On April 29, I received an email from Singapore. The writer said that people in her country don’t believe in fairies. She does. But when she talks about fairies, people think she’s crazy. She wanted to know “how to find, see, meet the fairies during Beltane.”
I answered her from my heart. I doubt it was what she wanted to hear.
To me, fairies are thought forms of good energy — helpful spirits — invisible and accessible. My belief was shaped in childhood. As a girl, I had a vivid imagination. I remember when my dad planted a tree in our front yard. He said it was a Chinese Elm. I was certain that the roots went all the way to China, and that if I wanted to go there, all I had to do was dig under the tree. I remember when a traveling photographer took my little sister's photo dressed in a cowboy outfit, sitting on the photographer's pony. He gave my sister a horseshoe. Later, when my father told my sister she could absolutely not have a pony, she planted the horseshoe under the elm, believing she could grow a pony. At the wise age of seven, I knew horses came from farms, not trees. But what if there was a horse farm in China?
My dad planted two gardenia bushes by the front steps. On summer nights, when the gardenias were in full bloom, I would sit on the steps, snip off a green, waxy leaf, and use my fingernails to carve out a face. I was certain that there were spirits trapped in the leaves and that if I could give them a face, they would have a voice and be free. The hardest part to make was the mouth. I had to break the backbone of the leaf. The kids who lived in the house behind ours had an abusive father. Often, after being beaten, the girl who was my age would come looking for me. I got used to seeing the swelling, the burns, the bruises and belt welts. I showed her how to make a face in a gardenia leaf.
All across the back of our property, my dad planted a hedge of Rose of Sharon. We lived in Tidewater, Virginia. The soil was rich, the air always humid, and my dad had a green thumb. The shrubs grew well over six feet tall. Every summer, they boasted a profusion of and big, bright pink and magenta, ruffled flowers — the perfect gown for a fairy. On the other side of the hedge lived the family with the abusive father. I told the girl who was my age that fairies lived the flowers. If she talked to them, maybe they could help her.
All those childhood memories came back to me as I read the email from Singapore.
The writer said she knew that Beltane is on May 1 and understood that the veil between the worlds was thin at that time, making it possible for fairies, elves, leprechauns to engage with humans. She wanted to know when was the best time and where was the best place to find, see, and meet fairies. Because of Covid-19, all the parks in her area were closed. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to search for fairies in their natural setting. It was already April 29. Two more days and her window of opportunity would close.
I gave her email a great deal of thought. She wasn’t a child asking if Santa Claus was real. She was a 31-year-old woman.
My hesitation was not because I don’t believe in fairies. I do, though not in the way I think she does.
I thought about sharing what I had learned from the late Ted Andrews. He wrote several books, among them, “Enchantment of the Faerie Realm: Communicate with Nature Spirits & Elementals.” Ted claimed to have experienced the kind of fairy encounters I think the young woman from Singapore wanted, but I had not.
I was familiar with some of the other encounters Andrews wrote about, particularly with the fairies of the gardenia. Andrews said that gardenias hold the power of telepathy, that they’re very protective of children, and that it’s a good idea to plant gardenias in places where children play. To this day, I have a gardenia in my kitchen. It was a small plant when I purchased it from a grocery store in 1998. Now, twenty-two years later, I’ve repotted my gardenia many times to accommodate growth.
As for telepathy, I do communicate with my plants. I’ve rooted another gardenia from the mother plant. The little one has ten leaves. Every few days, I tuck the pot that holds the baby gardenia into the embrace of the mother. I want the baby to know that should calamities come, she, like her mother, can overcome an unexpected frost, a sudden infestation of aphids, and withering heat.
I communicate with trees, too. In my neighborhood, there is a tree with the image of a teddy bear, another tree with an opera singer, and another with Sophia the First, a wide-eyed bird from a Disney movie.
My response to the Singapore message was also influenced by my horoscope. The Moon in my natal chart is in Capricorn. In general, the Moon represents what a person needs to feel safe and secure. In general, the Moon appreciates the nostalgic, the touchy-feely. But when the soft Moon is in rigid Capricorn, comfort comes from the concrete, the factual, the tangible. In other words, my sense of security is anchored in the physical, “get real” world. I couldn’t tell the woman who wanted to engage with movie-type fairies something I hadn’t experienced myself.
Here’s my response to her.
I wish I could tell you that there is a way to see fairies as they are depicted in books and movies. If there is such a way, I don't know it. What I can tell you is I “see” fairies in the same way that I “see” the wind. More accurately, I see what the wind does — make tree branches dance, make grass sway, make wind chimes sing.
For example, just today, I was in the meadow behind my home. I was meeting with a landscaper. Several other neighbors were with me since we were making a decision as a group. My neighbors and I had a good feeling about the young man but we didn't all agree about where to position a new shade garden, full of the hosta bells, bleeding hearts, and other kinds of plants we often see in pictures of fairy gardens . We all walked the meadow, evaluating the pros and cons of various possibilities. Then I saw a fairy ring, in fact, several fairy rings. I'm talking about plants growing in a small circle. They aren't easy to see unless you know what to look for. When I saw the circle, I knew this was the place to put the garden. My neighbors agreed.
Another example. In my kitchen, on the window sill above the sink, I have a fairy I made years ago from a silk flower. The combination of wood, fabric, and wire isn't magical in any way. But, when I look at her, I imagine that she's real and that I can “see” the truth of a situation by talking to her. I connect on an energetic level with my little creation and I always get an answer to whatever is troubling me. The concept is similar to looking at a photo of a loved one and feeling a deep, heartfelt connection.
On my dining room table, I have a tray filled with more fairies I made. Every now and then when someone comes to visit, I will get a sense, a feeling, that she, or he, would benefit from having a fairy on which to focus their thoughts, anxieties, dreams. So I invite them to select a fairy. Several months ago, one of my sisters was diagnosed with cancer. She's had chemotherapy once or twice a week for months. I sent her one of the fairies and asked that she keep it where she would see it every day. She did. She's doing much better. I don't attribute her improved health to the fairy itself, but to a fantastic medical team and the fact that my sister now has something on which to focus her thoughts of healing, something given to her with love.
In my office where I write and create my podcast, I have an artificial tree. It sits on a small table. The top of the tree touches the ceiling. The branches are filled with fairy lights. The side of the tree next to the window is also filled with hanging crystals. Different colors. Different sizes. At around 2 pm every sunny day, the sun hits that window and all the crystals dance! They spread tiny rainbows all over my office. I have a photo of my mom near the tree. She died when I was 15. I'm 72 now. When the rainbows arrive, I imagine that my mother's spirit is there, too. Can I prove that? No. Do I need to? Not at all. It's real to me.
For me, all of these examples affirm three things:
- Energy comes in many forms.
- The imagination is more powerful than we think.
- Being able to see with childlike eyes is a fragile gift.
By childlike, I mean eyes that have not been taught to dismiss the wonder in the world just because something can't be seen.
I have a friend from Ireland. She tells stories about her grandfather. He would often take her to a pond near their home. At dusk, a mist would hover over the water. Much in the way children like to find images in clouds, my friend was taught how to be still, to let her eyes relax, to see silk-like threads in the mist. Her grandfather said they were the fairies that lived around the pond. On summer nights, fireflies would gather. They, too, were fairies. Scientifically, they were insects. True. And seen through the lens of wonder, they were also fairies. My friend found comfort in talking to the fairies of the pond. Just as I find comfort in talking to the fairies in my home and in the meadow.
Beltane and Samhain are two of the four cross-quarter festivals of the year. Where Beltane emphasizes fertility, Samhain emphasizes death. Both are necessary for the cycle of life to continue. I've often felt the energy to be particularly strong at those times. We feel the change of seasons on our skin and in our bones. That feeling of opening up or closing in can be thought of as a door, or a veil, some kind of boundary. I imagine fairies as spirits of change, drawn to the portals of the seasons. That's why I think their energy is so strong this time of year.
Do you have a plant in your home? Focus on its stem. Imagine the energy that makes the plant grow — the green flame — the viriditas — rising through the stem and spreading into the leaves. Then imagine fairies, however you choose to see them, perched on the leaves. What message might they have for you that's about growth?
I hope what I've shared will help you see the beauty and wisdom in the energy that reflects what's in your own heart.
That was my response. We had exchanged several brief emails before I wrote that long message. In one of those emails, I asked her age, since I knew it would influence my words. I also told her that while Beltane is celebrated on May 1, it doesn’t occur astrologically until the Sun reaches the 15th degree of the sign of Taurus, and, this year, 2020, that wouldn’t occur until May 6. She hadn’t missed it.
It’s now May 18. I haven’t heard back from her. I assume she knows about the Chinese legend of the Eight Fairies. These are humans who, for various reasons, achieved immortality. They who dwell in the liminal space between the world of human and the world of divine.
One of the Eight Fairies is Ho Hsien Ku, the Immortal Woman. “Sister Ho,” as she is often called, was the mortal daughter of a shopkeeper. One day, she was walking in the street and a stranger gave her a peach, which she immediately ate and thoroughly enjoyed. The peach is a symbol of immortality. Not long after, she disappeared from the sight of mortals. She is often depicted floating on a rainbow-colored cloud. There’s a lot more to her story. In the end, she became known as a healer, one who helped people with both physical and emotional problems.
As a writer, I imagine scenes from other stories:
- The Singapore woman encounters Ho Hsien Ku in a boutique, selling rainbow masks. The mask gives the wearer the power to communicate with the fairy realm.
- For a story set pre-Covid-19, the Singapore woman encounters Ho Hsien Ku in a museum gift shop where she is demonstrating a crystal “rainbow maker.”
- The Singapore woman goes to a farmers’ market where Ho Hsien Ku offers her a perfectly ripe peach.
- In another version, the Singapore woman finds Ho Hsien Ku in an elementary classroom, showing children how to paint rainbows — in whatever colors they want!
- Or, because I’m also a wedding officiant, I envision a bride who has dreamed of a fairy-themed wedding. Rather than purchase elegantly crafted fairies for her decor, the bride has worked with a local nonprofit that helps people with physical and developmental disabilities. When the wedding day comes, their construction paper fairies flutter from the ceremony arch and from every chair. In one chair sits an old woman in a rainbow caftan. No one, including the couple, knows who she is.
Thinking about weddings, I've always been deep-down-delighted when one of my couples refers to me as their Fairy Godmother. One such couple, Marrina and Dan, felt disappointed when their fantasy garden ceremony was forced indoors because of rain.
That day, I just happened to have my magic wand in my bag. You see, in the months before the wedding, I learned how much Marrina loved fairy tales. In the classic plot, I easily fit the role of Fairy Godmother. So, while in the bridal suite with Marrina, I asked if she'd like a little magic on her gown. As she nodded, one of her bridesmaids playfully asked, “You have a magic wand?” I smiled and pulled a crystal-filled wand from my bag. To the music of giggles, I waved my wand over Marrina's gown.
Then, I want to the lobby of the Norwich Inn and Spa where Dan and his groomsmen waited. I waved my wand over his head and blessed him with the magic of love. Not long after the ceremony, the rain passed. Marrina and Dan were able to have photographs taken in the spa's colorful gardens.
As for the Singapore woman, perhaps she will look deeper in the element of air, the realm of the spirit. As I mentioned earlier, we see what air does, but we don’t see air itself. We see through air. We hear a sound, or smell a fragrance, or an odor, carried on the air. We can feel hot air or humid air on our skin. We can taste salt in the air by the ocean. Some of us can feel the magic in the wave of a wand.
In the story of Ho Hsien Ku, she disappeared, but only from the eyes of ordinary mortals. She took up residence on a cloud, in the air, in the same space where we find birds and butterflies, rainbows and thunder, angels and, of course, fairies. Have you seen her?
My eclectic library includes books about folklore and mythology. In his book, “Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories and Ceremonies,” author Bobby Lake-Thom / Medicine Grizzly Bear talks about communicating with Nature and the many different spirits in trees and flowers, rocks and rivers, birds and animals, wind and rain. He talks about the importance of making offerings to the spirit he wants to connect with. He knows some people might scoff and say his connection to the spirit of a salmon or a fox, for example, is merely a projection of his subconscious. Does that matter to him? No. As he puts it, “What matters is that it truly exists for me as a reality.” That’s exactly how I feel.
I wonder if the Singapore woman has ever made an offering to the fairies. The idea of making offerings is ancient. As part of some festivals, people would pour beer, wine or mead onto the ground around the tree they believed was connected to their ancestors. The idea was to share something the ancestors appreciated before they died.
Pouring libations for the ancestors wasn’t restricted to festivals. If a family had a sick child, or if something threatened their crops, or if a loved one was away at sea or at war, the family would make an offering, then ask their ancestors for help.
As a society, we make an offering of sorts on Memorial Day when we place small American flags on the graves of veterans. The flag says: We honor your service. We won’t forget you. We aren’t asking for anything. We are simply expressing gratitude and love.
On the lighter side, we leave an offering of milk and cookies for Santa. You do, don’t you?
A MEMORIAL RITUAL
Many years ago, I led a memorial ritual for my friend, the late Judi K. Beach, a poet who was known for the little fairies she made and gave to her students. I wanted fairies for the ceremony. I knew there would be hundreds of women in attendance, and that not all of them believed in fairies.
I asked my grandson to draw a fairy for me. He was six. The design was sweet but proved too complicated to cut by the hundreds so his dad, my son-in-love, redesigned the fairy. He made copies on colored construction paper. I painstakingly cut out each one, and attached a thin ribbon, about twelve inches long, to each fairy. Before the memorial ceremony began, I made sure each woman had a paper fairy, decorated as they wished with glitter and stickers and paint. I instructed them to tie the fairy onto a pen or pencil.
The memorial service was held in a college auditorium with a raked floor. At a certain point, we all stood and sang one of Judi’s favorite songs, “This Little Light of Mine.” As we sang, we gently waved our fairies. The childlike action along with the child-inspired fairies lifted our spirits, even as we cried.
DO YOU WANT A FAIRY?
The original fairy that my grandson drew is right here in my office, within arm’s reach. I also have about 50 redesigned fairies looking for homes. Here's a photo. If you’d like one of the 50 fairies, just email: Zita@RitualRecipes.net Put “Fairy” in the subject line. Be sure to include your street address. There’s no charge whatsoever.
INVITE THE FAIRIES
In the meantime, if you want to invite the fairies into your world, you can:
- Plant flowers, especially ones notable for their color or fragrance, or both. I have a big gardenia in my kitchen and a vivid, purple orchid in my office.
- Hang chimes. I have 3 sets in my office. I ring the big chimes before I sit down to write. The other two sets are, as you might have guessed, in the tree.
- Place an image of a fairy somewhere where you’ll easily see it. It can be made of wood, pewter, paper, glass, clay. Artistry isn’t important. What you need is an image on which your mind can focus.
- String fairy lights. My office tree is filled with them. I also have a short string of battery operated fairy lights on the stand for my podcast microphone. I turn on the lights when I record.
To connect with fairies, I offer: Imagination. Childlike wonder. Physical images. Pleasing sounds. Fragrant flowers. Sparkling crystals. Twinkling lights. Sincere invitations. Meaningful offerings. A sincere desire to help and a willingness to be helped.
I realize my tools are a product of my experience. What tools do you have that might help the Singapore woman? How would you have answered her question? Please email me: Zita@RitualRecipes.net