On the Fairy Road

An exploration of historic and modern Fairy beliefs, and more generally Irish-American and Celtic folk beliefs, from both an academic and experiential perspective.

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Morgan Daimler

Morgan Daimler

Morgan has been a practicing witch since the early 90's with a focus on the Fairy Faith and fairylore. She has written over two dozen non-fiction and fiction books on topics related to Irish mythology, witchcraft, fairy folklore, and related subjects. Morgan has also taught workshops on these same topics across the United States and internationally. In her spare time she likes to study the Irish language in both its modern and historic forms.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Three Approaches to Fairy Work

As I've studied both older folk practices relating to fairies and modern methods I've observed three basic approaches. Today I'd like to take a quick look at these, with an understanding that there is no one that is better or worse than the others; they are simply different ways to relate to the Fair Folk that have developed organically over time. All of these exist in the historic record as well as modern practice. 

1. Appeasement/Warding - Probably the most common approach to dealing with the Good People is simply to prophylactically give them what you are willing to and which they want - usually milk, butter, or bread - to avoid them taking what you don't want to give and which they also want - cows, human children or adults, or your luck or prosperity. The other side of that is to ward against them with iron, specific herbs and charms, or Christian items. These two things, appeasement and warding, are usually paired together as joined practices. The majority of people who acknowledge the existence of fairies, in my own experience and study, take this approach if any. 

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Pagan Pilgrimage, Basic Guidelines

The idea of making pilgrimages - effectively of travelling to a place perceived as sacred - has gained popularity among pagans. I often see people in various social media groups talking about making such journeys to places they believe have sacred qualities or associations or talking about trips they have made. The main questions I see people asking centre on how to do this in ways that are most respectful to the sacredness of the location, but often are rooted in a paradigm of interaction with these places that is humancentric and ultimately doesn't really respect the location. It can be hard to shift out of that mindset. 

I am speaking here as someone who has dealt with tourists and been a tourist, and who has seen firsthand the harm that humans do even when they are trying to engage in a sacred way with a place. Often this harm comes from short sightedness and failure to understand the full impact of their actions but sometimes its also from a very self-centred place. I've seen 5,000 year old historic sites treated like someone's own backyard, seen graffiti on standing stones, rubbish tied to rag trees and tossed into cairns, and painted 'So-and-So was Here' stones left at archaeological sites. None of this reflects best practices, and I believe that we, as a wider community, can do better. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The dark moon is coming up in a few days, and shortly after that we will see the first sliver of the new moon in the sky. I have for a long time made a practice of acknowledging the presence of the new moon in some way, as it marks the beginning of a new cycle of the moon. In folklore it has also long had great significance and I think its important to acknowledge that. 

There was a belief that you could tie your luck and wealth to the growing light of the moon by turning any money in your pocket or a ring on your finger when you first saw the new moon and reciting a small chant. This sort of sympathetic magic is simple and easy for anyone to do and represents a common form of folk magic. 

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In my last blog here I talked about blending personal gnosis and folklore or other people's anecdotal accounts. Today I want to look at another important factor to consider as you set off on the Fairy Road - considering the perspective of the sources you are using. We live in a time when there are possibly more resources for studying fairies than ever before but the quality of these sources is, shall we say, exceedingly wide ranging. There are an abundance of good quality sources of course but people seem to take any and all such material equally rather than giving different weight to each based on its individual biases and viewpoint.

Considering a source's perspective is very important in deciding how to approach the material - to put a twist on an old saying 'not all sources are created equal'. And not all sources share a common view or understanding even of the same subject. The way that the educated English of the early modern period understood and approached fairies is very different from the way that the people in rural communities seemed to have done the same, and both are very different again from how people in Ireland in the same period understood the Daoine Sidhe. Lowland Scottish folklore about fairies found in the ballad material has its own perspective as well. And all of these differ from anecdotes we may find today in those same places. We also have to consider that people - myself included - who are outside the living cultures may have a different perspective as well.

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Uniting Personal Gnosis and Folklore with Fairies

It's a perennial discussion that goes around online and in-person: how much should we rely on personal gnosis and how much should we look to recorded material and other people's experiences (i.e. folklore)? This is a particularly pertinent question when it comes to those who interact with fairies because of the diversity of understandings that exist in relation to them. There are those who argue in favour of relying solely on personal experiences and those who reject the idea of modern experiences entirely, and some who advocate different balances of the two. I used to think balance was the ideal approach myself, but as I've thought about it I've come to a different view.

Folklore is an essential groundwork for anyone, in my opinion, who wants to understand the Good People. Whatever culture we happen to be talking about looking at the accumulated material that has been collected to describe previous people's experiences with and beliefs around fairies is enormously helpful in building our own understanding. Such folklore represents a valuable corpus of belief going back countless generations that can be relied on to teach us how to safely interact with Otherworldly beings, what to expect in different circumstances, and show us various outcomes of previous encounters. In short, immersing in this folklore means we don't have to learn all the hard lessons (hopefully) all over again for ourselves because we can look back to other people's previous experiences to help guide us.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Finding Fairies in Grimoires - Part 2

Last time we looked at the female fairies which appear in the grimoire material; this time I thought we'd look at one of the main Fairy Kings that appears in the grimoires, Oberon. 

Oberon first appears in a French romance called Huon de Bordeaux in the 15th century and a hundred years later in Shakespeare's a Midsummer Night's Dream (Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015; Briggs, 1976). His description between the two accounts is very different however: in the 15th century account he is a king of the fairies but his form is that of a 3 year old child although he is still a very powerful being, in Shakespeare he is an adult in appearance and his form is taller. In Huon of Bordeaux Oberon is described as beautiful even though he is small and deformed, and he appears wearing a glowing, jeweled gown. His physical description is not given in Shakespeare but his power and temperament are intense and he is described as a lover of mortal women.  

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Finding Fairies in Grimoires, part 1

Generally when we look for resources on fairies, particularly fairy Queens, we look (rightly) to folklore. There is however another more obscure source that can provide us some information and this is the later ceremonial magic grimoires. These texts are very different in nature and tone1 than other sources and we must keep that in mind as we look at them but they do give us a glimpse at a particularly English view of fairies from the 16th and 17th centuries. 

For our purposes today we will be looking at the material that addresses female fairies, which interestingly includes the only female beings found in the grimoire material2. When we look at the Grimoire material we find two main groupings of beings: Fairy Queens and the so-called Seven Sisters. These are all given names although the names vary in different manuscripts. The Seven Sisters can be bound to teach a person about herbs, nature, and provide a ring of invisibility (Harms, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). The queens can be called on for scrying, manifestation, sex magic, knowledge of nature, truth, and may also provide a ring of invisibility (Brock & Raiswell, 2018; Harm, Clark, & Peterson, 2015). All of the names given, however, are somewhat problematic in that they either can be found nowhere else outside the grimoire material or else they closely resemble common names or words.

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