Tag Archives: fairies

Paștile Blajinilor (The Easter of the Gentle People)

This first story is about what we would call here (Romania) Easter of the Gentle People. Gentle as in nice, kind, you know? And one week after Orthodox Easter, uh during the first Sunday, people come out, out of their homes, and they go in the fields and spread uhhhh eggs and they try to make as much noise as possible because apparently they say that there is such a people, the gentle people, that lives in an unseen area. And these people are incapable to harm anyone. So all the, the whole country, this is a umm I don’t know, this is present everywhere in the country, not only in one specific area. So the only problem that they have is that they cannot calculate the date of Easter. So that is why people must make a lot of noise to signify that this is finally Easter day. In Romania it is called Paștile Blajinilor. It means gentle, kind, nice, sweet. 

Background: This informant has lived in Romania their whole life and is very interested in the folk traditions of various countries. They found this piece of folklore from other people in Romania.

Interpretation: This tale shows the blending of religious tradition with folk tradition. The tradition of Easter Sunday is blended with folk belief about fairies in order to create this holiday. The reason that the gentle people in the story cannot calculate the date of Easter could be connected to how in many tales about fairies, time moves differently in the land of the fairies than on earth. This may be the result of christianization of local folk belief in fairies in order to show that even they believe in Easter and affirm Christianity.

The Ielele

The second story is about some uhh formidable female creatures that are called the Shees. It is kind of a plural but in Romanian, instead of saying she and the plural is they, you make a strange plural in Romanian too. In Romanian it’s Ielele. And these are fantastic female creatures that on the night of June 24th, which is Summer Solstice, come out of nowhere, out of thin air and dance. And dance is extremely beautiful, and uh all people are forbidden, they are not allowed to see this dance. Of course, following to this interdiction, everybody wants to see this dance. So people go out into the woods, and crazy people try to see the dance of the Iele, but if they see, they go crazy. And these ieles are very nice creatures except for this sequence, the dance sequence. But if you bother them and don’t respect them and don’t show them admiration for their fantastic beauty, although you are not supposed to see them dance. They will come and bring water from the fount. And the first person that drinks water from the fountain after the Iele will drop dead. So people take very great care on the night of June 24th umm, somehow ambivalently to see the ieles, but not see them dance and not make them upset, but thinking of them in very nice terms. And again they have another name, also very nice in Romanian. They are called either the Iele or sânziene which means, it’s the name of a flower, a yellow flower called in English Sweet Woodruff. 

Background: This informant has lived in Romania their whole life and is very interested in the folk traditions of various countries. They found this piece of folklore from other people in Romania.

Interpretation: The connection between these spirits and the Summer Solstice shows a way of marking the passing of time. The Summer Solstice could have been chosen as the time for this event to mark the change of seasons. The tale also ascribes power to these women who can use magic to deal with any men that bother them. This phenomena could be due to the incredibly hot and muggy nature of the Romanian summers. People could have retreated to the forest for shade, and potentially hallucinated or tried to make sense of something that happened. Sunstroke may also be a reason for the association with death and madness if you witness the Ielele. The informant and I both believe that this story is a way of making sense of nature in the blistering heat of mid-summer. More info on the Ielele can be found at (Mafa, A. (2021, November 4). Ielele, the magic beings of the Romanian folklore. ImperialTransilvania. https://www.imperialtransilvania.com/2021/11/05/read-more/argomenti/events-1/articolo/ielele-the-magic-beings-of-the-romanian-folklore.html)

The Desk Fairy


LC: In my class, we do the desk fairy. So, she sometimes comes if your desk is really clean and she leaves you a treat. The, so what I do is not, I don’t do it regularly. I probably should do it more than I do. Um, but my students are in first grade, so they have some responsibility for their belongings. Um, they know that they need to, you know, keep their desk neat. They know if they don’t have a pencil that they can always get another one. But if you got one this morning, you really should be able to keep up with it for the day. Um, things like that. And our school specifically requires them to be ready, respectful, and responsible. That is our like mantra or whatever every day. And so one way that I teach responsibility is that you have to keep your desk clean. And so a few times a year, I probably should do it like monthly, but you get busy, you forget. But a few times a year I will go through, especially like maybe right before a day when we’re gonna be gone for a week or more. And I don’t want ants and things. Um, I will tell them to clean their desk out, like on a Friday or whatever. And then I go through after school. And if it’s clean enough to my standards where I feel like they can find everything, stuff’s not falling out of their desks, they don’t have trash in it. Then I give them a little treat. Sometimes it’s like this year it’s been little Smarties, you know? Um, they get that on a note that says that the desk fairy visited them. Um, and so it’s really fun to do it. Like the first time you do it, it’s really fun to have, like, almost everybody get one. Cause then they know what’s at stake. But then like as the year goes on, I might walk around the room and only, you know, six kids really have neat desks. And so they come in that morning and like those six kids are super pumped that the desk fairy visited them. But the other kids they’re like, Hmm. And some kids really don’t care and they’re like, my desk is gonna be a mess all the time. And then other kids they will actually clean their desk that day and hope the fairy will come right back and leave them something. So it’s just kind of a way to teach them to keep their space neat and just reward those that all always have their stuff together.

Me: Where did you get the idea for the desk fairy from?

LC: I think it originally, I think maybe I heard it from a, a colleague or a friend or I saw it like on Pinterest or something. Um, or Teachers Pay Teachers. The, the little note that I stick on it is from Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s like, it was a free resource that somebody posted. I know that it’s something that I had growing up. I think a couple of my teachers did it over the years.  

Background: LC has taught first grade in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia for seven years. She graduated from the same school district that she now works in. Teachers Pay Teachers is an educational resource sharing website. 

Context: This story was told to me over a phone call. Analysis: This immediately reminded me of another classroom tradition I collected, the leprechaun that visits on St. Patrick’s Day. However, I found it interesting that the Desk Fairy doesn’t have a specific time associated with her arrival. L said that the fairy often comes before a break, or when the classroom is getting particularly messy, but the continuation of the fairy tradition is ultimately up to the teacher.

Knocking on Wood

Main Content:

M= Me, I= Informant

M: So you said you grew up with a lot of fairy folklore?

I:  Yeah, um, you know like the knock on wood, that’s the most common one.

M: so what’s… what’s the background behind that? What happens if you don’t knock on wood? You know, why is it knock on wood?

I: Well knock on wood, uh you do it when you say something like that might not happen. Like uh  let’s so you want to get a good grade on a test and you are like “I.. I’m pretty confident, like, I’m gonna ace this test,” then you knock on wood. *knocks on wood* Sorry I shouldn’t have done it. *both laugh* You knock on wood because fairies live in the wood

M: Uh-huh (In agreement)

I: And if they hear you saying something that you want to happen, they’re gonna make it not happen.

M: Ohhhhhh, okay. That’s cool.

I: ‘Cause like fairies used to live in trees and stuff, so you would like, so it would… it would be like outside kinda stuff. 

M: Yeah

I: But since we don’t see trees *laughs* a lot anymore. It’s just become any wood. 

Context: Her parents passed this folk practice to her by simply doing it around her and when she asked why, they told her it so that the fairies don’t stop good things from happening. She was very little when she first learned this so she did believe in this initially. But even though she continued the practice as she grew up, she did not continue truly believing that the fairies were responsible.

Analysis: Given how prevalent fairies are in Scottish and Irish, it makes sense how her parents would pass down this practice to her. This is quite a common practice in the US and even if people don’t fully believe in it, they may do it in order to ‘not risk it’ or even to comfort others fears who do believe in it. This is common with many superstitions as while there may not be scientific evidence to support a superstitions, people still ‘believe’ in them or ‘don’t want to risk it’ because we learn beliefs from those around us. This practice is also consistent with other/earlier portrayals of fairies as they are often portrayed as mischievous creatures in lore and not the sweet and fragile creatures that has been popularized by the media, particularly by Disney.

Fairy Circles

Main Content:

M= Me. I= informant

I: And then fairy circles. As a kid I was never allowed to walk in fairy circles.

M: I don’t know what a fairy circle is. What is that? 

I: Yeah, so you know, um when you see like those rings of mushrooms

M: Uh-huh (in agreement)

I: Or just like a patch of grass that’s dead in a circle

M: Yeah

I: Like those are called fairy circles. And um, I don’t know a lot about the background, but my parents always said like if you stepped in one then fairies would come and like replace you with a fairy

M: Ohhhhhhh, okay. Like a changling?

I: Kind of, yeah.

M: Okay

I: Or, or they just kidnap you. In general. Not even…

M: Okay, not even changed, just take you away *laughing*

I: Yeah

M:Do you think it came from you mom’s side? The fairy stuff? Or from a mix of the two

I: Um, I think *sighs* I think it was a mix of the two. The Germanic stuff was always scarier stuff

Context: She said that it was a mix of both her parents who passed this down to her, which makes sense given that her mother’s Scottish side has a strong history of fairies, while her father’s side has a history of scarier child tales or teachings(German) thus fairy circles would be a good mix of the two. While she no longer believes in them today, she still avoids what are deemed ‘fairy circles’ out of habit, for entertainment, and as a reminder of her parents.

Analysis: This depiction of fairies is consistent with the other lore I’ve read about fairies wherein they are mischievous creatures that will take power if given the opportunity. In this instance, by stepping into the fairy’s territory, you are giving over dominion by being on their ‘turf’ and thus they can snatch you. Additionally, with many other pedagogical teachings in folklore this has the consistent theme of kidnapping, which we have seen used throughout various cultures to steer children away from doing certain things or going to particular places.