What kind of cockamamie blog title is that, right?! I swear it’s not as crazy as it sounds — or is it?? Beltane season is creeping up on us which has a long-standing association with faeries. So, this week I wanted to talk about why that is and some ways you can (safely) work with the energy of the fey this May Day season.
Opposites like [Beltane and Samhain] are like imagery on a tarot card; inverse versions of one another.– Avani Joy
Christians have Christmas and Easter, but witches — Witches have Samhain and Beltane. And boy, do we love those holidays. (Ok, I know — we love Yule, too, but today we’re focus on warm weather holidays!) What is it about these two Sabbats that capture our hearts and imaginations? Well, interestingly these two days are actually opposite of each other on the Wheel of the Year. When you start doing more studying you find that opposites like these are like imagery on a tarot card; inverse versions of one another. That is illustrated no more clearly, though, than Beltane and Samhain.
The ancient Celts only observed two season in the year; Summer and Winter, a Light Half and a Dark Half of the year. Samhain marks the starts of the Dark Half of the year and Beltane the Light Half. Still following right? I’m sure you’re still waiting to find out what faeries have to do with ghost stories. Hang in there — I’m getting there, I promise! The Celts held any “in-between” time or place as sacred locations or occasions in which the veil between the physical world and the spirit world would become thin. So, at Samhain it was believed that the spirits of our ancestors roamed the Earth at this time, visiting those who lived and taking part in the offerings left for them as was tradition. However, at Beltane the focus was instead on faeries and nature spirits. But… why?
And here we come back around to my mysteriously and potentially confusing blog title.
It was last Beltane season around this time when I came across this concept that really brought my understanding of the Wheel of the Year for this season into sharper focus:
To quote Jeremiah Curtin from his book Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World, ‘The attributes of a ghost – that is to say, the spirit of a dead man – are indistinguishable from those of a fairy.” Indeed, in times gone past fairies, ghosts, and spirits were almost interchangeable and frequently confused in mythology in folklore. This is no more apparent than the myth of the Banshee. Many already know that the banshee is a from the Tuatha da Dananna (part of Irish Fairy Folklore) and it was believed that her scream heralded the death of a loved one. A lesser known detail is that many believed that the Banshee was ancestrally tied to their family; a Banshee for each bloodline.
Here it is easy to see the blurred line between spirit, faerie, and ghost. While the Banshee is the easiest example, the same is true for a lot of old Fairy Folklore. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider that perhaps household spirits or elves might once have been somehow tied to the families that inhabited the homes in which they worked much like the House Elves from Harry Potter. (While JK Rowling’s character is suspect lately, no one can deny that her writings have been remarkably well researched and based in traditional folkloric and occult traditions!)
In Roman tradition, faeries were often equated with “Lares” which were believed to, rather than inhabiting graves, cemetaries, or old houses live unattached to any place at all. Instead they take up residence in fields, cities, and crossroads.
There is also some evidence out there that suggests that over the course of history as the pagan gods and goddess fell out of popular worship that their characteristics and abilities were bestowed onto these fiesty natures spirits. Even in the modern day among many inhabitants of the British Isles. They often refer to faeries instead as “The Little People” or “The Good People” and regularly make offerings to appease them as they are known for their mischief. When working with the fey this is really the best and most important thing one can do to safeguard from their shenanigans. (Although really no one is immune.) And you should never expect anything in return from them for your trouble. Although if a faerie should gift you something, you should feel blessed, indeed!
Either way, fairy folklore persists in the imagination of adults and children alike. I myself find that they like to occasionally do things like steal my keys or cell phone only to be found hours or days later in a perfectly visible place I’ve searched multiple times before. The most exciting interaction by far was when the faeries drew us into and got us hopelessly lost in the woodlands of Rhode Island while visiting my Great Aunt. (Herself a big believer in the fey.) On the upside the one time I really actively worked with them to their benefit I received the gift of a cicada wing for my trouble.
Have you ever had any interactions or dealings with the Fey? Were they positive or negative? I’d love to hear more about YOUR experiences with faeries in the comments below!