I’ve been working on the Magic spiral for my AODA work. It led me to RJ Stewart, who brought me around to the fairies, as so many things do, and I’ve been stuck there ever since. One reason I haven’t been posting very much is because I have a hard time talking about fairies. They are difficult to talk about. They are difficult to write about. I don’t mean “difficult” as in uncomfortable or emotionally weird, the way some people mean when they describe a topic as difficult. I mean “difficult” as in hard to do. Not easy. Too much like hard work.
One problem lies in defining terms. I had a conversation the other night with Mr. Nettle about fairies and we both discovered we were talking about something completely different. It ended with him suggesting I read Franz Bardon on the subject, and me suggesting that he read RJ Stewart. Then I had to laugh because it struck me as completely absurd that we were talking like this was some sort of scholarly debate about what a fairy really was.
Later I went to the back yard to talk to my friend Otter, who is an actual fairy. At least, the way he presents himself to me and the way we interact is consistent with what authors such as Stewart and Orion Foxwood describe as the way actual fairies are. I think Bardon would call him something else. He’s about my height and looks like a cross between a human being, a deer, and a brush pile. I have no idea why he calls himself Otter; that’s just what he said when I asked his name and it’s what he responds to. He is connected with Mill Creek, though not so much the creek itself as its banks. There’s someone else connected with creek, who I haven’t actually met yet. (Mill Creek used to run down the middle of my street, before it was a street. Now it is an underground sewer roughly following the course of the old creek.)
I lay down in the grass and put out a call to talk to Otter. He showed up almost right away, laying his head on my lap. I rubbed his head like you would a dog who did that and felt the nubs of new antler growth, and scratched around them. He liked that. We talked.
“So, are you a fairy?” I asked.
“Yes, of course,” he replied.
“There are people who think of fairies as something totally different than what you are.”
“Then I guess to them, I wouldn’t be a fairy. Or maybe I would just look different to be more like what they expect me to be.”
“So do you just present this way to me because it suits my expectations?”
“Well, kind of. I guess. I don’t think your question makes much sense. Do you think everyone sees things the same way you do? Because if you think that hoo boy are you wrong.”
“You mean everything, not just you. Or those like you.”
“Yes, everything. Of course.”
“So, are you a fairy or not?”
“You’re talking about language, not about me. I am me, you are you, we are both real, and there are all sorts of different words we could use to describe each other. The words don’t change us. You can just think of me as Otter, if it’s too complicated to sort out.”
I though, for a bit, and then asked another question.
“There are different orders of spiritual beings. You, for instance, are obviously a different kind of creature than the ones I think of as gods. You also aren’t like the ones I think of as guides. You are like the ones I think of as fairies. I think I invented these categories, based on words I’ve heard others use to describe such things, but it’s my own invention based on my own experience, informed by the vocabulary of others. How am I doing so far?”
“It’s frakking hard, isn’t it?”
“What did you just say?”
“I said, it’s frakking hard – ”
“Yeah, I heard. You used a made-up swear word from a TV show.”
“Do you watch TV?”
“No, but you do. You use that word sometimes.”
“Yes, but I’m a giant nerd. What’s your excuse?”
“You know, you’ve never even batted an eyelash at the fact that I speak in your language, with your accent. Why are you surprised that I’m using your vocabulary? How else would we talk?”
“Oh, I get it. You’re Making a Point.”
“I’m trying to talk about a subject you brought up. Someone with a different vocabulary or a different understanding of terms would use different words. We use these words because they work for you. You want to think of me as a fairy, go for it. It’s accurate as far as your understanding. What else is there?”
One of the reasons I have a hard time talking about fairies is that all I can really do is report conversations like this. I can talk about experiences, but I can’t pull it out into anything abstract. Otter would say that this was just fine, and the appropriate way to do it. But I don’t know how useful it really is to do this kind of reporting. In a recent Wild Hunt guest post, Cat Chapin-Bishop put out a call to hear more about our lived experiences as Pagans. She notices that so many of our books read like recipe books, sets of instructions for How to Have a Pagan Experience, rather than the real true beautiful experiences that we really do have all the time. I agree with her, in that our literature is unbalanced towards the cookbook-style, and I would love to see more stuff like what Emma Restall Orr writes about, real heartfelt accounts of finding the Gods out in the forest. The comment section for Cat’s Wild Hunt post is a beautiful thing. I’ve written about my own experiences plenty of times here, too, and I wouldn’t have done so if I didn’t think it was valuable. Still, I don’t feel like what goes on with the me and the fairies could possibly interesting to anyone but me. The conversation above really helped clear some things up for me, but I wonder if it just looks trite to anyone else.
I was disappointed in John Matthews’ book The Sidhe. It’s a whole book full of his conversations with a fairy, or a fairy-like being. I usually enjoy Matthews’ work, and I was looking forward to reading something of his own lived experience. I was disappointed because what his fairy contact had to say was not all that original. It was profound enough, in its own way, but there was no great or interesting revelation there. Probably it meant much more to him – no doubt it was something he needed to hear. Judging from some of the enthusiastic reviews I’ve read, others needed to hear it too, but I felt like it was nothing much new. I get a whole lot more out of Stewart’s work, or Foxwood’s. They both have written some great recipe books. I wonder how interesting I would find their experiences? Would I be disappointed? My all-time favorite fairy report is Robert Kirk’s, from 1691. Anyone know of anything else with that kind of bite?