It was thought that if the fern seed was gathered on the eve of Midsummer and mixed into a salve with which to anoint the eyes, then you would be able to see straight into Elphame, or the Land of Faeries. If you were diligent enough to mix this salve at the exact moment that St. John himself was born you would also be able to walk about unseen, invisible to the rest of the world.
(It was also believed that if one were to look through a holed stone during the Summer Solstice that one could view Elphame).
Faeries, or the Good People as they were known (as the Irish liked to bless all that they feared harm from), are said to be of a middle nature between Man and Angel; Intelligent, studious Spirits, Faeries come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Some live remotely in lakes or trees, others live in large groups under hills or in forests and some live in houses, unseen by day. Sheerie are tiny creatures with light changeable bodies (like those called Astral) so pliable that they can appear or disappear at will, while Grogochs are generally larger, about the size of a small child, and covered in coarse reddish hair or fur. Some faeries were considered helpful and generous and others were mischievous and even vindictive.
Good faeries were abundant, especially in the home. Of all the Irish faeries, the Grogoch is perhaps the most sociable to humans. One might even attach himself to a certain individual and aid in their planting, harvesting or other domestic chores, to the point of becoming a nuisance. Excessive generosity towards them will be unappreciated, and in fact may drive him away forever. A jug of cream is the only recompense he will accept. Above all, the Grogoch is a tireless worker and cannot tolerate human laziness, so he might rouse you from a Sunday morning sleeping in, or continually poke you when taking a break from your chores.
Bad faeries exist as well who would eat children who play too close to the edge of the river or linger too long in the woods at night .Changlings steal babies from cradles leaving behind either one of their own kind or a roughly carved doll. Banshees are restless spirits who follow those with pure Celtic blood, to warn them of death with her wailing keen. You might be led astray by Pixies unless you carry some Rue in your pocket. Or turn your jacket inside-out, which should keep you from harm's way, as will crossing a stream of 'living' water.
Most commonly though, faeries do whatever they please without any thought for the human world. A human may observe their revels, perhaps even join in, but the faeries do what they will, and selfishly, their own enjoyment their most primary concern. Faerie hills are said to open and reveal faerie courts or wild parties; Faerie parades have been observed marching about the countryside; Wayfarers have been seduced by faeries and kept from their families for years. Faeries can be wicked, willful creatures, easy to anger or offend. Nevertheless, they too can be good-hearted and genial, asserting their spirit through beautiful music, love of sport and revelry.
We'll dance and then feast in a dairy.
Though youngest of all in our good band,
You are wasting away, little fairy.
(from The Fairy Pendant By W.B. Yeats)
(The pics are the work of artist,Rhonda R. Napoleon and the subjects are members of the Skyline Forest Faeries & Guardians of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.)