Anne Johnson responded promptly. Since the shrine is a minute’s walk from the house, she suggested putting out more shiny objects closer in.
I repurposed an odd birdfeeder shaped like a snail into a pixie-feeder (trap?). I put some shiny things in it (some broken silver spoons, a singleton silver earring) in it and sat it on a retaining wall outside the back door. Since this was in December, it kept getting snowed on.
Then she referred me to a specialist, Byron Ballard, the “village witch” of Asheville, North Carolina. As it happened, I had met Byron in person, so I felt OK about writing to her. Here is part of my email to her (spoiler: more things disappear):
Oh, and recently a carabiner with keys to the “bear boxes” on several scout cameras that I keep up in the national forest disappeared.
When I opened my toiletries bag during last week’s campout, there were the keys. Now there could be a naturalistic explanation: last December we took Amtrak to Virginia to visit M’s brother and other East Coast relatives who came to his house near Charlottesville for a few days.
It could be that I put those keys in my pocket when I replaced batteries in the security camera at the guest cabin (about 100 yards from our house), then ended up taking them on the train.
Finding them in my pocket, I would have put them in the toiletries kit, along with my house/car keys, just to empty my pockets during the trip.
Then I never used the toiletries kit again until last weekend.
BUT . . . there were *two* sets of keys to the bear box padlocks, and both disappeared. I now have one, which is great. I don’t have to hike out with big bolt cutters and take off the old locks.
It is POSSIBLE that I moved the second set of keys, but I checked the two places where I store spare keys, and they were not there.
Byron, whose classes at festivals, etc. include one called “Little Altars Everywhere,” responded with a long, humorous email, of which this was part:
The problem is likely caused by the spirit folk I call the Cousins, who are generally benevolent but frequently mischievous. My suggestions are these:
Feed them outside your house. Contrary to received knowledge, these folks like strong coffee and hideous candy. Think of the sort of artificial color/flavor candies like Swedish Fish and neon gummi worms. If it catches your eye but you probably wouldn’t eat it, they will love it. Skittles work but I go for amusing shapes–gummi fried eggs or circus peanuts or root beer barrels.
Feed them near where your “shinies” are. If you have dogs, you can bury the candy. Or put it high up where your dogs can’t reach it.
Do this for several days and I think you will be rewarded with an atmospheric condition I which the air and the energy around the feeding area feels like champagne bubbles. Fizzy and bright.
After the initial introduction, you can cut back on the feeding to once a month. I do it on the new Moon so I can keep track of it.
If you are offering a drink, which I recommend, find a beautiful little glass or cup to leave it in. You have already discovered that they like to go into things. Like cats, they are often “gozindas” (goes into) or “gozondas (goes onto). They appreciate small boxes–round ones like oatmeal boxes are the favorites of my folks.
You are basically bribing them to behave the way you want so that when they slip and steal the corkscrew, you can go out to the feeding site with one bright Skittle and tell them they can have more when the corkscrew is returned. The important thing to remember is they are not malicious, only curious and enthusiastic.
Soon I was at a Target store down in Pueblo with a shopping list:
- Water filter
- 4-foot extension cord
- Skittles or ?
I did not even know exactly what Skittles were, but I found them —and Gummi Worms — in the candy aisle soon enough.