Episode 11: Make Haste for Midsummer

In this episode we hear about an encounter which took place en route to a Wiccan ritual in a large park in England. It’s a lovely share, as the experience was so gloriously matter-of-fact. Are fairies simply an aspect of Nature that we don’t currently understand? Do they pop up unpredictably or are there circumstances which make it more likely? We touch on these ideas in this episode.

Warning: These are not fairytales and the content is unsuitable for children. Some episodes may contain details which some may find unsettling or frightening. The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast is designed for listeners 16 years and older.

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Fairies at Midsummer

“Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Edward Robert Hughes, watercolor, 1908

We’ve all heard of Midsummer Night’s Dream and so the connection between this time of the year and fairies is already embedded in our psyche. Our guest made the point that maybe Shakespeare knew a thing or two.

Perhaps he did. It’s a very interesting point which people have mused on and it’s one worth returning to. Particularly so when you bear in mind that Shakespeare, drawing on folkloric depictions of the fae at the time, was doing so against the backdrop of religious Reformation. His playwriting took place between the time of Reginald Scot’s 1584 anti-superstitious literature, ‘Discoverie of Witchcraft’ and King James’s ‘Daemonologie‘ of 1597, in which fairies were portrayed as demons. I plan to look at Shakespeare’s fairies in a future article.

In the meantime, there are some fantastic midsummer encounters collected by The Fairy Investigation Society’s Fairy Census 2014-2017. The following reported encounter took place in Wollaton and if you haven’t already heard of the Wollaton gnomes then here’s a great piece by The Faery Folklorist.

§104C) England (Nottinghamshire). ‘I was bought up in Wollaton and back then a lot of the area was woods fields old dried up canals, ponds, slag heaps of coal etc where we used to play as children we were probably about half a mile from Wollaton Park main gates and back then you could almost walk to Wollaton Park without going out of the woods and fields I am fifty now so I am going back to the late 1970s. One evening in summer me and a friend were stood on the side of an old dried out canal it was midsummer, maybe 9 o’clock at night, just going dark but you could still see quite well and I looked across the other side of the canal and directly opposite us was a small shiny white humanoid creature about eighteen inches high you couldn’t see its face because it was too bright and shiny glowing white like a light bulb but shaped like a small person I just felt it was looking at us and standing still. my friend was really scared he had really short hair but I can remember what bit of hair he had was sticking up on his head. I wasn’t so scared and climbed into the dried up canal with the intention of climbing up the other side to get a better look my friend followed, the creature then bolted into a small wooded area then out onto the big field we chased it but it bolted too fast so we just stood there and watched it get further across the field until it disappeared out of sight. It never bothered me but it really affected my friend he was scared of dolls and ventriloquist dummies, action man toys, anything like that after. He often discussed it with me for years after and told me he could never watch a Chucky movie because dolls terrify him. Not too long after maybe even only a few months we heard about the kids who saw the gnomes on Wollaton Park we even went there looking for them but found nothing.

Here’s another Fairy Census midsummer experience from the US:

§328) US (New Jersey). Female; 2010s; ‘It was at twilight on Midsummer. My husband and I had friends over. We had done a ritual earlier and were finishing up our meal. Suddenly, a green light, much larger than a firefly, emerged in the field in our backyard. It flew intelligently. The being flew toward us at the table, hovered, then circled us a couple of times. It then hovered again and took off very quickly. Most of us saw it, but didn’t say a word until it disappeared. Comparing notes we all saw the same thing. It was not an insect, and definitely acted with interest and intelligence. I have seen this being several times on
my own, but this was the first time others were with me.’

Main image by Tin Can Forest

References

The Fairy Folklorist (2017) ‘The Wollaton Park Gnomes’. Accessed online at: http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-wollaton-park-gnomes.html

King James I and VI (1587) ‘Dæmonologie, in forme of a dialogue, divided into three Bookes’. Edinburgh.

Scott, R. (1584) ‘The discoverie of witchcraft, Wherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected’. London.

Young, S. (ed) (2018) The Fairy Census 2014-2017. Accessed online at: http://www.fairyist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Fairy-Census-2014-2017-1.pdf 

Episode 10: Stay or Go?

In this episode we hear from a guest who shares his childhood experience of meeting a fairy. The encounter took place in his bedroom one morning while he was reading alone. He finds it hard to access a clear memory of the entire event but the parts he does remember are of great significance to him. In this case, our guest regrets how the experience was borne out and this has formed the basis of a decision to try and reconnect with the being. We discuss this sense of regret and how the memories began to piece together for him later, to become more meaningful in adulthood.

Warning: These are not fairytales and the content is unsuitable for children. Some episodes may contain details which some may find unsettling or frightening. The Modern Fairy Sightings Podcast is designed for listeners 16 years and older.

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Fairies in Childhood

Many people report having memories of seeing fairies in childhood. Often they say that they’re not sure whether they imagined it, though some are absolutely certain of what they saw.

Image: Engh Ward(?) The Graphic Story Reader – 1890’s

There are lots of excellent accounts in Marjorie T. Johnson’s, Seeing Fairies, which I find a very useful source of modern sightings. During the 1950s, Marjorie reached out to members of the general public for their accounts of fairy sightings via various publications, including the BBC magazine of the time The Listener. This particular account is so similar to our guest’s experience. It’s from a teacher, Mrs Enid H. Paul.

This is a perfectly accurate account of what happened on the only occasion I ever saw a fairy. I do not often speak of it for fear of ridicule. It was in 1930, when I was nine years old. I had just gone up to bed, but had not yet lain down. I sat with my knees drawn up and my chin resting on them, looking towards my open bedroom door, when a small man appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in dark green, with a brown buckled belt, and short brown boots. His trousers were the breeches type, buttoned down the sides. I was filled with terror and dived under the bedclothes, hardly believing my eyes. After several minutes I plucked up courage and looked out. He then stood at the foot of my bed with arms akimbo leaning on the bedrail. More scared than ever, I plunged under the bedclothes again and stayed there for a long, long time. When I finally looked out he had disappeared, and I never saw him again. I have often wished that ‘d had the courage to speak to him. The incident had, however, no significance for me then, or since, so far as I know. (pp. 169, Marjorie T. Johnson, Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times.)

Here’s a really lovely account from the Fairy Investigation Society’s Fairy Census 2014-2017.

§13) England (Cheshire) 1970s. I was in my bedroom one evening. I noticed a twinkling light in my window. I watched the light fly down towards my neck region. As the light came closer I noticed it had a human face and a dark outfit. It was around two-inches tall. I asked who are you and it replied that it was a fairy. It was flying in a side-to-side motion as it spoke. I heard a noise and put the covers over the fairy and my head. The space I had made was then illuminated. The fairy said that all will be ok and talked to me. But I don’t remember any of the conversation. I pulled back the covers and the fairy kept on talking and flying towards the window. All the time reassuring me everything would be ok. I had to ask what it was because I didn’t know what a fairy was. I then fell asleep.’ (Young, 2018, pp 32)

Fairies in Houses

Image: A Brownie by Arthur Rackham

There are many reports of fairies in houses in both collected folklore and more modern accounts of fairy encounters. They’re often called Brownies, Hobgoblins or even Boggarts if they become malevolent! Here’s an excerpt from Katharine Briggs’ The Fairies in Tradition and Literature about a helpful ‘Silkie’ at Lemington Hall, near Newcastle in the late 19th, early 20th century. The ‘Silkie’, which was described as being a “one of the white ladies…halfway between ghosts and fairies”, later turned into a troublesome ‘boggart’ under new ownership of the house.

A lady who now lives in Oxfordshire was brought up at Lemington Hall, five miles from Newcastle, and as a girl Marjorie Sowerby, as she then was, used often to visit the last remaining Hoyles of Denton, two old ladies who were quite willing to speak to intimate friends about Silkie’s kindness to them. The house was too big for them, and they really did not know how they would manage without her. She used to clean out the hearth and lay fires, and there was something too about bunches of flowers left on the staircase,. In 1902 or so, Marjorie Sowerby left the neighbourhood, and did not make any long stay in it until the Second World War. By that time the old ladies were long dead, and the house was occupied by another old acquaintance of hers. The was not the kind of person to get on with fairies and there was no talk of Silkie’s kindness now; in fact, the new tenant was so much disturbed by banging and noises and poltergeist jokes that he was finally obliged to leave the house. The Brownie had turned into a Boggart, as has often happened before. (Briggs, 2002, pp. 33)

Here’s another great description of a fairy encounter inside a house from the Fairy Investigation Society’s Fairy Census 2014-2017. It happens in a very matter of fact way in modern times, like the encounter in this podcast episode:

§370) US (Tennessee) 2000s. ‘Once when I was about seventeen years old, I was crossing the hall from my bedroom to the bathroom, and just as I was crossing the threshold I saw something out of the corner of my eye down near the floor up against the outer-facing door-frame of the bathroom in the hallway. I immediately stepped backward into the hall to do a double-take. What I had seen appeared to be a very small older man, maybe a foot high. He had nutmeg colored skin, very squat body shape, his clothes were non-descript but in shades of deep browns and mossy greens. He had a hat of some sort on, I believe. But he had his head tilted back as he was peering up at me, just watching. Never said a word or even moved. Just stood there. When I had stepped back into the hall for the double-take, he was gone. This was the impression I had gotten of him in the brief moment it took me to cross the threshold into the bathroom from the hallway and I seemed to only glimpse him just as I was stepping into the bathroom, not while approaching. This happened during the day, mid-day, though I don’t recall exactly what time. The hallway was only lit by the large window in my bedroom behind me as well as, the smaller window in the bathroom in front of me, and whatever natural light was coming in from the dining room French doors at the end of the hall to the right of me. Not terribly dark, but not well-lit. This was the first and only time I’d seen this figure or anything else like it. I did not feel scared, just surprised, curious, and a bit bewildered. I initially did question what I had seen and if it had been real, but it’s now been roughly fifteen years since I saw it and it’s never left my mind and I still remember the incident very clearly, though his image, unfortunately, seems to be fading in my memory. But I believe that what I saw was very real, especially because that memory has never left me. My mother claims she has seen him once, too, in that same house but couldn’t remember how or when. Seems to have been around the same period of time. While our house was in a suburban area, we lived next to a large field that has a lot of trees around it and very nearby to a running creek which empties into a lake. I periodically would also see small balls of glowing golden or white light fly past me in my bedroom out of the corners of my eyes and once heard what sounded like a woman sighing once or twice just outside of my one-story bedroom window. At that time I was in my later teens and very much interested in Faery lore, though I had grown up always having an interest in Fairy Tales and had been reading them since I was a small child. I was also getting my feet wet in my growing interest in Paganism, though I did not, yet, practice. I don’t know if the creature I saw was a gnome or house brownie, or what. But I do believe he was of Faery and that he meant no harm.’ (Young, 2018, pp. 290)

Another account of a troublesome brownie appears in the same edition of Briggs. It comes from an encounter collected by Colin Parsons in his Encounters with the Unknown (1990, pp. 69-71) and takes place some time in the 1980s. A couple had moved into a house whose previous occupants had informed them was also home to a helpful brownies who aided with work in the garden and inside the house. Upon moving in they found:

Dishes would be washed while they were out at work, the washing-machine would be operated and the clothes transferred to the tumble-drier. At first Jenny Bolton was convinced that she must be doing these things herself and forgetting them, and she visited her doctor. He found her perfectly well and prescribed a course of mild tranquillisers. The odd events continued, however, and now began to involve Peter Bolton. He would find the garden shed tidied or his clothes put in the wash or hung up in the wardrobes. (Bord, 1997, pp. 17)

After one incident concerning a misplaced item, Jenny became irritated with her helpers. From this point on, they were on the receiving end of some serious mischief and disturbance. “Soap powder had been tipped all over the vegetables, taps had been turned on and plugs put in, furniture had been knocked over and jam rubbed into her Persian carpet.” The couple felt they had no choice but to move from their home.

References

Bord, J. (1997) Real Encounters with Little People. Michael O’Mara Books: London. pp. 17

Briggs, K.M. (2002) The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, 2nd Ed. Routledge: London. pp. 33

Johnson, Marjorie T. (2014) Young, S. (Eds) Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times. Anomalist Books: San Antonio, pp. 169

Parson, C. (1990) Encounters with the Unknown. Robert Hale Ltd: London

Young, S. (ed) (2018) The Fairy Census 2014-2017. Accessed online at: http://www.fairyist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Fairy-Census-2014-2017-1.pdf on 14/03/2021