In previous posts I wrote about the argument that a person today is so embedded in contemporary life that they have little chance of a fairy encounter. I'm not sure I agree fully, of course. Hopefully, I've written enough about urban fairy folklore and encounters and all of the strange experiences people have reported in towns and cities over the years to challenge this.
That said, there is a traditional and long-held belief that by being alone in the countryside or wild that we raise the chances of these encounters. Whether this truth is in the form of warnings to not stray from the straight path, or visit a certain site known to be frequented by the good people, certainly the natural tendency to become immersed in nature when alone in these places seems to help in bringing about a fairy meeting.
Robert Kirk, the 17th century Scottish fairy folklorist, wrote about "secret paths" which a person might stumble onto and could lead to seeing the fair folk, and maybe even end up being captured by them.
Kirk interestingly describes the movement of fairies as "swimming in the air near the earth" which sounds very much like a travelling river of energetic consciousness, almost.
In fact, the trooping fairies sighted by many here in Ireland sounds quite similar, with a flow of airborne lights moving from ancient monument and site to another turning up frequently in our folklore.
There is a widespread belief that there are particular times when a person might be more likely to see a fairy-being, but it should not be overlooked that, depending on the state of mind of an individual, especially those empathic to such experiences, this is by no means a predictable state of affairs.
Robert Lang, in his introduction to Kirk's The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, writes that, “These fairy mounds, in their true state, are only visible, in their quarterly appearances, to men of the second sight. That gift of vision includes not only power to see distant or future events, but the viewless forms of air."
In his book, Spirit Paths: An Exploration of Otherworldly Routes, Paul Devereaux tells us of an 18th century witness to the fairy parade. They describe 'the fairies' as "...leaping and frisking in the air, making a path in the air." This sounds very like the crackling and flexing of a current, as much as a group of beings, it must be said.
Again, we are reminded of Irish descriptions of such phenomena. This account from Wicklow is particularly interesting.
"At this Rath in Krishuna it is said the fairies gather on certain nights. They ride on the wings of the wind and retreat at cockcrow to the rath of Mullaghmast in Kildare. The people of this neighbourhood are said to keep a black cock in order to defeat the more evil minded of the fairies and to preserve them from harm.”
So, what exactly is it that moves through these pathways of the air? Is it a real, physical parade of otherworldly beings, or something else entirely, unable to be fully understood by our senses?
If we are open to our own limited thinking (through no real fault of our own!) then we have to expect and accept the unexpected, as well as answers that are beyond our current paradigm of comprehension.
Is the concept of the 'air' also a euphemism for something intangible and too difficult to explain?
Maybe fairies are indeed individual forms moving through these higher dimensional plains and all of the recorded experiences of worlds, technologies and races are true, literally. Or, maybe, like trying to pour an entire ocean, and everything within it, into a glass and expecting to hold an accurate representation, we can never conceive of the truth of what is always beyond our physical senses.
But to return to our more mundane ways of perceiving and encountering, I'm of the mind that this cyclical movement between ancient sites at certain times offers unpredictability more than anything else.
These places are, for me, windows opening to oceans of worlds and dimensions of consciousness that we cannot conceive of nor control.
Allowing ourselves to become open to other forms of life so different to our expectations can be a way to gain some type of foothold, though.
Life existing outside of our biological senses may manifest as something as ethereal as a feeling, or as elusive to comprehension as the after-effect of a dream. An encounter with the Otherworld is sometimes only comparable to a fleeting moment of grand synaesthesia; a temporary awareness that can bring us to our knees due to awe and poignancy.
We usually call this 'enlightenment' or 'ecstasy', but this euphoria may itself simply be an instinctive reaction due to our inability to process something beyond our understanding. (C.) David Halpin.
Art by Seb McKinnon