A Rose By Any Other Name
“I looked into the fox’s eyes, and saw honey and milk and the wisdom of seasons and flowers.
‘Some flowers are Toads’, she said, ‘And some are Witches…and yet others still are foxes like me, with wild eyes and mad appetites.'”
The landscape of the Wiccan Wheel of Year is so distant from the landscape in which I live, that many years ago I decided to do the unthinkable and I gave up many of the festivals and their common names. I began the fool’s journey down moon paths and my own land, and the tales I’ve told, of devil’s moons, and solstice dinners are the result of this mad exploration. This journey can never be complete, only deepened and in the deepening I write of what I call the Fae tides and the Inbetween.
The Thinning of the Veil- A Wee bit of Faery Lore and Faery Encounters
The world we think of as real, is not the only world which is. Hidden underneath this world, whether that under is through or beneath, is another world teeming with spirits and life. This otherworld is the world that witches travel to when we ride the hedge.
The Hedge defines the boundaries between the civilized world and the wild, between what is safe and known, and what is dangerous and other, and indeed even between life and death itself. To travel or cross the hedge is to enter a land of wild, dark, and frightening creatures of nature, the dead and even demonic enitities and leave behind the safety and comfort of the controlled world which we have created.
Many of us have forgotten the power of story and fairy-tale, folklore and mythology; We look at these tales as nothing more than superstitions, old wives tales and relics from the past. We live in a world that is phobic towards “childish fantasy” which often dismisses witches and fairies as make-believe and nonsense talk. We write new tales spinning stories about metaphors, delusions and archetypes, picking them apart like a mad scientist attempting to unravel the mysteries of the universe, but forget to honour each part by breathing life and passion into them.
In this way we have forgotten our blood borne pacts to the otherside, where honour and respect are given and tithes are paid. We have forgotten that the world of the Fae is not merely a metaphor, but a hidden reality within our own world, sometimes across the water, sometimes under the earth, and sometimes across the hedge.
“Sit upon my tail,” the pink fox said ,”and I will take you into a land of colour and blood.” And so I sat upon her tail of flowers and thread, and the She-fox began to run, and away we went over land, and hill, and deep into the hedge, and down into the unseen”
The Pink Fox is a harbinger of the tween tide, where story, folklore and Faery collide with our very strict definitions of reality.
The world of faery is like chalk, so intricately detailed and visible at one moment, and in the next it is washed away by rain and mist,never to be seen again. There are times and places where the hedge is thin and we can see more clearly the land of faery – Dusk, dawn, midnight, soltices, equinoxes, Beltaine, Samhain, Dark moons, Railway Tracks, crossroads, doorways, fences, borders between land and sea, mountains, wild places, hills, the forest, fairy rings, and caves.
These transitional or liminal spaces and times a ruled over by Hekate- Witch queen and Psychopomp. They act as gateways into the Faery realm or The Underworld and are good times and places to leave offerings out to fae and the dead.
As a child I would often sit in the wildish places and talk to the trees and flowers and catch the glimmer of a shade or other being out of the corner of my eyes. I would conjure up my own adventures and get lost in them and I would lose time and head back indoors only when it started to get dark, a bit of myself still stuck on the otherside.
There are many folktales and legends telling of mortal folk getting swept up or dragged away with the wild hunts and phantom troupes which are led by Hekate, Holda, Diana, Odin, or the King and Queen of Faery. Some tales and legends say that mortals often get caught in fairy dances which would seem to last for only a few moments but would in fact last for seven or more years. Sometimes an unsuspecting mortal will be lead by wisps into doom and danger, or be pulled into the watery depths by water fae.
I remember in a more innocent time, when I visited my father on the weekend. He had taken me to a camping grounds for his sports club. I befriended a girl and we walked together and spoke for hours about our daily lives. We were led to a pathway next to a flowing river that was known to have people fall in and injure themselves or even drown. I felt myself being called to the water, being pulled closer, and closer towards the edge. I knew then that there was a water maid or Water faery trying to pull me in. I decided to never walk that path again, even though it was enchanting and magical. I warned my friend who dismissed it as fancy. But I had grown up on tales of the Kelpie, and Jenny Greenteeth and other Waterfae who liked to drag people to their deaths and decided I would rather follow the frogs and walk a different route.
“On a popular level there was often little difference between a fairy and an angel, saint, ghost or devil”- Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits- Emma Wilby.
The Fae are not all as kindly and “good” as their nomenclature suggests. Mythology and folklore are always warning us of the Fae and their proclivity for mischief, maliciousness, and trickery. The kindlier and often helpful fae were known as the Seelie Court, many of them acted as household spirits on farms helping out with making of the butter and other small tasks. The more violent and bloodthirsty of the fae were known as the Unseelie, who often acted in malevolent and murderous ways.
“Black Annis lived in the Danehills. Her face was blue and her teeth were sharp and she ate people. She only came out at night and then you could hear her grinding her teeth when she was miles away. It gave people a chance to lock their doors. They didn’t have many windows in those parts because she used to stretch her skinny arms through and help herself to babies.”- Ghosts and Bogles Dinah Starkey
To placate the fae, offerings of milk and honey were left out as well as the first or last portion of a harvest. To not leave out a sufficient offering was to leave your crops open to faery blight, and your milk open to spoilage. There were many protections used against both the seelie and unseelie fae which included wearing iron charms, saying holy prayers and pouring salt over thresholds. Horseshoes, Red thread on rowan sticks and bottles filled with sand or seeds were also often used to deter and trap faery beings. At Beltaine the country folk would wear daisies and bells as protection.
“In a dark tree there hides
a bough, all golden, leaf and pliant stem
Sacred to Proserpine. This all the grove
protects, and shadows cover it with darkness.
Whose queen requires this tribute. In succession,
After the bough is plucked, another grows,
Gold-Green with the same metal. Raise the eyes,
Look up, reach up the hand”
-Virgil The Aeneid
There are many flowers and trees particularly sacred to faeries, including Pansies, Blue bells, Foxglove, Ragwort, Cowbells, The Willow, The Elder and the Birch. According to folklore the Dead were said to make their home within trees and sacred groves. They would become the guardians of these sacred places and if anyone was to damage, or harm, or axe any the plants and trees without being given permission, they would incur great wrath from the Faery folk.
Much folklore is written about how the Fae folk are in fact our ancestral dead, and there are many similarities in the customs in the world of Faery and the Land of the dead. One of these similarities is demonstrated in Greek mythology when Persephone eats the pomegranate seeds and is forever tied to the Underworld returning for part of the year.
Some faeries could be considered devils, or even the Devil himself, using enchantments and trickery in order to capture souls for the underworld. Folklore often tells these Faery-Devils getting outwitted by country folk due to some loop-hole within the agreement- some however are not quite so lucky and will inevitably be ridden all the way to Hel.
The Fox’s Feast-Springtime and The Greening
Spring is my favourite season. Everthing is growing, and green, and full of life. There are ducklings in the lakes and parks and bees and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Even though we have had a dry spring when the rain comes it is sweet and joyous relief from the heat. The warm nights are spent delighting in madness and intoxication, with the dizziness of insects and petals flooding the land.
And then there is the Pink Fox, who comes in a flurry of blood and colour, with cunning eyes and a spotted tongue. She teaches me of flowers- the ones which quicken the heart and the ones which bring up the dead, ones which soothe the soul and ones which bring beauty and passion.
I spend my spring days planting new seeds, and documenting the flowers and changing patterns of the land. Even in the suburbs there is nature, and spirit, and life. Not all of us are lucky enough to live in the wilds, away from the desolation and destruction of urbanisation. Even in these suburban places I can feel the veil thinning- there are many sleepless and restless nights, murderous dreams, strange occurences. Emotions are heightened, the air seems a bit thicker with spirits and there is always the chance of being swept up with The Phouka on one of his wild rides down to the Sabbat.
The Fox’s paws are full of the sweet stickiness of honey, and her breath is as sweet and intoxicating as hibiscus and Jasmine. When the foxglove blooms and the Poppy reaches its roots from the underworld into ours I lay down the offerings of milk and honey and sweet flowers, for the Pink Fox to dine upon.
Recommended Reading and Further Sources
*Faeries -Brian Froud & Alan Lee
*Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits- Emma Wilby
*Ghosts and Bogles-Dinah Starkey and Jan Pienkowski
*The Enchanted Garden- Claire o Rush
*The Witching Way of Hollow Hill- Robin Artisson
*Hedge Rider- Eric De Vries
All Photography, Writing and Artwork Copyright 2016 of Nightshade Purplebroom