Midsummer is one of the times of year – and there are several – where the fairy folk tend to be more active. Unlike other times this increased activity is generally more benevolent, although what the Good People consider benevolent and what we would describe that way may not be entirely similar concepts. Nonetheless I thought it would be fun as we approach the longest day and shortest night to look at some folklore as well as offer some anecdotes and advice for dealing with situations that may arise.
In Ireland there are stories of the Good People appearing and blending in with humans as they celebrate on midsummer, often by infiltration bonfire celebrations. For example there is a folk story from Cnoc Áine of a midsummer bonfire on the hill where the fairy queen Áine appeared to several girls and showed them – by having them peer through a ring – the fairy people dancing among the revelling human folk.
In another story a group of boys is going to a community celebration and runs into a strange boy who goes along with them; when they all arrive the boys see many strangers mixed in among their neighbours and it is later revealed to them that these are the Daoine Maithe come to celebrate as well. The story is not entirely pleasant however, as several of the boys had been talking about how they didn’t believe in fairies as they walked and to punish them for this they are drawn away from the celebration and ridden by the fairies across the country, waking up exhausted in the morning.
There are also stories of malevolent fairy beings who wander in June and can bring madness with a touch or sweep a person up into a whirlwind. Generally though this is one of the safer times to be out and about and encounter the Good Neighbours, or at least as safer as it ever gets.
It’s good to keep in mind as we try to conceptualize the Daoine Maithe in relation to our world and folklore that they are not static beings any more than we are. They don’t exist in a timeless bubble and while many of the stories and anecdotes we have in writing come to us from the past there are also modern sightings which clearly demonstrate the adaptive nature of fairies.
Simon Young conducted and published a ‘Fairy Census‘ which collected modern anecdotes from a variety of people in several countries and I encourage those who are interested to read it to get a feel for some of the ways fairies are being seen today. I mention this here because I have noticed a tendency for people to have anachronistic expectations of them which are often at odds with actual reported encounters. Should you encounter any fairy beings this midsummer they are just as likely to be human-looking and in modern dress as they are to be obviously not-human and in archaic clothing.
Personal ExperiencesI have had a few encounters around Midsummer that I can share, to just give readers an idea of the sort of energy that may be around. These have occured across decades and some were experienced by other people as well who could verify them, while some were personal solitary experiences.
At one public midsummer ritual I was helping with several of us were cleaning up afterwards when a large, palm-sized, light-coloured moth flew in. Two of us saw it as a small moth-winged person, clearly a fairy of some sort. One of my friends pointed directly at it and said loudly ‘You!’ at which point it dropped straight down into the area in front of a window and disappeared. Although we searched for several minutes there was no sign of it.
Another time a friend and I were at a state park to attend a small group ritual and although we were very familiar with the area we found ourselves walking the same trail over and over, unable to find our way off the path or to our destination. Realizing we were being pixy-led we managed to free ourselves and arrived at our destination a few minutes later.
Another time on midsummer I was out by myself later at night and saw a procession of white-clad riders passing by. through my suburban neighbourhood, mind you. I stayed quiet and inconspicuous and waited until they were gone to resume my walk.
Advice for Dealing with the Fair Folk at Midsummer
– When you are walking at night and you hear music, no matter how beautiful, or voices inviting you to join them don’t acknowledge that you can hear them and turn back towards home.
– When you are out walking at night and you hear the sound of horses or hounds or riders find shelter indoors or in your car quickly. The Wild Hunt (we call them Ghost Riders in America) is mercurial and if it’s the Slua Sí passing by they will do you harm if they can. In Sweden its said that the Wild Hunt is active at midsummer, and the Slua Sí are active year round.
– Never run from the Fair Folk, if you see Fairy hounds or anything uncanny that frightens you. Running is what prey does and you do not want to be prey. Don’t acknowledge seeing them, if possible, but leave as quickly as you can.
– One fairy being who is particularly associated with June is the Amadán na Bhruidne, called the Fairy Fool in English. Should you encounter the Fool, don’t look directly at him (or her) and don’t let him touch you; if he touches you he can steal your mind.
– If you are being pixy-led, if you have lost your way in familiar territory, turn your socks or coat outside in or laugh and joke about how much fun you are having. this will free you from the enchantment.
– Never speak ill of the Good Neighbours aloud, nor express disbelief in them. They take insults badly and if they happen to be nearby and hear you they may respond. You will not enjoy their reaction.