Friday, November 15, 2019

NORTH AMERICAN FAERIES, Part 1 - by Dani Harper

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
Are there faeries in Pittsburg? Gnomes in Chicago? Sprites and pixies in Memphis?


My Grim Series brings ancient faery legends to modern-day America. Storm Warrior, Storm Bound, Storm Warned, and Storm Crossed feature beings and creatures from Celtic fables and Welsh folklore that find their way to south-eastern Washington state. The fantasy stories have been a pleasure to write, drawing inspiration from the mythologies I’ve collected for many years.

The more I research, however, the more I discover that the so-called New World isn't nearly as new as we once thought, and various peoples here have been well-acquainted with residents of the Otherworld for centuries. Not as urban legends but as an accepted part of the everyday world. Here there were sparrows in the air, foxes in the fields … and faeries in the woods.

One explanation is that as immigrants arrived from Celtic and European countries, they brought their stories of the Hidden Folk with them. If tales were told of Banshees in Ireland and Black Dogs in Wales, then Irish and Welsh families in North America passed on those stories in their new homes and continued to observe the traditions associated with them. My own Welsh gramma put a gilt-edged china saucer of milk with some bread crusts on the back porch "for the faeries", and warned me about the little man who lived in the garden.

It follows that strange sounds in a strange land, peculiar occurrences and unexplained events might naturally be attributed to the otherworldly beings of familiar legends from the old country. 

There are some, however, who believe the actual creatures followed the exodus of families across the ocean. And others maintain that the vast assortment of supernatural entities were here all along, and known to the indigenous mortals living on the land.

It's important to note that the fae come in every shape and size and type, making it challenging to define them or even describe them. They may appear as tall and ethereally beautiful humans. Others might be the size of children or even smaller. Faery beings may also be ugly and misshapen to our eyes (think trolls and goblins) or be huge and monstrous creatures that defy all description.

With such a staggering variety, it’s difficult to label a supernatural experience as an encounter with the fae – or something else entirely. Still, there are numerous traditional accounts worth considering...

In Maine and eastern Canada, the Native American/First Nations tribes such as the Passamaquoddy, the Penobscot, and the Miꞌkmaq (MicMac) have an abundance of stories about mysterious small people. The Mikumwesuk are described as 3-feet tall with hairy faces, and more often dangerous than helpful. Hunters sleeping in the woods were said to risk death by having their brains removed! As most of Mikumwesuk were male, mortal women were in danger of being lured away to become wives.

The Mohegan tribe of Connecticut told of little people called Makiawisug who lived under a hill, and it was the tradition to leave offerings of food such as corn cakes for them. (This reminds me of the faeries said to dwell under mounds and hills in the British Isles, and the Celtic practice of leaving bread for them.) If shown proper respect, the Makiawisug were often helpful.

In the nineteenth century, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was inspired by Ojibway legends and mentions the Pukwudgees in The Song of Hiawatha (1855). Known to many tribes in the Great Lakes region, these small magical beings with gray skin and canine noses are said to shapeshift or disappear at will. Reported encounters even in modern times show the Pukwudgees to be violent and highly dangerous.

Staurolite or "fairy cross", a naturally occurring crystal
found in Southwest Virginia
In Appalachia, many of the early settlers came from Ireland and Scotland, where belief in faeries was well-established. Since the resident Cherokee already believed in the “Yunwi Tsunsdi” – the Little People, it was natural for these stories to blend. Still, there are abundant tales in this vast region of mortals having married faeries, and their descendants ever after having the gift of healing or “the sight”, or the ability to speak to spirits.

Faery lore is so ingrained in the Appalachians that there is even a Fairy Stone State Park in Southwest Virginia. The site is one of the few places on earth where unusual crystals known as “fairy crosses” (staurolite) are found.

This post is only a tiny sampling of ancient fae tradition in North America, and I plan to continue with this fascinating topic in future blogs. Meanwhile, it's obvious that whether these otherworldly beings exist or not, one thing is absolutely true:  Faery lore is an integral part of our collective culture!


THE GRIM SERIES by Dani Harper

The fae are cunning, powerful and often cruel. The most beautiful among them are often the most deadly. Hidden far beneath the mortal world, the timeless faery realm plays by its own rules—and those rules can change on a whim. Now and again, the unpredictable residents of that mystical land cross the supernatural threshold…

In this enchanting romance series, the ancient fae come face-to-face with modern-day humans and discover something far more potent than their strongest magic: love.


  1. Nice job. You're posts are amazing tales.

    Looking forward to Part 2

  2. Thank you! It's a subject dear to my heart.


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