Are Fairies Indigenous to North America?

Image from The Fairy Census

Regular commenter Pitch 313 added this to my post titled “Bejaysus, It’s the Eco-Fairies.

A few items for context: a.) My family immigrated to Northern California shortly after the Gold Rush, and that’s where I grew up; b.) it was apparent to me that Fairy beings of European character were present and active in Northern California, and I later gathered that post-Gold Rush practitioners had more or less done things to make these Fairy beings feel at home; and c.) it was apparent to me that the European settlement of the Americas–and particularly the European settlement of California–had massively, catastrophically disrupted Native American lives and cultures and those of resident Fairy beings known to Native Americans. In my experience, at least, contact with Fairy beings of NativeCalifornian character was complicated and chancy. (Read the whole thing.)

You can read quite a few supportive stories if you look at the North American section of  The Fairy Census 2014–2017 (PDF file, 5.3 MB).

It is part of an ongoing research project, the Fairy Census.((Ha, like it’s possible to count them!))

The Fairy Census is an attempt to gather, scientifically, the details of as many fairy sightings from the last century as possible and to measure, in an associated survey, contemporary attitudes to fairies. The census was inspired by an earlier fairy census carried out by Marjorie Johnson and Alasdair Alpin MacGregor in 1955/1956, a census that was published in 2014.

There are two (anonymous) census forms: one for witness accounts and one for second-hand accounts (experiences of grandma, uncle, friend etc). Confidentiality is assured and, in the case of publication, personal details will be changed to assure anonymity. Note, however, that by filling out these forms you approve their use in an academic survey.

Some of the results (Fairies speaking Irish?) would sound like the Fair Folk came over the water. But maybe they just offer up whatever will resonate or disturb us the most. (“Gray” aliens, for instance.)

As described at The Daily Grail:

In the PDF, the experiences, recorded between 18 Nov 2014 and 20 Nov 2017, are divided into five sections based on geography: Britain and Ireland; North America; Europe; Australasia; and the ‘Rest of the World’. Editor Simon Young, a British historian who has written extensively on the topic of folklore, says that the Census is being released in PDF format free of charge in the hope that it will allow and encourage others to undertake their own research into the topic of fairies.

In my own comment, I mentioned Alex Bledsoe’s “Tufa” novels. In his telling, the Fair Folk were here before the first immigrants followed their dogs through Berengia, tens of thousands of years ago. I suppose that that is possible.

I like this one. I have added some paragraph breaks, punctuation, and notations.

§215) US (Alaska). Male; 2000s; 31-40 . . .

‘I, at the time, worked as a sawer [sawyer] for *** crew fighting wildfires in the Alaskan interior forests. As we were cutting line around the fire, it began to rain a bit ,and for the most part the fire was controlled but still not contained.((There is a technical distinction here used by wildland firefighters.))

It is our job to cut line around the entire fire to eliminate any chance of it drying up and spreading. So it was [a]  low-adrenaline regular run-of -he-mill day at work. Slow and steady. My saw partner and I would each run the saw till the tank ran out and switch. One would act as saw[y]er and the other as swamper.((The assistant who tosses the cut branches and small tree trunks out of the way.)) As we switched tanks, I began to cut and he began to swamp the trees; the burnt hot ones go into the black while the green ones went to the green side, this [thus] cutting our eight to ten foot control line on top of this rocky ridge.

As I was cutting down these pecker poles about two to three inch wide and ten to fifteen feet tall, I went to cut into the bottom of one, and right before my eyes the tree shrunk down and a not-so-handsome little man about a foot tall with a beard and many wrinkles on his face stared up at me and screamed ‘Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo’.

My hands held steady [on]the saw that vibrated from the four hundred and fifty cc motor and my eyes widened large. My partner later told even through the screen protective lenses he could tell something [was] amiss.

He yelled ‘***, *** [the sawyer’s name].’ With no response, I stood stiff. He shook my shoulder; then my partner, a seasoned veteran and paramedic shut off the saw and again asked me what happened? I still stay[ed] stiff into [sic] he turns me with grabbing both shoulders and tells me to take a seat. For fifteen minutes he tries to get what happened out of me.

How could I tell this man who trusts me with his life that I saw? That I saw… Finally he says he will have to call our crew supervisor,. I turn to him and say ‘***, I saw an elf!’ He looks at me and just shakes his head in full acceptance. I look puzzlerd, I say ‘You saw it too?’ He says ‘no’. I say ‘what?’ Trying to read his mind, ‘others, others on the crew have seen them?’ He nods his head, yes. Understanding this I keep silent and continue about my day. I nor the others on the crew were ready to share and hold their truth amounts the possibility of fall out that could have incurred. Happy to share it now. Blessings and love to the many dimensional beings we share this world with.’

‘Old rugged kinda ugly though I don’t like to say so. Kinda bald and dirty.’ ‘I said elf to my buddy but it could easily be a name. I just know what I saw. It was in the woods, and my wisdom spoke up and remembered something that lay dormit [? dormant].’ ‘[Fairies are] a dimensional being that can support humans if they wise up in connection with Mother Earth. Fairy is a large dimension of characters. Some to trust while others are a bit more tricky.’ ‘Being a thirty-nine-year old man that has retired from a job that most people considered brave, tough, and masculine. I love sharing this story to those who are like. Well I [it?] got me thinking anyway.’

I’m not the sawyer on our fire department’s crew, but I took the class. My own chainsawing usually takes place on the hill behind the house, for reasons of firewood or fire mitigation. I don’t feel so bad about cutting dead stuff—and I have left a few beetle-killed pines for the cavity-nesting birds, but I get more and more edgy about cutting live stuff.

“Hey, I need to cut these little trees, Just pretend that I am a fire, OK? It will mean more water for the rest of you.”

We have forest fire burn scars((That’s the new term. We used to just say “burns.”)) on all side. If you are going to live as an animist, there is always someone else you have to talk to.

2 thoughts on “Are Fairies Indigenous to North America?

  1. Kalinysta

    I’m starting to wonder what the definition of “fairy” is (not including the slur relating to gay men either. ) Dictionary dot com defines it as, “(in folklore) one of a class of supernatural beings, generally conceived as having a diminutive human form and possessing magical powers with which they intervene in human affairs.”

    So would that include the Balto/Slavic versions of Domovoi, Dverovoi, Sadyevik, Numeja, Polyevik, Zirnitra, etc.? If so, then I’ve seen the domovoi. Happened a few months ago. He crawled out behind the stove and, looking like a 2-D version of a tiny humanoid on all fours, scuttled over and went behind the refrigerator. The weird thing is that it almost looked like a silhouette. I was rather startled but it explains why my cat occasionally sits near the stove and stares at it for minutes.

  2. Pitch 313

    Indigenous. Immigrant. Lore for interpretation.

    Fairy beings and communities are indigenous to North America. Native peoples and cultures tell us that. But North America is a big continent, home to diverse and many Native peoples and cultures. So the indigenous Fairy beings somebody–and particularly a Pagan practitioner–might contact depends on where they happen to be in North America.

    Fairy beings and communities from other parts of the planet have immigrated to North America, often alongside humans with whom they hold some association or relationship. In post-Gold Rush California, Ella Young offers a good example of an immigrant human who fostered good relationships with Fairy beings and communities, with a soft spot for immigrant Irish and European Fairies.

    Significant differences exist between the lore for interpretation held among Native American peoples and communities as well as among different immigrant peoples and cultures. Often based on the Fairy beings and communities most familiar to them.

    In Northern California, where I grew up, the several Native Californian peoples held that Fairy beings frequently manifested in animal forms–Raven, Coyote, squirrels, jays, falcons, and such.

    As a young child (5-12), I underwent several transformative experiences that involved animals–bobcats and ravens. But, thanks to my own youthful limited knowledge and the history of California, I had no access to Native California lore or folks who could provide access. So I turned to the lore I did have access to–European folklore and Californian popular culture. My interpretation considered these creatures as animal or animal spirit companions (who were not quite the same as Fairy beings).

    These days, having learned about Native Californian lore and practiced as a Craft-minded Pagan for quite a while, I acknowledge that these creatures might have been indigenous Native Californian Fairy beings manifesting to me as they would to Native Californian humans.

    Honestly, I had and still have no way to tell. Indigenous and immigrant lores of interpretation point at somewhat different understandings. And I have no special concern to decide among them. I was the child transformed, and I feel that the personal transformation was the intended outcome for me. (And to be clear, I was certainly not seeking any transformation on my own.)

    For immigrant to North America, I suspect that my experience is fairly common. We encounter Fairy beings (or some manifestation that might be Fairy beings), and learn that such encounters are hard to figure out. Still, change often happens.

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