Somebody asked me yesterday if I believe in fairies. The simple answer is, yes, I do believe in fairies. But I'm really not sure what they are.
I have heard them described them as elemental creatures, nature spirits or beings from another plane or dimension. They could be any of those things, or they could be powerful psychological archetypes created through imagination by the collective unconscious of the human race since tales were first told around the fires of our ancient ancestors.
I believe in fairies because I saw them. OK, maybe "saw" isn't exactly the right word. I didn't see any tiny figures with wings and gossamer dresses, or ugly little men wearing red hats sitting on toadstools, but I did experience something that fits in with many descriptions of fairy encounters.
It happened about 10 years ago. A friend and I went to a witch camp one summer in a forest. Every morning we woke to dabbled light filtering down through the trees; every day was a series of workshops, meditations and rituals, every evening was dancing and drumming and storytelling around the campfire.
One morning, the itinerary involved a fairy meditation in a little glade a short walk from the main camp. There were about 20 of us involved. We meditated and some of us felt we had gained some interesting insights, but I don't think any of us really saw fairies. Not then.
Meditation over, we were supposed to head back to camp for lunch and then a talk in the afternoon from an eminent witch. Everyone went, except me and my friend.
For some reason, we decided to stay in the glade for a little longer. My friend had brought a flask of tea and some jammy dodgers and we thought we'd stay there and have a picnic rather than eat veggie slops served up from the camp kitchen. We decided we'd head back after eating to take part in the afternoon activities.
So we drank our tea and ate our biscuits and gradually became aware of just how lovely the glade had become. Motes of dust danced in sunbeams, every leaf was verdant, every twig seemed outlined in golden light. Outside the glade, spiders webs covered everything in a myriad strands of silver silk. We couldn't hear sounds from the camp at all, just the birds singing and, for some reason, we got up and danced around the glade to their song. It was all so perfect, and so beautiful.
Then we realised that much more than an hour had gone by. The sun was setting, it was getting dark. The entire day had passed, but it had seemed like hardly any time at all. It was also getting cold. And scary.
We were both suddenly completely convinced that unless we left the glade right then, we might not be able to find our way back to camp. We picked up our things and ran, and we were very pleased when at last we saw the light of the campfire and heard the sounds of the others laughing and telling us how silly we were to miss the talk from the eminent witch.
I didn't tell them I disagreed. Eminent witches can be heard talking quite often compared with encounters with fairies.