I know what you’re saying. Why would you need protection against a cute little faery? The truth is, in most countries where legends of faeries exist and where the belief in faeries lingers, many of the Fair Folk are not all that cute. Or little.
And they definitely are not nice.
Legend has it that the term “fairy”, "fairie", "fae", or "faery" can be applied to a wide range of supernatural beings who possess considerable magical powers. Sprites, boggarts, pixies, banshees, brownies, hobgoblins, elementals, trolls, elves and many, many other creatures can all be lumped under the single heading of “faeries”.
According to the old stories, faeries could be so beautiful that mortals were unable to resist them, or so ugly that mortals could perish from fear. There were light faeries who were mostly good and dark faeries who were mostly evil. Still others were both friendly and hostile, helpful and mischievous, kind and cruel. This amoral unpredictability made most faeries very dangerous creatures. Your only hope as a mere mortal was to avoid the faeries, repel the faeries or appease the faeries.
|Fairy Mound in Ireland|
In the Celtic countries (Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England), children used to be cautioned to stay away from faery mounds. These are strange solitary hills in odd places, such as the middle of a field. These round grassy knolls were believed to be entrances to the underground faery realm. Venture too close and you could disappear, never to be seen again. It was especially dangerous if you were a beautiful woman or a handsome man. You might be spirited away by faeries looking for a mortal mate!
Steer clear of certain trees late at night, especially hazel, thorn, alder and oak, because they’re favorite haunts for faeries. You could find yourself pinched and hit as you walk by – or tangled in the branches until morning.
Farmers knew better than to enter a mill at night. That was the time that faeries brought their grain to be ground. Interrupting faeries when they were working could earn you a failed crop or other curse.
You needed to watch where you were walking because a strange tuft of grass or stray bit of sod could trigger a spell if stepped on. Your path through the woods could suddenly disappear. If you were crossing an open field, you might keep veering in the wrong direction or cross it only to arrive on the same side you started from. It’s called “being pixie-led” and it could happen in broad daylight.
Certain ponds, lakes and rivers were said to be the haunts of kelpies and other water faeries. If you came to these waters alone, you could be pulled in by these nasty creatures and drown. It was said that your spirit would then be forced to live in the faery realm forever. Stay away or use the buddy system.
|St. John's Wort|
Garlands were often made of marsh marigolds and hung over the barn doors to protect the horses from being ridden to exhaustion by faeries. Flowers, especially primroses, were spread over windowsills and hung above the door-posts of the house for safety. Your best bet, however, was a plant called St. John's Wort. Wearing it was said to provide strong protection from faery magic and mischief.
Faeries could vanish at will and remain invisible to mortal eyes as long as they pleased. Carrying a four-leafed clover would allow you to see the faeries – but only once. A Celtic tradition was to sew several of the clovers into a tiny bag to be worn around the neck. You could then discern the faeries once for each clover in the bag. In some legends, the clover was said to allow you to see through faery glamors and magical disguises.
Iron in any form has always been the best protection against faeries – it was like kryptonite to Superman. If you kept an iron nail in your pocket, you couldn’t be carried away by them. A pair of iron shears hung on the wall near a baby’s bed was said to prevent the child from being swapped for an ugly faery baby. Horseshoes could be nailed over doorposts.
Red berries kept faeries at bay, especially if they were from rowan trees, mountain ash or holly.
Even humble oatmeal was said to be a faery repellent, if you carried it in your pocket or sprinkled it on your clothes. As long as you didn’t mind looking flaky, you’d be safe.
In many cultures, protection from faeries was achieved by cooperation and respect.
If you were Welsh, for instance, you might leave bread and milk on the back porch at night as an offering for the faeries. This was said to prevent them from playing pranks on the family and might even gain their favor. (Note – they liked butter, cream, and ale too. Especially ale.)
If you spilled salt in Ireland, you might throw some over your shoulder in order to give the faeries their share. If you passed a body of water, or even a well, you could drop in a piece of silver for the faery that lives there. If you were milking a cow or goat by hand, you would probably let the first few squirts fall to the ground to appease any unseen faeries that were thirsty.
Many of the kindlier faeries were said to be offended when they saw a lack of hospitality and courtesy among human mortals, and would punish such offences severely. On the other hand, if you were fair and honest with your fellow mortals, and practiced generosity, the faeries were likely to treat you in kind. Or, at the very least, leave you safely alone!
My new GRIM SERIES deals with the dangerous unpredictability of the Fair Ones, the Tylwyth Teg of Welsh faery folklore -- and the hapless mortals who run afoul of it.
Book 2, STORM BOUND, releases March 18th.
When a faery-cursed blacksmith meets a modern-day witch,
will he choose love --