Monday, January 28, 2008

Into the Fairy Ring

The Road to Fairyland
Ernest Thompson Seton

Do you seek the road to Fairyland
I'll tell; it's easy, quite.
Wait till a yellow moon gets up
O'er purple seas by night,
And gilds a shining pathway
That is sparkling diamond bright
Then, if no evil power be nigh
To thwart you, out of spite,
And if you know the very words
To cast a spell of might,
You get upon a thistledown,
And, if the breeze is right,
You sail away to Fairyland
Along this track of light.

It's getting close to time to think about the wee folk. March isn't far off, and then as the flowers start to bloom there likely will be fairies hiding under petals.

In our meadow, there are rings of dark green that people around here call "fairy rings." These are the places where the fairyfolk dance at midnight, or so they say. Their tiny feet enrich the earth and make the grass grow greener. (There is a vvery mundane and completely unmagical explanation for this at Plantanswers.)

There are also places in the meadow, and, oddly, in the median of the interstate where toadstools grow in circles--also called fairy rings. The fairies, so some people say, live under these toadstools. I've looked but never seen any, but then I didn't have my glasses on so they may have been there.

Fairies can be a force to reckon with--the beautiful ballad of Tam Lin certainly illustrates that. Many plants have fairy superstitions attached to them. According to The Land of Faery :

Foxglove--the name supposedly is a derivative of "Little Folks' Glove, and it is believed that fairies wear the florets as hats or mittens.

Primroses can make the invisible visible. Eating primroses may help you see the fairies.

Ragwort is sometimes used as a horse by the fairyfolk.

Thyme was part of a recipe for a brew to make one see the fairies.

Cowslips are loved and protected by the fairies. They help one to find hidden fairy gold.

Pansies were used in a love potion by Oberon, a fairy king.

Many people connect clover with fairies. If you wear a four-leaf clover, for example, you are supposed to be able to see the fairies. You can use the four-leaf variety to break a fairy spell.

St. John's Wort--if you step on it a fairy horse may rear up and carry you away to who-knows-where. What does St. John's wort look like? See the flower photo at the top of the page (from Wikipedia).

There are so many good books and websites about fairies and magical creatures. I compiled this list for a children's program so it includes craft books:

The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and other Hidden Beings by Lise Lunge-Larsen
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland by Edmund Lenihan
New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, c2003.

Fairy Crafts: 23 Enchanting Toys, Gifts, Costumes and Party Decorations by Heidi Boyd
Cincinnati, Ohio : North Light Books, c2003.

Swan Sister: Fairy Stories Retold by Ellen Datlow
New York : Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2003.

Twelve Fabulously Funny Fairy Tale Plays by Justin McCory Martin
New York : Scholastic Professional Books, c2002.

The Book of Wizard Parties: in Which the Wizard Shares the Secrets of Creating Enchanted Gatherings By Janice Eaton Kilby
New York : Lark Books : Distributed in Canada by Sterling Pub., c2002.

A First Book of Fairy Tales by Mary Hoffman
New York : DK Publishing, 2001

An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures by Katharine M. Briggs
New York : Pantheon Books, c1976.

The Broonie, Silkies, and Fairies: A Traveler’s Tales of the Otherworld by Duncan Williamson
New York : Harmony Books, 1987, c1985.

Crafts from Your Favorite Fairy Tales by Kathy Ross
Brookfield, Conn. : Millbrook Press, c1997.

And some websites:

Fairies, Fairies, Fairies--lists poems, stories, lore and more. is an alphabetical listing of fairy names from legends and stories.

ArtPassion includes many beautiful artworks featuring fairies.

From Encyclopedia Mythica comes a possible source for the word "Fairy".

And at Quotegarden, a whole page of fairy quotes, including this one:

The fairy poet takes a sheet
Of moonbeam, silver white;
His ink is dew from daisies sweet,
His pen a point of light.
Joyce Kilmer


Lady said...

Such enlightening information and an enchanting post.....but be so very careful my dear. Talk such as this 200 years ago might have gotten you burned at the stake!!


Love it! Love it! Love it! I remember how I loved to dream about the "fairies: when I was a kid - IMO children today need to re-discover this magic -Ellouise

Granny Sue said...

So do a lot of adults, Ellouise. Why not believe in them? To me, it's not much different than believing in radio waves--I can't see them either.

Lady, thank you for your comment. I think burning at stake would be hazardous to the burners with all the lard rendering out and catching fire!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Oh I love this whole post - I shall spend days here. St. John's Wort is a bedding plant here - whole hillsides of some of the steeper yards are covered with it - you see it peeking out of fences and bounding over property lines - it grows especially well here and I shall have to try and find a fairy horse to carry me away.

We have a small grove of trees in our backyard and we can see the fairies dashing in and out in the summertime. Oh how I love the fairies.

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