fair folk

The Bad Witch’s Guide

April, 2019

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Faeries

I have stared at this empty page and title for about 30 minutes. It is not that I don’t know a lot about fae, the fair folk, the Good Neighbours; it’s just well where to start?

First off I suppose is that they are more than just the twinkly winged Barbie dolls we push on little girls. Fae are amazingly varied dependent on habitat and what they eat. In fact almost every people have some version of fae folk. Humans don’t have a universal anything, but if they did, fae might be it.

Faery are not “nice”. They are incredible, powerful, wise and witty. They are not “nice”. They respect manners and have a very rigid social observances. As a general rule they are at best ambivalent towards humans. At worst they really fucking hate us. To them we are Vogons. Brutish, unimaginative, untruthful, bureaucratic and destructive. This is not an unfair description.

If slighted or even if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time a fae might do some horrible things, from blinding, cursing or even trying to lure you to your death!

What is a faery?

Well I have an opinion. There is much lore as you would expect from the ancient and seemingly universal bunch of creatures. Most of which is tainted by some truly horrific Christian re-writing (the souls of unbaptized babies? Really?) has them as “small Gods”. My theory which is as far as I can tell makes most sense is they are pan-dimensional beings. They dwell both here and slightly to the left. The natural world is their home but is also a link to their “other” place. That is why they are creatures of “ the ‘tween”. That is why you see them out of the corner of your eye, or in the limnal spaces. Not quite here, or there, but both at the same time.

Faeries can appear as birds, dogs, horses, goats and humanoids. Some sparkle, some do not. Most individuals can be reasoned with, if their laws are properly followed. That said they can still be a dick about it. Their laws will differ from place to place and are dependent on the type of fae you are dealing with.

Hospitality. Food, and drink are appreciated gifts and where welcome they will respect and even bless your home. However faery food and drink is not a good idea to consume if you should ever get the chance.

Truth. Lying is a terrible violation, but hoodwinking, “having a craic”, taking the piss is somewhat of a faery art form. Just how far and how much they can bend the truth without actually lying is a point of pride for most Fair Folk.

Gifts. Even sticky for humans, gifts can be seen as an insult though this is specific to types of Fair Folk. Clothes in particular can banish them in quite a huff (Brownies)! Though bread, honey and a portion of a meal are usually respected through hospitality.

Respect. Disrespect a Faery at your peril. That also goes for their home, whatever or where ever they make it. Cut down the wrong tree, (or pee against it) stomp all over a faery ring, litter or take what they deem as theirs and you are going to have a world of pain. Likewise being gross at faery women bathing, usually means losing an eye! (Bitch, much respect!)

Trade. While taking something from a faery space is usually a bad idea, they are happy to trade, or even exchange for coin.

You can’t take anything for granted with faery. Not their intentions, or what they mean. Their wisdom or kindness. Their presence or absence. They are free. You do not rule them. You can not, nor should not command them.

So why work with them at all?

Well, in the balance of things they are powerful and knowledgeable allies to have in circle and out.

Also, and I say this from long experience, if they decide you are “one of theirs” you won’t have a lot of say if they are in your life, only if they are a benefit or bane; as my long suffering husband can attest to!

There is also something wonderful about them. They still inspire fear, awe and wonder every time I am aware of their presence. They are great guides when journeying in spirit though that level of trust takes years to build up.

So how do you work with faery?

I suppose the answer to that one, is carefully. Faery magick is not for everyone, and that is fine. Faery magick is not for everyone, and that is fine. Research helps. Know the kind of faery in your area, the kind that might be most disposed to working with you. Huge old trees, unspoiled wild places, waterfalls, lakes, sacred wells and places full of faery plants like bluebells, hawthorn, blackthorn and elder trees are a good start. Be kind and respectful and leave gifts of food like honey cakes or a little bit of beer or wine letting them know it is for them. You might feel a bit of an idiot, but they will enjoy it all the more. Pay attention to weird wild animals. Birds, rabbits, strange foxes or the like. Even large butterflies and moths can be faery, or faery touched.There is an entirely different quality to these encounters with wild animals that seem to look straight into your soul. You can tell that you are being “visited” or watched.

Faery also love music, especially harp, singing, and flutes. Playing for them even if you think you aren’t good is usually seen as a fitting gift, or again hospitality. Some like small bells, some don’t. They don’t seem to mind recorded music but do prefer live performances.

Magickally creating circles or doorways and inviting them to be present works pretty well. Even bought faery doors will do the jobs but woven ivy, willow or hazel hoops hung up are usually preferable. Working outside in somewhere the Veil is thin isn’t a bad start either. Marking your circle with stones (natural pebbles) or even wild bird food will work wonders. Though flowers, leaves of a different colour, or ferns would work too.

There is something special about working with “wildness”. Something ancient and untamed. They have a unique perspective on humans, and human lives. It is both in the moment and of the ages. Full of mirth and vengeance. Human lives are very long and very short and we do spend a great deal of time not dancing, feasting, or playing. It is a peculiar waste. We crave connection but will do almost anything to avoid it. We make conditions and rules for things, like love that don’t have any. We tie ourselves in knots over our own natures assigning shame and guilt to things we love or loathe.

Faery advice is rather complicated in it’s simplicity.

“Plant a tree.”

“Cry when you are sad.”

“Dance when you can.”

In the end faery make life more bearable. They add a clarity and depth to the world. A magickal sparkle, the real kind that no amount of Mouse can erase.

Notes from the Apothecary

February, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Cumin

Cumin is a fragrant spice in the apiaceae family, meaning it’s related to carrots, parsley, and the similar looking caraway. We use the seed of the plant in both cooking and magic.

Cumin has been used for thousands of years, and most likely originated near Syria, based on evidence from nearby excavation sites. Cumin was a table spice in Ancient Greece, a tradition which continues today in Morocco. The Romans adopted the use of cumin, and Spanish and Portuguese colonists eventually brought the spice to the Americas, where it is enjoyed in a range of cuisines.

The Kitchen Garden

Cumin is one of those mesmerising flavours that simply doesn’t taste like anything else. When I was first learning about cooking Indian food, I had not realised that cumin was such a commonly used ingredient. Adding it to my store cupboard changed my life. Most curries I cook now have whole cumin seeds fried until they pop and release their smoky, earthy goodness into the hot oil. Every chilli con carne is blessed with my kitchen’s holy triumvirate of cumin, coriander and turmeric, making the house smell simply divine.

Whole seeds and ground cumin are both readily available in grocery stores and supermarkets. I’ve found that the best value way to buy cumin is to visit an Indian or Mexican store or wholesaler, as shops that don’t specialise tend to bump the price up.

The Apothecary

Cumin seeds are used as a natural medicine all over the world. Alleged cumin medical properties include being an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antispasmodic, carminative, aromatic, digestive, and an emmenagogue. In their book about healthy seeds, Danny Sarmiento writes that cumin helps prevent the harmful effects of stress on the body. That must be why I love a cumin heavy curry on a weekend after a hard week!

Sarmiento also states that cumin can offer relief for asthma sufferers as it may dilate the airways. There’s also some indication that the seeds may be effective for treating diabetes.

The seeds are filled with nutritious vitamins and minerals including iron and manganese, so they’re a great addition to just about anyone’s diet.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham lists cumin in his encyclopaedia of magical herbs. He states the spice is masculine, associated with Mars and fire, which makes sense when you think of how this spice is often used in hot curries and Mexican food! Heat is definitely linked to cumin. But I also find it earthy, and grounding.

According to Cunningham, the spice is used for protection magic, to ensure fidelity, for exorcism and to prevent theft. Bread baked with cumin seeds won’t be stolen by spirits, so if you follow this superstition, don’t leave cumin-spiced bread out for the fair folk! Cumin can be burnt with frankincense to create a powerful protective incense. Scatter cumin and salt to create a protective boundary. Carry in a pouch at handfastings to drive negative thoughts or energies away from the happy couple. Or add some to the wine later on, for an exciting wedding night!

Home and Hearth

Mix cumin seeds with fine salt. Walk the boundary of your home at Imbolc or the Spring Equinox. Sprinkle the protective mix while you visualise your home as a safe and special place. Imagine the sun’s returning light suffusing your home with a warm, comforting glow. The salt and spice mix will keep negativity at bay, whilst allowing love entry, and encouraging loyalty.

I Never Knew…

There’s an old superstition that you should curse and shout as you sow cumin seeds, to ensure a good crop.

All images via Wikipedia or Wikimedia commons.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestorsand Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon