Misconceptions About Fairies

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz around the Good People on social media, as well as in my local witchy community. I’ve also seen a lot of misinformation being passed along and people being encouraged to dive in the deep end without knowing what they’re getting into, so I want to address some common misconceptions and spotlight some resources I know are legit.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: with the Good People, perhaps more than any other type of spirit, it’s very important to know what you’re doing before you start reaching out to them. They operate on rules and ethics that are very different from ours, and even the most benevolent of them may be offended or angered by ignorance or bad manners. You cannot skip the reading when it comes to working with these beings. If you’re not willing to do the research and make an effort to follow the rules, this is not a crowd you should be messing with. I don’t say this to scare people or to discourage people who genuinely feel called to establish a relationship with the Good People. I just want to be clear that with this crowd there are risks, and most of those risks can be addressed by making sure you’re prepared.

In this post, you’ll see me refer to this class or grouping of magical beings as the Good People, the Other Crowd, the Good Neighbors, or similar euphemisms. This is because the word “fairy” is widely considered offensive, and using it may anger the Good People. My advice is to use your own euphemisms in order to be polite, even in casual conversation — avoid “the f-word” as much as possible. However, I will be using Fairy (with a capital F) as the name of the realm or plane where the Other Crowd lives.

Now, let’s start by addressing those misconceptions, shall we?

Common Misconceptions About the Good People

1. The Good People are nature spirits.

This is one that I’ve been guilty of spreading in the past. This one is tricky, because some of the Other Crowd could be considered nature spirits, but not all of them. It’s important to remember that “fairy” (and more polite euphemisms) is an umbrella term for many different types of beings. It’s about as specific as “animal.” And just like some but not all animals are mammals, some but not all of the Good People are nature spirits.

As a whole, the Good People don’t seem particularly attached to nature, although some of them tend to avoid humans and end up in wild natural settings as a result. However, true nature spirits are connected to a place or natural feature the same way human spirits are attached to our bodies, and this doesn’t seem to be true for the Good People.

2. The Good People are angels and/or spirit guides.

This one usually shows up in the context of New Age spirituality, but the association between angels and the Good People is actually much, much older. When the people of the British Isles converted to Christianity, they tried to reconcile their belief in the Other Crowd with Christian cosmology. Usually, this meant identifying the Good People with devils, but some people identified them as fallen angels. One version of the Christianization of the Good People describes them as angels who refused to pick sides in the war between God and Satan and are exiled from both Heaven and Hell.

I’ve seen New Age authors like Doreen Virtue describe the Good People as “earth angels” or say that, like angels, they are “high vibrational” beings of pure love and light. This directly contradicts folklore, which describes the Good People as beings with physical bodies with a wide range of attitudes towards humans. The Good People could be helpful allies, mischievous pranksters, or cruel predators. Even the ones who seem to like humans aren’t especially pious or virtuous, and they definitely aren’t interested in our spiritual development.

The idea of the Good People are spirit guides reduces these beings, who are their own people with their own personalities, goals, and agendas, to servant spirits whose only purpose is to help us grow and learn. That’s a pretty self-centered approach to spirituality, and it’s honestly one that I don’t think many of the Good People would put up with.

3. The Good People are tiny and have wings.

I mean, some of them sort of look like this? There are folkloric accounts of beings that are between 6 and 18 inches tall, but as far as I can tell the wings are a modern development. Descriptions of tiny winged people who are small enough to take a nap inside a flower are a Victorian English invention, as popularized by the Cottingley Fairies hoax, a series of faked photographs that supposedly showed a real Otherwordly encounter:

Most older descriptions from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Britain describe the Good People as looking similar to humans or animals. They might look like normal people except for being totally green, like the Green Children of Woolpit or the Green Knight that appears in Arthurian legend. They might be dressed in green and/or red. In folklore the Good People typically wear contemporary clothing, so if you saw one today they might very well be in jeans and a T-shirt. Sometimes in folklore, the Good People are indistinguishable from humans.

Some of the Other Crowd appear as animals, but there’s often some sort of tell that indicates an Otherworldly animal, like a kelpie appearing as a horse whose mane is always dripping or the púca appearing as a black horse with glowing golden eyes. Some of them don’t look like humans or like animals and are clearly Otherwordly in appearance, like trows, trolls, and goblins.

4. The Good People are All Friendly to Humans

Again, some of them are. Some of the Good People, like brownies, choose to live in humans’ homes and communities and actively help out around the house. Then there are others, like the Baobhan

Síth, hags, and red caps that prey on humans, sometimes literally. Many of the Good People seem indifferent to humans.

The problem with this is that when you invite the Other Crowd into your home, you’re inviting all of them into your home. This is why I personally prefer to work with the Good Neighbors outside my home — we have an elder tree (a species associated with the Good Neighbors) growing on the edge of our property, and I use this as a place to leave offerings for them. This way I’m showing respect for them and offering gifts in good faith, but I’m not opening up my home.

Another option is to invite specific individuals or types of the Good People in by name. For example, there are things you can do to attract a brownie. I do want to note that even beings that are usually friendly, like brownies, can be dangerous if you piss them off, so you should only invite them into your home if you’re willing and able to commit to keeping them happy.

5. You have to be psychic or have the Second Sight to interact with the Good People.

First of all, I firmly believe that all people have the potential for psychic abilities and that anyone can develop these gifts through practice. In folklore there are ways of developing the Second Sight, if that’s something that is really important to you. (Just be aware that some of the Good People prefer to be unseen and can take offense to humans trying to look into Fairy.)

But you don’t need the Second Sight or experience with psychic practice to interact with the Good People. Most of the people who historically worked with these beings did not have the Sight. You can still leave offerings and see evidence of their presence, and if you really want to communicate with them directly you can use a divination tool.

Further Reading/Viewing:

  • Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk by Morgan Daimler
  • Fairy Witchcraft by Morgan Daimler
  • Faery: A Guide to the Lore, Magic, & World of the Good Folk by John T. Kruse
  • “Faery Magick Misconceptions | Working with the Fae | Witchcraft” by HearthWitch on YouTube
  • “What Do We Call the Fairies in Ireland?” by Lora O’Brien on YouTube
  • “5 Common Misconceptions About Fairies” by Morgan Daimler on YouTube
  • (I’ve made a playlist of videos on the Good People I find helpful, which you can watch here!)

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