The Winter Solstice this year came amidst a deluge – days of heavy rain, bringing flooding and landslides to those who live on rivers less wide and gentle than ours. Every time it rains now, especially this heavily, I think about our friends in California and elsewhere in the Southwest whose gardens are parched, whose water supplies are dwindling. An over abundance of rain in one place, not enough in another. Sounds a little like the Solstice – not enough light in our hemisphere while it’s summer for our friends “down under.”
I’ve always thought about the solstices as extremes, the equinoxes as points of balance but this year I’ve realized that the solstices are about balance as well. When it’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere it is the brightest, most light time in the southern. Viewed on a planetary scale, that’s balance.
We are hard-wired to view cycles and seasons from our human, personal perspective, from wherever we are on the planet. After all, for our ancestors, adapting to the natural cycles of where they lived was a matter of survival; the sun and the light it brought meant life. But from a planetary perspective, the rotation of the earth in relationship to the sun is simply a distribution issue. There’s no less light falling on the planet – it’s just allocated differently. So even when we are plunged into darkness in the northern hemisphere, our friends in Sidney, Auckland, and Cape Town are enjoying the height of summer.
Focusing on the extreme point of darkness, this longest night, at this time of the year makes sense from a human perspective – after all, roughly 90% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. (That’s because most of the planet’s land mass is in the northern hemisphere.) Cultures who live close to the equator don’t have the same focus on the extremes – they have roughly the same amount of daylight and night through all seasons.
The rest of us are caught on a pendulum. Today the pendulum of light has hit the height of its arc in one direction. Tomorrow, without bonfires on the hills, the pendulum will begin its swing to the other point of the arc, the Summer Solstice. We know what our early ancestors may not have known – that the sun hasn’t gone away, it’s just shining more light on another part of the planet right now. But our ancestors knew something many of us have forgotten – that it’s a matter of survival to know and be in tune with the cycles of nature. They also knew not to disturb those cycles – especially the climate cycles – if we want them to continue in a way that supports life as we know it.
The rituals of lighting a Yule log, decorating our homes with evergreen boughs, bringing light into the darkness in whatever ways we can, are a part of acknowledging those cycles. The giving of gifts, the honoring of each other, serve to remind us that it’s only through community that we can survive the long dark. The celebration of birth, whether of “son” or “sun,” inspires hope that seeds now dormant will spring to life with the returning light.
Although we can’t affect the swing of the pendulum/planet in its journey around the sun, we can align ourselves with it. When the cycle offers us more darkness than light, it’s time to go inward and dream. Time to listen to the winds, the rain, the falling snow. Time to connect to each other and the world around us. Time to bring light into each other’s lives.
Bright Blessings to you and all those you touch this holiday season.
This time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, each day seems to have more light sucked out of it by a great beast intent on devouring the sun. Living in the Pacific Northwest, where storm clouds often dampen the little daylight remaining, I have come to understand why the festivals at this time of year focus so much on light.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved the Geminid meteor shower (scheduled to peak the night of Dec. 13/14). Each year around this date, tiny bits of space rocks and comet dust hurtle through our atmosphere to create blazing trails across the winter-night sky. That’s always seemed like magic to me. Star dust, falling to earth.
“All life is made of star dust” whispers a familiar wise Fairy voice in my ear.
“Wait a minute. I know you’ve told me that the original organic material that seeded life on this planet came from the stars. Bacteria, riding on an asteroid, perhaps. But you’ve also told me that you, the Fairies, are of the Earth, born from the fire of the Earth’s core. When you say that all life is made of star dust, doesn’t that include you?”
“There’s the fire without and the fire within. It all comes from the same place.”
I guess I was a little slow wrapping my mind around the last statement because, by the time I was ready to respond, there was only silence where the presence had been.
The army of storms that has rolled through in the last week has finally moved on so the sky may actually be clear Saturday night. While I watch the light show in the sky, I’ll be aware of the other fire/light deep beneath my feet. My Fairy guide is right, of course. Where else could the fire inside have come from but the stars?
When I turn on the holiday lights each evening, seeking to fend off the ever-growing darkness, I’ll remember that all I really have to do is go deep enough inside. There’s star-light there, too.
— ©Bridget Wolfe, 2014
If you have clear skies and can get away from city lights, don’t miss the show. According to EarthSky.org, best viewing should be around midnight before the moon rises.
You can always find magic at the Fairy Woodland website.
This morning’s rain has left crystalline beads suspended from the bare tree branches outside my window. The meadow glows bright with new-green. Last Spring’s fawn, now looking almost grown-up in her thick chocolate coat, has been grazing in one small patch of the new growth for at least 15 minutes. Her coat keeps her immune to the rain; the rain brings her food. I wonder if her deer-brain is conscious of the rain as a gift? Although we in the Pacific Northwest may grumble about the rain (especially towards the end of January), the lush green it brings is a gift the whole year.
The fawn wanders off to nibble a few remaining blackberry leaves and my thoughts return to the concept of gifts. ‘Tis the season, after all. I asked the Fairies about gifts and gratitude a few years ago. This is part of what they told me.:
Gifts, they said, are a form of touch. A gift can be a handshake, a loving caress of the cheek, a bear hug, or a kiss. Like a handshake, a gift can say, “I’m pleased to know you.” Like a hug, a gift can say, “I cherish having you in my life.” A gift lets someone know we value them, that we are grateful to have them as part of our lives.
Gifts can also be invitations. When The plum trees blossom in Spring, there is an invitation to bury your nose in the fragrance. When a human accepts that invitation, he or she finds a moment of pleasure in their day; when a bee is drawn to the scent, it gives a gift in return by pollinating the blossom, allowing the flower to become fruit, which then becomes another gift. An animal accepts the gift of food that is offered by the fruit, eats it, then deposits the seeds (along with the gift of natural fertilizer) somewhere else so that the seed can grow into another plant that will grow and offer gifts of flower and fruit. Giving a gift begins a cycle of gratitude.
Now that the insanity of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and similar craziness are behind us, maybe we can take a deep breath or a walk in the woods and focus on the simplicity of gifts. A friend who took part in building the Fairy Fire Village (see the post below) sent hundreds of bulbs to be planted in the Village. Yesterday, a local friend helped me plant them. Not only was her help a great gift, the sharing of the experience, she said, was a gift for her. She still owns a small patch of woods in her native Cornwall and has fond memories of planting hundreds of bulbs on that land, so having a chance to share her expertise with me was a gift for her. In the Spring, when the flowers bloom, they’ll be a gift to everyone who sees them plus a feast for bees and other pollinators.
The one gift of bulbs becomes part of a cycle of gifts that nourish many others. As you choose your gifts in this season of gift-giving, let the deer and the rain be your guides. Hug someone.
Smile at them, even if they seem a little strange. Put a feeder out for over-wintering songbirds. Choose gifts that nourish the heart, invite others to play, and engage the mythic imagination.
(Hint: There are lots of gifts that fit this description on the Fairy Woodland website.)
© Bridget Wolfe, 2014
Some places on the Earth have a feel of magic about them; some very special places actually ARE magic. The Douglas Fir grove on our land where the Fairy Fire Village sits is one of the latter. My walk through the Village this afternoon comes in the golden time – that magical moment when the late afternoon rays of the sun turn everything they touch to gold. The Village has been in place for a full moon cycle now, yet I still approach the gateway with wonder.
I stand at the archway, clasp my palms together as the Fairies taught me, reach through the invisible veil, and wait for the now familiar touch of hands from the other side joining with mine. Together, we spread our arms apart, opening the veil, and allowing me to step through into the Village.
The Fairy Fire Village, in our world, sits in a Douglas Fir grove at Woodland Springs, the home of Fairy Woodland. It was created by a devoted group of human Fairy friends who came together for five days in October, 2014, to build Fairy Houses and do magic. Together, with the help of Fairy Advisors who guided us in choice of location and construction of house, we created a Village of Fairy Houses.
We were called to this task by the Fairy Council of Elders that calls this land home. They asked us to create an enchanted space to make communication and co-creation easier between their realm and ours. They gave us the vision of a Fairy Village where they can anchor their energy more closely to the human, visible realm; a place where mortals are drawn to visit and experience the magic of a woodland environment where Nature Spirits empower the earth. A place where any mortal can take a Fairy guide’s hand to walk through the Village and feel the Fairy Fire that empowers the life force of the planet.
We did as the Fairies asked. Then they guided us to create ritual and work magic to make the Fairy Fire Village a place that hovers between two realms, mortal and Faerie. When the gateway is properly opened, humans and Fairies can come together in this place, as they used to before the Faerie Realm retreated so far into the mists.
You may wonder, as we did, why the Fairies would ask for such a thing. There are many types of Fairy beings who inhabit the realms just beyond our human perception. The ones who live in the woods and meadows that are home to Fairy Woodland are mostly Nature Spirits and they are extremely concerned about the transitions in which the Earth Mother currently finds herself. Their passion to nurture the Earth Mother and all her children manifests as a fire that glows through all living things.
To enhance the power of that fire in this time of transition, the Fairies want to partner with humans who share their passionate love for the Earth Mother. That’s why they asked us to build this Village, as a meeting place where they could more easily touch the thoughts and hearts of humans, to enlist our help in spreading the Fairy Fire, the passionate life energy that nurtures all living things on the planet.
The Fairies want the magic of the Fairy Fire Village to reach beyond this Douglas Fir grove as well. They reminded us that, for many years, we have been creating mystical items and infusing them with the spirit energy of the Fairy Woodland. Those creations have gone out into the world to touch the imagination and open the heart of anyone who comes in contact with them.
Every Fairy House, every Fairy Door, we create at Fairy Woodland is born in a box of sand, sands that have been gathered from all over the planet. In the rituals the Fairies did with us to connected the Village in both realms, they also helped us send out a silver thread to each of those items, to allow the keeper of that piece to use it as a gateway to connect to the Village – and therefore to Faerie – as well.
If you are the keeper of a Fairy Woodland Fairy House or Fairy Door and want to walk in the Fairy Fire Village with the Fae, spend a moment with the piece you have and the photos on this page – especially the one of the main gateway, above – and let your imagination connect to the Village. Walk up to the gateway, introduce yourself, and ask for permission to enter. Then close your eyes or let them focus on the house or door in front of you. Tell the Fairies why you’ve come and then listen. If you do this before you go to sleep, you should have interesting dreams. Please share your experiences in the comments section below.
For those of you fortunate enough to visit the beautiful Oregon Central Coast, contact us before you come and make a walk in the Fairy Fire Village a part of your journey. In time, we hope to have the Village open to the public.
We need the Fairies’ help to do the hard work that lies ahead to help the planet adjust to coming changes, to help as many species as possible adapt and survive. And the Fairies need our help to influence our fellow humans to be a part of the solution; they need our voices and our hands. If you are called to this project and want to get involved, contact us. Help keep the Fairy Fire lit.
— @Bridget Wolfe, 2014
If you want to know more about the Fairy Fire Village project or want to contribute to it in some way, email us: email@example.com
THE TRACTOR PROJECT. One of the essentials for keeping the paths to the village passable and beating back the blackberries is a riding lawn tractor. John’s died this summer and he’s been borrowing one from our kind neighbors. The group who came to build the village decided that would not do and started a tractor fund so John can buy a new one. We’re almost half-way there. If you want to add your energy to the Village, helping John get a new tractor would go a long way. If you want to toss in a few $$, there’s a special paypal account. Go to paypal.com and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The shortening days, the turning leaves, the parade of storms marching across my landscape the last two weeks, all tell me it’s time again for the fires of the New Year and the Three Nights of Summer’s End. Our modern Halloween stems from the Celtic Samhain [pronounced SOW-in (Ireland), SOW-een (Wales) or SAV-en (Scotland)]. In the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the end of the harvest, the end of the external part of the year. After this celebration it will be time to begin the journey inward, time to gathering by the fire to tell stories through the dark and cold ahead.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much relationship between our current way of celebrating Halloween and the ancient roots of Samhain and other fire/end of harvest festivals celebrated around the world. After all, what do bare branches of trees, dried out cornstalks, bonfires burning on the hills have to do with cobwebs, ghosts, skeletons, and witches on broomsticks? The traditional symbols associated with this holiday all have to do with a transition from life to death. The three days from Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 mark a time that we humans have chosen to celebrate our beliefs in the continuation of spirit after it disconnects from physical form.
Many of our ancestors marked this time as the end of the old year, the beginning of the new. It is a sacred time, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin as a breath, permeable as a wisp of fog. It is a time that the dead can walk with us and warm themselves at our hearths. It is also the time when some mortals, especially shamans and poets, are able to find entrance to the Otherworld through special doorways that open only at Samhain.
The holiday has new meaning for me this year. When I set a plate for my ancestors at the table, there will be a special one for my mother who, after an arduous journey, found the door to the Otherworld a few weeks ago. She was the last of her generation in my family, so I am Elder now. A sobering thought.
The rain soaked meadow squeals with new-green as I cross to the forest path, thoughts of ancestors and elders sitting on my shoulders like a chain mail cloak. I have a Samhain question for the Fairy elders who guide me: Why does this year’s road to Hallowe’en feel like uncharted territory?
The Fairies are kind – they hide their snickers in dripping moss. “Of course it feels different,” whispers the wind, breathing on fir fronds above me. The voice settles closer to my ear, a subtle thrumming through the tree bark. “There is no embodied spirit of your blood line buffering the space between you and the veil; there are no footsteps for you to follow. That may seem frightening to your body-mind but your spirit now has no barrier to crossing the veil when it’s thin enough to penetrate.”
“So my mother’s spirit, while still in her body, was keeping me from communicating as fully as I wanted with you? With anyone on the other side? Why?”
“We think it’s an instinctual impulse. The spirit/mind of any living adult in the generation before you will seek to protect you from straying too close to the veil. That’s especially true in your culture where there is such misinformation – and, therefore, fear – about the crossing to the other side. It’s a little like making sure a child doesn’t get too close to the river – especially if the adult doesn’t know how to swim.”
The words are simple but they trigger an opening in me I wasn’t expecting. I stare at the moss my body sits on, letting the meaning sift down through layers of understanding like the rain settling down through the soil. Just as I wonder how deep this information will penetrate, a salamander walks into my field of vision and holds my gaze. “That’s enough now,” it seems to say. “Let it soak in slowly.”
“What should I do differently this Samhain?” I ask the wind, the tree, the salamander.
“Nothing,” comes the response. “Do the rituals as you’ve always done them but pay attention – you may experience them anew. And if you decide to dress as a Wise Woman, an Elder, it won’t be a costume.“ A blue jay squawks overhead and they are gone.
So I will light the fire, feed it dried corn stocks and other debris from this year of my life. I will set a feast for the ancestors, with a special plate for my mother, and welcome them all to my table. Then I will listen for their messages, celebrate their lives, and ask them to continue to celebrate mine. Perhaps I will ask them about what it means for a spirit to embody form – or how I embody my dreams, my fears, my love, my joy.
When the feast is over and the fire has gone out, I will clean the hearth and light a new fire, beginning the new year, stepping into the cycle again. The end is in the beginning, my Fairy guides remind me; the beginning, in the end.
— © Bridget Wolfe, 2014
For eons, we have whispered tales to each other of secret entrances to hidden, magical places, where only a password gained through a dangerous quest will allow you to walk past the guardian and enter. We’ve told stories of cloaked travelers on horseback riding into a box canyon and disappearing, of the sacred crystal cavern behind a waterfall, of the doorway into the mound that opens on the first full moon of summer.
No mystical tale is complete without a doorway through which a seeker must pass; no quest is successful without that terrifying (and exciting) moment of standing with hand on doorknob, with no idea of what’s on the other side.
Besides being actual passageways from one place to another, doors are also metaphors for transition, for change, for stepping into new pathways in life. Phrases like “open the door” and “cross the threshold” have become synonymous with major life changes and new beginnings.
We all know the butterflies of excitement and trepidation that flutter around in our stomachs when we stand before a door, physical or metaphorical, and don’t know what awaits us on the other side. Still, we search for doors that will transport us to another place in our lives. For those who yearn for greater connection to the Otherworld, finding a Fairy Door is a sacred quest.
Are you seeking an entrance into Faerie? What would it look like? Is there a door to knock on? A bell to ring? You can, of course, leave a gift at the door of your Fairy House on each full moon until the Fairies invite you in, but openings into the Otherworld are also everywhere you turn, in every wood and grove, in each Earth place that remembers the wild. If you are searching, here are a few ideas to help you on your quest:
–Walk through shimmering air between two Hazel trees.
–Dive into the full moon’s reflection in a pool.
–Stop at the spider web across your path and ask permission to continue before you carefully duck under the web.
–Trace the outline of the hollow in the ancient tree, lay your hands above the opening, then crawl inside.
–Settle in to dream in the space between boulders
–Sit on the riverbank and allow yourself to be mesmerized by flowing water framed between overhanging willows.
–Make or buy a Fairy Door and install it in a special place and ask the Fairies to help you dream your way through the door.
Once you’ve spent some time adjusting your consciousness to the idea that there might really be doors that allow you to enter the Faerie Realm, wander into any wood, any slightly wild place, down any trail. Follow your intuition, barely heard music, a butterfly, bird, or furry creature. Notice when the smell and temperature of the air change. A shimmer appears very faintly between two trees that stand in perfect symmetry, one either side of the path, their branches intertwining overhead, as though Mother Nature herself had built the arbor. If you walk on between the trees, noting only the lovely symmetry, you’ll have an uneventful stroll in the woods.
But if you recognize that this is a Faerie Door, you’ll stop. Sit in the middle of the track. Lie with your belly on the earth. Come back at dusk, at dawn, tomorrow, next month, on the full moon, on the solstice, the equinox, the cross quarter days. Bring offerings of food, wine, water from a sacred well, jewels. Bring a book of Faerie stories and read them aloud. Bring a child to read the stories to. You may grow old, waiting to be called. You may find the doorway opening immediately. But once you’ve recognized the door, sooner or later you will be invited to step across the threshold, through the doorway, and come home.
There is always a Guardian who keeps the doorway open and listens for the footsteps of those who seek the way. Allow the Guardian to take you by the hand and lead you to the threshold. You won’t know what’s on the other side but, whatever it is, it will be an adventure.
–@Bridget Wolfe, 2014
If you want to begin your quest by installing a Fairy Door close to you to dream with each day, please visit the Fairy Woodland website for an enchanting selection.
You can also find Fairy Doorways in John Crawford’s mystical prints. Meditate with these doorways so that, when the time comes for you to go questing in the wild, your heart will recognize the gateway when you find it.
For more about “Gateways to Faerie,” watch the movie. It’s available online through iTunes, or Hulu and as a 2 DVD set on the Fairy Woodland Website.
There are many theories for the origin of April Fools’ Day but most sources are quite careful to point out that no one knows for sure. They obviously haven’t talked to the Fairies about the subject.
Granted, it’s not easy to get the information out of them and sometimes requires a little guile. To get the Faerie version of April Fool’s history, I sat down under a budding apple tree on a rare dry afternoon last week, opened Ari Berk’s book about Mermaids, (an appropriate choice, considering our latest period of deluge) and began reading. I didn’t have to wait long. All Fairies love stories.
“Whatcha reading?” The words separated themselves from the hum of bees in the blossoms above my head. I recognized the voice – Apian, a busy Fairy with black and gold streaked hair.
“All about Mermaids. It’s written by your friend, Ari Berk. Want me to read to you?”
“Can’t now. Too busy. When sun goes down.”
I waited. The warm gold of the late afternoon sun called the bees home and a soft hum by my left ear told me Apian had finished his work for the day. He settled on my shoulder and peered at the book.
“Good pictures.” I read aloud about merfolk until the waning light made it difficult to continue.
“It’s almost the end of March, you know, and I was thinking about what’s coming up in April. In our world, we call April 1 ‘April Fools’ Day but I have no idea what the history of that is. What do the Fairies know about the history of April Fool’s Day?”
“April What Day?”
“April Fools’ Day. You know. April 1st, when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. Do you do that in Faerie as well?”
“Never heard of it.”
I should have known better. Direct questions about generalized goings on in Faerie rarely work. So I tried a different tack. “That’s too bad. I’m trying to think of a practical joke to play on John. I thought if anyone could help me, you could.” Then, ignoring his “Never heard of it” comment and baiting my hook: “What’s the funniest April Fool’s joke you ever played on anyone?”
Fish on! He took the bait and ran with it, regaling me with his greatest exploits. Those stories are his to tell so I won’t give them away here but I managed to glean some information about the Fairies’ version of the history of April Fools’ Day.
Between the Spring Equinox (March 20) and Beltane (May 1), most Fairies work VERY hard. In the Northern Hemisphere, they’re coaxing trees to bloom, seeds to sprout, and eggs to hatch, just to name a few of their duties. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the final sprint to harvest time, pushing seeds and plants to the last ripening. Moments of high play are definitely called for during such intense work periods and there’s no patience for any Fairy who is late returning from Winter dreams.
April 1 is the absolute deadline for any Winter-slumbering Fairy to wake up and begin its work; if not, he or she is fair game for pranks, hoaxes, tricks, or other diabolical inventions. Take a walk April 1. If you see a tree that doesn’t have buds ready to pop, look closely. Is the tree wrapped in spider webs? Does it have a colony of ants marching up and down the trunk? Pity the tree’s Fairy who has obviously overslept and will have a mess to deal with when she finally shows up.
The Fairies don’t limit their practical jokes to each other. It’s Spring, the time of beginnings, which set the tone and schedule for the rest of the year. If you haven’t planted seeds, thrown open the windows, cleaned the house, or danced a jig in the park by April 1, watch out. – you are fair game for Fairy mischief.
Whether or not you choose to vex someone with an April Fool’s prank, be sure to take some time today to laugh and play.
—© Bridget Wolfe, 2014
This is Cedar, one of the Forest Sprites who have been kind enough to show themselves in John Crawford’s photos and prints. He’s pretty silly, always makes me smile and reminds me to play. You can meet all the Forest Sprites on the Fairy Woodland website.