Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Unicorns: Pooping rainbows since the beginning of time

Selling them whiskey and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old
Run to the hills.  Run for your lives.
--Run to the Hills, Iron Maiden

The unicorn is one of my favorite mythical beasts, immortalized in story, art and song.  The song part I’ve experienced first hand after my best friend wore a giant penis- shaped hat into a local Irish Pub.  Before you question her fashion chops, it was her bachelorette party and phallic items are like the little black dress of those affairs.  Within a minute of our arrival, the Celtic Folk Band playing that night launched into this song: 

Unicorns have existed in Eastern mythologies for thousands of years.  These unicorns, aka Kilin or Qilin, are not the white stallions of Western folktales.  The Eastern unicorn is colorful and dragon-like.  It has the tail of an ox, the body of a deer and the hooves of a horse.  Folklore gives the Eastern Unicorn props for giving Emperor Fu Hsi (the inventor of writing) a scroll of characters that later inspired the Chinese alphabet.  Which makes unicorns the official writer’s muse.  Here’s a very cool interpretation of a Kilin by BlackUniGryphon on Deviant Art.

The Western unicorn evolved from tales gathered from Middle Eastern cultures in the 4th century B.C.  A Greek physician named Ctesias wrote about the wild asses of India, fantastical beasts with white bodies, red heads, dark blue eyes and an 18” multicolored horn sticking out of their skulls.  Although Ctesias never actually saw a unicorn, his manuscripts were enough to sway Aristotle as well, who believed an animal like this seemed no more fantastical than a giraffe or a zebra.  

Over the centuries, others told tales of unicorns, including Pliny the Elder and Roman scholar Aelian.  Alexander the Great claimed he rode a unicorn into battle.  Julius Caesar said he saw one in the forests of Germany.  Al Gore said he invented the unicorn.  And Neil Patrick Harris saw one when he was stoned on mushrooms.

The last unicorn sighting is attributed to Genghis Khan, who ran into the beast on his way to conquer India.  He took it as a sign from heaven to turn back, and India was spared.  Marco Polo also saw unicorns, but historians now believe the fantastical animals he described were rhinoceroses.  Or rhinoceri.
The unicorn achieved religious status when the Old Testament was translated into Greek around 300 B.C.  The Hebrew version mentioned a beast called the Re’em, described as “fleet, fierce, indomitable, and distinguished by the armor of its brow.”
The Books of Job, Psalms, and Numbers all mention unicorns.  In some translations, the unicorn was the first thing Adam named in the Garden of Eden.  When he and Eve were ousted, the unicorn went with them as a reminder of the loss of purity and chastity.  Sort of like an equine mother-in-law.
In medieval times, the unicorn was sometimes used to represent Christ.  A series of seven beautiful unicorn tapestries dated to the 1500s is owned by the Cloisters in NYC.  It depicts the Hunt of the Unicorn, which some believe is a symbolic representation of the passion of Christ.  The pictures follow the capture and killing of the unicorn, and then its resurrection in captivity to live among men.  The final tapestry shows the archetypal unicorn as we know it.
The unicorn killed and brought to the city.
The seventh tapestry shows the unicorn captured---but very much alive.  Some feel this represents Christ's resurrection.
How did hunters catch a unicorn?  Just like in many a romance novel, apparently all it took was a virgin.  According to belief, unicorns are completely smitten by virgins and rendered docile and helpless. In fact, rumor has it many a unicorn met its demise with its head in the lap of a virgin.  Which is a sexual metaphor for a very different blog. 
Zampieri's Unicorn and Virgin Fresco.
Other less Freudian explanations of the unicorn's demise were also popular.  For instance, Jewish folktales claim that during Noah’s great flood, the unicorns were so demanding that they were banished from the ship.  Other stories claim they were too busy playing to notice the coming rains.  When the great flood hit, the unicorns were forced to swim.  This has led some to speculate that God changed the unicorns into narwhals so they would not perish.  

Around the 19th century, unicorns were retired to folklore and fairy tales.  All of the “true unicorns” were thought to have been hunted to extinction for their horns, aka the alicorn.  The alicorn had the ability to neutralize poisons and provide immortality for those who drank a potion made from it.  Royalty often had their eating utensils made from alicorn to prevent poisoning.  Fake alicorns were rampant as they were worth more money than gold.  Many actually were horns from bulls or oryx.  Queen Elizabeth I owned a unicorn horn in her private collection, but it was later determined to be from a narwhal.
A narwhal.
Such horny animal confusion gives support to the belief that the unicorn was indeed a real creature.  Some historians believe it originated from sightings of an extinct Eurasian rhinocerus called the Elasmotherium.

Others blame genetic malformations of normally two horned beasts.  The search for a living unicorn has led to some popular hoaxes.  In the 1930s, Dr. W. Franklin Dove manipulated a calf’s horn buds to make a bull with a single horn growing from its head.  Others repeated the experiment with goats--P.T. Barnum often included these faux unicorns in his sideshows.  The most famous one was a goat named Lancelot.

Unicorn Deer photograph from TIME in 2008.
Dr. Dove's creation. 

Lancelot and unidentified virgin.

You may never see a true unicorn these days, but if you’re in the mood for a fun recipe, try this one my sons and I came up with for Unicorn Poop.  There's a rainbow in every bite.
Melt together 3 TBSP Butter, 10 oz mini marshmellows on the stove or microwave.  Add six cups of Fruit Loops cereal and mix off of the heat.  With buttered hands, shape into small balls.  Dip into white frosting and top with colored sprinkles.  If you have a unicorn with some issues, like my sons and I did, sour gummy worms are a nice touch.

"...Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gargoyles: Gettin' out of the Gutter

Go and look for the dejected
Once proud idol remembered in stone aloud
--A God in an Alcove, Bauhaus
The Hubs loves garden gnomes.  I find them to be just a diminutive relative of the equally as evil clown.  Hubs buys a suitable obnoxious resin one every year and sticks it somewhere in my garden, where it waits to come alive and disembowel me while I'm picking tomatoes.  About mid July, Hubs' special gnome has a horrible accident, usually involving my shovel and a flask of holy water.

So this year, we are compromising on yard art.  With gargoyles.
The frightening creatures that perch on many a Gothic rooftop actually were created with a utilitarian purpose in mind.  Need a hint?  The term gargoyle in old French is derived from “throat” or “to swallow.”  Now if you have a mind that works like mine, you’ve probably just labeled this site NSFW and are bracing for pictures of gargoyle porn.  I hate to disappoint, but these evil entities of the eaves actually were designed as waterspouts.

Gargoyle drainspout

Superstition held that gargoyles would frighten away evil spirits and keep your building foundation intact, too.  After the lead drainpipe was introduced, their function become more decorative.  A gargoyle used purely for decor is called a “grotesque.”  The earliest gargoyles were fashioned in the image of wild animals, pets, and mythical monsters.  The Temple of Zeus even had gargoyles, as did Egyptian architecture.  Some of the most famous gargoyles are found in Paris at Notre Dame.
Gargoyles found at the Temple of Zeus

Gargoyle overlooking Paris from the cathedral of Notre Dame
A French legend involving St. Romanus attempted to explain the use of gargoyles on religious buildings in Europe.  In the 600s AD, St. Romanus saved the city of Rouen (of Joan of Arc fame) from a dragon-like creature named La Gargouille.  When the monster was destroyed in a ceremonial pyre, its head and neck would not burn.  Therefore, St. Romanus mounted the head on the walls of the church to protect it from evil spirits and an architectural phenomenon was born.

It seems an odd contrast--these monstrous images juxtaposed with the piety of the Church and the majestic precision of Gothic cathedral architecture.  So why did so many churches embrace a beast resembling the Devil on their rooftops?  Many believe that as ancient tribes from Celtic and Gaulish descent became assimilated into Christianity, gargoyles and grotesques offered a familiar touchstone for them given their roots in polytheistic mythologies and idol worship.  Religious leaders soon discovered that using statues and carvings was an excellent way to educate the illiterate.  Gargoyles were used to depict sins, both literally and figuratively.  Gargoyles were hideous and frightening, a symbol of the dark forces outside the church that waited to corrupt man.  Some gargoyles were giants devouring humans or the stone walls of the church itself--perhaps a lesson in the things that try to eat away at the soul.  

The Seven Deadly Sins according to Gargoyles.

The naughty gargoyles at Valencia.   I'm delivering on that gargoyle porn I promised.
Although they may have assisted the Church in conveying ideas to the common people, some clergy did not embrace the gargoyle, thinking it was a form of idolatry.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux was the most famous 12th century gargoyle-hater.  His take on the gargoyle was not flattering:
"What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent's head, there a fish with a quadruped's head, then again an animal half horse, half goat... Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them."
The Gargoyle response to the haters.
In 1969, historians TK Sheridan and Ann Ross published a theory that the majority of gargoyles and grotesques in Gothic architectures were actually purposely designed to look like pagan deities.  New converts from pagan religions--many unhappy about leaving their rich traditions--saw them as protection and symbols of strength and purpose.  The Church may have realized that it was impossible to eradicate the extensive religious rituals of pagan worshippers and instead absorbed some of their beliefs to make Christianity a bit more palatable to the pagan masses.
Disney's Gargoyle offering in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
For instance, the Green Man, a Celtic deity that promoted growth and fertility, was a popular subjects for gargoyles in the 12th and 13th century.  Worship of nature was so important and inspirational to many tribes on the edge of the Christian era that religious leaders decided not only to tolerate the image, but to venerate it as well.  Other gargoyles are horned and for the Celts represented prosperity and strength, harking back to the horned gods of the Romans.  Only through years of assimilation have those horned beings started being associated with the Anti-Christ--more horrible than hallowed.
In modern fiction, gargoyles are typically depicted as a winged humanoid race with demonic features: generally horns, a tail, and talons.  During the day, they are changed into their stony form, but can morph into a living creature when the sun goes down.  Paranormal romance has some great gargoyle characters, such as Levet in Alexandra Ivy’s Guardians series.  Terry Pratchett has gargoyles in Discworld, and they were one of the original monsters in the Dungeons and Dragons game.  And one of my favorite childhood throwbacks is a Jonny Quest cartoon, The House of Seven Gargoyles.

Have a wonderful day, and the next time you see a gargoyle, don't be frightened.  They are protecting you.  And if all goes well, here’s the newest addition to my garden.  He's going to kick some gnome ass.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be My Druidess

Hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go insane.
I can’t control my fingers, I can’t control my brain.
Oh no, oh, oh, no, oh.
--I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones
I know it's not Sunday, but I've been in a time warp lately so posting a mythbuster completely slipped my mind.  So without further ado, let's welcome those guys who put cloaks back on the fashion radar.

The Druids are possibly one of the most mysterious cultures discussed in literature and folklore--a feat they have achieved without having kept a single written record of their society. 
They were thought to be descended from the ancient Celts, who had a written language but rarely used it.  The story of the Druids has been entirely spread through word of mouth and from the pens of the Greek and Roman authors who encountered them during the spread of the Roman Empire.  Given the two groups were often at war, the accounts may be a bit biased.  By the 5th century, the Druids had been forced to assimilate, although some may have gone underground, cloaking themselves forever in mystery.
Irish myths have served to propagate the secretive, cloak and dagger aesthetic, linking the Druids with magic and the supernatural.  They believed the Druids were sorcerers committed to protecting the progeny of the goddess Dana--the Tuatha de Danann.  The Tuatha de Danann are also linked to Fae mythology.  The Druids may have been flesh and blood, but they had friends in high places.     
The first written description of the Druids is in Julius Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico, published around 40 B.C.  He noted that Druids were one of two respected classes in Celtic society, functioning as judges, philosophers, and teachers.  He claimed they performed rituals, including human sacrifice, and believed in reincarnation.  Caesar’s version has been criticized for inaccuracies.  Some historians believe his image of the Druids may reflect his own desires to justify his conquest wars by creating a barbaric people deserving conquest, but capable of being reformed and assimilated into society for better purpose.  Often in Roman literature, the Druids are referred to as the “barbaric philosophers.”
Romans vs. Druids, from rodneyanonymous.com
There were three main Druidic groups, although all Druids were trained in each of the skills of these subsets.  The druidae/druidh were essentially priests and judges, knowledgeable in ritual and alchemy.  The ovates/filidhs were seers and soothsayers, skilled in divination.  The bards/bardi were poets, teachers and singers.
The life of a Druid, although they were reputed to be revered as holy men and exempt from taxes and military service, was not an easy one.  The schooling often took up to twenty years, as it was all passed down word to mouth and then bound to memory.  There was an individual hierarchy within the Druids as well.  Although Druids are commonly equated with being priests of the Celts, some historians believe that they operated not as a mediator between man and the Gods, but as shamans guiding and directing ritual.  Since the Druids were a polytheistic society and there were upwards of 300 Celtic Gods, no doubt their calendars were busy.
In Druidic beliefs, science and religion were both sacred, seen as a gift from the Gods.  The effort to learn about the universe is, in essence, worship.  Science was seen as intellectual and rational, but also intuitive and magical.  Man could commune with the Gods via logic or fantasy.
One of the most important parts of Druidism is the belief that that soul does not die, but is passed into another form--i.e. reincarnation.  According to some religious scholars, there are different levels of being for the Druids.  As a person acquires knowledge in each, they move on to a higher realm.  After a human death, Druids went to an afterlife in the Otherworld.  There they continued to move to higher planes of being until they reached “The Source”.  Once attaining this level--and connecting with the highest realm--their soul was reborn into a new person.  So strong was the belief in reincarnation that those who followed the Druidic way would go into battle fearless, knowing that their soul would remain unscathed.
Ritual was very important to the Druidic society, although very few written Druidic rituals exist.  Roman author Pliny the Elder gives a description of a ritual of oak and mistletoe, both sacred to the Druids.  The name Druid is thought to be derived from the ancient Gaulish word for “oak knower”.  According to Pliny, two Druids clad in white climb an oak tree to cut down the mistletoe growing in it with a golden scythe.  Then, two white bulls are sacrificed on the spot.  The mistletoe is subsequently used as a cure for all that ails you, including infertility, hypertension, and some malignant tumors.
I’m surprised Pfizer hasn’t figured out a way to bottle that. 
It is assumed most Druids were male, however, this may be because any references to women using religious power were deleted by Christian monks that transcribed the ancient stories.
Animal sacrifice is seen pretty regularly in tales about the Druids.  Some writers go even further and portray the Druids as active practioners of human sacrifice, although this has never been definitely proven.  Some proto-Celtic tribes were known to burn criminals inside a wooden effigy called a wicker man, or sacrificed them to the gods Teutates, Esus, and Taranis by drowning, hanging, and burning in the aptly named “three fold death.”
A wicker man.
Mass graves in these areas have been used to support the idea of human sacrifice. However, other archaeologists argue they represent fallen warriors buried in sanctuary.  
The Romans and Greeks likely painted the Iron Age Celts with the barbarian brush in order to frighten their people into believing the group was culturally inferior.  Apparently the art of propaganda goes back to ancient times.

There was a resurgence in Druidism in the 18th Century, culminating with the founding of an English fraternal organization called the Ancient Order of Druids in 1781.  Historian William Stukeley investigated the ancient megalithic monuments (i.e. Stonehenge) during this time and believed that they were associated with the Druid culture.  The likelihood of the druids erecting these stones has been debated, since the Celtic tribes that spawned the Druids did not arrive in the area until well after they were said to be created.  Ancient Druids were thought to have gathered in caves or densely wooded areas.  Still, many philosophers of the day began describing themselves as Druids--using the term as a synonym for free-thinkers.  William Blake was supposedly one of the Archdruids of the Order in the early 1800s.

Can you identify the world leader in this 1908 Ancient Order of Druids installation photo?
The advent of Romanticism brought Druids into popular culture in novels and opera. Chateaubriand’s Les Martyrs in 1809 told the story of the doomed love of a Druid priestess and a Roman soldier.  Welsh writer Edward Williams, aka Iolo Morganwg, claimed to have collected the knowledge of the ancient druids into a series of manuscripts.  Many scholars now believe these works may be largely fabrication, as Williams was one of the premiere literary forgers of his time.  The ancient Druid lore Williams claimed to know may actually be his own interpretation of the mystical rites of pagan religions.
Neo-druidic symbol, the celtic tree.
Currently, the largest Druid group in the world is The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.  It was formed in 1964 as a split from the Ancient Druid Order.  They use a wide range of sources for their teachings--these “neo-druids” can be pagan, occultist, spiritualistic, or even Christian.  Since the 1980s, the Celtic Reconstructionists have attempted to recreate a ritual more consistent with the Iron Age Druids.
Modern druids celebrate at Stonehenge.
We may never know the true teachings of the ancient Druids.  The British museum says this about neo-Druidism:
Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago.
That element of the unknown only adds to the mystery of the Druids.  In trying to connect with these ethereal shaman and the ancient Gods they worshipped, people have created their own teachings and folklore.  And perhaps that supports the true Druidic ethos.

Have a great day!  And hug a tree if you get a chance.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Insecurity as Poetry. Literally.

I have the answer, I have the cure
I have the remedy
I will endure
--Cyberium, Razed in Black

Hey Cats and Kittens!  I hope 2012 is off to an amazing start for all of you.  It's time for another rousing rendition of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, with our host, Alex J. Cavanaugh!

My offering this month is poetry.  And just for added fun, every word in the following poem is made from the word "insecurity."  


True Cur.
Icy Sire.
Set In Sin.
Scent Urine.
Rusty Tin Cuts.
Rest In Ruts.
Siren Curse.
Inert Nurse.
Encrust In Ruins.
Icterus Tunes.
Stir Citrine Rice.
Scrutiny Reins Nice.
Runs in Rites.
Unrest Turns Sites.
Curt Cries in Rye.
Seint Rise.
Curse, I Tire.
Ricen Ire.
Inure Cure Sent.
Neuritis Rent.
Truce, er . . . Tie.
Yes, I Try.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Away with the Fairies

They were once known as angels from the sky and heaven
but now they are known as devils, demons, alien monsters
--Away with the Fairies, Inkubus Sukkubus

I love Fairies.  Whether they go by pixies, sprites, elves, dwarves, wee folk, fair ones, banshees, hobgoblins, the Fae, or the Sidhe, I'm a fan.  And while I can appreciate images of Disneyfied winged cuties, my favorite Fairies are the ones that Terry Pratchett, Laurell K. Hamilton and Karen Marie Moning write about:  fantastic creatures with parts of darkness and light.
Dancing Fairies, by William Blake
Fairy stories exist in the folklore of nearly every culture.  These ethereal creatures have come to represent everything from garden helpers to ghosts of the dead.  Milk souring may be a chemical reaction to some, but to others it’s the work of naughty Fairies.  
I only look innocent.

There are many explanations for the origin of Fairies.  Nordic folklore claims when the angels revolted, God closed the gates of Heaven.  Angels caught between Heaven and Hell became Fairies--not quite angels and not quite devils.  This may explain stories of Fairies paying a tithe to Hell to escape Satan's grasp.  In the middle ages, Fairies were equated with demons or the souls of the dead.  It was considered a work of witchcraft to deal with Fairies. 

Most early Fairy stories are frightening tales with malicious spirits.
Fairies have also represented pagan deities and their descendants.  Some of the most intricate Fairy history lies in Celtic myth, which claims the Fae originated from dispossessed early tribes of the British Isles.  These ancient races were the progeny of the goddess Danu (i.e. the mother earth goddess) and were sent from the heavens.  They often are called Tuatha De Danann, and to some groups are considered the first extra-terrestrials to inhabit the earth.  Unfortunately, the people of Danu were defeated by the Gaels and went underground for safety, taking the name of Sidhe.  After centuries, they created their own world of Faerie rarely seen by humans.  Some say they are still bitter about their defeat and will use their nature deity powers to ruin unprotected crops and livestock.

In the 15th century, the alchemist Paracelus divided fairies into 4 elemental groups: sylphs (air), gnomes (earth), undines (water), and salamanders (fire).  He described them as a longer living humanoid creature.  Fairies have also been classified as solitary types or trooping types.  The trooping Fairies are the partying creatures, while the solitary Fairies associate themselves with certain locations (like trees or waterways) or even households.  
A salamander according to Paracelsus.  He was also considered the father of toxicology,  and strongly believed in the mind/body connection of illness.
Some Fairy lore separates the Fae into good and wicked types.  The Seelie Court, or Blessed Court, is generally considered to be those who are benevolent--for the most part.  The Unseelie Court, or Dark Court, are fairies who often victimize humans and Seelies alike.  However, distinguishing the Seelie as good and the Unseelie as evil is far too rigid of a distinction--both will wreak havoc on humans and not think twice of the consequences.  Sort of like the producers of reality TV.  Fae lore is consistent that Fairies are generally more amoral than immoral and do not hold tight to the constraints of human right and wrong.  The may find humans entertaining, forcing them to dance in fairy circles until they collapse or using them for more carnal pleasures, but for the most part, Fairies consider us lower life forms.
You are totally beneath me.
In most of ancient myth, Fairies were far more frightening and malicious.  They also were typically sans wings--wings were likely a creation of the Industrial Revolution, when Fairies became relegated to children's stories.  With the advent of modern theosophy in the 1900s, Fairies experienced a resurgence in popularity.  Theosophy, a belief that humanity is undergoing a cycle of evolution towards increasing perfection, was a popular esoteric religious movement.  In its belief system, Fairies were believed to represent Devas, or natural spirits.  Charles W. Leadbeater, a mentor of the movement, went so far as to describe a seven leveled astral plan on which these Fairy spirits lived.  He believed humans and fairies could be joined again once humanity attained a higher intellectual plane.
John Anster Fitzgerald's wonderful Fairy art.
In 1917, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, cousins from Cottingley England, published five photos of fairy encounters.  The Cottingly Fairies gained popularity when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a spiritualist with ties to Theosophy, used them to illustrate an article he wrote.  He believed the photos represented tangible evidence of psychic phenomenon.

One of the five photos of the Cottingley Fairies
In the 80s, the cousins admitted their photos were staged with paper cutouts.

This fifth photo was the only one the cousins would not admit was faked.
In April of 2007, a reported fairy corpse was sold on Ebay.  The Derbyshire fairy was found by Dan Baines, a UK magician.  He later admitted it was created as an April Fools' Day prank, but many held to the belief that the fairy was indeed real.

The Derbyshire Fairy
Fairies are generally considered mischievous characters.  Changelings are fairy children substituted for human babies, done as a prank or as vengeance for a human offense to the Fae world.  The belief in changelings is similar to the idea of demonic possession.  In Ireland, Bridget Cleary was killed in 1895 by her husband and ten others because they believed she was a fairy changeling.  Reports on the case claim she was doused with urine, which deters Fairies.  And really anyone else.  Then she was burned to death in a Fairy exorcism gone awry.  Michael Cleary was convicted of manslaughter, and four of the witnesses accused of “wounding.”  There is still an Irish nursery rhyme that goes “Are you a witch/or are you a fairy/or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?” 
Better days for the Clearys.
If you want to keep the fair folk away, cold iron is your best bet.  A knife kept in a butchered animal prevents the Fae from claiming it.  A nail in your pocket keeps them away as well.  The herb St. John’s wort or Ash berries will also work--if you put the berries in a child’s cradle, that can prevent the Fae from taking off with the babe.  Church bells were thought to be a fairy deterrent in the middle ages, and may also factor into why horses and oxen were fitted with jingling bells on their harnesses.  Shakespeare tried to make his Fae more PC by having Oberon, King of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, claim church bells did nothing to him--suggesting he was not a demon as popular culture suggested. 

Titania and Oberon--in the magic of an antique jigsaw puzzle.
Fairies have a few rumored weaknesses which a human could try to exploit.  One is the use of a true name--mirrored in the tale of Rumpelstiltskin.  By knowing a Fairy’s true name, it gives a person power over the Fairy.  Some claim that Fairies also cannot lie and like vampires, must be invited in order to enter a dwelling.

If you would like to attract the Fae, one way to do it is to live somewhere close to a Rowan tree.  Rowan trees are sacred to the fair folk and will provide a home and family fairy blessings and protection.  Fairies are also fond of roses, as rose petals are vital in many of their spells.  Fairies detest a glutton--always leave a swallow of milk in your glass or a crust of bread on your plate as an offering or risk Fairy follies.  Even better is to leave them something sweet like honey. 

Any sort of creative behavior, especially painting and making music, will draw the fair folk.  It is said that the best fiddlers in Ireland were all trained by the Fae.  Strong emotion will also bring them forth; although Fairies do not feel empathy, seeing humans overwhelmed by their feelings is very attractive to them.
A Rowan tree.
There are even spells that can bring Fairies to your gardens.  At dusk, set out a sweet cake or honey.  Then say the following spell loud enough so the Fairies, but hopefully not the neighbors, can hear you.
Little fairy with tiny feet.
Play in the garden but leave it neat.
Little fairy with hands so sweet
I leave this offering for you to eat.
Little fairy if this garden appeals
I’ll leave you more of these tiny meals.
Nene Thomas does some of my favorite Fairy art
Fairies may exist to most people only through fiction.  But anyone who has had the sudden burst of thought we call "the muse" or a vision so real that it makes the hair on your arms stand on end knows that there is always more than meets the eye.  And one man's Fairy may be another man's angel.  Or demon.

For now, I'm leaving some honey and wine out every few nights for the Fairies.  And maybe some Ash berries in my kids' beds.