Seeing faeries

Faeries… would you like to see them? Many of us who see faeries are artists, or have had some art training.

This is a quick lesson in seeing faeries. It’s not difficult, but it might take some practice.

What people usually see

People usually see what’s in front of them. They mentally discard the unimportant parts of the image, and pay little attention to it. They may savor what the do focus on, but the rest isn’t that important.

So, walking over a hill, if someone sees a dolmen and two standing stones, it might look like this:

standing stones
Mentally, what people usually do is to focus on the dolmen and the stones, and discard everything else, so they see it like this:
b&w stones
just the stones
Faeries: What you should look forIn art, the stones are part of positive space, because they’re the subject that the viewer is focusing on. If they’re the subject of a photograph, painting, or sculpture, the rest of the setting may be eliminated, blurred, or largely ignored by the artist.

But, in considering the final product, the artist also considers the negative space. That is, what surrounds the stones, including the air.

When looking for faeries, the air is very important to us.

So, in addition to studying the stones, examine the negative space.

A few people see auras this way. Most artists are only vaguely interested in auras when they’re working, so they simply focus on the negative space. That’s what you’ll do, too.

Mentally, it might look like this

space around the stones
Or, you might see it more like this

highly-energized space around stones
What you’ll see, with practice: Faeries!After you’ve been observing negative space for awhile, your surroundings will take on new dimensions. Your thinking will change slightly as you perceive far more of life.I urge you to practice this daily in your spare time. Especially, walk outside and observe the space around trees, around buildings, around rocks, and even around blades of grass.

With practice, the world will seem a little more brilliant and interesting. It should become your normal way of looking.

And this helps you to see the faerie world as well.

Suddenly, when you look at a dolmen and standing stones, you’ll see the stones, but you’ll also see what’s around them.

It might look like this

stones & faeries
what you might see
(simulated picture)
I think this will make a big difference in how easily you perceive those moments when our world overlaps with the Otherworld, and when faeries visit our world.Related articles:

How to see faeries – An introduction to this subject

Blurry spheres of light – what faeries really look like – Our own illustrations representing what you might see if you’re seeing faeries.

What Faeries Look Like

First of all, hardly anyone sees faeries (or fairies), full-face and in bright light. Most people see them slightly out of straight-on vision, or out of the corner of an eye. (When you look straight at them, they vanish. Part of this may be the legend that you can gain control over a faerie if you are able to look him/her straight in the eye.)

What faeries look like

Many people see  small faeries as little balls of light or shadow, flitting around the room. The lights can be white or pastel, usually. In our house, these are about two or three inches in diameter.

Here’s what they might look like, outside:

Faeries in the park

The small ones are more likely to interact with you, and–frankly–I think they’re the ones who hide things.

For more information, read Blurry spheres of light – what faeries really look like .

The human-sized faeries don’t seem particularly interested in us, when they appear. They interact on a personal level, in Underworld journeys and in dream/messages. However, I don’t think they’re “borrowing” shiny and glittery objects from us. That wouldn’t make sense, from their demeanor.The larger ones can range from two- or three-foot tall “gnome” size, to people who look just like you and me, or even larger.

Among the smaller “gnome-sized” ones, I usually notice that they’re wearing something red, and some green (usually a moss green color), but otherwise I don’t see them long enough to give a good description.

The larger ones (human sized, or larger) tend to be wearing more somber colors, often shades of tan or brown, the sort of thing peasants wove in the Middle Ages.

But, when I see these larger figures, they appear for about 1/10 the duration of the smaller ones, and they’re usually striding quickly as if going somewhere in my apartment. Perhaps they’re just passing through our dimension/world briefly. I have no idea.

I often see a cloak billowing behind the human-sized ones. It’s not a huge cloak, just a normal one as someone would wear for casual, everyday dress. The color is usually a warm brown, similar to the color of hot cocoa, but more reddish like oak.

Are these all faeries? I haven’t a clue. They seem to have something in common, including their manner of vanishing, so–for now–I call them all “faeries.” (Again, we get into the question of whether “faeries” are just the small–often winged–creatures, or can faeries be larger and/or include the Tuathai?)

But it’s not just seeing them. As an artist and author, I’m visually oriented, so it’s probably natural for me to see them, more than anything else.

Other people hear them but don’t see them.

Keep your expectations reasonable, and you will be rewarded.

For more tips on seeing faeries around you, read my article, Seeing faeries.

Faeries in your family tree

Bodium CastleDo you have fae ancestry? I mean really fae ancestry, the kind that can be written on your family tree?

If you have Irish ancestry, the answer is probably yes! Most people with Irish roots also have faerie ancestors.

Here’s a short version of the history.

The Irish fae world includes the Tuatha De Danann, who were the “gods and not-gods” (in Irish: de agus ande) of early Ireland.

The Tuatha De Danann were–and are–real people, or perhaps “beings” is a better word.

And, they married the (very human) Milesians and had children, when the Milesians conquered Ireland.

(This history is documented in many ancient sources, including The Annals of the Four Masters, one of Ireland’s earliest written histories, transcribed by monks.

The Milesians were the people who populated modern Ireland. Their surnames are the ones that start with O’ and Mac.

However, in recent times, those O’ and Mac prefixes were often dropped. For example, O’Baoighill became O’Boyle and then simply Boyle.

(Murphy was O’Murchadha and Sullivan was O’Suileabhain, and the list goes on…)

So, if you have Irish ancestry (and over 50% of people in the United States do), then you probably have Milesian blood in your veins.

That means you probably have faerie ancestors, too.

If you could trace your heritage back far enough, you’d get to the Irish ancestor who married one of the Tuatha De Danann, and you’d actually have the name of your faerie ancestor.

(If you’re a FitzGerald from the Limerick area, the process may be a lot easier, since Lord Desmond, the third Earl of Desmond, married the Tuatha De Danann goddess, Aine. Their son, Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, is still seen riding from Lough Gur every seven years when the lake is dry.)

My emphasis is on Irish faeries, because that’s my own ancestry.

However, many cultures have similar traditions, from Scandinavian to Indian to Arab to African.

Research your family tree and learn your faerie connections.

You may find some wonderful surprises!

The Banshee

Castle at WexfordWhen someone mentions a ghost, most of us think of cemeteries, haunted houses, and transparent figures draped in sheets.

Likewise, the word “faerie” is linked with cute little figures with wings, and merry mischief.

However, mention a Banshee, and people squirm. The Banshee, like a ghost, can represent death, but that is not her actual role in folklore, or in our lives.

She can appear transparent, and is the size of a living person. Nevertheless, like her fae counterparts, she is associated with a more magickal Otherworld.

Perhaps she is the link which shows us that the Otherworld is a vast place, inhabited by many kinds of beings, including faeries and ghosts.

The Banshee, in Irish the Bean Sidhe (pronounced “bann-SHEE”), means “spirit woman” or sometimes a spirit (perhaps a faerie) dressed in white.  She is usually described as a single being, although there are many of them.

Your Irish Family’s Banshee

According to legend, one Banshee guards each Milesian Irish family.

These are the families whose names start with O’ or Mac, and sometimes Fitz, though those prefixes have been dropped, particularly by American families.

There is a Banshee for each branch of these families, and the family Banshee can follow the descendants to America, Australia, or wherever the Irish family travels or emigrates.

The Banshee protects the family as best she can, perhaps as a forerunner of the “Guardian Angel” in Christian traditions. However, we are most aware of her before a tragedy that she cannot prevent.

Traditionally, the Banshee appears shortly before a death in “her” family.

The Banshee is almost always female, and appears filmy in a white, hooded gown. (The exception is in Donegal, Ireland, where she may wear a green robe, or in County Mayo where she usually wears black.)

However, if she is washing a shroud when you see her, she may merely signal a major life-changing event in your future. The way to determine this is to go home and burn a beeswax candle after seeing her; if it burns in the shape of a shroud, her appearance foretells death.

The Banshee’s Wail

The night before the death, the Banshee will wail piteously in frustration and rage. Her family will always hear her, but many others in the area will, too. For example, Sir Walter Scott referred to “the fatal banshi’s boding scream.”

One of the largest reports of this wailing was in 1938, when the Giants’ Grave in County Limerick, Ireland, was excavated and the bones were moved to a nearby castle. Those who heard the crying throughout central Ireland, said that it sounded as if every Banshee in Ireland was keening.

That wailing of many Banshees is unusual but not unique. There have been other reports of several Banshees manifesting together. When a group of Banshees are seen, it usually forecasts the dramatic illness—and perhaps death—of a major religious or political figure.

In Irish mythological history, the Banshee tradition may link to the fierce Morrighan as the “Washer at the Ford,” a legend of Cuchulain. In this story, the Morrighan appeared as a young woman who prepared for an upcoming battle by washing the clothing—or perhaps the shrouds—of those who would fight and lose.

Does the Banshee Cause Death?

Despite her grim reputation, seeing or hearing a Banshee does not cause death.

In fact, the Banshee is traditionally a very kind woman. As poet and historian W. B. Yeats commented, “You will with the banshee chat, and will find her good at heart.”

I believe that her appearance and wailing before a death are efforts to protect her family from a death or other tragedy that she foresees.

This is where we see the clearest link to what are popularly called “ghosts.” In many stories, the spirit appears to warn the living about danger, illness, or death. Gothic novels often feature a ghost whose appearance forecasts death.

Likewise, in the Sherlock Holmes story, the Hound of the Baskervilles howled before a family death.

In real life, my maternal grandmother and her siblings were individually visited by the spectre of their mother, to warn them of her imminent death in a hospital many miles away, and to say good-bye.

This level of concern for the living is consistent with many ghosts, as well as the Banshee.

Whether the Banshee is more correctly a “ghost” or a “faerie” is an discussion that may never be resolved. However, the Banshee provides clear evidence that the line between ghosts, spirits, and faeries is vague at best.

For more information about the Banshee, one of the best studies is The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger by Patricia Lysaght (paperback, © 1986, Roberts Rhinehart Publishers, Colorado).

Elves, gnomes and faeries

Continued from Different kinds of faeries

Toadstools - evidence of faeries?The “little people” might not be from the Tuatha de Danann, but they may be beings that were in Ireland before the TDD arrived. Some speculate that their size suggests they’re of the Fir Bolg. Some say that these are the beings who inhabited Earth, even before humans were here.

(For more info about the Tuatha de Danann and the Fir Bolg, start with my short history of Ireland.)

Elves are also “little people,” but in Ireland this word is usually used to mean any small, non-winged faerie. There is no clear word for “gnome” in Irish, so elf is used to mean them, too.

Classic elves are small, often wear a red cap, and they are rarely seen. They live under the roots of trees, and prefer tangled roots. They think the roots weave pretty designs in the soil.

Classic elves protect wild animals, and these elves are what you’ll “sense” (but you won’t see) when you’re walking in the woods. Your best chance to see them is to purposely not look straight at where you hear a rustling. You may then see them out of the corner of your eye.

(If you sense something much larger, you’re near the “Green Man,” which is a very different resident of the fae world.)

Irish elves, like most Irish faeries, are almost always kindly beings, if mischievous.

This is where the etymology gets confusing: The word, elf, seems to have a Teutonic/Scandinavian background, related to words such as aelf and ylf. In the Scandinavian tradition, elves are “dark” or “light,” referring to whether they’re kind or malicious.In Scotland, where there are gnomes as there are in Scandinavia, their faeries are usually from the Seelie or Unseelie Courts, which also denote temperament, good or bad.

However, the Irish, who use the Teutonic/Scandinavian word “elf,” don’t draw lines between good and bad faeries. In fact, the only “bad” (malicious) faeries in Ireland are usually the ones who came to Northern Ireland from Scotland, with a clear Scots-Irish history.

Banshees, aka Bean Sidhe, are definitely from the Tuatha de Danann, and they’re usually full-sized women. They are NOT always dressed in white. (That misconception started when people mistakenly translated Bean Sidhe with the word “ban” [Irish for “white”] instead of “bean,” which means woman.) They protect a particular family. There are many of them, although they’re rarely seen together; usually it’s just one at a time. (If you see a cluster of them, it usually foretells the death or serious illness of a holy man or political leader.)

But the Bean Sidhe (banshee) and other fae folk are numerous, very different from one another, and their names cannot be used interchangeably.