The Goblin Market is an Otherworldly trade fair where the various Good Neighbors buy and sell their wares. Folklore tells us it is a place humans can occasionally hear but can rarely see, and if you can see it you’re better off pretending you can’t and moving on. The Fair Folk do not take kindly to people spying on them, and while they will not lie they will speak in such a way you’ll think up is down and you’ll make deals you will later regret.
Morgan Daimler has a very good essay on the Goblin Market that covers its historical and literary references. She closes by saying
The Goblin Market ultimately is a place where you can only buy the illusion of what you want and only sell what you should not part with.
Such was the experience of our ancestors, experience we should not take lightly. Their admonitions to deal with the Fair Folk politely, honestly, and carefully are as valuable today as they were centuries ago.
But we live in a very different world from our Victorian ancestors who wrote narrative poetry about the dangers of the Goblin Market. Today – in some parts of the world if not across the entire globe – the Veil Between the Worlds is shredded and the Fair Folk are re-emerging in the ordinary world. It’s one thing to warn people to avoid the Goblin Market if they see it deep in the forest. It’s a very different thing when the Goblin Market sets up shop across the street from your house.
You may not like having a Goblin Market in your neighborhood. Given their historic love of privacy, I imagine the goblins would prefer to be somewhere else as well. But for whatever reason or reasons, here they are. It appears they’re caught up in the same Grand Game as we are – a shift in reality across many realms. Whatever changes come, the goblins and the other Good Neighbors intend to survive and succeed. If that means making common cause with certain humans, so be it.
“If you call me imp or elf
I counsel you, look well to yourself;
If you call me fairy
I’ll work you great misery;
If good neighbor you call me
Then good neighbor I will be;
But if you call me seelie wight
I’ll be your friend both day and night.”
The Fair Folk have as much right to be here as we do. According to our ancient ancestors, they were here first anyway (whether the North American fae immigrated from Europe or whether they were here all along and we’re using European names that may or may not fit them well is another topic for another time). Trying to get rid of them has never turned out well, as William Butler Yeats described in his 1893 essay A Remonstrance with Scotsmen for Having Soured the Disposition of their Ghosts and Faeries.
In Scotland you are too theological, too gloomy … You have discovered the faeries to be pagan and wicked. You would like to have them all up before the magistrate. In Ireland warlike mortals have gone amongst them, and helped them in their battles, and they in turn have taught men great skill with herbs, and permitted some few to hear their tunes …
These two different ways of looking at things have influenced in each country the whole world of sprites and goblins. For their gay and graceful doings you must go to Ireland; for their deeds of terror to Scotland … You have soured the naturally excellent disposition of ghosts and goblins.
So what do you do when odd looking Folk show up looking for trading partners?
Be polite, respectful, and make exactly zero assumptionsThe Fair Folk are known for getting angry – and getting even – if they feel like they’re being disrespected. Being polite and respectful anytime you’re dealing with strangers is the best bet. It’s also the best bet when you’re dealing with people you know but not well, with people you know pretty well, and with people you know really well. Save the overt familiarity and attempts at humor for those with whom you are intimately acquainted… and who you know for sure appreciate it.
Assume you know nothing about them, and then ask only the questions that are relevant to your business. What seems like honest curiosity to you may be insulting to the goblins.
Remember that knowledge is power. Information is valuable – do not expect it to be given up for free, and do not give away bargaining chips for a smile.
Be precise with your agreements and make no open-ended promises
You don’t have to be a lawyer, but you’d better draw up contracts like a lawyer. Or better yet, like an engineer drawing blueprints and specifications. Be very specific about what you’re giving or paying, in what way, and for how long. Be equally precise about what you’re receiving, what condition it’s in, how long you’ll have it, and what encumberments are on its use.
Close your transactions promptly. You do not want to be in the debt of the Fair Folk… and you don’t want them in your debt either.
Be honest and honorable
The need to keep your word is a given. Of course, keeping your word should always be a given, whether you’re dealing with the Unseelie Court, your friends and family, or the counter person at McDonalds. If you promise something, do it. The concept of “extenuating circumstances” doesn’t apply in the Goblin Market, much less the idea of “this wasn’t what I was expecting.”
Beyond that, take care what you bargain for, and why. The Fair Folk have a reputation for being self-serving and mercenary that is not entirely deserved. Particularly now that the Goblin Market is appearing in this world, there are advantages to establishing yourself as someone who respects and values tradition, beauty, and Nature.
The Goblin Market remains a place where humans are better off not window shopping. You may still find something you desire greatly, but too late discover it is merely the illusion of what you really want.
But reality is rearranging itself (for reasons I can only speculate about) and it’s bringing changes that impact every living being, including the Good Neighbors. They’re dealing with these structural changes and they intend to come out on top.
Pay attention. Learn what you can learn. See where you have common cause with persons you might otherwise prefer to ignore.
And then bargain wisely.
Is this post intended to be read literally? Or is it a metaphor for something else in our common world? I imagine some of you think it’s a sermon I’m preaching directly at you. The answer to all those questions is yes. But which one or ones apply to you is a question only you can answer.
In any case, I urge you to act quickly. The Goblin Market is coming to your neighborhood, and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it.