Tag Archives: Spirits of Place

When is a Fairy not a Fairy

The Lampades are underworld nymphs in Greek mythology. They are nocturnal and are recorded as accompanying Hekate in her night time travels. They are also closely linked to the rites of Demeter at Eleusis and so play a part in the initiatory process. It was probably this early connection with nature spirits that eventually led Hekate to be named as a leader of the fairies hoards in Shakespeares play.

And we fairies that do run, by the triple Hekate’s team, from the presence of the sun, following darkness like a dream.

– A Midsummmer-night’s Dream Act 5 Scene II

And it is probably Hekate’s guiding hand that first had me wandering through nocturnal landscapes in search of “the other”. Although in truth, all night time shenanigans and tom foolery is now entirely of my own fault, no deity blaming required. And in the last 6 months or so I’ve been doing quite a lot. Anyway, I’ve been out 3 of the last 4 nights either on my own or with friends and on each occasion there have been energies present to sense. And it would be very easy to always say that what we were experiencing was “Faeries”. But its not always the case and I figured that my insights and those of my friends were worth sharing.

Sunday saw me out with my friend Mark on an interesting guided walk facilitated by Northern Earth Walks. We heard about some of the more strange and unusual occurrences in Todmorden’s recent history including a lucky dog, UFO’s, a grizzly murder that could have been the inspiration for the game of Cluedo and to our delight the story of Old Scraper, a supernatural being who wandered a certain track upon on the ridge above the town. He was said to appear to any who raised a tool aloft. There was nothing for it. It was going to have to be investigated. So despite lacking tools bigger than penknives we headed up an increasingly steep and muddy track in hot pursuit of our quarry.

A View of Todmorden from Old Scraper’s Lair

The view at the top was pretty spectacular and as we walked we certainly sensed a number of things, but not all the same. In fact it appeared that two distinct sensations were present. And after some thought and discussion it was surmised that Old Scraper was probably neither entirely ghost nor fae, but something older belonging to the land, a guardian of a barrow or other sacred space long lost and forgotten. Left for potentially millennia he had taken on aspects of the elementals around him. Fed off the energy of the folklore surrounding him. Becoming part thought-form, part landscape, a hybrid, and as a result he had survived. I suppose the clue that he wasn’t entirely fae was in the manner in which he was to be summoned. With tools! It’s a pretty well known fact that most of the Fae aren’t so keen on iron, So you can be pretty sure that your average common or garden fairy wouldn’t have come within a million miles of somebody brandishing a ferrous object.

This blending is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly when the realms of mankind and faerie meet and is something I discuss in some detail in my upcoming book, Spirits in a Broken Land. But it isn’t the only time that a feeling or sensation is something other than unadulterated fair folk making you feel a little uncomfortable. Much has been written of late regarding the theory that the trees can, and do communicate with each other. As a result I am now starting to suspect that it goes much further than that. A mere 24 hours after my escapades in the woods, I found myself on the glorious Formby beach with my friend Brian. The evening was almost balmy for a January night and being the little creature of water that I am, I threw caution to the non existent wind and went wading far deeper than was probably wise. After a lovely warming cuppa to recover from my little splash about, we decided to take a wander into the woodland that borders the spectacular sand dunes.

As we walked into the woods the scent of fox was fairly overwhelming and at least one dog fox could be heard barking somewhere in the darkness in front of us. A three way crossroad lay before us. Which way to go, how would we decide? Left, we would go left. And the smell of fox grew stronger. Its that time of year, they are finding their mates and doing what all good foxes do to ensure that little fox cubs are brought into this world.  But as we progressed a feel of unease fell upon us. Brian asked if I had noticed it. And indeed I had, a feeling like we weren’t wanted there. Which was strange as the woods had felt so calm and serene as we had walked down to the beach only and hour earlier. We debated what might have happened to change the feeling so drastically. We had seen two cars come streaking down the track towards the squirrel reserve only to turn round quickly when they saw us. Up to no good I suspect. But then it hit me, we would disturb the foxes, we were being warned away by the very place itself so as to protect the privacy of the woodland inhabitants. This was no malevolent fae, but a living breathing woodland caring for its inhabitants. How wonderful!

So it got me thinking. How often when we walk, we have these sensations and we always just give it the title of fairy or spirit of place. How inadequate these titles are, when sometimes its both more and less. Sometimes its so phenomenally mind blowing that you cannot help but believe that there is sentience and divinity in every atom of the world around us. So next time you go out walking. It doesn’t have to be in the dark, any time of day will do, just take a moment when that sense of otherness over comes you. Really sense it. Look at the landscape you are in, ask aloud for it’s story. Ask, is it really a fairy?