Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Making (Fairy) Tracks

By serendipity I met a friend in town on Saturday. Over coffee and an organic raspberry and white chocolate scone (still slightly warm), Mandy told me how she and a friend had been haring round Ireland on a road trip on the trail of the sidhe. Their trip took them from Tara in the east, down to Clare, then up to Carrowkeel and Knocknashee in Sligo. They took in some of the most sacred sites and amazing megaliths in the land.  But they didn't really need to stir themselves so far from Fermanagh. They are all around us here. Or maybe I am just sensitive to the local fey vibrations.

Tourists ask me if I see fairies. I answer honestly. I don't see them and I very much doubt they are very much like Mabel Lucie Atwell's vision of them.  Here is West Cavan I experience them as nature's skin turners and messengers. But maybe that's just how they want to show themselves to  me, for I have a strong suspicion that when they want to make themselves known as friendly allies they choose a form that is least threatening to their beholder. So maybe children do see Mabel Lucie Atwell creations. Musicians hear fairy music. But I have seen a hitch hiker that turned out to be a heron standing on the road verge. A local storyteller saw a bent old woman that turned out to be a hare. 'Turned' being the operative word.

I live with a man who patterns himself on St. Francis of Assisi. He routinely saves mice from the depredations of our cats. On one rescue mission it meant we had to empty a bedroom of nearly every stick of furniture, making a mouse proof run for escaping out the front door. We only had to lift the double bed under which the mouse had last been seen scampering for refuge. I stumbled and lost my grip of my end of the bed. Down it went with a bang. The mouse having started to make a break for it ran back under the bed, with the beloved verbally chastising me for frightening the poor wee creature.  I got a better grip and we lifted. A spider legged it. But no sign of any wee mousey.

Early on living in our cottage a woman whose name in Irish means little fairy told us that there was a fairy track to the west of the house. "Go dowse it for yourself," she advised. It turned out that a shed had been built on it by a previous owner. He had also built an extension to the west on the original house. Now a local man had told me that before you do any construction you should outline the building plot with string and sticks. If they remain upright overnight then you have planning permission to build.

Now the previous owners had not had a great deal of luck; we also had seemed to go from challenge to challenge. At any rate, my beloved took a notion to tear down the shed, which was no thing of beauty. He wanted to put in flowers and a rambling rose over the willows. I had already erected what I call the Prayer Cairn in that section of the land.

And lo and behold, our luck changed.

True story!

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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Sunday, 06 September 2015

    I LOVE your story of taking down the shed and luck changing. I sometimes feel like the Lone Ranger for believing in stuff like that, so I really appreciate it when other people talk about it. It's also a good reminder for me to check my environment to see if something needs shifting. I'm going to ask the faerie queen to point out any changes needed for my luck to improve. Thanks so much for being you!

  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith Monday, 07 September 2015

    The local tradition I was told, Francesca De Grandis, is that it is usually unwise to extend a building to the west. A neighbour said that to get fairy 'planning permission' to extend in that direction you need to outline the building plot with sticks and string. If they are undisturbed than you have permission and are not going to cross a fairy track. If they are disturbed, just don't do it!

    Likewise, in this neck of the woods people can be surprisingly accepting but not precious about fairies. On a recent walk, a farmer from Fermanagh who is also a devout Anglican, asked me quite seriously if there were fairies in the Cavan Woods forest. I said, yes, and he asserted with neither a nudge or wink, but quite seriously that they had them to in his locality. Just as with the Holy Spirit, folk here just know there are fairies.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Monday, 07 September 2015

    Thank you for that. I enjoyed reading the details of your local lore, it resonates with me. And, yes to the local easygoing attitude; I was raised to be very matter-of-fact about otherworldly matters, but not in a way that I lost my sense of their wondrousness. They were just part of life. I'm so grateful for my mother.

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