Into the Faery Ring

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

—from The Stolen Child by W. B. Yeats (1889)

Humankind has had a relationship with other earthly intelligences for thousands of years. Folktales abound with descriptions of such beings, often small, sometimes huge, in various shapes and temperaments. Cultures across the globe have developed various ways of working with these beings or in some cases in how to avoid them altogether. Folklore shows them to be dangerous, sometimes helping the humans they encounter, but more often bringing harm or even death to those unlucky enough to have crossed their paths. Many tales speak of faery abductions in which the captured human was never to be seen again or only reappeared several years later as if no time had passed at all.

Speak of faeries in the modern world and you’re most likely to be greeted with judgment and indignation. Those who are perhaps a bit more open-minded might respond with ideas of Victorian-inspired images including fanciful winged sprites who use flowers as teacups and grant wishes to small children. Among adherents of various forms of New Age spirituality, they are thought of as “elemental spirits,” the animating principles within the natural world, which, due to the Romantic-era influences, have also become associated with innocence, playfulness, mirth, and joy.

Arthur Rackham, “Titania lying asleep,” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1909 [public domain]

In the Pagan scene, we tend to draw a bit more from folklore. Here the fae are described as dangerous, in possession of a wildly different morality than that of humankind, but also as potentially powerful helpers, if they are respected and their sometimes incomprehensible rules are followed. Some modern practitioners insist that there is nothing to be gained from engaging these powerful beings and advise avoiding them at all costs, regarding them at best as “tricksters” and downright malicious at worst.


Meme stolen from Fae Propaganda Department Facebook Page.


While it is true that more folkloric evidence depicts the fae as being dangerous and easily offended, it is also true that a majority of these tales have been influenced by Christianity or can be directly traced to the Christian era. Within the Christian worldview there is simply no room for powers or motivations outside of “God” and “the Devil” and everything that the new religion couldn’t eradicate, it attempted to absorb and redefine within the context of Biblical limitations.

Especially in places like Ireland, where belief in fairies was so ingrained in the cultural consciousness, there was no way to simply eliminate them. They had to be given a place in the Christian world, and one that was subservient to the new religion. Since faeries are not directly mentioned in the Bible, the determination of where exactly they might fit into such a binary worldview has been somewhat up for debate. The Catholic Church maintained that the faeries were demons, or at best were delusions sent by the Devil to distract good God-fearing people from the One True Faith. But generations of belief and respectful custom would prevent the common folk from abandoning the Good Neighbors altogether. A general consensus came to be that they were “fallen angels,” doomed to roam the earth after rebelling against Heaven, having no souls and so no hope for salvation.

Here, the faeries became regulated to a rather uncomfortable space in-between; not good enough for Heaven, but also not quite bad enough for Hell. And in occupying this liminal space, became somehow even more threatening, as it allowed them an official place outside of the Pagan world, tenuous as it was.

“The Fairy’s Lake” (1866) by John Anster Fitzgerald


Why then, given the volatile history between humanity and faery kind, would we want to pursue a relationship with them? Why not simply follow the cautionary advice of our ancestors and do our best to avoid them altogether? The short answer is, “because we’re Witches.”

Witches, in particular, have had a working relationship with faeries from the beginning. Tales of the Old Craft speak of the Witch and their familiar spirit; an imp or spirit-being that could change form and offered the Witch assistance in their magical workings. There are many examples of those who were put on trial for Witchcraft who spoke of their work with the fairies and how it was through these otherworldly beings that they gained their forbidden knowledge and powers. Perhaps it is simply by treating them with respect instead of fear or the arrogance of disbelief, that Witches are better able to enter into a healthy and productive working relationship with these powerful beings.

In his 1899 work, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland offered a view of Witchcraft centered around the goddess Diana, Queen of the Witches and the Faeries. Diana is there said to have been the all-pervading darkness that existed before creation. She divides herself into both light and dark, retaining the darkness for herself, while her brother/son/other-half embodied the light, becoming Lucifer. Diana’s subsequent union with Lucifer, produces Aradia, the first Witch, whose job, it seems, is to teach the art of Witchcraft to the oppressed that they might liberate themselves from their tyrannical masters.

For those modern practitioners that are called to deepen their magic, entering into a working relationship with the fae can be a powerful step. But only if we have a passion and a calling for such a partnership. If one is “on the fence,” then I daresay the answer is a clear, “no.” But for those who are called: If we are prepared to approach the fae with both an open mind and a respectful heart, there is much to be gained from such a life. But, if one begins this work out of greed and selfishness, folklore has made it quite clear what can be expected.

The Wild Hunt is not responsible for links to external content.

To join a conversation on this post:

Visit our The Wild Hunt subreddit! Point your favorite browser to, then click “JOIN”. Make sure to click the bell, too, to be notified of new articles posted to our subreddit.

Comments are closed.