There are Fairies at the bottom of your garden. No really, there ARE; and in alleyways, city parks, and shopping malls. Dora the Explorer was absolutely right: there is a grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge, and his cousin Boris hangs out beneath the expressway heading out of town, if you care to seek him out. Gone are the days when to connect with the Fae you had to head to hills and fields. Quite honestly, those days may have never actually existed, except maybe in the minds of certain poets and artists with romantic ideas of what a Fairy should look like.
In the recent Fairy Census1 conducted between 2014 and 2017, of the 500 published entries, roughly 18% of the sightings recorded were in back yards, in gardens, and on front porches. Just a brief examination of recorded folklore reveals that the idea of the Fae being this intimately connected to our urban environments is sound. It doesn't take much to find tales of the Fae shopping in our marketplaces, legends of spectral creatures frequenting bridges and roads catching poor souls unaware, and once upon a time every good housewife knew not to annoy the Buttery Sprite that lived in her pantry. Solitary fae do not have a monopoly, either; in the UK we even have handwritten accounts of large troops of Fairy creatures appearing annually in certain very urban locations, particularly graveyards and gardens. These beings haven't disappeared; they are still here, it is us that have banished them from our sight and forgotten the role that the Fae once played in our everyday lives, and it is us that would do well to remember them.
One of the best ways we can do that is to start observing the simple rituals that our ancestors performed. These oblations were part of everyday life designed to make things easier for all concerned; Fairytales are a source of information regarding them. I promise you, no matter where you are in the world, there will be stories of little folk and spirits that can guide you in researching this should you wish to do so. Of course, if you are struggling, there is always travel, for without a shadow of a doubt there are now Nordic Trolls in Canada, and, as I discuss in my upcoming book Urban Faery Magick there is definitely at least one Dwarf in Detroit. Here are three great ideas that can just take a moment of your time that can help you make a strong connection with the Fae in your area, and combining them you can build a daily practise, a devotional practise, and a regular seasonal practise.
- Light a Candle Every Night for the Fae. Rowli Pugh, it was said, was a terribly unlucky man. Everything he turned his hands to just failed. No matter how hard he tried he could not catch a break. His house was falling apart, his livestock were dying, his crops had perished, and even his wife had taken to her sick bed. His only option (so he thought) was to go away and try and find his fortune. As he contemplated his fate, a little man appeared to him and told him that he need not leave if he asked his wife to leave a candle burning each night before she went to bed. This she duly did, and for years the family prospered, each night the candle was lit and each morning when they woke, the work was done. The crops flourished, the animals grew rich and fat, all was well. One night, however, Rowli's wife couldn't help herself, and she crept down to try and find out who was doing all the work. Sadly, she startled the wee folk and they scattered never to return, but the family were now rich and remained so for the rest of their lives.
The story of Rowli is one very specific to a region of South Wales, but across the British Isles there are dozens of variants, and some of these tales of Fairy helpers have even made it into our global collective consciousness. ("The Elves and the Shoemaker," for example, has delighted generations of children with visions of little men working tirelessly by candlelight and chuckling with joy as they danced away in their fine clothes.) Now obviously, health and safety dictates that you don't leave a live flame burning each night, but a small candle lit with a few genuine words, for a short while each evening, can draw the attention of the Fae in your area. You do not always need to ask for something to do this; the best relationships develop and grow from mutual admiration and not obligation, so start with asking for absolutely nothing, just a sense of respect and an open mind, for the Fae rarely appear how you expect them to.
- Observe the Three Nights for Spirits. Specific nights appear repeatedly in myth and legend, Solstices and the cross quarter days being very common. According to Wirt Sykes,2 the Welsh call these nights "Tier Nos Ysbrydnos," or the three nights of spirits. These are astrological and can be marked whereever in the world you live; sightings worldwide still seem to peak during these times, but it is also fair to say that you may find your local spirits have their own special times as well so take some time to seek them out.
At All Hallows (31st October/1st November) the dead are said to cross the veil and the Lord of the Wild Hunt welcomes them into his army of Fae that careen across the skies, sweeping up any unsuspecting soul who gets caught outside. At Mayday Eve/Beltane (30th April/1st May), the King of Fae battles for the love of his life against his mortal enemy who would also win her hand. They are fated to fight this battle until the end of the world, neither one ever truly gaining the upper hand, but whilst the battle is fought his Fae can cavort—and do so with great gusto. Then of course there is the "Mother's Blessings," the troops of Fae who on hot Midsummer (20th/21st June) nights run riot in the streets causing madness and mayhem in their wake. On these nights ritual and offerings can be given, introductions made, and old friendships more easily renewed. Be prepared to dance, there is almost always movement and strong emotions at these times, and it may be this energy that fuels the Fae allowing them to become so apparent even to our blinkered urban eyes.
- Leave Regular Offerings Such as Milk and Honey to Show Your Appreciation. But, NEVER outright say "thank you," as this is considered offensive. The humble Boggart can be a fairly amiable chap; he tends to hang out in very domestic environments and as long as you don't annoy them you'll rub along quite nicely. There are some tales that suggest that he (or she) is just a regional form of house brownie and as such one of their favourite payments for the return of items lost, found, mended, or procured is milk and honey. However, saying thank you has almost the identical effect as spying on them, which as we know, ended not so well for Mrs Pugh. A direct statement of gratitude is very likely to result in your faery visitors leaving without even a "fare thee well."
A word of caution here: don't bargain with your Boggart and then forget to follow through with your offering; it;s far more trouble than it's worth, and to appease them might take more than the originally agreed upon bowl of milk and honey. As an interesting aside, an offering of milk and honey is commonly said to appease both the Wild Hunt and the "Mother's Blessings," and so are totally appropriate as offerings when you observe the Three Nights for Spirits.
These, of course, are just some suggestions, and I do discuss many more in Urban Faery Magick; you may also find that, just like the Faery who asked for a candle to be lit each night, your local Fae may ask for something very specific to them. As long as it doesn’t bring you, your loved ones, or your area in harm's way, then go with their request. We need to start listening to them; they have a lot to teach us.
- Sykes W. British Goblins: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions (Sandycroft Publishing 2017)