Saturday, May 11, 2013


Fairy gardens were a topic of discussion at last week’s magical chat session, so I want to expand on some of the things we talked about.  Because a lot of fairies are attracted to things that sparkle, it is fun to work shiny objects into your garden décor.  One idea is to tie beads to the branches of a favorite bush or small tree.  Note that the Pomo Indians of California gave beads as offerings to nature spirits.  (I’d have to check my sources, but I think sometimes they’d scatter the beads, and sometimes they’d tie a thong with a few beads on it to the limb of a tree.)  Some Eastern woodland Indians referred to beads as “Manitou berries."

Of course, many common items of garden décor, such as twirlers, sun catchers, wind chimes, and wind mills incorporate shiny features.  Those large garden balls, called gazing globes or reflecting globes, are said to enhance a garden’s fertility by reflecting multiple images of its vegetation.  I think they go back to the Renaissance, and although their intent may have originally been purely decorative, the magical applications were quickly recognized.

Shiny objects also bring “the flash of spirit” into your garden.  This is an important feature of African-American “yard shows” (and grave decorations), because it acknowledges the world of spiritual power, while also invoking its protective influences.  (Refer to Robert Farris Thompson’s book, “The Flash of Spirit.”)  I get into some of these concepts in my magical chat for July, when we explore “The Magic of Shining.”  Shining/sparkling qualities are often characteristic of glamour bombs, which are performative art objects created to re-instill the world with a sense of possibility in fairy magic.

Speaking of performative actions, to delight the fairies, you could think about putting on some sort of music or dance or other type of performance while you’re spending time in your fairy garden, because as the naturalist poet Gary Snyder has observed, “Performance is currency in the Deep World’s Gift Economy.”  Anthropologists apply the term “gift economy” to certain gift giving traditions and exchanges within certain types of cultures: in a gift economy, one doesn’t expect immediate reciprocity, yet there is an understanding that the gift creates a bond, and can also be part of a cycle of exchanges (paying it forward) that generate over-all well being.

The Deep World includes spiritual and metaphysical entities and forces, as well as the denizens of Nature, and one can cite numerous cultural practices of putting on performances to honor these beings.  For example, after a major hunt, some Native American groups will honor the spirit of the animal by putting on a song, dance, and masquerade performance.  However, they will also often put on performances for the Animal World and the Spirit World just because it’s the neighborly thing to do.  If we look at the lore of fairies, we find they are also deeply appreciative of performance.

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