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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Respecting Fairy Places ~ An Excerpt from 'Fairies'

Since my new book 'Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk' was just released last Friday, I thought today I'd like to share an short excerpt from that work. what follows is from the introduction and is looking at how we can, and why we should, respect places that belong to Themselves:

Respecting Their Places
Many people lump nature spirits in with fairies and that is both true and untrue. Fairies are a broad category of beings and they can and do include both beings of this world and beings from the Otherworld that choose to come here. In the next chapter we will take an in-depth look at the Otherworld but I want to discuss here the importance of showing proper respect to the locations in our own world that are associated with or claimed by the fairies, whether that means true nature spirits or not.

A land spirit or the spirit of a natural feature like a tree or plant is strongly connected to the place it calls home. This is only logical really, as that physical place or object is for them like our body is for our soul – it acts like an anchor for the spirit in this world. If you think of it this way then it’s easier to understand why we should be careful and respectful of places that belong to these spirits. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all natural spaces should be inviolate, life after all is a cycle of growth and death and it can involve destruction, but just like we should show respect to the animals and plants we use for food, we owe respect to the natural places and the spirits that inhabit them. It’s also always good to keep in mind that nature spirits have the ability to influence the mood and atmosphere of a place, so happy nature spirits are always better than angry ones. Generally angry land spirits will express their feelings by making the area they influence unpleasant, causing the atmosphere of the area to be uneasy or unhappy, or cause bad dreams in people living nearby.

Respecting nature spirits is a straightforward proposition: don’t be needlessly destructive, don’t take down trees, move larger rocks, or make any big changes to an area without giving the land spirits a bit of notice (I recommend a couple days), and don’t muck up natural places in your yard or local woods with human junk or refuse. If there is a particular nature spirit, like that of a tree, that you want to connect to you can make offerings to it and talk to it. Offerings are also a good idea if you do have to do major landscaping or tree removal; honey works well, as does planting new growth or working to clean up any human messes.

Besides land spirits which exist as an intrinsic part of the world around us there are also places that belong to the fairies which are spirits of the Otherworld. These are not land spirits and are not tied to the land in these places but they have laid claim to them and feel a strong sense of ownership about them. Folklore and modern anecdotes show that interfering with or damaging places that belong to the fairies is a profoundly bad idea, and that they tend to respond in a fairly direct fashion. In Iceland both road construction and drilling that upsets the Hidden Folk tends to result in machinery breaking, ill luck, and strange happenings until the construction stops or the damage – usually to a boulder which is associated with them – is repaired. In Ireland folklore says that to interfere with a fairy tree or fairy hill can result in bad luck, illness, or even death. They are also not averse to destroying the offending human construction that is on their territory; one recent event in 2007 that made the news in Ireland was a series of telephone poles too close to a fairy hill which kept mysteriously falling down.

Traditionally places that belong to the fairies are best left alone; it is unwise to interfere with them or build on them. There are many stories, not only in Ireland but also in Iceland, of people who damaged or dug into fairy places only to suffer great ill luck, illness, or even death. In some cases even going into a place that belonged to the fairies posed a risk; in one story from Ireland a young man interfered with a well that was known to belong to the Fair Folk and in response they cursed it; when the man next went to drink from it he fell in and drowned (Ballard, 1991). If you choose to visit them it is best to do so during the day and to be careful not to leave behind a mess. It’s also advised not to relieve yourself on the ground in the area, as that is known to offend them as well. Add to that a general suggestion not to say anything in those areas especially that belittle or question their power or influence because they do respond to verbal insults. As long as you are careful not to break things, not to leave behind trash, and not to verbally provoke them you should be alright. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Gillie Dubh

  One of the most well-known of the Scottish fairies, the Gillie Dubh is solitary being who is generally reclusive but unlike many solitary fairies is good natured and helpful to humans. The Gillie Dubh is unique in some respects because of how focused his folklore originally was to a very specific area, and how many alleged sightings of him there were for a sustained period of time, which has led some modern authors to suggest that he was, in fact, a human rather than a fairy. Despite this theory the folklore around the Gillie Dubh remains strong and his stories continue to be told and have spread beyond his original home region.

The name 'Gillie Dubh' - sometimes given as Ghillie Du - literally means dark [dubh] lad or servant [gillie] but the 'dark' here refers to hair color not temperament or nature. Briggs points out that this fairy, who is considered ubiquitously male, was called Gillie Dubh due to his dark hair and not his clothing (Briggs, 1976). This is a reflection of the common practice in both Irish and Gaidhlig of referring to a person's hair color by calling the person themself by that color, hence 'dark lad' a dark-haired lad, 'red woman' a red haired woman. The Gillie Dubh is said to dress entirely from forest flora, specifically leaves and moss (Briggs, 1976).

During the 18th century he was commonly known in one area of Scotland, and as one author put it: "he was seen by very many people and on many occasions over a period of more than forty years in the latter half of the 18th century." (MacKenzie, 1921, p234). He is most strongly associated with the area of Gairloch in what used to be Ross and Cromarty [now Wester Ross] and further north particularly with the area around Loch an Draing (MacKillop, 1998; MacKenzie, 1921). His preferred home is birch groves, of which he is the special guardian, and one might surmise that it is the leaves of this tree that he prefers to dress.

In at least one story he sheltered a lost child in the woods at night and then to have brought her home the next day; this girl is also the only living person the Gillie Dubh is ever known to have spoken to (Briggs, 1976). Some modern folklore suggests that the Gillie Dubh aids lost travellers, likely rooted in this older anecdote. His overriding characteristic however is his reclusive nature and reluctance to engage with humans.

By the measure of the Scottish fairy court system the Gillie Dubh would be considered a Seelie court fairy. Despite this there is one story of a group of Scottish lords in the 18th or 19th century who set out to hunt him down (Briggs, 1976; MacKenzie, 1921). Despite thoroughly hunting the woods and loch area they found nothing and left empty handed (MacKenzie, 1921). No reason is given for this decision, as it's clear the fairy wasn't harming or even harassing anyone, and even more oddly the people who did this chose to stay with the woman who had been rescued from the woods by the Gillie Dubh, now a married adult. It seems that after this time the fairy stopped appearing so often or easily to people as he had previously.

Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
MacKillop, J., (1998) Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
MacKenzie, O., (1921) A Hundred Years in the Highlands

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Being a Priestess of the Daoine Uaisle

  This month has been one of contemplation for me, as I look at how the last year has gone since Ireland. I've written about it, probably more than some people care to read about, because it's a big thing for me and because it's probably the overriding thing in my life this month. No matter what else has been going on my mind always spins back to the same thoughts: what does it mean to serve, what does it mean to be a priestess of Themselves, what does it mean to deal with them, and what does it mean to have this level of connection?

I want to be clear on a couple things as I begin writing this. What follows is my own personal reflections and thoughts, and while I'd hope it may resonate with other people I don't expect it will with everyone. Acting as clergy for the Gods is a highly personal and varied thing and I suspect that doing so for beings like the OtherCrowd who are not-Gods is even more so. Also it must be kept in mind that there's a huge array of beings that people may think of under the English term fairies, or any of the related non-English terms, and individual experiences with some of those will vary widely. A person who focuses on one specific kind of being may find their approach to working with or speaking for those beings vastly different from everything I'm about to say, and that's fine. While I can and often do use general terms and euphemisms I'm actually pretty specific in who and what I deal with and am in service to - the Irish Aos Sí, the people of the fairy hills.

The first thing that this dedication seems to clearly mean is writing about them. A lot.
Since coming back from Ireland last year, since that unexpected initiation, I've written two full length non-fiction books focused on Themselves (Fairies and Travelling the Fairy Path) as well as committed to a Pagan Portals book on the Fairy Queens. My blog has taken on a decidedly fairy-themed focus. I do still write about other things, but I feel more strongly compelled than I did before to try to get good information out there and to work on both preserving the folklore and older views as well as showing that modern beliefs do exist.

publication date september 2018
Secondly it means accepting that my focus now is on serving Themselves, not the human community. This has been a massive shift for me, because previously I did follow the more traditional approach of viewing priest/essing as a service to a human community, and I saw that as a duty that was important and even pleasant much of the time. I had always known there were those whose service focused more on the Gods, for example, but my understanding of that was still that it worked through a lens of human community. Now I see that in some cases service can be divorced from the human community and focused entirely elsewhere. It is a very different lens and that took me a long time to truly understand. I think before this experience I couldn't really have understood it at all except in the most abstract way.

It also means accepting and even embracing that this is something I need to be willing to publicly claim and discuss. This one has been the biggest struggle for me and it still is. Even after a year it feels strange and almost hubristic to call myself a priestess of the Good People and I do not like using that title, even though it's one I know I need to use and need to be willing to own. Oddly enough, given the change in focus for me, this is a title that was given by the human community not the Other One. The sorts of titles I get from them are very different and far more humbling - I think at this point I have been called 'servant' in at least three different languages. I suppose on the bright side at least I don't have any fear of getting too full of myself or forgetting my place around them.

Being a priestess in service to the OtherCrowd is hard work and it can be messy and unpleasant. It can also be amazing and full of blessing. But whatever it is, it is never easy. And unlike other things I have done or spiritualities I have practiced, this is not something that can be undone or changed later. There is no going back from this, and if that doesn't scare you then you aren't paying attention.

This isn't something I went looking for, although it's also not something I turned aside from either. If you really feel pulled to this, maybe look at the other path, at serving the human community by dealing with the Other not at serving the Other. Walking on this side changes a person not just figuratively but literally and that's a hard thing. I had previously had experience as a priestess to the Gods but I had never felt like I lost my sense of autonomy, like I wasn't making my own decisions. Now I feel utterly given over in ways that I could not have anticipated, and in ways I can't control. Keep that in mind, and don't forget that the cost of anything with them is equal to the value of what they are giving.

For anyone who finds the idea of this kind of path appealing, I'd warn against it. Practice Fairy Witchcraft, certainly, or whatever aspect of the Fairy Faith - or witchcraft - appeals to you. Become a priest or priestess for the human community if you feel called to as that is a vital and necessary thing. I found a lot of joy in my years of service to the human community in that capacity. But I wouldn't recommend priestessing for Themselves unless you have no choice or feel truly compelled to. It's a consuming thing, the way fire consumes, and like fire it transmutes what it consumes.

Part of why I'm writing this today is because I'm still working it out for myself, still trying to understand these changes and what they mean. The other reason I'm writing though is because I see so much out there that seems to glamourize (no pun intended) the idea of fairies and of connecting to them and I want to be sure people understand that it isn't all glitter and rainbows. It's literal blood, sweat, and tears. As much as it's alluring its also terrifying, and there's no part of it that's safe.

If you are going to do this, do it with your eyes open and keep your wits about you.

Friday, November 24, 2017

What Comes in Dreams: a Healing Charm

I've mentioned a few times before that I sometimes am given things in dreams. Sometimes these things relate to herbal knowledge and sometimes they are more complex, such as when I was told how to make Cáca Síofra. I can't always share these things, but when I can I do try to, not only so that other people can make use of them but also because I want to encourage other people to trust in what they might be getting in dreams or journeys.

One night a few weeks ago I had a dream and was given a healing chant. This happened around 1 am and I woke up afterwards but as I was very tired I didn't get up to write it down. I did remember it the next morning and had to try to figure out how to write it out properly. This was a bit more difficult than you might think because, as sometimes happens, it was given to me in modern Irish and while
 I have some modern Irish I'm much better with old Irish. When I'm given things in modern Irish I don't always know what all the words mean or how to write them out from hearing them spoken but can usually suss it all out afterwards. I do this by writing it down based on my best guess for what I think it should be and then asking my friends who are Irish speakers to help me smooth it out. In this case the next day several people helped me with the spelling and grammar (go raibh maith agaibh Caoimhin, Lora, agus Fionnuala!)

This is the healing chant as it was given to me:
"Gruaig le gruaig
craiceann le craiceann
cnámh le cnámh
feoil le feoil
fuil le fuil
casadh an chneá"

In English, roughly:
'hair with hair
skin with skin
bone with bone
flesh with flesh
blood with blood

turning/twisting the wound'

Anyone who wants to is welcome to make use of this. It's new as far as I know but it's similar in style to several other older healing chants for injuries, including, 'Charm of the Sprain' from the Carmina Gadelica and the Second Merseburg Incantation, so it's fine for me to share. It would be used by holding the hands over the injury and and chanting the words three times.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


The name bodach, like elf and goblin, is used for specific fairy beings and is also a generic term for a type of a fairy. Bodachs are found in Scottish folklore where they are usually seen as a type of frightening nighttime fairy that may lead people astray or attack people; in some localized folklore the Bodach is an individual being while in other lore it is a general type of being which can create some confusion. As with so many named fairies we see that there is fluidity in the understanding of who and what Bodachs are.

In Gaidhlig the word bodach has a variety of meanings many of which apply to human men, including an old man, an unmarried man, and a rustic but it can also mean a specter or boogeyman (Bauer & MacDhonnchaidh, 2017). Campbell says that the name means 'a carle or old man' but he also defines them as night specters who are 'no living wight' (Campbell, 1900).  From this we can perhaps gain a mental image of the Bodach, based on the other meanings of the word, but we can also most certainly conclude that it is an Otherworldly being that appears at night and is frightening. Bodachs are only ever referred to as male in folklore and the term for them is an exclusively male one as well.

Campbell describes a variety among Bodachs and lists them as both a type of Bòcan as well as a type of fairy being on their own. The Bòcan in Scotland are any type of terrifying night being which may include fairies and ghosts which frighten humans but don't necessarily cause any physical harm to them (Campbell, 1900). In some areas the term Bodach is used in the same general way that Bòcan is elsewhere, to mean any and all terrifying nighttime spirits while in others the Bodach is viewed as a distinct type of being (Campbell, 1900). When included as one type in the more generalized grouping the Bodach qualifies as one of the Bòcan because of its nighttime appearances and habit of frightening people it encounters, although Bodachs may or may not cause physical harm.

The Bodach was often used by parents to frighten children children into behaving and to keep them away from dangerous areas. Some Bodachs were described as haunting areas that would be particularly unsafe after dark, trying to lure a person into going where they shouldn't. Bodachs often appear to children, trying to lure them into the darkness or to scare them, sometimes harming them directly sometimes only frightening them. In some stories the Bodach would rush down the chimney and seize children who were misbehaving, taking them away (Briggs, 1976). They were also drawn to children who were being loud or crying after dark, as well as those who disobeyed their parents.

There is also a tradition of named Bodachs who have a distinct personality, locality and activity associated with them. One type of named Bodach, Bodach an Sméididh [Beckoning Old Man], would be seen standing near the corner of a house and beckoning with his hands for the viewer to follow him (Campbell, 1900). Another named bodach, MacGlumag na mais, oliath tarrang shìoda, burrach mòr [Son  of Platter Pool from grey spike, silken spike, great caterpillar] sometimes just called Son of Platter Pool, appears to children at windows, gnashing his teeth loudly and flattening his face against the glass; if the child cries out the Bodach takes them away (Campbell, 1900). Another named Bodach is the Bodach Glas [Dark Man] who appeared as a death omen for a certain Scottish clan; he would appear three times and the third time singled doom (Briggs, 1976). In that case the Bodach seems to play a role similar to the Bean Sí in Irish folklore, being connected to a specific family and acting to foretell death within that family line. There is also at least one named Bodach with a friendly nature: normally described as a type of Brownie the Bodachan Sabhaill [Little Old Man of the Barn] was a helpful fairy who would come at night and thresh the crops in the darkness for tired, old farmers (Briggs, 1976).

While they can look and act frightening Bodachs can only enter a home if they are called or invited in (Campbell, 1900). They also rarely attack a person unless the person first puts themselves in the Bodachs power, be it by choosing to follow the fairy, by acknowledging its presence at the window, or by breaking cultural rules around behavior. They are known to take children but otherwise their reputation is ambivalent and focuses more on frightening than harming. In some modern Scottish anecdotal fairylore Bodach is the consort or partner of the Cailleach and in a wider sense modern lore places this fairy in the Unseelie court.

Bodachs are a fascinating type of Scottish fairy, running the gamut in folklore from helpful to harmful, consider in some cases Brownies and most often seen as Bòcans. These little old fairy men appear in the night to frighten children into good behavior, inhabiting the same darkness as ghosts and apparitions, and the safest way to avoid them is to refuse to acknowledge them. In many ways the folklore around the Bodach seems to blend together more common fairylore with other influences and certainly here we see the classic form of the Bogeyman looming large over naughty children in the Bodach's stories.

Campbell J., (1900) The Gaelic Otherworld
Bauer, M., and MacDhonnchaidh, U., (2017) Am Faclair Beag
Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Cailleach

This article originally appeared in Air n-Aithesc, vol III, issue II, August 2016

The Cailleach

“Ebb-tide has come to me as to the sea;
old age makes me yellow;
though I may grieve thereat,
it approaches its food joyfully….
I am Buí, the Cailleach of Beare;
I used to wear a smock that was ever-renewed…”
-          The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare

The Cailleach, or Caillech in Old Irish, is a complex deity who seems to have roots in Neolithic Ireland. Cailleach is from a word that means ‘veiled woman’ or ‘elderly woman’ but in later usage was a pejorative generally used to mean hag or witch. In Ireland she is called the Cailleach Beara or Beare for the Beara peninsula which is her main habitation, although in folklore she is also sometimes given the epithet of Béarrach; the Old Irish word berach means sharp or horned. The Cailleach Beara’s true name is said to be Buí, a word that may mean ‘yellow’1. Alternately it may originally have been Boí, a word related to the one for cow (bó) and it’s possible that she was at one time a cow goddess who represented the land and its sovereignty on the Beara peninsula2. This idea is somewhat supported by her legendary possession of a powerful bull, the Tarbh Conraidh, who had only to bellow to get a cow with calf. Certainly she is strongly associated with Beara and because of the irregular orthography of Old Irish either version of her name is possible, although Buí is better attested, appearing in the well-known poem ‘The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare’. MacKillop suggests that she may also previously have been known as Dígde, a sovereignty goddess of Munster, and Duineach whose name he gives as meaning ‘[having] many followers’, both of which were subsumed into the single identity of the Cailleach Beara at some point3.

Several different goddesses are called ‘Cailleach’ in Irish myth including the Cailleach Beara of Cork and Cailleach Gearagáin of county Cavan4. The most well-known however is the Cailleach Beara, who is strongly associated with south west Ireland. She is considered a sovereignty figure, the archetypal crone who appears offering the throne to a potential king in exchange for intimacy; those who reject her in this guise will never rule but those who embrace her as an old woman will find her transformed into a beautiful young woman and will themselves become king. She is also credited with creating many of the standing stones and geographic features in various areas, who folklore claims are people or animals that she transformed; her bull the Tarbh Conraidh for example was turned into a stone in a river by her when he tried to swim across it to reach a herd of cows on the other side. In other parts of Ireland including Connacht, Leinster, and Ulster the Cailleach Beara is seen as the spirit of the harvest who inhabits the grain and flees from the scythes in the form of a hare5. In many areas harvest traditions included the practice of leaving the final sheaf standing in the field and naming it the Cailleach, or of dressing the final sheaf as an image of the goddess.
The Cailleach as Buí is said to be one of the four wives of Lugh, although other sources say that she had seven husbands; she is also said to have had 50 foster children6.  The Cailleach is generally described as an old woman but she also can appear young, and is considered the progenitor of some family lines including the Corca Duibhne7. A tenth century poem says that she was the lover of the warrior Fothadh Canainne. Folklore claims that she has two sisters, also named Cailleach of their respective areas, who live in Dingle and Iveragh8.

It is said that the Sliab na gCailligh in county Meath were created when the Cailleach flew over the area and accidently dropped the stones9. She is strongly associated with several areas in Ireland including the Beara peninsula in Munster and Slieve Daeane in Connacht10. Although she is found in Scotland as well she is not considered a pan-Celtic deity and so there is speculation that she represents a likely pre-Celtic divinity that was absorbed into Celtic culture at a later point11.

The Cailleach in Scotland has a different although related character, associated more tentatively with the harvest but also with the winter and storms. Called the Cailleach Bheur [beur meaning sharp or cutting in Gaidhlig] she was associated with the bitter winter wind and snowstorms as well as with creating geographic features which bear her name12. In the 1917 book “Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend” we learn that the goddess Bride (Irish Brighid) ruled over the summer half of the year, from Beltane to Samhain, and the other half of the year was ruled by the Cailleach. There are a variety of stories about how the year changed rulers which either feature the two goddesses contending against each other or describe them as aspects of one being. In one version Angus is the Cailleach’s son who falls in love with Bride, so the Cailleach imprisons her which causes winter to come to the land; only when Angus finally succeeds in freeing her on Imbolc does winter begin to relent13. In other versions of the story the Cailleach must drink from a magical spring, either on Imbolc at which point she transforms into Bride, or at Beltane at which point Bride is freed14.

In the Cailleach we see a complex and ancient deity, perhaps rooted in pre-Celtic belief but certainly once a powerful sovereignty goddess. It was she who created several features of the landscape of Ireland and Scotland making her cosmogenically significantly, and she who controls the storms of winter in Scotland. The Cailleach may appear old or young, and may give sovereignty to kings, even divine kings if we see her as Lugh’s wife and the source of his legitimacy as king of the Tuatha De Danann.  Although she is often considered a more obscure deity today, and her place among the Tuatha De Danann is somewhat uncertain, she seems to have been very significant historically and certainly maintains a powerful place in folklore today.

1Murphy, 1956
2O hOgain, 2006
3MacKillop, 1998
4Smyth, 1988
5O hOgain, 2006
6MacKillop, 1998
7Smyth, 1988
8O hOgain, 2006
9Smyth, 1988
10MacKillop, 1998
11Monaghan, 2004
13McIntyre, 2015
14 McNeill; 1959; McIntyre, 2015


MacKillop, J., (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
McIntyre, M., (2015). “The Cailleach Bheara: a Study of Scottish Highland Folklore in Literature and Film”. Retrieved from
McNeill, F., (1959). The Silver Bough, volume 2

Monaghan, P., (2004) Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore

Saturday, November 11, 2017

That Time I Unseelied a Tree, and Why You Should Too

So first a story.
I have a fairy tree in my yard and I had the idea at one point to start tying ribbons on it, in the spirit of the rag tree tradition. Now usually a rag tree is by a healing well and the ribbons or bits of cloth tied on it represent prayers for healing of either the person or someone they are praying for. I knew this but still felt drawn to put ribbons on my own tree, and I don't deny I did it badly, because I simply used store bought ribbon. I can say here that my intentions were good, but I've never been a big believer that intentions mitigate harm caused. After a time the tree had quite a lot of ribbons on it, and after a time I started feeling strongly that I needed to take them off - I was even dreaming about it. But I really, really didn't want to remove them. It seemed counterintuitive and sacrilegious to do so, to remove what had been place with prayer and its own little ritual. Yet in the end it became a compulsion, and one day as I walked past the tree on my way to my car I found myself stopping, unable to go on until I removed the ribbons. I went back into the house, found a pair of scissors, and spent enough time that I was late to work taking all the ribbons off. Afterwards I felt a blend of relief and horror at having, effectively, 'unseelied' (unblessed) my tree.

Here's the thing though, as upsetting as it was for me to take those prayer ribbons off that tree, and as much as I felt like I was doing something wrong - was in effect unblessing the tree - what I did was important and necessary. The ribbons I'd put on were synthetic fibers; they were not rotting away with time but instead were strangling the branches they were tied on. In several places when I managed to get the ribbon off there was a clear indent in the branch where the ribbon had started to grow into the tree, and it was obvious to me the harm my actions had caused. I had made a critical mistake in not using natural material and in not tying it loosely so that it would either fall apart naturally or be pulled off by the wind. My well meaning actions would have killed my tree eventually, and removing the ribbons, as much as it pained me to do it, saved it.

That said, there are two main points I want to make here, first about participating in rag tree practices and secondly about removing things already tied to trees at sacred sites. 

Many people today either want to emulate the rag tree practices or look at participating in it while visiting Ireland (or other countries that have the practice) and I am urging everyone to please seriously consider what you are tying to these trees. Recently there have been some good discussion of the importance of proper rag tree practices online both by the Tara Skryne Preservation Group and other travel pages. If you want to tie a rag on a sacred tree you need to be aware firstly that rag trees are very specific trees, usually by a holy well as I've mentioned, and that you can't and shouldn't tie just anything onto the tree. Every tree you run across is not appropriate to tie things to, and just because it's at a sacred site doesn't make it a tree to tie prayers to. Also if you are going to tie things to a tree please use natural, degradable materials. And please don't push coins in o the bark, that will poison the tree. 

When you visit sacred sites and holy wells you will see many strange things tied to rag trees. Some people believe it best to leave what is already tied there alone; others advocate for removing what is and will harm the tree. This is a complicated subject because there are issues with people removing all rags from rag trees, and even cutting the trees down, in protest against the practice itself and I am by no means advocating that. However as an animist and pagan I do think we have an obligation to put the health of the tree before the symbolism of the plastic and synthetic material that is tied to it and slowly killing it. Natural material is fine and should be encouraged, but what amounts to rubbish if left there will only kill the tree that people claim to find sacred.

The reason I began this with my story was to make a point. I was deeply reluctant to take those ribbons down, even though they were my ribbons and I was being told repeatedly to remove them. There was a discussion on a sacred sites travel group I belong to recently about whether it's ethical to remove other people's ribbons from sacred trees, and in my opinion you should, even though I understand the reluctance to remove other people's prayers. Understand it on a deeply personal level. There is an almost atavistic aversion - in my experience - among spiritual people against interfering with other people's spiritual devotions. Yet ultimately we need to look beyond the intention of what have been tied on the trees and to the spirit of the trees and land itself. If we are seeking to respect those spirits, seeking to truly be blessed by these holy places, then we must act in ways that are aligned with that concept. Doing things that kill the sacred trees, ultimately are unblessed - unseely - actions. Removing plastic, non-biodegradable, metal items, no matter what sacred intent was behind their placement is ultimately a blessed, or seely, act because it saves the life of the tree. I titled this post 'the time I unseelied a tree' because that was how it felt, and it was a terrible conflicted feeling. But sometimes we must do what feels wrong in order to ultimately do that which is right.

Removing those ribbons felt like unseelie'ing the tree but in the end it resulted in an increased blessing, and much happier spirits. And I don't regret doing it at all.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fairy Trees

 Fairies and trees have had a long connection in mythology and folklore. Today I'd like to take a brief look at a selection of trees and the main fairylore associated with them.

I would note that this folklore can be convoluted as the trees themselves were often reputed to have spirits, much like we might understand dryads in a modern context, but beyond this tree-spirit could also be home to or associated with other fairies. These other fairies may live in or near the particular tree but were not bound to it in the way a tree-spirit would be. If the tree were killed the tree spirit would suffer a similar fate, while the associated fairies would simply move on to another place. there are also many trees that are associated with fairies as either a protection against them or as a tree they prefer to be around.

Birch- In Scotland its particularly associated with the Ghillie Dhu who was said to lurk in birch groves (Briggs, 1976). The Ghillie Dhu is a solitary fairy who is gentle and helpful but whose appearance often frightens people. In Ireland however fairies are thought to dislike birch, which is used to drive out spirits, and avoid this tree (MacCoitir, 2003).
Oak- Oaks have a strong association with spirits and fairies. Most notably there is a kind of fairy called 'oakmen' who live in areas where oaks have been cut and are re-growing; they appear as short, solid looking beings wearing red hats who may dangerous to those who trespass in their woods (Briggs, 1976). There is also the well known rhyme of 'fairy folk are in old oaks'. Not all oak fairies are dangerous as one entry in the Dindshenchas discusses learning lore from fairy folk in an oak wood (MacCoitir, 2003).
Rowan- Rowan berries by some accounts are the food of the Tuatha De Danann and by extension some people see them as the food of the fairies in general. Rowan is seen as both a protection against magic and also a conduit for magic, appearing in folklore as a charm against fairy magic and witchcraft but also in stories we see rowan wands used to cast enchantments.
Elm- A communal tree it was believed if one elm was cut down the others would die from grief (Briggs, 1976). The spirits of the trees were so tightly bonded that the death of one would doom them all.
Hawthorn- Strongly associated with the Good People it is believed that its unlucky to bring hawthorn into a home. A lone hawthorn growing in a field is often considered a fairy tree and it is dangerous to bring harm to such a tree because to do so will invite the wrath of Themselves. It's an old custom to leave gifts for the Other Crowd at the base of a lone hawthorn (MacCoitir, 2003).
Blackthorn- Guarded by fairies called Lunantishee who punish anyone who tries to cut blackthorns on Samhain or Bealtaine, going by the old dates which would be Nov 11 or May 11 (Briggs, 1976). MacCoitir suggests that Lunantishee may be an Anglicization of Leannán Sí, connecting the Blackthorn to the concept of fairy lovers. Whether that is true or not the Blackthorn generally had a grim reputation, seen as a dangerous tree that should not be messed with, although like so many others it also had protective qualities.
Ash- Mentioned as a protection against fairies in folklore the Ash was used to reverse or treat maladies caused by fairies (MacCoitir, 2003). These beliefs accorded the tree extra respect, so that it was not burned, some lore relating that any who burned the ash would lose their home to fire (Briggs, 1976). Some stories also mention a person's soul being trapped in an ash or otherwise placed in it.
Willow- It was said that willows walked at night and would follow people travelling alone, and their reputation was overall malevolent (Briggs, 1976). This may connect the Willow more general with water fairies who had a reputation for being dangerous and mercurial like the water itself. Lady Wilde suggests that willows speak in music.
Elder - In England and Scotland the Elder is a protection against witchcraft and evil beings; said to be home to fairies of good intent (Briggs, 1976). In Scotland the sap of the Elder was believed to grant the ability to see the Fairy Rade on Samhain, if the person then stood beneath an Elder (MacCoitir, 2003). In alternate folklore elders are said to be shapechanged witches. Elders are another tree that it is generally believed should never be burned or ill luck will follow the person. In Ireland the Elder has a darker reputation, being associated with both ghosts and seen as a wood that invites fairy mischief; in Ireland and the Isle of Man its believed that fairies ride on Elder twigs and branches (MacCoitir, 2003).

This is only a small selection of trees and some related fairylore; it is by no means exhaustive. I hope though that it illustrates some of the beliefs we can find associated with different common trees, and the way that fairy beliefs intersect with our everyday lives. Trees are all around us, even when we live in the city they can be found, and where there are trees there is folklore and fairylore.

Briggs, K., (1976) A Dictionary of Fairies
Wilde (1888) Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland
MacCoitir, N., (2003) Irish Trees

Thursday, November 2, 2017

In Service: Ireland a Year Later

 This Samhain has been an interesting and intense one for me on several levels. It has been busy in purely mundane ways and it has been just as busy in spiritual ways. But more than anything I find myself reflecting whenever my mind isn't set on anything else on being in Ireland this time last year, on my experiences there and the initiation I underwent that I had not expected. I hear the water of Ogulla well, feel it cold on my skin, feel the sandy bottom of the well under my feet. I remember the feel of the mud of Uaimh na gCat under my hands and on my face, the sounds of the cave wrapping around me. When I close my eyes I see in the distance the smoke from the fires on Teamhair rising up in the darkness of a moonless Samhain night, the fires of Tlachtga at my back. Water, and earth, and fire, they all still seem immediate and present.

Uaimh na gCat
So much of life is what we plan it to be, especially spiritually. We have goals, we set intentions, we move forward towards a destination, whatever we perceive that to be. Things may not always work out the way we plan or go as we intend but more often than not we do have clear intentions. Or maybe that's wishful thinking on my part. Certainly my own spiritual life as much as it has wandered and sometimes faltered had always felt like it was in my control. And then Ireland.

Nothing that happened in Ireland was what I had anticipated or expected.

And here I am a year later and I feel like I am the same person I have always been and I am also irrevocably different. I don't know how to feel about that even now. I'm not sure that I know how to put that into words, even now, and that's a truly strange feeling for me who uses words as a tool of expression every day. But how do you explain the way a series of small events, small choices, each built on the other can lead a person inevitably to something that is both entirely predictable and entirely unexpected?

the path to Tlachtga, Samhain night, 2017
So many things in my life up to that point led me there, and yet I never saw that end result coming. I had grown comfortable, complacent, with the way things were, and maybe even a little bit arrogant. Funny how quickly that is washed away when circumstances change and you are moved from feeling like you have some status in the human community to a position where you feel like you have very minimal status in a spiritual context. As I told Lora O'Brien during a recent interview* I feel like prior to that point I served the human community but since that time I have served Themselves, and my connection to them is very much one of service. That shift alone is enormous, and I still don't know for certain where it is taking me. I'm not sure it matters on a personal level. That's one lesson I've learned in the last 12 months, not to be concerned so much about myself and my own ego but to focus on what I am supposed to be doing here for Them, at least as best I can.

For all of that if I had known what I was moving towards, what was going to happen, I would not do anything differently. I would still take that first step forward into initiation and I would still accept the role of priestess of the Daoine Maithe. Like the pull of gravity there was such an inevitability to it all that I don't think I could have chosen differently unless I went all the way back to my childhood and made myself a different person from then, and if it meant losing myself entirely what would be the point? Maybe that's inevitable with them as well, for they are known to consume people one way or another, but to quote Bukowski (probably anyway) "For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it's much better to be killed by a lover."

I chose to accept each step of the way when I could have refused or turned aside, and that has since meant a complete restructuring of things, and at the same time not. I have parted ways from Odin, and am no longer his priestess. I am still connected to Macha but it is not the same. I have been forced to look deeply into what it means to be a priestess when the role I am fulfilling is one of service to the Othercrowd not the human community. And yet at the same time so much has remained the same, changed only in its intensity.

There was a cost, of course, because there's always a cost and because it involves the Daoine Maithe that cost is layered and complicated and still playing out. There have been blessings as well, and I try to remind myself of those as often as possible.

Life goes on apace and I am standing now a year out from that pivotal dark moon. This year there was a nearly full moon shining down on me as I went out to make my offerings and celebrate the holiday. That seemed very meaningful, but in my mind the memories linger of the darkness and fires and smell of woodsmoke on the air.

*you can listen to the recorded version by joining Lora's mailing list here

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Dearg Due

 With Samhain approaching I decided to write about the Dearg Due, the closest to a classic vampire that can be found in Irish folklore. Almost immediately though I ran into a slight problem, in that I can't find any references to this being in actual books on folklore. The only sources in which I could find the Dearg Due mentioned were more modern works and mostly ones that focused on vampires specifically. This has left me a bit skeptical of the Dearg Due's true origins, but nonetheless I'll relate the story here. It is the time of year for ghost stories after all.

First a bit about the name. Many sources will explain this name as meaning 'red blood sucker' but I think this unlikely. Dearg does indeed mean red, but Due is a more difficult word to interpret. In Old Irish the name may mean 'red owing' or 'red place', but I think it's more likely the name comes from modern Irish 'Dearg Dú'* which could be read as 'red evil' or 'red darkness'. As far as I can tell the words blood and sucker aren't involved.

So, the story then. As it goes around the internet and in the vampire books: Long ago in Ireland there lived a beautiful maiden, the daughter of a rich and greedy father. Many men came from across the land to try to win her hand in marriage but the girl had fallen in love with a local peasant and refused all others. Her father wouldn't allow this and forced her into a loveless marriage with an older man who was terribly cruel to her. Eventually, when she realized her true love wasn't going to rescue her, the girl killed herself. Before dying the girl renounced all that was good in the world, cursed God and those who had made her suffer in life, and swore she would get her revenge. And so it was that after she was buried she rose again from her grave as the Dearg Due; some say that she hunts and kills those who are guilty of hurting others, while others say she seeks out the innocent, especially children and young men to be her victims.

Like traditional Western European vampires the Dearg Due is a human being who died and was buried, and rose from the dead to torment the living. Like those other vampires she roams the night seeking to steal the life force from the living. Unlike other vampires the Dearg Due is not a type of being but a specific individual, and it is said her grave still exists in county Waterford. She only rises from her grave once a year on the anniversary of her death and she can be held in check if stones are kept piled on her grave.

It's hard to pin down how old these stories are or whether they are truly rooted in older mythology or represent a blending of newer thoughts. Certainly they lack the overt fairy folklore we see in the stories of beings like the Baobhan Sithe of Scotland which are also vampiric in nature, or even the more bloodsucking types of Leannán Sidhe found across Celtic speaking countries. But the stories of the Dearg Due are interesting and at the least represent an evolution in folklore as different cultural influences came into play.

*dú in this case is a form of dubh, literally meaning black

Further Reading:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Athirne Ailgessach ocus Mider Bri Leith

Athirne Áilgessach & Mider Brí Léith

 Athirne Ailgessach mac Ferchertne. is e is doichlechu ro boi i nHerind. Dochoid co Mider Brí Léith co tuc corra diultada & doichle úad fora thech .i. ar dibe & ar dochill. Arna taidled fer do feraib Herend a thechsom do aigidecht l^ foigde. Na tair. na tair ar in chetchorr. Eirgg ass ol a setig. Sech thech sech thech ar in tres chorr. Cachfer do feraib Herend ataciched ni gebed fria chomlund a llaasin. Nocho doid a. saith riam bale i nfacced duine. Luidseom dano & mucc urgnaide leis & paitt meda co n-essad a saith a oinur. & ro chertaigestar ara belaib in muicc & in paitt meda. Co n-acca in fer chuice. Dogenta th'oínur ar se la tadall na mmuicce & na paitte uad. Cia th'ainmseo ar Athirni. Nocon erdairc ón ar se .i. Sethor. Ethor. Othor. Sele. Dele. Dreng Gerce. Mec Gerce. Ger Gér. Dír Dír iss ed mo ainmse. Ni thanic in mucc. & forfemmid inn air do chuibdigud. Dóig combad ó Dia thísta do breith na mmucce. ar nírbo anfélisium ond uairsin.
 - Book of Leinster 

Athirne Ailgessach son of Ferchertne, he was most inhospitable in all of Ireland. He went to Mider of Brí Léith co tuc cranes* of pettiness and inhospitality from him for his house that is stinginess and grudgingness. No man of Ireland visits a his house looking for hospitality. 
"Do not come. Do not come" said the first crane. 
"Go out!" said his companion. 
"Beyond the house, beyond the house" said the third crane. 
Every man of Ireland who saw them would not succeed in battle that day. 
He did not eat where there were people. He went once and a prepared pig with him and a skin of mead to eat his fill alone. And he settled his mouth on the pig and the skin of mead. He saw a man coming towards him. He wanted to be alone when he was touching the pig and the skin. 
"What name is on you?" said Athirni. 
"Nothing famous is on me" he said "that is Sethor Ethor Othor Sele Dele Dreng Gerce Mec Gerce Ger Gér Dír Dír is my name."
 He [Athirni] didn't take [back] the pig. And he was unable to compose a satire. It is likely someone of God had come to carry away the pig. He was not ungenerous from that hour.

*Cor is a word for a bird that can be a heron, crane or occasionally stork.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Birth - A Between The Worlds Short Story

This story is a bridge between the 6th book in the Between the Worlds series and the forthcoming 7th book. It's main purpose is to offer some additional backstory for a few characters as well as clarify some events that occur between the two books.
   The story runs at 7,370 words.

‘Birth’ – A Between the Worlds Short Story

5 Weeks Before Midsummer
Allie shifted restlessly where she was reclining on her living room couch as Lauren, her midwife, and Brynneth, a medic in the Elven Guard who was also her friend, stood over her and discussed her current condition and the request she’d just made. Or rather the thing she’d just spent five minutes trying to convince them to agree to. Although she knew they weren't doing it on purpose she was feeling a bit like a child being talked about by adults, and to calm herself she rested one hand on the rounded bulge of her abdomen. Inside, warm and safe, her son was sleeping and she felt a small surge of pride that she'd become good enough with her empathy to distinguish peaceful sleeping from any other state. Still she felt a surge of longing for her two bondmates, Bleidd and Jess, who were currently wrapping up their last assignment in the Fairy Holding that adjoined the town. She forced herself to fix her eyes on the two people standing over her and ignore the pull of desire that filled her.
The two healers were a study in opposites. Brynneth was tall, lean, and dark-haired, his elven heritage plain even without the uniform of the Elven Guard that he was wearing, the badge flashing at his waist when he moved. He radiated a serenity that Allie envied, his ageless features calm even as he argued his point. Beside him Lauren Perez was all too plainly human, short and plump, her black hair liberally streaked with grey and her face just as liberally lined with wrinkles. She had often joked that she had earned each grey hair and each wrinkle through her work and Allie more than half believed her at this point. The last several months had become a crash course in mixed species pregnancies for Allie and she had slowly learned how complicated and often dangerous it really was for humans and the Fey to produce children together. For Lauren to specialize in this Allie had realized she must have seen a lot of tragedy over the decades she’d been working.  
Finally Lauren turned and looked down at her, her expression tired but kind. “Well, I still think the clinic is a better idea given the risk of complications. But I agree that so far things have looked good and the baby’s size and position isn’t indicating any need for worry at this point, although we have a ways to go. And since Brynneth will be here and we can get you to the clinic by ambulance in 20 minutes if there’s an emergency I’m willing to agree to try this as a home birth. Try it, Allie,” Lauren said, holding up a finger in a warning gesture, “But I’m letting you know now that at the first sign of anything – anything – problematic I will call that ambulance. Okay?”
Allie smiled, silently thanking Brynneth’s skills with persuasion which had surely convinced Lauren in the end, since Allie’s own efforts hadn’t seemed to have much effect. That was no mean feat as Lauren dealt with the Fey often enough that she was one of the few humans Allie had met who seemed exempt to the effect they normally seemed to have on non-Fey. She nodded, “That seems fair.”
Brynneth nodded as well, as always looking serious, “I have more than enough leave time accrued to use some when the time comes which will ensure that I am free to be here.”
“Do you want to stay here?” Allie blurted out, then flushed as both the midwife and healer looked at her in surprise. “I mean you’re welcome to stay here at the house if you’d like to, rather than the Outpost.”
Brynneth looked thoughtful for a moment, pursing his lips slightly. “That is not a bad idea. And I am not averse to spending some time with Jessilaen. I have missed him these past few weeks, although doubtless not as much as you have.”
He smiled kindly at her when he said it and Allie struggled to keep her expression friendly, forcing herself to smile back, but inside she winced. You have no idea she thought to herself feeling her craving for her bondmates’ presence rising up, insistently reminding her of her very real, tangible need for them. Not for the first time she cursed Bleidd’s decision to re-join the Elven Guard even though the increased income had made a significant difference for them all. The money has meant a lot more than I thought it would, and I can’t deny how much happier he’s been she thought to herself, watching as Lauren began gathering her medical equipment up. It obviously means a lot to him to be back in the Guard, to be financially well off. Hel it’s the first time in my life I haven’t had to worry about money constantly, about how things will be paid for. Maybe it’s all his way to try to prove he deserves this baby or is worthy of the way his life is now, I don’t knowbut I do like seeing him so happy. I just wish he was happy and they were here all the time.
“I’ll stop by in a week and check on you,” Lauren said, derailing Allie’s introspective train of thought, as she finished putting her equipment away.
“As will I,” Brynneth agreed, stepping back slightly as Lauren, her bag now packed and in hand, moved to Allie’s side.
“Don’t get up Allie,” Lauren said, patting her shoulder absently, her grip surprisingly firm, “I’ll see myself out. Remember what I said about drinking more water, and call me if you have any questions before our next appointment.”
With a slight wave at the elf and half-elf Lauren turned and left, already pulling her cell phone out to check her messages. Allie appreciated that she didn’t let the phone distract her during appointments, but she also knew that Lauren had a reputation as one of the best midwives for mixed-species cases and she was always busy. She didn’t doubt the other woman probably had a dozen messages waiting for her.
Brynneth followed her to the doorway, watching as she left, so subtly that Allie doubted the midwife even noticed him.
It had been sheer luck that Allie had been able to get onto her client list at all; she’d had no idea how in demand Lauren was when she’d randomly picked her name out of the directory listing. And it had also been luck that she had managed to call at a time when Lauren had a slight lull in her workload and could take on someone new. Only later, when she’d belatedly checked the woman’s qualifications, had she realized that Lauren was one of the most well-known and highly regarded midwives for people of mixed backgrounds in the area. I still can’t even imagine what she charges Allie thought resisting the urge to frown. Jess and Bleidd had paid Lauren up front and much to Allie’s ongoing annoyance they’d gotten Lauren to swear not to tell Allie the price. That hadn’t stopped her from spending the last six months trying to find out, but much to her consternation and Bleidd’s amusement she hadn’t been able to. If only I’d realized two husbands would mean constantly being conspired against, Allie thought then smiled to herself who am I kidding I’d have done it anyway.
“You seem to be in a better mood today,” Brynneth said, returning to Allie’s side now that Lauren was gone.
She sighed, “I’m glad Jessilaen and Bleidd will be back soon.”
Bryn looked out the window, his expression pensive. “It is hard on you when they are gone, is it not?”
Allie looked away, unsure what to say, and before the silence could get awkward Brynneth knelt down by her feet and reached out towards her bad ankle. She tensed anticipating the touch, her gaze going to his hand, and he hesitated, his eyes finding her face. “Allie, how much pain are you in?”
“It’s not so bad,” Allie said, shifting uncomfortably and hoping that she wasn’t edging into a lie. She hedged, “It’s been worse. I’ve just been on my feet too much lately.”
Brynneth gently moved her pant leg up to examine her ankle, his fingers probing the swelling and tenderness around the joint, which had been badly shattered the year before. Allie bit her lip to keep from blurting out her gratitude that he’d waited to ask about her leg until Lauren was gone. She knew it was silly to even care about it but some part of her didn’t like admitting to anyone, except Brynneth who could tell anyway, how much the pregnancy was exacerbating the problems she had with her old injury. Even Jess and Bleidd didn’t know how much more pain she was in constantly now or that she’d stumbled several times when she’d started to lose her footing while walking. It scared her to feel so helpless, and she was afraid if she told them they’d feel guilty because they weren’t there with her. After a moment Brynneth began tracing runes over her foot and leg and then closed his eyes, focusing as he cast a healing spell.
Well crap she thought, fighting tears as her emotions predictably overwhelmed her while the magic flowed around her so it’s bad enough at this point that he’s using formal spells not just channeled energy. Deep down Allie could feel the fear bubbling up that she was going to end up crippled in truth, unable to walk at all on her left ankle. It was a fear that had haunted her since she’d been injured and made her push to hide her limp and her pain as much as possible, but had grown exponentially as the later stages of the pregnancy had seriously aggravated the injury. Now with her balance and center of gravity changed and her weight up more than 30 pounds her ankle was in full rebellion, and even pulling energy from her bondmates wasn’t enough to mitigate it. With them gone the last few weeks she was keenly feeling the effects, despite projecting into Jess’s mind to pull energy from them when they were intimate.
When Brynneth finally opened his eyes she could see the worry on his face as much as she could feel it with her empathy, so she braced herself, but when he spoke his words took her by surprise. “How has your appetite been lately?”
“My appetite?” she repeated, her mind going blank. He nodded and after a moment she managed a reply, “Ummm. Good. Fine I think.”
“You haven’t had any further nausea or dizziness?”
“Oh,” she said, realizing what he was getting at. “No, not for months now. Most things healthwise seem to have smoothed out.”
He made a soft, thoughtful noise, “Interesting. I was talking to my cousin’s son yesterday, who is here visiting from another Holding. He is also a healer, and was telling me about a case he had a few years ago, a young man of mixed ancestry – half elven and half human like yourself – who was also poisoned with iron. In his case it was accidental but like you he very nearly died of it. I believe from what Marreliyn was saying that he was exposed to a much lower amount than you were. It took him more than a year to recover, and that with regular healing.”
Allie looked down, smoothing her shirt over her stomach as she processed what he was saying. She knew of course why she’d healed faster and without too much extra help from Brynneth, but she wasn’t sure how much Brynneth knew and it made her uneasy. “I suppose I’m atypical then even for this.”
“I do not think you are actually,” Brynneth said, taking her hand and squeezing it. “I suspect you are entirely typical.”
She winced, knowing he was referencing her ability as a Bahvanshee to absorb her bondmates emotions and empower herself with them, which was the key to her healing ability. Before she could speak he was going on though, “It’s alright Allie, I did not mean to bring up anything that might upset you. I only wanted you to know that you are not alone in what you endured when you were poisoned and that, although your recovery rate may be faster, I do now have something to model it on.”
She smiled tentatively at him, relaxing slightly. “Well that is a good thing I guess.”
“I believe so,” he agreed smiling and squeezing her hand again before releasing it. “I will talk to Zarethyn about taking my leave time near to midsummer. Until then, and until Jessilaen and Bleidd return – perhaps even after they return – it would be best if you tried to rest your leg as much as possible. Sit as often as you can and elevate your ankle as much as you are able.”
She bit back the immediate retort that wanted to flow from her lips, that her job at the bookstore didn’t allow much sitting, and instead nodded meekly. She doubted she’d be able to sit much more than she already was, but she could at least agree to try and the spectre of permanently worsening her ankle injury still haunted her. From the look Brynneth gave he she doubted he was fooled by her seeming compliance, but he only sighed and stood slowly. Patting her knee he said, “I shall leave you to get some rest then and will see you next week.”
Allie nodded again, knowing that he didn’t expect more of a response and would be annoyed with her if she tried to stand to walk him out after he’d just worked on her ankle. Instead she reached for a nearby paperback, listening to his footsteps retreating down the hall and then the distinct sound of the front door closing. A moment later her fairy hound, Luath, who had been banished to the kitchen during the examination, appeared trotting cheerfully over to Allie. The hound who was just over a year old now was a large and well grown animal but still had the energy of a puppy.
Luath nudged Allie’s shoulder with her muzzle then licked her cheek, eliciting a giggle from the prone woman, before the hound settled down on the floor, stretching out along the length of the couch next to Allie. Allie stopped reading for a moment to reach down and pet Luath, delighting in the softness of the hound’s fur and the happy rhythm of her tail against the hardwood floor. “Well puppy,” Allie said relaxing back into the cushions, “Everything’s looking good so far. Now it’s just you and me until Jason gets home from work. I think an exciting afternoon of reading is in my future.”
Luath’s tail thumped against the floor again, then she yawned and laid her head down on her paws, closing her eyes. Allie sighed, glad for the hound’s company but still missing her spouses, then resolutely focused her attention back to her book.

4 Weeks Before Midsummer

Allie turned at the sound of the door opening, startled. Hannah, Jason, and Shawn were all at work and she was alone in the house, slowly working her way down the hall with a broom, Luath anxiously pacing around her. Her first thought was that it was strange that the fairy hound hadn’t barked and then the door was swinging open and Bleidd and Jess were stepping in. The two stood side by side for a moment, both in the green tunic and black cargo pants that were the uniform of the Elven Guard but otherwise very different. Jess’s light blond hair was pulled back in the braid of the Guard with military precision, everything about him projecting solidness and professionalism. Next to him, taller by slightly more than half a foot, Bleidd’s black hair was in the same braid just as precise yet it managed to look like it was moments from breaking free, and despite the uniform and badge Bleidd still managed to have the air of someone up to something questionable.
As the two stepped into the house Luath gave a pleased yip, but stayed where she was near Allie. Allie, for her part, dropped the broom which hit the floor with a thump and then hobbled as quickly as she could manage over to her two lovers. “You’re back!”
They both smiled at her, their feelings swirling around her and blending with her own happiness. She hadn’t expected them for another week at least, and felt a wave of relief and joy seeing them now. Jess’s eyes sparkled in delight as they walked down the hall to meet her, “We decided to surprise you rather than tell you when we were sent back early.”
“I am so glad you’re back!” Allie said, shamelessly pulling both elves into a tight embrace and burying her head against the wall of their torsos. Their arms came up around her back, and she relaxed into the safety of their presence, smiling as they each slipped their free hand forward to stroke the hard bulge of her stomach. In response their son kicked strongly, the motion rippling across her abdomen and she laughed out loud, “I guess he missed you guys too.”
“I sincerely hope he doesn’t decide that kicking is an appropriate greeting after he is born,” Bleidd quipped, and she drank in his happiness until she felt giddy.
“We are glad to be back as well my heart,” Jess said, his tone serious, pressing his hand firmly against the baby’s movement.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to be home for another week? Not that I’m not thrilled,” Allie said, still smiling widely.
“Indeed,” Jess said, pulling her a bit closer, “However Brynneth talked to Zarethyn and suggested that it would be better if we returned sooner rather than later. Things were arranged.”
“We are lucky Brynneth has as much influence with the Captain as he does,” Bleidd said dryly, but Allie could sense that he was pleased by this turn of events however it had happened.
She closed her eyes, not sure how she felt about it, however pragmatically the two elves she had married might view things. It didn’t seem right somehow to let Brynneth use his influence to pull strings for her, and she was cynical enough to realize that he must have done this so that she would be able to better heal herself, after seeing how her ankle was doing last week. She didn’t like that thought at all. And yet she couldn’t deny how thrilled she was to have them both back with her.
When she didn’t say anything Bleidd slid his hand off her back and up to stroke her hair, his voice losing its cocky edge, “Is everything alright Allie?”
“Sure,” she said, her voice flat in her own ears.
My heart,” Jess said into her mind, “What is it? What is wrong?”
She closed her eyes tighter clinging to them and responded in kind. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just tired, and tired of feeling like a beached whale most of the time. Whoever said pregnancy was a great experience was clearly delusional.”
Bleidd laughed aloud, still stroking her hair gently. “I would never compare you with a whale. And take heart babe only another month and then it will be over and you trade physical discomfort for sleepless nights and constant crying.
I doubt the baby will cry all the time,” Allie said, unable to stop herself from rolling her eyes at him as she straightened up a bit to meet both their worried gazes.
I meant you, actually,” Bleidd shot back, smirking. She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed again. Jess tightened his grip on her for a moment then leaned forward and kissed her deeply, giving her a moment where she could let herself fall into his feelings and the sensation. Even in that brief moment she drank in the feeling and felt her own energy strengthening, the pain she was feeling certainly not evaporating but noticeably lessening. Then he was stepping back, Bleidd a step behind, and she was being swept down the hallway with the two of them towards the kitchen. She struggled to keep up, feeling her ankle complaining and her back tensing. She managed to make it all the way to the kitchen keeping pace with them, but as soon as they cleared the doorway she headed for the table and sat down, ignoring Jess’s worried look.
“Have you eaten lunch yet?” he asked, going to the refrigerator. Luath trotted over to the rag rug in front of the sink and laid down with a contented whuffing noise.
“Ah, blessed human technology,” Bleidd mumbled, moving to make a fresh pot of coffee.
“Not yet,” Allie admitted to Jess, then to Bleidd, “Are we missing our coffee?”
“Coffee, cars, central heating,” he agreed with a sigh, joining her at the table and leaning over to slide an arm across her shoulder, predictably tactile after weeks of separation.
Jess shot him an amused look even as he began pan-frying chicken cutlets at the stove. He said, “He has mentioned the coffee almost daily this last week.”
“Well that’s what you get for abandoning me to go running off to join the Guard,” Allie said, the joke coming out more sharply than she’d intended.
Jess turned and busied himself at the stove as Bleidd stiffened next to her. “You know that isn’t…that was never my intention.”
“I meant that as a joke,” Allie said, the sudden sharp tension in the room making her head swim. “Even if it is true in a way. I know you didn’t abandon me exactly, but you did choose to rejoin the Guard knowing it would mean these assignments. I’m never going to like that.”
“Never going to like that I rejoined the Guard or that I go out on assignments now?” he asked leaning his head on her shoulder.
Jess was watching the conversation play out surreptitiously over his shoulder, but had wisely chosen to stay out of it this time. Allie appreciated that since she had grown tired over the last few months of Jess’s attempts to advocate with her on Bleidd’s behalf. Maybe it’s time we have this out she thought to herself, reaching up to stroke his cheek. “I am glad that you are so much happier. And I am very glad that you are both home now and will be home until after the baby is born. And believe it or not Bleidd I am glad that being in the Guard hasn’t changed you, that so far you are still the same person I’ve always known you to be. ”
At the stove Jess snorted loudly, but still didn’t say anything. Allie took a deep breath then went on, “But it is…enormously hard for me to have you both gone. And you knew before you chose to do this that it was going to be hard for me and you did it anyway. And I think part of me is still angry with you about that, for choosing your own happiness over my…needs. But I also think maybe I’m being selfish feeling that way, so I’m kind of torn on the whole subject. I’m mad at you for leaving but I’m also mad at me for needing you to be here.”
He sighed, his breathe shushing out across her skin, then moved quickly, sliding his arms around her shoulders and under her thighs and smoothly pulling her into his lap. She let out an indignant squeak, her arms flying up around his neck reflexively. He held her, cradling her body against his torso, his face inches from hers, his green eyes locked with her blue ones. “I did not do this to choose my happiness over yours Allie,” he thought to her seriously, his sadness wrapping around her, “I did know that it would mean us, Jess and I both, being separated from you for short periods of time. Short. But I knew you could pull energy from the two of us when we are together even if you are not with us. I thought that would be enough while we were away, and you know well enough that I don’t hesitate to have my way with Jess at every opportunity while we are gone.”
She smiled at that even as Jess turned from stove smiling fondly and said, “I might disagree about who is having whose way with who, but we can discuss that later,” before turning back to his cooking.  
Bleidd leaned forward and kissed her, his lips brushing against hers like a promise. “I didn’t anticipate the situation being as complicated for you as it is. I am sorry for that. I also had thought, hoped, that we would not be sent out as often or for as long into the Holding but would remain here most of the time. But I will not regret knowing that my honor has been fully redeemed, that this child will have fathers he can be proud of and a sure path to follow in the Guard if he wants it. Nor can I regret the security my income gives you.
You know I don’t agree with the elven idea that your money belongs to me just because you’re my husband,” she said, but it was a reflexive reply, deep down she was wondering now how much of his choice had to do with trying to match Jess in some way with her or in the eyes of a child that hadn’t even been born yet. Oh Bleidd she thought careful to shield them both out of her mind I wish you could see that you aren’t competing with anyone for me, and I can’t imagine that this baby would have loved you less if you were still dispatching taxis then if you’re gone for weeks at a time with the Guard
“Nonetheless,” he whispered aloud, the words nearly against her lips, “The money is yours, ours, and it puts us in a much stronger position. I hated seeing you always worrying about bills. Now you have no need to worry, and whether you like it or not my income and Jess’s belong to you for as long as we are wed. By the Law. And you can’t try to argue with me about helping you or being too generous, because it’s your money by the Law.”
“You are devious,” Allie said, genuinely impressed that he’d tricked her so thoroughly and she hadn’t figured it out on her own. She had been aware of course that their pooled income was considerably higher than hers had been alone, and what Bleidd earned as an adept mage in the Guard made both her income and Jess’s look like pocket change. But she had just assumed that sharing their resources was what married couples – or in this cases trios – did. And since they traveled sometimes and she had the most familiarity with the human world and paying bills it had only seemed logical for her to handle all the finances; she had seen it as a logical division of duties not as her traditional role in an elven household. Or considered that they believed the money was hers…
He grinned from ear to ear and his pleasure at this success rolled over her, until she decided she needed to take him down a notch. Or at least try to. “Does this mean I should be giving you a nice little allowance? Some money to play with since you’re such a good husband?”
Bleidd blinked slowly, momentarily speechless. At the stove, now cooking mixed vegetables in the fry pan, Jess burst out laughing. Allie giggled, drinking in the lighter emotional atmosphere and enjoying it. Bleidd finally recovered, arching an eyebrow at her, “Should I be filling out requisition requests when I’d like to buy something?” He slid his hand up her arm, caressing across her collarbone, “Or just ask really nicely when I’d like a treat?”
Jess laughed harder, snorting in his amusement. Allie could feel herself blushing, “You are incorrigible, you know that?”
“Don’t blame me,” he said innocently, “I’m just trying to find out how this allowance of yours is going to work.”
“You know I view it as our collective money, not my personal money,” she said, resisting the urge to give in to his teasing, even though she'd started it. She shifted slightly in his arms as her back cramped painfully, trying to ignore it.
“You’re no fun,” he said, tracing his finger up from her throat to her chin.
“Also,” Allie said, biting at his finger when it came close to her mouth. “Getting back to who is having their way with who - for the record, I am clearly the one having my way with both of you.”
Bleidd kissed her again then said, “Exactly as I like it.”
Jess joined them at the table, setting a communal plate of food down and handing out silverware. Allie felt herself fully relaxing for the first time in a long time, still sitting in Bleidd’s lap. This is good she thought. Everything is always better when we are all together.


Allie opened her eyes to darkness, stretched then winced as her back complained rapidly followed by her hips. She tried to close her eyes and force herself back to sleep but it was quickly apparent that it was a lost cause. Next to her Bleidd and Jess slept deeply, their even breathing the only sound in the quiet room. Trying not to wake them Allie slid to the edge of the bed and carefully levered herself up, hating the awkwardness of late pregnancy that made the simple movement so difficult.
The sky outside the window was a flat black and a glance at the clock showed it was only just past midnight. She repressed a sigh, shifting again as her back cramped. She’d thought she’d gotten used to the myriad miseries of pregnancy but after trying to actually take Brynneth’s advice and sit most of the day before she’d found herself suffering from muscle cramps in her back and sides all evening. Her bondmates had tried to help ease things but she’d finally just decided to suffer in silence since her discomfort was upsetting them and she didn’t want to ruin their time together. They’d only been home for a few days and she was still reveling in their presence, she didn’t want anything to detract from that. And now she thought rubbing one gritty eye with her hand I can’t even sleep. Ugh. Well if laying down isn’t going to help then I may as well get up. I can take Luath for a walk. Maybe moving around will do the trick.
The fairy hound had been oddly clingy after they’d retired to bed until Allie had finally, reluctantly, banished her to the hallway to get some peace. As soon as she opened the door she found the hound lying across the threshold; Luath looked up immediately, whining slightly, her black eyes searching Allie’s face.
“Come on puppy lets go for a walk,” Allie whispered. The hound got up at the words and moved so Allie could get out of the room but she didn’t lope ahead as she usually did when the word ‘walk’ was mentioned, instead staying close to Allie. The half-elf walked carefully, one hand on the wall, feeling off balance and grumpy. Going down the stairs she kept one hand on the wall and the other on Luath’s back, her bad ankle a sharp pain with each step and her back still cramping off and on as she went. She felt utterly miserable, and reconsidered the idea of a walk. Maybe I could get a fire going instead and sit in the living room and read Allie thought. Sitting seems like a much better plan than a long walk, or even a short one. And a fire in the fireplace would be nice, even this time of year.
Making up her mind she reached the bottom of the stairs and hobbled across to the entrance to the living room, but on the threshold she lost her balance, slipping and stumbling gracelessly to the floor. Luath yipped in concern, nudging the fallen woman in the side with her nose. Flushing in embarrassment Allie braced her hands on the floor and pushed up trying to get back to her feet. Halfway up she felt a gush of warmth and wetness on her legs, soaking her clothes from the waist down, and Luath yipped again, then whimpered. She staggered to her feet, her mind trying to process what had just happened. There was a low click as a door opened a few feet away.
“Allie? Are you okay?” Hannah asked, poking her head out from her room, midway down the hall.
“Ahhh,” Allie mumbled, feeling panic starting to rise as the full implications hit her. “I think my water just broke.”
“Oh!” Hannah said, stepping out into the hallway and towards Allie. “Okay. It’s okay. We need to call your midwife. And, um, your elven healer friend.”
“It’s too early, it’s too soon. I’m not due for weeks yet,” Allie said, thinking she might cry, and of course almost immediately she had both Bleidd and Jess’s sleepy voices in her head, worried, asking her what was wrong.
“How many weeks are you now?” Hannah asked, frowning. She reached Allie’s side and reached out, taking her wrist and pressing her fingers over the pulse point to take Allie’s vital signs. Even in the middle of the situation, with another cramp – no Allie realized another contraction - rippling through her sides she was still amused by the way Hannah immediately went into nurse mode without even realizing it.
“Um, a little more than 36 weeks,” Allie said, the sound of two sets of feet on the stairs heralding Bleidd and Jess’s arrival.
“That’s fine honey, that’s not too early,” Hannah reassured her. “36 weeks is considered full term even in mixed species births.”
As Bleidd and Jess hit the bottom of the stairs and turned, getting tangled up in each other as they tried to reach her, she grabbed Hannah’s hand, “Have you ever delivered a baby before?”
“Relax Allie, take a deep breath,” Hannah said, her voice calm and reassuring. “This is your first baby, you’re probably going to be in labor for awhile. But if it comes down to it yes I have delivered a baby before, so don’t worry. You’re just lucky I’m home tonight and tomorrow was my day off.”
“Honestly I’m kind of just glad you’re home and Jason and Shawn aren’t. I’d never hear the end of this from either of them.” The two women exchanged a smile, Allie squeezing Hannah’s hand gratefully.
Bleidd and Jess had joined them, Luath pressing against her legs and hips still whining, and for a moment she was totally overwhelmed by everyone else’s emotions. “Okay,” she said, shaking her head. “Jess please call Brynneth and Lauren. Bleidd can you get Luath outside? Hannah, what should I do until they get here?”
The two men rushed off as quickly as they’d arrived, earning a wry look from Hannah before she answered Allie. “Right. Let’s get you out of this wet tshirt first. How far apart are the contractions?”
“I don’t know,” Allie said, shivering slightly. “I didn’t even know I was having any, I just thought my back was cramping. Like regular muscle cramps.”
Bleidd reappeared and before he could more than open his mouth Hannah turned to him and said, “Run up and get Allie something clean and dry to wear.”
He disappeared again, dodging back up the stairs, and Allie smiled, “You’ll have to forgive him, they’re both pretty nervous about this.”
“And you aren’t?”
“I’m still in shock that its actually happening.”
Jess was there a minute later, and Hannah turned to him with a business-like air, “Right, why don’t you take Allie into the shower and help her get washed off. Just a quick wash. I’ll have Bleidd clean up the hallway and I’ll get things ready just in case things do happen quickly.”
Jess nodded, reaching out to take Allie’s arm, “Brynneth said he will be here within 20 minutes. Lauren is out on a call but I left a message for her.”
“See Allie?” Hannah said. “20 minutes and the cavalry will be here.”
Allie nodded, smiling weakly. She knew Hannah was right that this was probably going to be a long process but her head was spinning by how quickly it all seemed to be happening. Feeling overwhelmed and unprepared she let Jess lead her into the downstairs bathroom, strip off her clothes, and get her quickly in and out of the shower. He tried several times to ask her how she was doing but she could only keep repeating that she was fine; in truth she was in a daze. She still didn’t feel the expected painful contractions but just a steady cramping in her back and sides.
They emerged from the shower and Bleidd was standing there waiting with a dry oversized t-shirt. She slipped it on after they’d toweled her off, not even complaining at the way they were trying to do everything for her. Their fear and concern was like a physical presence around her.
They stepped back into the hallway, Bleidd on one side Jess on the other, and Allie stopped abruptly. Jess spoke first, his voice worried, “What is it?”
She didn’t answer him, instead looking for Hannah, “Wait a second please. Hannah?”
The nurse popped into view almost immediately from the kitchen, “What is it?”
“I feel weird,” Allie said, trying to focus on slowing her breathing.
Hannah jogged over, frowning, “Weird how? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Allie said, feeling as if her body was betraying her. “Like, like I need to lay down, like right now. Its…its like pressure. A lot of pressure.”
“Pressure where?” Hannah said her voice sharp.
Allie gestured down at her thighs, the feeling overwhelming now. She was already trying to sit, only Bleidd and Jess on each side holding her up.
“Okay let’s get you into the living room-“
“No,” Allie said, her own voice firm. “No, I need to lay down now.”
Jess and Bleidd’s panic was overwhelming but she couldn’t argue with what her body was telling her. She had to lay down. Had to. Hannah stepped forward, reaching out and wrapping her arms around Allie’s torso. “Hang on Allie, just a second. One of you guys grab some towels quick. Good. Lay a couple down on the floor. Okay, help me get her down.”
Allie was barely aware of the towels beneath her as between the three of them the nurse and the two elves got her laid down on the hallway floor. She felt her knees pulling up towards her chest reflexively, Bleidd taking one hand, Jess the other, one on each side. Hannah knelt down between her legs, then glanced up, her face calm, “Well it looks like this baby doesn’t feel like waiting for the professionals. I need someone to grab me another towel and some twine, and something sharp, a knife or scissors, quickly please.”
For an instant the two elves hesitated, then Jess was in motion, running to get what Hannah needed.
“What going on? Is he okay?” Allie gasped out, still caught in the strange feeling of pressure and need.
“Everything’s fine honey,” Hannah said, still calm, her hands cool against Allie’s thighs. “The baby’s crowning. A couple more good pushes and he’ll be saying hello to everyone.”
Allie could feel tears tracking down her cheeks, but she wasn't upset it was just that the whole situation was surreal. She squeezed Bleidd’s hand hard and he leaned forward kissing her forehead and whispering reassurances. Jess hurried back, joining Hannah with the things she’d asked for. Hannah was focused entirely on her work and Allie sent up a silent prayer of gratitude for her roommate’s presence and skill. A moment later Hannah was turning to Jess who was kneeling next to her, “Okay, I need you to help me, he’ll be out with the next push and I need you to hold him, carefully, he’ll be slippery. Just do what I show you. I have to tie off the cord and then cut it, okay?”
Jess looked at her wide eyed but nodded. Allie closed her eyes, the sensation of the baby’s body sliding free of hers making her gasp and leaving her feeling momentarily hollow. Then Bleidd was whispering in her ear again telling her how beautiful the baby was and it pulled her back to herself. She forced her eyes open, unsurprised to see both Jess and Bleidd crying. Neither of them had ever seen a birth before and the experience had clearly touched them deeply. Then Hannah, who was grinning fiercely was laying the baby, bundled in towel, onto her chest. She started to panic, afraid because he wasn’t crying, only to look down and find her son’s unfocused eyes blinking up at her. He made soft cooing noises, his lips pursing, one fist free of the towel opening and closing as he tried to sort out what to do with his fingers.  
“Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed?” Hannah asked, busy doing something between Allie’s legs. Allie was a bit oblivious at that point, but she knew there was still the placenta to be dealt with and she trusted Hannah.
“I’m going to try nursing,” she said, captivated by the baby’s gaze. His eyes were a cloudy blue green and he had a halo of dark blond hair, already drying and starting to fluff up off his head.
“You should put him to the breast soon then,” Hannah said.
“Is Allie alright?” Bleidd said, clearing his throat as he spoke, his emotions for once obvious to everyone.
“As far as I can tell,” Hannah said. “No sign of excessive bleeding. She looks good, but of course she’ll need to be checked.”
“And the baby?” Allie asked.
 “Baby looks great. I’d guess around six pounds which is a good size for 36 weeks. He’s breathing fine, color's perfect, very alert. For someone that couldn’t get here fast enough he seems ready to take on the world.”
“Have you chosen a name for him?” Jess asked, his eyes shining, his delight swirling around Allie. Next to her Bleidd’s eyes reflected the same feeling even as he reached out a tentative hand to caress the baby’s cheek.
“Kionan*,” Allie said, softly, as Hannah finished up dealing with the afterbirth. The name resonated through the air as she spoke it, and it felt right, down to her bones. She watched both elves repeating the name, their faces momentarily solemn before the joy broke through again.
There was the distinctive sound of an Elven Guard car pulling up out front and for a moment they all looked at each other, pulled away from the spell the baby cast over them. Then Allie gave the group a lopsided grin, “I think Brynneth can let himself in.”
Some of the residual tension went out of the air and Hannah laughed, sitting back on the floor. Allie found a laugh bubbling up as well, and her eyes went back to her son, even as around her Jess and Bleidd started talking over each other about the details they would have to handle, the preparations left undone in the nursery, buying diapers, clothes, all the things they’d thought they still had a month to prepare. Behind her the door opened and Brynneth hurried in then stopped short at the unexpected sight of Allie on the floor with the newborn, only to have Hannah and Jess start talking simultaneously trying to fill him in. Bleidd next to her began stroking the baby’s soft hair, then her hair, and muttering to himself about stubbornness and impatience being inherited traits.
“Welcome to the world Kionan,” Allie whispered down at her son who was still looking up at her as if he knew exactly what he’d gotten into.

*Kionan – pronounced Keenan