Billed as a guide to the magick, spells, potions, and recipes to attract and see Fairies, this lively book does fit the bill perfectly! Anna Franklin has put together a nice reference. Well-written, it is enjoyable reading. Ghostvillage.com had the chance to ask Anna about her new book.
With your fine nonfiction book, Working With Fairies, you have given readers a truly accurate and enjoyable look at the world of fairies. Let me start by asking you, what do you see as the direct link between Witches and Fairies?
Once, every village had a wise woman or cunning man who dealt with the wildfolk. Such people were common in Britain and Ireland right up until the end of the First World War. Their job was to maintain the balance between the human and fairy world, to mediate with the spirits, to solicit their blessings for good harvests, to repair any damage done to their relationships with humans, to placate the forces of blight, to heal and to remove curses. They inherited the mantle of the ancient priests and priestesses of the Pagan world, who became the witches and fairy doctors of later ages. Both the ancient Celts and Saxons had gifted individuals who were able to journey at will into the world of the spirits. In later times, these people were called witches, a name that comes from the Anglo-Saxon wicce, or wise one.
Witches and fairies were often thought to have the same powers: both use magic and both can bless and curse. In fact, the old Romany word for ‘fairy’ is the same as the one for ‘witch’. The Irish believed that a witch was created when a young girl spent seven years in the Otherworld with her fairy lover, coming back somewhat aged, but with knowledge of herbs, philtres and secret spells. The famous witch Biddy Early insisted that her powers came from the fairies. She used a blue bottle, given to her by the fairies, for healing and prophecy. At her death in 1873 it was thrown into a lake so that no one else could attempt to use it.
The old witches worked their magic in conjunction with wildfolk, and there is plenty of evidence for this in the trial records; the accused often tried to explain that their powers came not from devils, but from the fairies. Elspeth Reoch of Orkney confessed, in 1616, that she had met a fairy man who offered to teach her to understand and see anything she wanted. In 1566, John Walsh of Netherberry in Dorset said that he knew when men were bewitched because the fairies told him. When he wanted to converse with fairies he would go to the hills where there were mounds of earth, and speak to them between the hours of one and noon, or at midnight.
In the 1600s, in the North of England, a man was taken into court on charges of witchcraft. He claimed to use a powder to heal sicknesses, and offered to lead the gentlemen of the court to the fairy hill where he obtained the medicine. He had discovered the hill when he was destitute, and agonizing about how to feed his wife and children. A lovely woman had appeared to him and advised him that if he followed her counsel, he would get a good living from it. She led him to a little hill and knocked on it three times. The hill opened and they went in, coming to a fair hall, where a fairy queen sat in great state, with many people about her. She gave him a box full of white powder, and taught him how to use it by giving two or three grains to any who were sick, which would heal them. The Judge asked whether the place within the hill, which he called a hall, were light or dark, and the accused replied it was like twilight. Being asked how he got more powder, he said that when he wanted it, he went to that hill and knocked three times, and said every time “I am coming, I am coming”, whereupon it opened. Going in, he was conducted by the beautiful lady to the queen. The outraged judge said that if he were judged guilty, he would have him whipped all the way to the fairy hall, but the jury, since he had cured many with his white powder, acquitted him. Similar stories of witches gaining their powers from fairies were told over and over again all around Britain.
This association of fairies and witches goes beyond the British Isles and seems to have an almost universal resonance in other parts of the world. For example, in parts of Eastern Europe, witches were called vilenice, which implies someone who deals with fairies [vile]. During an investigation during the late seventeenth century, a young vilenica confirmed that her powers had been granted to her by a fairy who had shown her the properties of herbs, and who could be called upon by virtue of certain herbs picked together with their roots. As in other places, there were tales of children and adults disappearing into the mountains for months or years, and returning with magical powers granted to them by the fairies. In northern Croatia, the people said that on each Good Friday a vile flies down from the sky to teach women how to heal people and be of benefit to them. The women had to go with their hair unbraided into the green grove, where two had to climb the old trees with the vile, and eat yarn, to better remember what the vile was teaching them; in this way they became vilenice.
What are your thoughts on Witch Blood and Otherworld Initiation?
Most people go about their everyday lives unaware of the presence of the Otherworld. The vast majority have forgotten how to see the non-physical realm. As children we may see and speak with fairies, but as we grow up, we are told that this is just imagination; it is not real. As we get older, we become distracted by the material world: the business of falling in love, raising families and earning a living. We forget the Otherworld until something makes us remember.
According to the old lore, not everyone can see fairies; you have to be born with what the Scottish called ‘the sight’, an ability to see into the spirit world and to read the future. It is a talent possessed by the genuine wise woman, the shaman, the witch.
The worker with fairies is a Walker between the Worlds, traveling between this realm and the Otherworld. Such a person is one who dwells a little apart from the everyday world and sees further than its boundaries. Some people have souls of clay and cleave only to the material realm, while others have souls of fire and seek to fly.
People who see the fairies are often called ‘fey’ themselves, i.e. fairylike. It was not unknown for seers to have some fairy blood in their veins. It was rumored that fairies and humans often mated; preachers even denounced human and fairy liaisons from the pulpit. The offspring of such marriages were always wild and strange, their beautiful eyes and bold, reckless temperaments betraying their fairy blood. They were mystics and possessed second sight, or they became legendary warriors, bards or musicians. Many famous people are thought to have had one mortal and one Otherworldly parent, including Alexander the Great, the Queen of Sheba and Merlin. Even Shakespeare was said to have been part fairy.
People with fairy blood are passionate, sensitive and psychic, and if they find their true path may develop into the artists, poets, seers, shamans and witches of our world: indeed, the heritage is sometimes called the ‘witch blood’.
However, once incarnate in the flesh, many forget their spiritual purpose – to work in harmony with the Otherworld. Ordinary life may take over, but deep inside them there will always be a feeling of something lost, something lying beyond the five ordinary senses: a deep, unfulfilled longing. It may take a dramatic event to re-awaken the connection to the spirit realm – an illness, a loss: what is often described as the shamanic crisis. It may a gentler awakening, as when the older woman, after her children have grown, turns to spiritual matters, and takes on the mantle of the wise woman. There may be many such people among us now – you may be one – ready to be awakened. Those who never remember, never follow their true path, will always feel themselves to be strangers in an alien world; they usually become depressive, vengeful and self destructive.
In your book you discuss the perils of Fairyland. What do you suggest as the best ways for self-protection?
To encounter the world of fairies, you must first realize that the whole world and everything in it is alive, animate, conscious, and infused with spirit. It is sacred, it is holy. This includes trees, rocks, stones, animals, even city streets and hearth fires. It is a wonderful and exciting feeling to comprehend this, but one which brings with it responsibilities. The Walker between the Worlds has duties and obligations. Visits to Fairyland are fraught with danger. Once you have entered the fairy world, nothing will ever be the same again. Fairy lore is full of warnings about people who have visited Fairyland and ever afterwards pined for its glory; if you enter it flippantly, or greedy for gain, you will suffer for it. You should only enter it with a pure heart, and this is the best protection of all.
Would you share with us some of the gifts and blessings awaiting those who make contact with fairies?
Fairies have the ability to teach us about the natural and spiritual world. Fairies, particularly water fairies, have the power to make human beings into great healers. The lake fairy of Llyn y Fan Fach might have left her husband when he broke the taboos surrounding their marriage, but she returned occasionally to instruct her sons in the art of herbs and medicine; they became the famous physicians of Myddfai. Fairies teach witches how to use herbs, since they know all their healing properties. For example, the Seefräuline, a German lake maiden, and the Vile pass on the knowledge of forest herbs. The Auki, a Peruvian mountain fairy, helps shamans with healing. To form a bond with an Otherworldly being means to participate in an equal exchange. You can achieve this reciprocity by protecting the environment, cleaning a fairy habitat, or something much more profound.
What are some of your personal favorites when it comes to visiting fey folk dwellings?
The grove was the center of Celtic religion, the place where spirits were contacted, and the forest is alive with the chattering of the Otherworld, where messages can be heard in the whistling wind and the whispering of the leaves in the trees.
Vast numbers of fairies dwell in the forests. In Croatia, for example, the Sumske Dekle [‘Woodland Maidens’] are fairy girls, covered in hair. When humans leave food out for them they will return the favor by cleaning their houses. In Greece, the Sylvans are beautiful but dangerous, sometimes luring travelers to their deaths in the forests. In Hungarian fairy lore, the Vadleany [‘Forest Girl’] appears as a naked woman with hair so long that it sweeps the ground. When the forest rustles, it tells of her presence.
Among the southern and western Slavs, the Vile [‘Whirlwind’] dwell in woodlands, and ride about them on horses or on stags, hunting deer with their arrows and herding chamois. Some of the forest Vily are connected with particular trees in the manner of dryads and cannot venture far from them. In Dalmatia, they are described as the troop of Herodias, the witch queen. In Serbia they are called divna ‘the divine’, and it seems likely that they were originally Pagan goddesses, later associated with witch lore.
I recall an elderly woman telling me years ago she had a water fairy in her life because it seemed everywhere she lived, there was a problem with water or flooding. Does such things happen often, and if so, how does one overcome it and make peace with the fairy?
Every body of water, from the smallest stream to the vast ocean, has its own protective fairy, living below the surface. Some water fairies are unfriendly and dangerous. If you anger them by polluting their water, they may appear as hideous green toothed hags to drench you with a sudden storm, or drown you beneath the waves. Jenny Greenteeth lives in the River Ribble in Northern England. When green weeds wave in the flowing water, it is a sign that Peggy is lurking beneath the surface, ready to take another victim. The Celts were careful to honor water spirits by making offerings of brooches, swords and coins thrown into water. This is the origin of the modern wishing well, that honors the spirit of the well, and asks for blessings in return for the coin.
Which fairy and which fairy dwelling makes itself more easily accessible to humans? Why?
Every garden, no matter how small, has a guardian spirit of its own, a genius locus. To speak to the protective spirit, choose a quiet place in the garden, and open your heart to it. Speak quietly, and ask for its help to make the most of your garden as a place of beauty that humans and fairies can share.
The question of time is one of great importance for those wishing contact with the fairy world. Are most people aware of the fact that what is an hour in the enchanting world of fairies may be a month in human time? What are your thoughts on this?
Time flows differently in the Otherworld, and humans who think they have passed a single year with the fairies may return to their homes to find them ruined by time, and their friends and relatives aged or long dead and buried. One such was Oisin, the son of Finn Mac Cool, chief of the Fenian warriors of Ireland. He was hunting one day when a fairy woman called Niamh of the Golden Hair approached him. She had chosen him for her lover and together they journeyed to the fairyland. After three hundred years he expressed a wish to see his home and she lent him a fairy horse, with the caution not to let his feet touch the earth. He was dismayed to see that all had changed. Even the men seemed feebler. He saw three trying to move a rock and as he lent down to give them a hand his saddle girth suddenly snapped and he fell to the earth. The horse vanished and he instantly became ancient and blind.
These distortions in time are experienced by anyone who visits the Otherworld, whether in meditation, through ritual or some other discipline. When, as a witch, I cast a circle, I create a place that exists between the worlds. The circle is not a barrier to keep things out, or a container to keep the power in, it is an interface between the worlds, where all the worlds can be accessed. We sometime think that we have spent an hour or two inside the circle, when six or seven hours have passed ion the everyday world.
In your book you discuss tree spirits, fairy trees, and vegetation spirits. If I were to ask you which tree and tea would most help the newcomer encounter fairies, what guide or suggestions could you share?
This will depend on the person who makes the approach. What resonates closely with one person will not with another. One person may respond to the energy of a rowan, while another will respond to the energy of ah or oak. Fairies are natural energies, primal expressions of the life force of the Cosmos. The closer you work with Nature the closer you become to the world of fairy. To contact a dryad you will need to spend time with various trees, and sense which is willing to have a relationship with you, before you even try to make contact. There is no simple answer to any of these things, and while a potion will help open the senses, the original work must be put in also, and the heart must be opened.
Please explain what is a Fairy Godmother? Do you have a personal favorite among the fairies?
Fairy Godmothers feature in many tales, appearing at the birth of a child to predict its future or bestow gifts upon it. Everyone knows the stories of Snow White and Cinderella. Fairies of this type include the Fata [‘Fate’], the Béfind, Hulda, Rodjenice, Sudice, Dísir, Rózanica, Hathors, Rozanice, Urisnici, Narücnici, Rod, Udĕlnicy, Sudzenici, Orisnici, and Sojenice, most of which dress in white and appear three days after the birth of a child to bless or curse it, according to the behavior of its family. They will foretell its future, give advice and possibly favor the child with birthmarks. The house must be prepared for their arrival by being cleaned and thoroughly swept. The table must be laid with honey, bread and three white almonds. In parts of Greece water, coins and gifts are placed beside the food. The door should be left open and a light should be left burning. The house should be kept quiet. Once the fairy has appeared and the fate told, it cannot be changed.
These fairies also appear at marriages, and girls who want the help of the Fairy Godmothers make pilgrimages to caves, leaving offerings of cakes and honey. The fairies are then invited to the resulting weddings and honey glazed almonds are distributed to the guests in their honor. The fairies appear once more at death, to take the soul out of the world.
Possibly, these fairy godmothers are derived from folk memories of ancient weaver goddesses who spin, measure and cut short the lives of mortals such as the Greek Moerae or Fates, and the Scandinavian Norns.
One of the many interesting sections of your book is fairy etiquette. Would you comment on unfriendly fairies?
Making friends with fairies doesn’t always work. Sometimes they may be inadvertently offended. Some are simply inimical to human beings, or their normal courses may seem cruel or malicious to the outsider. There are certainly darker beings, embodiments of the powers of death, dissolution, illness, blight and despair. They are not ‘evil’ as we might understand it, and have their place in the Cosmos, but they are dangerous to deal with. Just as there are malicious humans there are malicious spirits, practical jokers, those who appear in the guise of helper only to trick you.
If you are feeling malice, envy, anger or despair when you call up the spirits, it invoke a spirit that mirrors these qualities. Unpleasant spirits are attracted to people who are very negative and are nourished by this negativity. They are attracted to people with alcohol or drug problems, and feed off the aura generated by the addiction. You may become tired and listless under the attention of such spirits.
In your book, you cover in-depth information about water elementals, earth elementals, air elementals, and fire elementals. Which is your favorite, and for what reasons?
To have a favorite would be to offend the others. It is the duty of the witch to maintain a balance between the elements- in the circle, in the world, in life and within the self.
You discuss the ways of pathworking in clear, helpful, concise terms. Is there any one particular path you would suggest or recommend to the beginner seeking fairy contact?
Pathworking, or guided meditation, is a tool used by mystics to foster spiritual development, to open the psychic senses, and to visit all the realms of the Otherworld. After a time, the pathworker begins to realize that the landscapes and persons met do not all belong to his or her internal world, but constitute messages and lessons from the Otherworld. In time, he or she will also learn to recognize spiritual lessons manifesting in the physical realm, since the realms co-exist in the same space.
Journey to Avalon Pathworking
Imagine that you are standing on the edge of a lake. An eerie mist covers the water and you cannot see more than a few yards. Even the birds are quiet.
You become aware of the sound of a gentle splashing. Slowly a stately barge glides into view. It crests through the water as if by magic and comes to rest on the shore before you. It is made of silver and has a moon-white sail. In it sits a noble looking woman, clad all in red. Her hair is also red, and flows long and sleek down her back. She holds out her hand to you, and you step into the boat.
The barge starts to move silently through the gossamer threads of mist that shroud the lake. Your companion is quiet, but smiles gently at you.
Eventually your magic barge comes to rest beside a jetty made from some snow-white wood, and you step ashore to find yourself on an enchanted island. Though the mists hide it from the mortal world, the island is lit by bright sunshine. It is covered by orchards of apple trees, which bear drifts of blossom, which the gentle breeze scatters, creating a snowstorm of soft petals. Among the branches also hang mature fruit, round golden apples, full and ripe.
Morgan le Fay- for your hostess is none other- bids you welcome to her realm. You may stay here as long as you like, speaking with Morgan le Fay. She knows all the secrets of magic and herbs, and may share some of these with you.
When you are ready to return, thank your hostess and take the magic barge back to the shore of the human realm.
In addition to being a fine writer, you are also a gifted artist. What is your website for readers to view?
We both have cats in our homes. I notice there are times when they play with the fairies. In fact, I once had a cat named Wiz who took fairies for a wild ride on his back! Are your cats in contact with the fairies in your home, do they play together?
Yes, they can see them when they are present, though with cats, as with people, there are some more sensitive than others. I once had a cat called Raffles who could see fairies and spirits very clearly, and would spend hours watching them.
Why do cats seem to naturally attract fairies to them? Do you feel cats have a special magick all their own that fairies intuitively recognize and want to associate with?
The Celts believed that looking into a cat’s eye would enable you to see the fairies, or peer into the Otherworld. Generally speaking, fairies love cats and fear dogs- some fairies will not enter a house where there is a dog. Fairies are said to keep their own cats [and dogs] and the cait sith are of a wild breed, as large as dogs, black with a white spot on their breast, arched backs and erect bristles. The tailless Manx cats from the fairy Isle of Man are said to have been bred by the fairies. Perhaps the strange reputation of cats arises from their association with many ancient goddesses such as the Egyptian cat-headed Bast or Bastet [‘Soul of Isis’] and the Roman moon goddess Diana, while Freya, the Scandinavian goddess of the moon, fertility and love, had a chariot drawn by cats. The triple goddess Brighid was linked to a cat in an Irish tale. In Scotland the Blue Hag of Winter [ Cailleach Bheur] was able to turn herself into a cat, as was the shapeshifting Welsh goddess Ceridwen.
Do you see a growing interest in the world of fairies as becoming a world-wide phenomena?
People are certainly very interested in fairies, but most are only concerned with the story book type of fairy, Tinkerbell in her tutu and wings. Real fairies are not like this, they are dynamic ancient powers, some malign and some beneficent.
There have always been legends of fairies; they exist in every country of the world. However, a culture that believes in fairies is one fundamentally different from our modern Western materialistic society. It recognizes that a life force suffuses the whole of Nature, an energy that manifests in a range of spirits that fill the meadows, streams, wells, forests and even the air itself. They guard fields and individual trees, mountains and hearth fires. They may bless or curse humans as they please, and inflict sickness or health on the flocks and herds. Not so very long ago, an association with the fairies was a very real part of people’s lives. An excellent relationship with the ‘The Good Neighbors’- as the fairies were called – was essential for the well being and prosperity of anyone who depended on the land for his or her livelihood. Fairies were given offerings of milk on the old standing stones, bread and salt in the corners of fields, cream in saucers left on the hearth, and were left part of the harvest. Special stones – called dobby stones in the northern counties – had shallow depressions for making offerings to them, and were placed by field gates or the farmhouse door. Spiritual guardians called the Ward gathered at dusk in their sacred places, still known as ward trees, ward hills and ward stones, to guard villages. The Wild Hunt rode out to collect the souls of the wicked. For the countryman, fairies, elves and natural magic were part of the everyday experience.
As we humans moved away from our close connection to the earth, we lost our link with the wildfolk. We forgot how to see them, how to contact them, and how to treat them. Stories of them persisted, but they lost their awesome status; we diminished them, in our imaginations, into the tiny cute creatures of nursery tales.
In closing, let me thank you for this interview. It has been enjoyable, and I know the readers will find it enjoyable, too! I thank you for your responses.
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