Monday, March 16, 2015
11:00 AM No comments
Those who've studied fairies know that they can be extremely dangerous. Indeed, many fairies are akin to vampires, seducing them to drain their blood. As Purkiss points out in her book "Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History" most people today wouldn't know how to survive if they actually met a fairy.
Of course Purkiss's concern is only partially true, for many fairies are kind. They give people gifts and knowledge. Indeed, everything from the secret of making cheese to the art of weaving cloth was taught to people by fairies.
So on the one hand you should want to meet the fairies. On the other hand, before you or your characters do you need to understand how to survive such an encounter.
7 major types of encounters
Fairies are the enforcers of morality, so they will often appear to people to test their generosity and kindness. During such encounters they typically disguise themselves as a beggar or other person in need. Those who help them are given blessings, while those who refuse can be punished, sometimes very severely.
Fairies have been known to bury villages in avalanches, drown them in floods, and worse when they are displeased.
2-Seeking to work with a human
Many fairies seek to work with humans. Those who accept the fairies call become shamans, those who refuse are often tormented by the fairies until they are either driven mad or give into the fairies demands.
There are a number of ways this encounter plays out. One of the most common scenarios is for a person to meet a fairy when they are in a desperate time of need. On their death bed, starving, lost in the woods, after someone they love had died, etc. During this time the fairies come and offer to help the person, though in return the person then works for them ever after.
Other people will encounter the fairy by picking up a rock or some other object which contains the fairy. After this they are bound to the fairy forever after.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that while the fairy might be demanding and hard, it's nearly impossible to get rid of them by normal means so you shouldn't try as attempting to get rid of them will lead to a terrible punishment. There are stories of people beaten, battered, pinched, and ultimately killed by the fairies for refusing to work with them.
Exorcists have been used to get people out of a contract with the fairies the world over, so there is a way out of this relationship if it proves impossible for a person to handle.
Fairies love to cause mischief. One of my favorite stories of fairy mischief comes from Italy where a fairy harassed some sleeping workers. He pulled the blanket off of them, pinched them, ran about laughing, etc. In another story a fairy disguised itself as a lump of gold so that it could yell at an old lady who picked him up.
The first thing to keep in mind with these encounters is that you must be careful not to insult the fairies.
Second, if you aren't in your home you should try moving to a different location. Fairies tend to harass people in specific locations. However, fairies are sometimes attached to specific people, in this case moving will do no good and you must instead figure out some way to deal with the fairy.
Third, you need to figure out what kind of fairy you are dealing with, especially if the fairy causing you trouble is in your home. This is challenging as there are hundreds of different types of fairies. Some of these fairies are pure mischief, they are bothering you merely for fun. Others are upset because your home is in the way of their paths, in which case drilling small holes in the walls or leaving the windows open (or possibly a doggy door) may placate them.
Sometimes the fairy just wants attention. In this case one might deal with them by not acknowledging them. A man in Italy ignored the fairy, pretending everything the fairy did could be explained by something natural. The fairy knocked over his shelves, pulled the blankets off of him, did everything he could to get attention but the man didn't give it. Finally in desperation the fairy appeared to the man and offered a deal in which the man would acknowledge the fairy in return for the fairy bringing him luck.
Some fairies are simply dangerous. They want to drink a persons blood, take them as a slave, hunt them for sport, etc. The best defense in such cases is knowing what fairies you might encounter in a given area so that you can gauge whether the fairy you are encountering is potentially dangerous or not. There are, however, a few rules of thumb;
Iron is one of the most common means of combating fairies, not just in Europe but in Northern Asia and even Japan. Throwing an iron knife before a fairy can cause them to vanish or keep them at pay. Holding iron in your hands can keep many different fairies from taking you away. But iron isn't full proof.
One of humanities many magical powers is our ability to use symbols and objects to break magical power. Horseshoes, rabbits feet, clothing turned inside out, crosses, pictures of the Japanese Emperor, and more have all been effectively used to keep fairies at bay.
Another power humans have is that of the evil eye. We can hurt some fairies merely by looking at them. Other fairies can't use their magic, so long as we gaze steadily on them without averting our gaze.
Never, ever, ever accept a dangerous fairies hospitality. Indeed, avoid accepting fairy hospitality as a general rule, unless a fairy has attached itself to you as your familiar.
Once you eat a fairies food, begin dancing with them, allow them to comb your hair you are within their power. This means that they can kill or enslave you as they wish. What's more, even if the fairy doesn't try to kill you, accepting their hospitality puts you into the fairy realm. Returning to the human realm after this is difficult. There are many stories of people who are forever caught between the fairy world and the human world. Forced to wander as phantoms, to never again know happiness because they ate fairy food or went to a fairies party.
Again there are exceptions to this rule but most of these involve someone who already has an existing relationship with the fairies, or whom the fairies need help from. If a fairy comes to you and says that they are at war and they need a human to help them fight odds are that you will be able to enter fairy land without negative repercussions (surviving the war is another matter, however).
Just as accepting a fairies hospitality can put you in their power, you can gain power over them by getting them to accept your hospitality. Getting them to let you comb their hair, for example, is especially effective in North and East Eurasia. Of course, how effective this is depends on the type of fairy, which is why it all comes down to knowing what fairies you are likely to encounter in a given area.
Some people stumble upon fairies, without the fairies or the person having really planned the encounter. This is when people capture leprechauns or other fairies to try to force them to give up their treasure. How well this works and whether the fairies seek revenge afterwords depends on the individual. One person who robbed the fairies was never able to leave his house afterwords. Others were able to live happily with their ill gotten gains. These stories don't say exactly what the difference is, but it is established that it's very, very difficult to steal a fairies treasure and attempting to do so can get you into a lot of trouble.
Some fairies need a humans help. In Germany wood wives might come under attack by The Huntsmen (a deity/fairy/ghost) and so need humans to draw a cross on a tree so that they may hide safely within it. In Japan a water kami (deity/fairy like being) might need a person to help it kill a giant crab. In this case helping the fairy comes with a certain amount of risk. Aka, The Huntsmen or the giant crab might kill the human who helps the fairy. On the other hand, helping the fairy in such cases may simply be the right thing to do and can lead to their gratitude.
Other people find lost fairy children, and helping these is always a good idea.
Finally, fairies sometimes seek to hire people to clean their fields, giving birth, feeding their child, watching their cattle, baking their bread, etc. As a general rule when a fairy offers to hire you for a job you have to accept it, as refusing will incur the fairies wrath. Those who prove themselves hardworking are usually generously rewarded. Though some fairies (Baba Yaga) give people impossible tasks in hopes that they can punish them. In this case you need to seek help from some other fairy like being.
People often encounter fairies when the fairies wish to punish them. Sometimes this punishment is for some immoral behavior on the part of the person, other times its for desecrating their homes.
While it's possible to overcome this fairy with iron or the help of exorcist, the best way to deal with this is avoid doing anything that would lead to the fairies punishing you in the first place.
Before Encountering Fairies
The fairies are always watching us. They live in trees, bushes, and even inside your house so whether you see them or not you are in constant contact with them.
Never say you don't believe in fairies or that you are smarter than they are.
While fairies don't drop dead when someone denies their existence, they are easily offended. There are a number of tales about them punishing people for saying they don't believe in fairies.
Another big no no is saying that you are more clever than the fairies, because they will prove you wrong with a series of tricks that could end in your death or at the very least some form of agony or embarrassment.
Be kind and moral.
Fairies are the enforcers of morality. They particularly hate people who are greedy, lazy, messy, and don't have fun on holidays, etc. You should also try to be culturally appropriate, especially around house fairies who tend to have very strict rules about what's acceptable behavior.
Avoid damaging the fairies home, or entering a place that used to be a fairies home. Sometimes a fairies home was bulldozed in order to build a house or a road for example, and these are best avoided.
In another case a girl broke a twig while walking in a sacred wood and so was possessed by a fox spirit.
Research the fairies of the area you are going to be in to understand them specifically. Of course in the modern day there are Japanese Tengu in the mountains above Seattle. Scottish fairies in Vermont, and French fairies in Georgia, because as people moved the fairies followed them. This means that some places have a complex hodgepodge of fairies, making it difficult to be prepared.