St. Patrick's Day brings popular images of leprechauns - cute, comical and dancing about ... jealously protecting their pots o' gold. They are seen as "fiercely" sweet but being oh so terribly tiny, can only trick human beings, rather than fighting a fair fight. But don't forget that leprechauns are of the same ilk as banshees (who foretell death), changelings (ancient creatures who secretly take the place of human babies) and also of béfinds? Remember fairy godmother #13 who cursed Sleeping Beauty to die? Yeah, you want to keep on the good side of a béfind. Also, what we mortals call fairies were gods and goddesses; once upon a long time ago. Most are part of the Tuatha Dé Danann, an ancient race that arrived in Ireland many eons ago, or they are at least descended from them. So in order to please a leprechaun, we need to replace the current cute image and replace it with one that garners respect. He is a very small, old and wizened fairy who makes his home under hills or in fairy mounds. He smokes his pipe for pleasure and works diligently at repairing shoes ... or at least one shoe - why only one? I think it's because it is a "smoke screen". The leprechaun is working ... but it is appearance only. He is actually waiting, observing, contemplating and if we wait long enough, this wise old fellow might remove the pipe from his mouth and let us in on a few secrets about the world.
If you would like to gain favour with a leprechaun, I suggest the following:
May you secure the good luck blessings of your local leprechaun this St. Paddy's Day!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
It is still the dark time of the year. Yes, we are slowly moving towards the light and Spring ... but it still seems so far away! Especially when at a half past three in the afternoon, it can seem unusually dark and gloomy outside.
The fairies are not so different to humans and naturally can exhibit a wide array of both good and bad characteristics. The Trow is a very old fairy (well, which of them aren't?) whom you probably will want to avoid. He sprung to life in the Shetland and Orkney Islands, an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland. The Viking influence may be partially at the root of his existence as he exhibits a similarity to Scandinavian trolls.
These fellows live in the old burial grounds and it has been said they are found of music and dance. But, they only go out into the human world under the cover of darkness (which at this time of the year is a lot) and they like to enter the villagers' homes to warm themselves by the fire. While this may seem innocuous - beware - they are also called the "Night Creepers" or "Night Stealers" and have been known to kidnap human children ... and leave Changelings in their place.
Guide to the Fairy Ring, Anna Franklin, 2002, Llewellyn Publications
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
I love the tradition of Boxing Day wherein you fill a box and give it to your servants to help make their Christmas bright, and also to show your appreciation for a year's work - kind of like the modern Christmas Bonus!
The idea originated, partially, because servants had to wait on their employers and their guests all day long on Christmas Day -- cleaning, cooking, serving, receiving guests, taking coats, stabling the horses, etc. etc. etc.! So the grateful employers would fill a box the following day full of all kinds of wonderful things such as left-over cakes, pies, meats and treats; to old clothes and household items that had been replaced by new items. The servants would then take these boxes home to their families and celebrate their Christmas on Boxing Day. That's only one variation of this very old tradition but it is a particularly nice and generous one. Other versions include people going door-to-door to the homes of rich people on Boxing Day, carrying with them their own box, in the hopes of receiving any bits and bobs that the abundant households might no longer need and were happy to pass on to the less fortunate. Or sometimes, the wealthy would make a day of it and gather as a group to go about to the homes of those in need, or to their servants, and drop the goodies off themselves ... remember Bob Cratchitt's turkey!
I received a nice big cardboard box this year from out-of-town relatives filled with lovely Christmas gifts. I was just about to recycle it when I decided that, while I don't have any servants, I'm going to fill the box with items around the house and take it to our local Salvation Army or hospital charity shop. And maybe I better leave out some wee offerings to the fairy folk; for my brownies and house elves, and also those industrious little garden gnomes who perform many important tasks around the Grove!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2020
We are so fortunate to have received a visit by Jack Frost himself who painted this beautiful and intricate design on an old windowpane in the Grove. Here is photographic proof of the existence of the little folk!
Where Old Man Winter can be stern and grim; Jack is all about fun. He sees the beauty in ice and snow - not the hardships that can come with them.
Just before dawn, this sprite tiptoes into gardens and looks for tree branches and blades of glass to coat with his shiny, shimmering paint. He especially loves finding an old single-paned window or other thin clear surface that he can use for a canvas.
Jack's willing to share the beauty of winter with you. Make sure you check early in the morning when his work is at its finest. If he paints an original masterpiece somewhere in your garden, stop a few moments and examine it - his work is amazing and just think, he created it just for you!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
Almost all folk and fairy tales agree ... you truly must "pay the piper" if you are daft enough to enter a fairy ring! The folklore on fairy rings, elf rings and witches' circles are replete with stories of mortals foolish enough, or bewitched enough, to join in the irrepressible dance inside that enticing ring of mushrooms. While it may enable you to see fairies, dance with wild abandon and revel in euphoria ... it comes with a price. Sometimes the little folk whisk you away to fairyland, where you must serve a fairy master or mistress for a year and a day. Sometimes it feels like you have only been dancing for a few minutes; when actually hours and hours have passed. You may even be doomed to dance forever ...
Or sometimes, as in the case of Rip Van Winkle (who also partook in a wee bit of fairy mead), only a mere 100 years passed before he "awoke" to his old home ... and all the changes that had come about during his lost years.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2020
Last week, I wrote about Brownies, but have you ever heard of a Boggart? Unlike the helpful Brownie, the Boggart is a rather grumpy house fairy who generally causes a bit of mischief around the home. If you have one that is not too ornery, the most he will usually do is hide your things. This can still be very frustrating! The best thing to do is to stop wasting time and energy looking for the item and remember that 9 times out of 10, the Boggart will tire of his game and return the object. If you want to hurry the process along though, you can leave out another trinket in exchange that you think he might enjoy more; or better still, a little offering of bread and honey - especially if you suspect that he is really just a Brownie who, long ago, lost his way. Just remember: never, never say "thank you" when he returns the item. Boggarts really don't like that ....
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2016, edited 2020 & 2021