Water Fairies

(Extract from Working With Fairies)

Every body of water, from the smallest stream to the vast ocean, has its own protective fairy, living below the surface. In Wales, fairy maidens called the Gwragedd Annwn dwell beneath the lakes. They are exceedingly beautiful and occasionally venture ashore to take human lovers and husbands.  One such Lady of the Lake, called Vivienne or Nimue, appears in the stories of King Arthur, supplying him with Excalibur, a magical sword from the Otherworld.

The sea is as densely populated with fairies as any place on earth. In its depths dwell mermaids and mermen, nymphs, and others. These spirits control the weather and the water, raise storms, and have the power to cause shipwreck, or keep a ship safe. In ancient times, it was the practice to placate the spirits of the sea with a sacrifice before setting out on a voyage.

Like the sea, many sea fairies are personified as lovely and seductive, but treacherous. The best known of these is the mermaid. It is possible that the legend of the mermaid has its origins in the goddesses who rose from the sea, like Venus/Aphrodite, or the fish tailed Atargatis and Derceto. The sea is associated with the Great Mother Goddess whose names include Maia, Mary, Mara, Marian, Maria, and Miriam; all names derived from a root word for sea. Sea goddesses are usually also goddesses of love and the moon, drawing the tides, rivers, dew and flow of human life. Ancient mariners would have a tattoo of a star to honour the goddess Venus as they steered by her star. She was also the prototype of the ship figureheads.

Some water fairies are unfriendly and dangerous. Jenny Greenteeth lives in the River Ribble in Northern England. When green weeds wave in the flowing water, it is a sign that Peggy is lurking beneath the surface, ready to take another victim. She haunts the stepping stones near Brungerley and every seven years claims a human life by grabbing some hapless traveller and pulling him beneath the water to drown. Children are warned not to go near the water, or Jenny Greenteeth will take them.

Jenny is only one such fairy. Another is Peg Prowler who haunts the River Tees. She is also green with long hair and sharp teeth. If people wade in the water she pulls on their ankles and drags them down to drown. Peg O’Nell also demands the sacrifice of a life every seven years and will be satisfied with a small animal or bird, though if this is not offered she will take a human life.

 THE POWERS OF WATER

Water has often been considered to be a living thing, or certainly to have the power of sustaining, bestowing and even restoring life- as well as being capable of taking it. Every ancient society honoured springs, wells, and water sources as sacred. The Celts and others sacrificed treasure to lake and river spirits. Rivers were worshipped by the Druids and were believed to each have their resident water spirits that required sacrifices to be made to them. The  River Tweed is said to demand a yearly sacrifice, but but the Till is more voracious.

 Tweed says to Till,
"What gars ye Tin sae still?
Says Till to Tweed, "
"Though ye run Wi' speed, and I Tin slaw,
Whaurye droon ae man,
I droon twa"

Just as water takes the form of whatever it is poured into, water fairies have the power to alter their shape. If you anger them by polluting their water, they may appear as hideous green toothed hags to drench you with a sudden storm, or drown you beneath the waves. If they take a liking to you, they might appear as gorgeous golden haired youths or maids, wooing you with sweet fairy music. A 'prototype' of water fairies is the Greek sea god Proteus, known as The Old Man of the Sea who is the most masterful shapeshifter of all. He is able to assume any shape he desires. Most water fairies are said to be shapeshifters, perhaps because of the fluid and changeable nature of water itself, which is only given shape by the vessel that holds it.

Water is liquid, like the blood that flows through our veins. Water can manifest in a drop of dew, a gentle rain to the raging flood or the crash of the ocean wave. A trickle of water will eventually wear away a mountain. All life started in the rich biological soup of the oceans, just as the uterine waters of your mother’s womb protected you. It is associated with emotions and feelings, the subconscious mind. Water can be the safety of the uterine waters of the womb, the cleansing stream, the deep pool of the subconscious mind, the nourishing river, the brew of initiation, the movement of the tides and the power of the sea to give bounty or destroy with its tempest.

Water is a universal symbol of cleansing and regeneration. Some bodies of water have healing powers, like the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. Water heals; especially water that flows east to west is empowered by the rising sun at the vernal equinox, May Day and Midsummer. Any stream that runs north to south has magical properties as does the place where two streams meet; these were often the places for magic and Otherworld contact. Pools and lakes are magical entrances to the Otherworld. Where three streams meet was always considered to be a especially potent place for magic where people gathered to drink the water as it had magical properties.

Water is ruled by the moon which pulls the ebb and flow of the tides, and many water fairies are said to appear by moonlight. Under the full moon is the best time to contact them. Our bodies too respond to the moon’s tides, as they are mainly water. We are influenced by the  moon tides almost as much as water elementals, though more subtly.

Water relates to the ebb and flow of events, the natural tides of life, the emotions, love and the spiritual side of love. People with a lot of water in the psychological make-up can be idealistic, romantic, psychic, artistic, poetic, nurturing and imaginative. However, they can also be self-involved, selfish, vapid, avaricious, ruthless, indecisive, manipulative, weak, over emotional and impractical.

 

THE CORRESPONDENCES OF WATER

 Symbols: cup, cauldron, bowl of water, seashells

Colours: blue, sea green, grey, silver

Direction: west

Season: Autumn

Time: twilight

Life Tide: old age

Magical Influences: intuition, insight, fertility, divination, love, emotions

Gems: aquamarine, azurite, beryl, celestite, chrysocolla, coral, quartz crystal, moonstone mother-of-pearl, pearl, sapphire, selenite

Quality: emotion, feeling

Vowel Sound: O

Sense: taste

Key Words: culmination, harvest, flowing, nourishing, love, intuition, .emotions, feelings, intuition, compassion, empathy, sympathy, devotion, quest, aspiration, harmony, beauty, serenity, fluidity, joy.

Herbs: lemon balm, eucalyptus, gardenia, iris, calamus, camomile, jasmine, lemon, lotus, myrrh, orris, rose, sandalwood, thyme

Animals: fishes, dolphins, water creatures

 

WATER ELEMENTAL RITUALS

 Baths and Showers

You can use the power of the water in your home when you wash the dishes, or when you take your daily bath or shower. Treat it as an opportunity to attune to the water spirits and their power of cleansing.  You can stand in the shower and feel the water wash away all the stresses of the day, all the negative thought and experiences, even the pains of your body. Let them wash down the drain.

Purification Bath

1 lb salt

Few drops rosemary oil

Few drops frankincense oil

Few drops lavender oil

Blend together and store in an airtight container.

 Crystal Water

To connect with the spirits of water, strongest at full moon, place spring water in a glass jar with a quartz crystal and put it out in the light of the full moon. It must be left outside with the lid off so the moonbeams can touch the water. Take it in before the sun comes up, as you want it charged with moon energy. Drink the water [within three days of making] before undertaking meditations or ritual concerned with water elementals.

 Thunder Storm Water

Collect water during a thunder storm and use it for breaking bad luck and deadlocked situations. Drink the water and ask the storm spirits to bring you new insights in your meditation or in your dreams.

 Thunderstorm Talisman Charging

Storms are times of powerful energy. Charge any talismans you have made, particularly those made of oak, ash or hawthorn, or dedicated in the names of Thor, Thunor, Tan, Odin, Woden, Zeus or Jupiter, during a thunderstorm.

 Scrying Bowl

Scry comes from the Anglo-Saxon descry and means ‘to see’. It is a very ancient form of divination and makes use of mirrors, crystal balls or, as in this case, a bowl of water. Fill a dark bowl with water. Light a white candle so that it illuminates the water. Drop some olive oil into the water and gaze into it. Let the blankness of the water help to clear your mind. If you can manage this, images will begin to form between your mind’s eye and the surface of the crystal. The secret with scrying is not to try too hard to see images within the surface.

 Scrying with Moon and Cauldron

Fill a cauldron with water. Allow the moonlight to be reflected in it and gaze at the image, clearing your mind. Visions may then appear on the surface of the water.

Water and Wax Divination

Drop hot wax from a candle into cold water. Shapes will form; try to read from the patterns. A hand might symbolise a gift, a bird a message, a heart love, for example, but as in all these cases, use you own intuition to interpret the messages.  

Water as Trance Induction

The sound of waves rolling on the shore can help induce a slight trance state in which such spirits can be perceived. Sit quietly by the water and listen.

 The Tides

When you are working water magic by the sea, take note of the tides and work accordingly. The flow is when the tide is coming in, and is the time for magic concerned with beginnings, conception and so on. High tide is when the tide reaches highest up the beach and is the time for healing and love magic.   The ebb is when the tide is receding and this is the time for purification and banishing. Low tide is the lowest point the sea reaches on the beach that day, and this time is best spent in deep meditation. The highest tide in the month always corresponds with the full moon, and this is the best time for water fairy contact.

 

MERMAIDS are legendary creatures who have the upper bodies of lovely women and the tails of fish, though the Scots say that under the fish scales are normal human legs. They may occasionally be seen sunning themselves on rocks as they gaze into mirrors while combing their long hair. Like the Sirens, they have sweet voices and sing to lure human lovers into the depths of the waves, or to summon storms that wreck ships. The early church took a dim view of mermaids, saying that they were demons who tempted the righteous. In Irish legend, St Patrick banished old Pagan women from the earth by turning them into mermaids. The mermaid of Iona was offered redemption if she relinquished her sea home, but this she was unable to do and her tears became the grey-green pebbles of the island’s shore. Like other fairies, mermaids are said to have no souls but they can gain one by marrying a human. They make good wives and caring mothers and for this reason many men have sought them. The Clan McVeagh in Sutherland claim descent from a union between a mermaid and a fisherman. To capture a mermaid it is first necessary to secure her magic cap, her belt or comb and hide it. If she finds it she will return to the sea, which is her greatest desire. In a Scottish tale Johnny Croy got round this by contracting a seven-year marriage with a mermaid and agreed to leave with her at the end of the contract. They duly sailed away to sea after the seven years, together with six of their children, having to leave the seventh because Johnny’s mother had taken the precaution of branding it with a cross. Belief in mermaids was still widespread in coastal areas of Britain in the nineteenth century and as recently as 1947 an eighty-year-old fisherman from the Isle of Muck claimed he had seen a mermaid near the shore, combing her hair. The word ‘mermaid’ may derive from the French for sea, mer, or be a corruption of meremaid or merrymaid. It is possible that the concept of mermaids derives from ancient beliefs of fish tailed goddesses such as Atargatis, the Semitic moon and love goddess, known in Greece as Derketo, and from later forms of such deities like Aphrodite who was ‘foam born’ in the sea. Aphrodite [Roman Venus] is the goddess of love, fertility, and fair sailing, often accompanied by her sacred dolphins, Tritons and Tritonids. Like mermaids she is depicted with a mirror and comb, the Greek names of which signify the female vulva. In early astrology her mirror represented the planet Venus. Like the goddesses, mermaids are connected with love and the moon. In Tudor England mermaid was a term for a prostitute, with Anne Boleyn being characterised as a mermaid.

 

SEA MITHER [‘Sea Mother’] appears in the lore of Orkney. She represents the powers of summer and life, is the mother of all that lives in the sea and brings seasonal calm to the island waters. Her enemy is Teran, the spirit of winter, who stirs up the waves and winter gales. Every spring, at the equinox, the Sea Mither begins to battle with Teran to bring in the summer. At the end of the fight, which may go on for weeks, he is bound and imprisoned at the bottom of the sea. Then the Mither will bring warmth and growth back to the sea and the islands until the autumn, when the Teran escapes and they fight once again at the autumn equinox. This time Teran is victorious and the sea Mither is banished. During the winter, he will wreak havoc on both sea and land, whipping up storms, bringing ice and cold, and drowning the fishermen. Lying at the bottom of the ocean the Sea Mither hears their cries and waits for spring, when she will rule once more.

 

LADY OF THE LAKE is a beautiful fairy that appears in one of the Arthurian tales. She snatched the baby Lancelot from his real mother and disappeared with him into the depths of a lake where she tenderly brought him up in her underwater kingdom, preparing him for greatness. She also supplied Arthur with his magical sword Excalibur, a gift from the land of the fairy, whose sheath safeguarded its owner from harm. Some call her Vivienne, in the Morte d’Arthur Thomas Mallory called her Nimue and she has also been called Niniane. She may have been one of the Gwragedd Annwn, the Welsh fairy maidens who dwell beneath lakes in underworld kingdoms.

 

Jenny Greenteeth is a water fairy of the River Ribble in Northern England. When green weeds wave in the flowing water, it indicates that Peggy is lurking beneath the surface, ready to take another victim. She haunts the stepping stones near Brungerley and every seven years claims a human life by grabbing some hapless traveller and pulling him beneath the water to drown. Children are warned not to go near the water, or Jenny Greenteeth will take them.

Jenny is only one such fairy. Another is Peg Prowler who haunts the River Tees. She is also green with long hair and sharp teeth. If people wade in the water she pulls on their ankles and drags them down to drown. Peg O’Nell also demands the sacrifice of a life every seven years and will be satisfied with a small animal or bird, though if this is not offered she will take a human life.

The River Ribble was sacred to Minerva during the Roman occupation of Britain, and to an unknown water goddess before that, and Peg and Jenny are likely to be folk memories of this goddess. Human sacrifices may once have been made to the water deities, and this may account for predatory figures such as Jenny.

Such practices survive in folk tales, like the story of the Scottish guardian water-demons. It is said that in older times, when a castle was sacked, a crafty servant might contrive to throw some portion of the family treasure into a nearby pool. On one occasion, a diver was brought in to bring the treasure to the surface, but when he dived, he encountered the water guardian of the lake who told him to leave immediately and not come back. However, the diver disobeyed and moments after his second dive his heart and lungs were found floating on the surface of the water, torn out by the demon.

 

WATER FAIRIES

There are large numbers of water fairies around the world. These fairies are temperamental in character and can either curse with storms or drowning or bless with treasure or the power of healing or magic. The females are generally lovely and seductive, singing bewitching songs to lure young men into their clutches. However, their looks are misleading. They often want to drown the young men and steal their souls. Male water fairies are usually bad tempered and ugly with green hair, though there are exceptions.

A 'prototype' of water fairies is the Greek sea god Proteus, known as The Old Man of the Sea who is the most masterful shapeshifter of all. He is able to assume any shape he desires. Most water fairies are said to be shapeshifters, perhaps because of the fluid and changeable nature of water itself, which is only given shape by the vessel that holds it.

The Celts and other tribes also sacrificed treasure to lakes and river spirits. At the site of Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire over three hundred bronze artefacts were found including PINS and ornaments, rings and a large number of weapons including swords and daggers and tools such a chisels and awls.  The swords were either unsharpened or broken, and there was a pair of bronze shears, which would have been too soft to cut anything, the shields were too thin to be used, the spears too large, so they were clearly ritual objects. Human sacrifices may once have been made to the water deities, and this may account for figures such as Peg O’Nell of the River Ribble in Lancashire who demands sacrifices. She will be satisfied with a small animal or bird but if this is not offered, she will take a human life.

Such practices survive in folk tales, like the story of the Scottish guardian water demons. It is said that in older times, when a castle was sacked, a crafty servant might contrive to throw some portion of the family treasure into a nearby pool. On one occasion, a diver was brought in to bring the treasure to the surface, but when he dived, he encountered the water guardian of the lake who told him to leave immediately and not come back. However, the diver disobeyed and moments after his second dive his heart and lungs were found floating on the surface of the water, torn out by the demon.

Water has often been considered to be a living thing, or certainly to have the power of sustaining, bestowing and even restoring life. Every ancient society honoured springs, wells and water sources as sacred.

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