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Anna Franklin  Author & Illustrator Blog Working With Fairies

Working With Fairies

By Anna Franklin

In the practices and taboos surrounding fairies, there are many parallels with shamanic cultures. These include working with animal totems and familiar spirits, the feeding of the familiars, travels to the Otherworld, the association of the spirits of the Otherworld with the ancestors and the spirits of the dead, and the various offerings made to the spirits. Nor were these beliefs confined to the witches and cunning men, but shared by the general population, even the most learned and distinguished, as evidenced by the writings of King James I. It is in these beliefs and tradition that we find the real roots of modern witchcraft.

Amazingly similar stories of fairies, under a variety of names, exist around the world from Africa to the Americas: they are white and shining, they can appear in animal form, they live in the underworld with the dead or in an Otherworldly paradise; they are responsible both for the fertility of the land, and can also cause disease, blight, decay and death. Wherever we find fairies in the world [and they are everywhere], their names, more often than not, simply mean ‘spirit’ or else ‘shining’ and sometimes just ‘lord’ or ‘lady’.

In these legends of fairies, we can trace pre-Christian concepts of nature spirits, along with the principles of dealing with them. Even into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the good Christian farmers of Europe believed in spirits of land and water that could affect the growth of the crops and the fecundity of the land itself. There is plenty of evidence in Britain, Ireland and the rest of Western Europe that regular offerings were made to the fairies, on stones in the corners of fields, on the hearth and special places outside the farmhouse door. These offerings were both to placate them, and prevent them doing harm, and to win their help and friendship.

Fairies could make the crops bountiful, animals hale and hearty, and they protected their favourite humans from harm, occasionally gave them great riches, beauty or magical powers. They could bestow the power to heal, or give a person the ability to make wonderful music or beautiful works of art and craftsmanship.

The idea that fairies could also be harmful beings – if they chose- was universal, but one that is divorced from the concepts of tiny cute Tinkerbells that are entirely modern and have their roots in bowdlerised Victorian nursery tales, not real fairy lore. Fairies could blight the crops, make fields and animals barren, and steal the goodness from food. Fairies could also steal the spirit of the land itself; the fields appeared to yield a crop but the ears of corn would not fill out, the harvest would be slender and the animal fodder without nourishment. Fairies were thought to use elf bolts to cause harm, propelling them into humans or livestock. Deaths were attributed to them and it was thought they could induce paralysis; the origin of the word ‘stroke’ for paralysis is derived from ‘elf-stroke’. They could cause other illnesses: in Norway people fear the elf wind or alvgest which is the breath of elves and which covers the body of a person with blisters; cramps were a punishment for annoying the fairies, and it was widely believed that tuberculosis was caused by eating fairy food or by visiting a fairy hill at night; rheumatism, cramps and bruising were thought to be a punishment for annoying the fairies.

Fairies also took the souls of animals and humans away to fairyland. If a child became ill it was suspected of being a changeling, a fairy child substituted for a human one. So strong was that belief in rural Ireland, that in 1895 Brigit Cleary was burned to death under suspicion of being a changeling. When Bridget had failed to recover from an illness her family decided that she must be possessed by a malevolent fairy and tried to expel it with doses of urine and herbs. When this failed her loving family resorted to the purification of fire.

It was necessary to take precautions against the powerful and easily offended fairies. It was considered politic to keep most of them out of the house by putting protective patterns on the hearth and threshold. The water in which feet had been washed gave them access, so this was carefully disposed of. Iron horseshoes were hung over the door to prevent their entrance. Children were protected with iron charms and red thread, and iron nails were carried in the pocket when travelling.  

When things went wrong, or relationships with the fairies broke down completely, it was necessary to call in an expert: the wise woman, cunning man or fairy doctor. These were people with special gifts, who knew how to see fairies, how to travel into their realm, and who gained their knowledge from the fairies themselves. Evidence of the continuity of these beliefs in Europe, and accounts of many such practitioners, is readily traceable from the Dark Ages onwards, through till the 1960s and beyond.




The walker between the worlds

Witches and fairies

The Queen of Elphame

Witch blood

Otherworld initiation


The Otherworld

The Perils of Fairyland


Techniques for nature spirit contact

Travelling between the realms

Shutting off the world

Stopping the internal dialogue


Crossing the rainbow bridge pathworking

The hollow oak pathworking

The birds of Rhiannon pathworking

Dreaming with the eyes open

The witch walk

Hallowing the eyes

Sounding the basins

Holed stones

Potions to help you see fairies

Incenses to attract fairies

Fairy rituals

Elf blot ritual

Elf friend ceremony


Spirits of the year


Devas and dryads

Taking a wand

Sensing the tree spirit

Tree alignment

Wassailing the tree spirits ritual

Fairy trees

Vegetation spirits

Working with plant spirits

Taking the plants

Shaman smokes

Wands and staffs


Divination tools


Bathing herbs


Fairy familiars

House fairies and brownies


Fates and fairy godmothers

Fetches and co-walkers

Ancestral spirits

Sprits of place

Fairy lovers and sweethearts


Fairy etiquette

Unfriendly fairies

Protection against fairies



Elemental spells and rituals



“I was searching the internet for a question I wanted answered to do with trees within pagan tradition. A pdf file showed a few sample pages of working with fairies by anna franklin. I read through the section that started to answer my question and ahhhhhhhhhhhh it finished short the full part I wanted was on the next page which wasnt sampled. What I had been reading was very easy to understand in a lovely format and easy to read so I decided to purchase the book. I am so glad I did. This book has not been written by somebody that has got genuine knowledge. It is not about fairies you find on xmas trees. It goes into detail of the real fairie world of elementals etc. It tells you in detail how you can see and feel them. Little legends and explanations of different aspects which are very interesting. It also woke up for me things that I had studied years ago and this is how I know that the author has genuine knowledge. The easiest way to find out about this book is to buy it. It is a very interesting read, and I could not put it down. 5 star in my opinion. “

Amazon review

“This book is simply brilliant. It goes into the history and folk lore of the Fey. The meditations are easy to follow and you learn a lot along the way. You will find out about rituals spells and techniques that will enhance your path. If you want to learn about House Fairies and Brownies you find a lot of useful information in this book. The sections on the Elementals is very good and takes you through each one along with correspondences and how to work with each Elemental. I have really enjoyed this book and will work through it slowly in order to absorb the information. Lots to learn and research here, a real must have for anyone wanting to learn about working with fairies. The other really nice thing about this book is the author lives in England so has a good knowledge of the fey here in the UK.

Serious about learning how to attract fairies? look no further this is the book to do just that. “

Amazon review

ISBN 978-1564148247

14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm, 256 pages

Published by New Page Books, 2005

Buy on Amazon

Witches and Fairies

Witches and Fairies were often thought to have the same powers: both use magic and both can bless and curse. In fact, the old Romany word for ‘fairy’ is the same as the one for ‘witch’. The Irish believed that a witch was created when a young girl spent seven years in the Otherworld with her fairy lover, coming back somewhat aged, but with knowledge of herbs, philtres and secret spells. The famous witch Biddy Early insisted that her powers came from the fairies. She used a blue bottle, given to her by the fairies, for healing and prophecy. At her death in 1873 it was thrown into a lake so that no one else could attempt to use it.

The old witches worked their magic in conjunction with wildfolk, and there is plenty of evidence for this in the trial records; the accused often tried to explain that their powers came not from devils, but from the fairies. Elspeth Reoch of Orkney confessed, in 1616, that she had met a fairy man who offered to teach her to understand and see anything she wanted. In 1566, John Walsh of Netherberry in Dorset said that he knew when men were bewitched because the fairies told him. When he wanted to converse with fairies he would go to the hills where there were mounds of earth, and speak to them between the hours of one and noon, or at midnight. In 1587 John Penry of Wales spoke of swarms of soothsayers and enchanters who professed to walk, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with fairies, bragging of having knowledge of them.

A midwife was taken to a hidden chamber and attended the birth of an elf. The fairies kept her with them for a few days, but she noticed that each time they went out they rubbed their eyes with a salve that they kept in a glass jar by the door. She smeared a little on her right eye. Eventually the woman was allowed to leave, and given as her reward the sweepings behind the door. She arrived home and her husband was overjoyed to see her again. Then she emptied her apron onto the table and the sweepings had turned into a big pile of gold. Some time later she attended a market in Frankenberg and saw a number of elves in the crowd, playing tricks and stealing from the stalls. They were invisible to everyone else. She called out to them and they inquired which eye she could see them with. When she told them her right, she instantly went blind in that eye, and never saw through it again.