Spain resides the Trasgu, a
small, spindly goblin who if given attention will help with chores, but if neglected, will play tricks and
make messes. Japanese folklore tells of an invisible house spirit called a Zashiki-warashi. Its presence
is held as a sign of good fortune even though, like a ghost, they like to make noise and play pranks, but
will disappear if harm is about to befall the household. These spirits, though sometimes annoying,
brought good luck and protection as they were known to wake the family before a catastrophe.
|Domovoi, a spirit of the house
by Ivan Yakolevich Bilibin
While house spirits were venerated and treated as family, strange spirits of the land were feared, and for most of history,
considered mischievous. These spirits were blamed for everything from bad luck to poor harvests. They were said to steal
children, make cows go dry, cause sickness and even death. A faery encounter was thought to be a dangerous thing as a
sighting could render the mind insane. Travelers avoided faerie interaction as it was well known the denizens of that
realm loved to toy with humans sometimes causing a lone traveler to lose their way never to be seen again. In The
Handbook of Folklore, C.S. Burne describes them as, "various races of beings, not human and yet not divine, who are
supposed to share this lower earth with mankind." Literature explains their existence several ways: as a race of magickal
beings, demoted pagan deities, spirits of the dead, descendants of the old gods, demons, and as the elemental forces.
One thing is certain, every culture has stories about these supernatural beings. In the Bible they are called demons. In
the Koran they are the spirits of the wastelands called the djinn. Both are still feared today.
The Poltergeist is a household spirit known for making a ruckus. The name is German for Noise Spirit. It is an invisible
force that throws objects and knocks on walls. A Poltergeist encounter usually starts as a non-threatening, even helpful
experience until something angers the spirit and it switches from ambient to disruptive.
The English Bogart is much like a poltergeist. It will take up residence in a home and torment the family members. It
delights in frightening people and will play tricks sometimes pulling hair, slam doors, or loudly knock to provoke a scare.
The Troll originated in Scandinavia. They are frightening shape-shifters that can appear giant as a mountain or small as a
dwarf. They live in the hollow hills and are known to steal children, women, and treasure. Trolls have sharp talons that
they use to rip flesh from their victim.
The Will o' the Wisp is a mischievous pixie that haunts the marshes and lonely trails of England. It bears a small light
and misleads travels often to their deaths.
In Japan lives an amphibious creature known as the Kappa. It lives in pools and water ways and if mistreated will pull
people in and drowned them. Every summer Mothers would toss a token cucumber into the local swimming place to
appease the Kappa in hopes that an offering of its favorite food would keep it from becoming a trickster spirit.
In Thailand they solved the problem of house haunting by giving the spirits their own space outside the family home or
business. San Phra Phumsmalls are brightly painted homes built just outside the main building to house the spirits who
share the piece of land and discourage them from taking up residence in the larger buildings. Offerings of food, drink,
garlands, and incense sticks are left to keep the spirit content so that it will act as a guardian and bring wealth and
prosperity to the occupants of the main building.
Many customs have arisen to avoid trouble with these spirits. Protective charms were devised and worn to protect not
only the individual but the field, barn, and home. Ruins were etched into thresholds and mantels. Symbols, runes, and
even faces were built into or carved around threshold to ward the home and keep it safe. An iron horseshoe over the door
not only brought luck but also protection as iron repels harmful spirits. Places known to host faerie activities were
avoided. Even today places with known faerie mounds are left undisturbed, roads redrawn, building sites moved to avoid
stirring up the residents.
The Spirit of the Land
"The farmer took a knife out of the sheath on his belt and cut a large square of turf full of grass
roots and set it upon the earth beneath the trees of the hedge. Together they ate their meal off
of the turf; eating the beef they had raised, the bread baked from their grain, wild greens and
berries harvested from the hedges, and drinking water pulled from the well. They ate in silence
smiling at each other in contentment. After placing the remnants of their small feast in the hole
the earth clod was cut from, they poured out a portion each of milk from the cows, honey from
the hives, and water from the well, and put the clod of earth back from whence it was cut.
Farmer and wife looked into each other’s eyes knowingly; the rite was complete with the land
bound to them for another year." - The Cauldron issue #142, November 2011
Being a farmer has always been a risky business, once the earth is worked and the crop set out
the result was at the mercy of a slew of uncontrollable variables. A disastrous rain or prolonged
drought could wipe out months of work and leave the landowners hungry. Prayers were said and
sacrifices made to the spirit of the land in hopes of gaining its favor. They asked it for protection
from drought, storms, pestilence, curses, and harmful spirits. Soon the families belonged to the
genius loci as much as the land belonged to the people. Calendars were created, rites written and
upheld to make sure the spirit was safe and happy and returned to the field to furnish another
good harvest. Effigies were made for it was believed that as the field was harvested, the spirit of
the field would retreat until it became trapped in the last sheaf of grain. The last of the cereal
grains were treated with care. Wheat, barley, oat, rye, and flax sheaves were collected and
braided and shaped into a figure, a vessels to hold the spirit of the field so that it would not be
homeless after the harvest. It was kept safe and warm until spring when it was returned to the
field by plowing it into the first furrow.
Just as families formed a bond with the land, they also bound themselves to their homes and the
spirits who resided in them. When a new plot of land was cleared careful steps were taken to
ensure that it would be a safe and happy place to build upon and that the spirits of the land, and
the trees, and the spirits remaining in the building materials were appeased so that the home
would be a safe and blessed place. The wild spirits were coaxed into become the household
spirits, benevolent guardians who helped with the chores and kept watch over family members.
As forests were conquered and cities built mankind lost its fear of nature and while enormous efforts were taken to avoid
the faery folk in the past, today the fey are viewed with fond romantic notions. Their role has shifted, no longer are they
the tricksters of the past but today's protector of the wild places, the flower spirits, muses, and inspirational companions.
Many flirt with the idea of a faery encounter seeking out ways to meet one. If you are among their number you might try
going to a wild place and seeking out the oldest tree. Sit with your back to its truck and open your mind. You can also
seek out a natural mound or a ring of mushrooms. Both are places known for faery activity indicating a gathering, or a
place they frequent and may soon return to. Faery encounters are more apt at liminal times, at the equinoxes and the
solstices, at sunrise or sunset. There is an old saying, "Where oak and ash and thorn grow together one is likely to see
Fairies." If you find a grove where these faery trees grow, sit quietly and meditate. Or if you find a stone with a natural
hole through it, hold it up and peer through it and you might just see one of the folk, especially if you are on a beach,
river bank, or it is dusk or dawn.
Certain flowers are favored among to fey and some even give you the power of sight according to a recipe from 1600,
found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, “To Enable One to See Faeries [Take] a pint of sallet oyle and put it
into a vial glasse and first wash it with rose-water and marygold [Calendula officinalis] water, the flowers to be gathered
towards the east. Wash it till the oyle becomes white, then put into the glasse, and then put thereto the budds of
hollyhocke, the flowers of marygolde, the flowers or toppes of wild thyme, the buds of young hazle, and the thyme must
be gathered near the side of a hill where faeries used to be and take the grasse of a faery throne then all these put into
the oyle in the glasse and sette it to dissolve three dayes in the sunne and keep it for thy use.”
If you have a garden where bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds frequent chances are you have a faery or two.
Open your mind and heart to their presence. Smile, sing, and dance. Your positive vibe might draw them from hidding.
Plant flowers that attract nature spirits. Faeries are known to favor certain flowers. You can plant a mix of toadflax, daisy,
foxglove, larkspur, lupine, pineapple sage, and poppies to create a garden that will draw faeries to stay in.
One of the best ways to invite nature spirits into your space is to leave an area of your yard to grow wild. Just choose a
corner away from any structures and let it return to its natural state. The small inhabitants of your yard will love it.
Plant flowers to attract devas and faeries.
Faeries can be enticed with offerings. They love a dish of cream, milk and honey, or a tiny glass of elderberry wine.
Offerings should always be of the best quality and the first of the cream out of the carton or one of the first and nicest
loaves of bread made that day. Gift of a buckeye or a handful of acorns will gain faery favor, especially if the acorns were
gathered under a full moon's light.
Kappa by Katsushika Hokusai
|A troll at a Norwegian gift shop