Midsummers Eve: a Tale of Fairies and Belief
A night when magic abounds, darkness is kept at bay, and the fairy world is close at hand; Midsummer's Eve is simply enchanting. Since I was young, Midsummer, or summer solstice, has been my favorite holiday. I read all the folklore to be found in my school library and as a result became fascinated with the fairy stories of magic and mischief; particularly the happenings of the longest day of the year. Stories of changelings, of fires burning on the moors to keep the spirits at bay, the opening and crossing of the fairy realms, held me captive in the throes of imagination. These fairy stories have spread around the world each weaving into the hearts of traditions that span time and geography. For one night each year, bonfires blaze around the world, some with a single guardian others with a multitude of dancers and jumpers that brave the height of the flames.
At the tender age of ten, I imagined myself something of a writer and was determined to write the next great fairy story. My cousins and I held regular writing meetings, where we would set a time limit for our writing and then take turns reading what we had written to each other. I remember several times where I would be lying in bed at night when inspiration would strike, I would climb out of bed to find my notebook and pencil and curl up in the window seat to write fairy poetry by the light of the moon (because naturally fairy poetry cannot be written under any other circumstance).
Around this time I became fascinated by two things in the realm of fairies. The first discovery was the flower fairy illustrations and poetry of Cicely Mary Barker. An enchanted year passed with me attempting to draw like Cicely. I would copy pages from her books and then stand for hours with my pages taped to the window tracing each fairy down to the minutest details, after which I painstakingly colored in each one. These tracings are some of my childhood treasures and I find that I still remember tidbits about the different flowers each fairy represents and the legends of treasures and healing.
Second was when I watched the film FairyTale: A True Story. I rented it from my trusted local video rental store (the days of VHS!) and was entranced by the story of the Cottingley fairies and the two young girls who captured images of fairies that caused uproar in the rational world during the early twentieth century. Thus armed with a disposable camera, and only twenty-one exposures, I set out to capture the fairies I knew existed in our garden. I put almonds and berries out to lure them in to place as I crouched behind bushes, camera at the ready. As they continued to elude me, I built houses for the fairies from large maple leaves and little sticks, fashioning furniture with a bit of twine and the twigs. While never caught with the camera lens, the evidence was real to me. Tiny nibbles from the berries and the occasional fluttering of something from the corner of my eye. Coercing my friends to join me in the vigil, especially each year on midsummer’s eve.
While I still believe in fairies in the garden, my fairy fascination now manifests in the of planning a yearly midsummer’s party. These parties have taken different forms over the years. As a child they were somewhat informal with me and my childhood friends having a picnic in our cotton nightgowns and building fairy houses out of leaves and sticks hoping to catch a glimpse as they rush by. As I grew older, I felt the need to pass the ever vigilant fairy love onto my younger cousins and nieces and now plan the evening with them in mind. We make our flower crowns and build fairy houses. We gather leaves and place them under our pillows to dream of the ones we love the most. Several years ago, my father built a maypole that has become integral to our celebrations as we dance and weave to the music of nature and midsummers.
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