Faerie Life

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed in faeries. (Spoilers: she’s now a grownup who believes in faeries.)

From my earliest memories, faeries have been at the center of my mythological world. I’m an only child, and my main entertainment growing up was playing pretend. The first thing I can recall pretending to be was a faerie named Theresa.

There was a broken tree in the woods behind my house, just after you crossed over the edge of our yard, a short, safe-but-still-thrilling distance into the forest. Around the back of the tree was an empty space in the crook of where a now-broken branch once met the trunk. It was a shadowy, spider-webby hole, and one day, I wrote a note and placed it carefully in this hole. It was an invitation to a tea party, addressed to “a fairy.” I know I was in elementary school, because I included my hours of availability (weekends and after 3 p.m.). Some days later, I found a reply written on the back—in my father’s handwriting—from one Theresa the Fairy.

More than anything else, I wanted to really see faeries. I have fleeting, uncertain recollections: Did I really see a faerie, tinged a glowing blue the way Tinkerbell glows yellow, behind my television set? Or is that clear image just what I imagined I might see if I saw one? Did I see a faerie down by the post office near my grandparents’ house, or was it, again, a memory of a daydream? My grandmother told me, one day when we were walking in the woodlot—a piece of land my grandparents owned out on a little island on the Maine coast—that she’d seen leaves standing upright on the forest floor, dancing in a circle, and she knew it was faeries.

Early in the summer after my sixth grade year, my mother and I went into an independent toy shop in Portsmouth, NH called Treetop Toys. It’s a charming place on a street that overlooks the Piscataqua River. You have to step up quite a ways through the door, and inside, there are wooden floors, mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and toys everywhere. I remember the day perfectly: I was wandering out from the back of the shop when, on a shelf and propped against the wall…there it was.

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

$40 was a lot for a book back then, but my mother agreed to buy it for me as my “graduation present.” I took it home and I poured over it, treasuring every handwritten word, every wild, scribbly pencil drawing, every exquisite watercolor.

It changed how I looked at the world of faeries. It changed my understanding of folklore. It changed how I drew and how I wrote. It changed my life.

I hungered for more. Countless hours were spent at the Portsmouth Public Library, an old, dim brick building that the city has since abandoned for a newly built, modern facility. Up on the third floor were the nonfiction stacks, and I’d climb up the shelves to sit in a window where the sill was not really wide enough and read from Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies. Everything I wrote and drew, from my own stories to the text RPGs I took part in on the nascent internet, was infused with and informed by faerie folklore.

But the years passed, and other interests took over. My later high school years and my college years were consumed by anime. After college, there was the void of post-grad school exhaustion, then Victorian England and paganism. It was paganism that finally led me back to Faerie.

I met some of the most amazing people in my life through paganism. Our dear friends Bridget and Jenn had raved, ever since we knew them, about a magical, perfect place in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania called the Spoutwood Farm May Day Fairie Festival. They told us over and over how safe, how happy, how utterly soul-filling this weekend of faerie revelry was. There, children and adults dressed in faerie costumes and danced to heart-stirring music. Delicious food and handmade treasures were everywhere. And everyone was filled with joy and love and kindness, for each other and for the earth. You will LOVE IT THERE, they told us. Finally, Rachel and I planned and saved up, and we attended our first Fairie Festival with Bridget and Jenn in 2013.

It was everything they said it would be.

The years since 2013 have been pretty hard—and at the same time, they’ve been full of such love and wonder. The promise of the Fairie Festival every year has gotten me through some really rotten times, and the natural high of being in a place so suffused with love, acceptance, and whimsy stays with me long after I’ve gone home.

Last night, when we were in bed, Rachel turned to me and said, in an excited whisper: “Nine more sleeps until we sleep at Spoutwood!” Of course, we’re not literally staying at Spoutwood Farm, but the entire area—the rolling fields, verdant tangled woods, and winding rock-edged roads of southern Pennsylvania—is synonymous, in our minds, with the spiritual fulfillment that is the Fairie Festival.

Only eight more sleeps, now.

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Rachel and I at the Fairie Festival last year – photo by Jenn ❤

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The Magic of Spinning

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I have been trying to get Katie into some kind of fiber craft for ages and ages, and so when she recently said that she might like to try drop spindle spinning with me, I was over the moon!  I think I may have actually jumped up and down with excitement.  She has always been game to try out any craft I’m into, she’s made some beautiful granny squares, and even contributed one to the blanket several friends got together to make for our dear friend, Bethany, when she went away to a university in far away Michigan.  But none of the fiber arts that I am completely crazy about seemed to check the boxes for her.  Although she does have a beautiful loom and has woven some truly gorgeous projects on that.

But spinning!!!  I practically SHOVED fiber and my simple Ashford drop spindle into her hands.  And then I went online and ordered her a whole bundle more so she would have variety :3

And we’ve been spinning together.  And it gives me such JOY.  When we went to the Common Ground Fair last year we both brought our spindles along and while we sat waiting to watch Sheep Dog demonstrations, we spun together.  Sitting side by side on a little red wooden bench spinning wool on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Seeing her discover that she likes spinning rekindled my love of drop spinning too.  So portable, so magical, so… perfect!

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I’ve said before that knitting is magic.  And I’m going to do that thing again.  Spinning is MAGIC.  Seriously.  And it’s science.  It’s this blow your mind cool fusion of old magic and modern science.  When you spin, you’re literally expending physical energy when you put twist into your yarn.  This is kinetic energy.  If you’ve studied physics then you know that energy can never be destroyed.  It only changes shape.  The energy from your body, your movements, goes out from yourself and into the yarn.  You are both physically and metaphysically sending your energy into that craft!

This idea isn’t really mine though, I got this Mind Blown moment from reading the book Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.  She talks about the physics and the moving energy.  My brain exploded into the witchy magical side of it all

And right now I’m getting ready to add a new spinning wheel to our house.  I’m saving my pennies (and you need a whole heck of a lot of pennies to get one of these beauties!) for an Ashford Joy.  It’s this beautiful folding wheel and I should have enough saved in about two weeks!  I can’t wait to tell you all about her when she arrives.

If I’ve piqued your interest in spinning, and I hope that I have, I absolutely recommend that book I mentioned, Respect the Spindle, and I recommend that you hop over to YouTube.  Short of having someone teach you in person, Youtube is the second best way to learn to drop spindle spin.  It’s this ancient and simple process that connects you with generations of people who went before you.  Taking your energy, a spindle, and a little wool, you can create something from practically nothing.  And that is just SO COOL.

-R

Tarot: A jumbled beginning

As I was thinking of starting this post, I was thinking of a line something like “I’ve been interested in tarot since…”. But then I thought about it and I can’t remember exactly when I ‘got into’ tarot. In a way, it’s like a queer coming out story: they always used to start with ‘I always knew I was different ever since I was a child’. And, honestly, mine just doesn’t. Mine was more like ‘I never even realized that I could possibly be gay until I fell madly in love with this awesome girl’ :3.
Daily drawing -The Lovers

It was sorta like that with Tarot.  When I was a freshman, there was this girl a few rooms down who had tarot decks.  She once offered to give me and a few of my friends readings.  At that point I didn’t know pretty much anything about tarot and I was more interested in looking through the cards.  She said that she didn’t like to let other people handle her cards, which at the time I thought was weird as heck, but now I kind of understand.  Although, I think now, when I get ready to read for people, if they’ve never seen tarot, I’d like to have a deck on hand that they could page through and ask questions about.  There are definitely decks that I have now that I wouldn’t let most people handle, maybe a select few.  Those are decks that I use only for myself.

Daily draw #emperor #Athena :) :)

After this, my first encounter with tarot, I got interested, and like the data loving librarian that I am, I went straight to the internet and READ EVERYTHING I COULD FIND.  I bought my first tarot deck, and I can’t remember if I bought it on Amazon or if I found it at the mall, maybe Barnes and Noble.  I wish I could remember, and I wish I still had it.  I’m pretty sure that I sold it somewhere along the way after that first blush of interest had faded.

My first deck was a Lord of the Rings themed deck.  I must have tried reading those cards, but I have almost no memory of them.  They weren’t all that pretty (and I’ve found that I really need my decks to be pleasing to the eye or else I haven’t connected with them) and I was kind of in over my head.  I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings, and the movies didn’t even exist yet (I’m dating myself a bit here 😉 ) so I don’t know why I even picked them.  I was into fantasy things; that might have been why.  And funnily enough, this is how I spoiled myself for the movies and books.  The death card is Gandalf, and now, looking back at that, he is SUCH an appropriate figure for that card.
Magic candle crafted for my #tarot work #candles #magic #tarotreading #tarotreadersofinstagram

I’m rambling about all of this now because I’m in an upswing of tarot interest again.  My interest in the cards has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve collected a lot of decks and only recently started to use them again.  It was Katie that I have to thank for reigniting my passion for them.  She found an article on Autostraddle about tarot, and that article linked to some others, and was part of a series, and I HAD TO READ THEM ALL.  RIGHT NOW.  The article, The Fools Journey, was written by an awesome person named Beth who runs a site called Little Red Tarot.  I went to her site and discovered that she offers something called the Alternative Tarot Course.  She calls it “An eight-week course to develop your personal approach to tarot”.  And she’s queer so it’s STUFFED full of inclusive queer tarot insights and it was absolutely exactly what I needed. Katie and I decided to work on this together, and while we’re definitely taking a LOT more than 8 weeks to do it, it’s been incredibly helpful and useful, and I love it.  I recommend it to ANYONE interested in tarot even a little bit.  It’s really helping me get comfortable with my decks and I’m learning to trust my intuition about them a lot more.

Snapshot #tarot spread this morning. TWO ACES! Very exciting. #tarotreading #tarotreadersofinstagram

I’ve learned that I love love love to buy Tarot decks, and I especially love decks that aren’t relentlessly heteronormative.  Beth at Little Red Tarot has had some good recommendations.  At the moment here are some of my favorites:  The Universal Goddess Tarot, The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Happy Tarot, and the Joie de Vivre Tarot.

Others that I have but haven’t really worked with:  Tarot of the Silicone Dawn (which is QUEER as heck, but for me it’s a bit hard to read), Wildwood Tarot, Manga Tarot, Robin Wood Tarot (which used to be my go to, but over the years it’s just too white-washed and hetero for me), and the Universal Fantasy Tarot.

The only deck I’ve gotten that I REALLY don’t like is the Tarot Art Nouveau (by Antonella Castelli).  I thought I’d love it because Art Nouveau usually means lots of pretty ladies and beautiful art.  But it has some deeply creepy power dynamics with all of the Kings, and the Lovers card was so upsetting that I actually removed it and burned the card (it isn’t the one picture above that’s in Art Nouveau style, that one is actually the Tarot Mucha, which is okay).  I felt like I needed to do it to get that energy out.  I did contemplate selling the deck, but instead I opted to remove the offending cards and use the rest for art 🙂  You can see the lovely ladies of The Star up above on my tarot candle.

So here I am, halfway through the course (court cards is week four).  Katie and I worked together assigning the court cards to people we knew and characters we write.  I’m feeling like doing readings.  I fell out of practice with my daily draws, because that’s what I’m really really good at, starting things and then not finishing them.

I hope this time around it sticks.  I’m trying to make it stick!