A few days ago, I learned of a survey being conducted by the Fairy Investigation Society, so if you wish to contribute to this study, you can do so here, either as a first-hand observer or as someone who knows someone else who has seen a fairy. The Fairy Investigation Society’s site looks very good, so I shall certainly be studying it again in the coming weeks and months, while I had originally intended to fill out a number of their forms myself. However, I’ve pondered the matter at some length and I’ve decided not to complete the surveys, so these are my reasons for abstaining.
I personally know at least four people in Britain who have seen these beings, because they volunteered the information and told me so themselves. I’ve discussed the subject of fairies with other people, including one world-famous landscape photographer and as a result, I’ve learned of the existence of many more people in Britain who would swear to having seen fairies, elves, gnomes, pixies or some other local variant.
For my part, I once spent the best part of a sunny afternoon watching as many as 12 of these beings and no, I wasn’t smoking dope, I hadn’t dropped acid, I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t dreaming and I didn’t imagine it. I found it was easiest to see them from out of the corner of my eye, but they nonetheless had a physical reality because they appeared solid, if incredibly delicate, while I could also trace some of their movements by the way they bent the long grass while they wandered around me as I sat on a tree-trunk close to a slow stream.
In more recent times, I’ve seen what I could only describe as a giant on a hump-backed bridge, just yards away from where someone else had watched a gnome on the riverbank and in the same vicinity as where a truly monstrous ‘black dog’ had been seen. Fairies in Britain form the last great taboo as far as sightings of supernatural phenomena are concerned, because I get the impression that most people are happy to admit to having encountered ghosts, black dogs or even UFOs; the claim that someone has seen fairies, however, is likely to provoke sheer incredulity and guffaws of laughter, but a fear of ridicule is not the reason I’m not completing the aforementioned census.
Judging from everything I’ve read and everything I’ve personally experienced over the course of roughly five decades, Britain is full of ‘special places’ with auras ranging from a serene, supremely uplifting beauty to an almost tangible terror. Some of the places seem to be home to entities that are invisible to the human eye, such as the otherwise unremarkable woodland path in Everleigh where I encountered what I can only describe as a ghoul, but there are countless other special places where disembodied voices and ‘fairy music’ can be heard, as well as other locations where ghosts or other supernatural entities are seen. I have no idea what these entities are, although I’m certain there are many varieties or species of phantoms, but while I’m always interested in learning of rational explanations for these things, which are often fascinating in and of themselves, I regard them all as a source of wonderment rather than as a resource to be dissected, experimented upon, analysed and invariably dismissed.
The mission statement of the The Fairy Census tells us that it “is an attempt to gather, scientifically, the details of as many fairy sightings from the last century as possible…..” I’m sure this is a noble endeavour, but I have to admit that my skin crawls when I see a reference to scientific study and fairies in the same sentence. The supremely enlightened adherents of the new religion of Science will not so much as entertain the notion that a single one of these sightings are genuine, so I simply don’t see the point in spending 30 minutes or so filling in a form and thereby giving them yet more material to dismiss out of hand.
Whatever the true nature of these ‘things’ that so many of us have encountered, Britain is home to otherworldly creatures that I assume must have been a part of the living landscape for thousands of years. There are many animals such as foxes, badgers, hares, snakes, otters and birds of prey in our fields, woods and waterways that are actively demonised and harrassed by a large section of modern society, so I have no wish to play any part in adding fairies or black dogs to the woeful list of indigenous British creatures whose habitats are threatened by the continuing encroachment of civilisation.
The survey aims to measure contemporary attitudes to fairies, but I would imagine that most people either believe in them or else they don’t, although in all fairness I wouldn’t blame the legions of doubters for a moment for not crediting the existence of such astonishing entities until such time as they’ve seen them for themselves and even then, it’s hard to take in the evidence of one’s own eyes.
As for attitudes towards fairies, contemporary or otherwise, the most insightful observation I’ve ever read on the matter comes from Patrick Harpur in his excellent book Daimonic Reality. He noted with regard to supposed Golden Ages in belief in fairies that UFOs are always coming, coming – but never here, whereas fairies are always going, going – but never gone.
“Anno 1670, not far from Cirencester, was an apparition; being demanded whether a good spirit or bad? returned no answer, but disappeared with a curious perfume and most melodious twang. Mr W. Lilly believes it was a fairy.”
From Apparitions, 1696, by John Aubrey.