I've been working my way through Christopher Penczak's book The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft; this month, the third month of lessons since I started the book with the new year, is focused on the Lower World. Among other exercises such as finding your 'power animal,' (which I find I have to put in quotes because it doesn't seem like quite the right term to me), he also talks about beginning a relationship with the local fairies.
The thing about fairies, or faeries, or the Fay*, or the Good Folk, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods, is that everyone knows, more or less, what they are, but no one can quite define them. I suppose that's appropriate, given their in-between nature. They might be nature spirits, the dwindled remains of former Gods, the Dead, all of the above, or something else entirely.
One thing that does seem to be agreed-upon, however, is that they have an aversion to iron. I have always taken this to mean that iron is a symbol of civilization and of mankind's determination to control and subjugate nature; and so as the voice of the wild, the fairies are naturally not too keen on the stuff.
Now that leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. You may have heard (or you may not have, since I imagine a few readers will have popped over from the Pagan Blog Project page), that my father was a hoarder. A hoarder who was also a mechanic, which influenced what he hoarded. Oh sure, he hoarded the usual things, newspapers, books, and used paper coffee cups, but his especial speciality was junk cars and, guess what, iron.
My sister and I have been cleaning up this yard for the last couple of years; that's a whole other blog. Hie thee over there for the gruesome details, including a video of the yard at its worst. Oh, it was bad. Trust me.
There were piles and piles of iron here, saved against Godsknow what dark future my father feared, though, honestly, my latest theory is that hoarders believe that if they save enough stuff for 'what-if' or 'someday' then they will be prepared. And by prepared I mean they think they will be able to avoid the bad stuff, because they have something saved just for that. And by bad stuff, I mean death. I really think that hoarders, or at least my father, think that if they save enough stuff they won't die.
Anyway. We've taken lots and lots of iron out of here in the last few years. By last count, and this is a real number because I have the receipts, we've brought more than seventeen tons of iron to the scrapyard. Yeah, seventeen tons. And it's not anywhere nearly cleaned yet. There's still plenty more where that came from.
The thing about iron is that is decomposes; it rusts. So even if we were at the point where we'd taken all the surface stuff away, there would still be bits and pieces of rust in the dirt. When we rake up the debris, the more we rake, the more iron and rust we find. My father hoarded this property for something like forty years; that's layer upon layer of rust, and leaves, and dirt, and I have no idea how far down it goes.
And there's plenty of iron in the soil around here anyway, just naturally. The local mill-stream runs red, and the rocks within are coated with it. We used to have well-water. I could never understand what people meant when they claimed water had no taste; to me it was this horrible metallic stuff. Once, my father put the faucet on a slow but steady dribble, then held a magnet to the side. The water bent.
And so where does that leave the local fairies? I can't imagine that any of them are going to want to come anywhere near my yard, not for a very very long time, like decades, maybe. Or if they do, or are here already, won't they be angry, really, really angry? Not that it is my fault, and yes, I am cleaning it up as best I can, but still. That much iron is not going to agree with them; it just can't.
And so I can't imagine inviting them in; it sounds, well, mean of me. Come hang out in a place that will hurt you. That's like asking your friends over when your smoke detector is stuck on alarm mode. Ouch. Penczak does say that it's optional, and something you should only do if you feel called to it; and so I think I will hold off on it for now.
I do think the fairies would approve of the clean-up job I'm doing; but I just don't think the place is anywhere near ready yet.
*Pet peeve from a Tolkienist: fey with an E describes a certain kind of who-cares-any-more clear-sighted despair due to being near to death and knowing it, for example in the late mental state of the guy of whom was said A Túrin Turambar turun ambar-tanen; it is not the same word as fay, which is another word for fairy. Maybe, maybe, under the definition of 'displaying unearthly qualities' it could be applied to fairy sorts, but, sorry, no, it's not just another way to spell 'fay.' SO STOP IT PEOPLE.