One of the first things that turned me towards modern Pagan traditions is belief in and a relationship with fairies and other types of fae. I’ve had contact with the fae my entire life – seeing them easily despite the guise of bugs and small birds that they may wear; hearing their music beneath the rustle of wind-blown leaves. My young heart and mind never considered the fact that these magical beings did not exist – the same as I never considered that magic did not exist. So when I began exploring, I spent time following the fairy tales. Not Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, the tales about fairies. And, under the tutelage of first Danu, and then an’Dagda, the fairy stories led me to Irish myth cycles, and – eventually – my current faith.
But my relationship with the fae is something separate but not from my walk with my Gods. It is all part of my path, the expression of my faith, and yet it is much more simple and much less formal than my relationships with my Gods, no matter how familiar and familial. Because they have always been with me. Some of them, literally, have always been with me. When I first moved out of my parents’ house and into my own, on the last day that I moved furniture from my old bedroom and into my new, I walked out into the woods. I walked out to the side of the smaller pond on my parents’ property to my sacred space – the place where I first laid myself bare and my Mother Goddess stepped in and touched my heart, before I ever knew her name; the place where I studied and I learned and I found my laughing Father; the place where I dedicated myself to them in the most simple, yet profound religious experience in my life. And for the last time, I called out in that place, cast my circle and called the corners, and I invited my many fae friends to come, follow me, and make my home their own.
My sacred space is unreachable now – Hurricane Katrina brought down so many trees and my parents haven’t maintained the land – but that small, round clearing beside the pond still dwells in my heart for the magic and mystery, and for the pure joy, that was found there for a young girl. But follow me, they did. In droves. They packed themselves into every nook and cranny in the 50’s row house that even had a small telephone nook in the “hallway”. They filled the small yard with their bubbling essence and brought life and magic into my home even before I filled it with my own magic. And they followed us all around the city to finally settle into the apartment we lived in for a year and a half and where we made so much magic with some of the dearest souls.
And they even followed us to Chicago, though they found that place even more hell than I did. There were less of them – less able to deal with the confines of concrete and steel, less magic being made in my household to sustain them. And then we left that city and locked our things away from us for five months. We had never intended for it to be so long and we asked some of our fairy friends to watch over our things and keep them safe until we could fetch them all. Some still followed us on, but not many, and when we returned to fetch our things finally, some sought their freedom and traveled on their way.
Still, there were tiny, fierce spirits who remained with us, who followed us to yet another new home, new town, and made our house – or apartment – feel like home. And for a while, I did my best to reestablish that relationship with them, to open our home to all those fae who came without ill will or malice intent. And for a time, our home was filled with magic again.
And then my depression reached its peak, and I stopped reaching out, I stopped offering the small treats that had so long been a part of my relationship with my friendly fae. I thought to myself – I don’t have to bribe them, I don’t have to trick them into staying. But I had a realization the other day, as I sat in a house nearly inert of magical intent. No, the fae aren’t the sugar addicted, malicious-unless-bribed, idiots that I feel many traditions and practices paint them to be. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t failed in our relationships.
Because, you see, sometimes giving cookies and other sweets isn’t about bribing them to behave or tricking them with sugar overload. Sometimes it’s a matter of remembering that my friends enjoy sweets and wishing to make them happy, not for my own gain, but because it has always made me happy to do for them. Yes, there is a reciprocal relationship, where they seek to do things to make me happy. But it isn’t why I did what I did for so many years. It’s not why I’m going to start doing what I do again. I’m doing it because I miss my friends and I know it will make them happy. And, yes, I realize the practice is much the same, but at the end of the day, what makes our faiths – our paths and our practices – is not the motions we make, but the heart of what we do and why. I’m glad my heart and mind are finally moving along the same track once again.