Updated: Dec 29, 2022
I was blueberry picking around Tors Cove with my mother when I was a small child. The bushes had been picked over by people who were there before us so we had to wade deep into the brush to find the good ones. With a bucket each, our nimble fingers would pluck the berries from their stems. She noticed me wondering off toward a wooded area and yelled, “Don’t go near the woods, the fairies will take you away.”
Those horrible little fairies ruled my childhood.
“Put a crust of bread in your coat pocket” my mother advised another time when I told her I was walking to my friend’s house near a big field, “The fairies will leave you alone that way.” It wasn’t unusual to find a religious medal pinned to my night dress to ward off the fairies while I slept. My mother was big into the fairies
Why were the fairies afraid of bread? No one seems to know.
Recently I heard of a Fairy Circle located somewhere in Harbour Grace. My husband and I made the hour-long drive one Saturday afternoon. I was able to find a few pictures on the internet but no one was saying exactly where the fairies kept their circle.
We stopped so I could ask a gentleman walking on Water Street. He told me the circle is unlucky and wouldn’t tell me where it was. “If you find it, get out before it’s dark and don’t dare bring any children near it. You don’t want the fairies to take them.” I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg or not. So, we stopped into a bed and breakfast in the area and asked the owner if he knew where the Fairy Circle was. “It’s in a big field behind an abandoned farm. If you can’t find it, follow the music” he whispered. “The fairy music that supposedly lures children in to the woods?” I chuckled. “No, the Irish music from the band playing in the soccer field.” Apparently, there was a music festival on that day.
We found the edge of a big wooded field and decided to start walking until we found the circle or the fairies took us away. We ran into a group of three young girls and I asked them if they knew where the Fairy Circle was. “No” said one, “I wouldn’t look for that.” Her friend said, “be careful you can only find it if the fairies allow you to see it.” Looking back I think these were teenaged fairies sent to scare us away.
But I was even more intrigued. About twenty minutes later hubby says, “Look on top of those tall trees over there. They are beech trees!” We started to run and to my utter joy we stumbled upon where the fairies dance. It was a circle of extremely tall beech trees. I didn’t know trees grew that tall in Newfoundland. The ground surrounding it was baron as nothing can grow on fairy ground and the branches stretched out like thick arms with smaller branches with boney fingers reaching out and touching the ground forming a protective cage all around the circle. No one knows where the Fairy Circle came from, who planted it or how long it has been there. Locals believe it is where fairies have their meetings and dance in the pale moonlight. I was told by one elder the reason some people can’t find it is because it disappears from time to time. I could go back next week and it will be gone.
Someone else told me the trees were planted in a circle to protect the grave of a powerful witch. Stepping into the circle and carefully walking on the eerie ground that covers the witch’s bones sent shivers down my spine. I could feel her cold, boney fingers reaching up from the grave and pulling me down with her. Now I had wished I put my underwear on backwards to ward the fairies and witches off. When I stood in the center of the circle my first instinct was to dance. Not the Hokey Pokey but a Gaelic Irish river dance. The urge was uncontrollable and I could feel a strange energy coming over me like a soft fog lifting from the dirt. The wind picked up and blew the fallen leaves on the ground into a small tornado around my body. I closed my eyes and it felt like I was lifting off the ground. I tried to walk outside the circle to see it from a distance but there was a small gravitational pull keeping me in the centre. It wasn’t a feeling of fear or dread but peace and joy. Maybe this was why the people never came back once the fairies took them. My friend Dee warned me to “Keep some pages from the bible and coins in your pocket so the little people don't get you!” I wished I had listened. Hearing the faint trace of Irish music playing in the distance made it all the creepier. Or was it a concert? Maybe the inn keeper himself was a fairy and pointing me towards the woods because he knew my mother saved me years before and now they were getting their revenge! These are not Disney fairies.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don’t fool around when it comes to fairies. ALL of our grandparents know someone who was taken away by fairies never to return again. It’s nothing to laugh at! They all know someone who had been exchanged for a changeling too. That is when fairies might swap a perfectly good baby for a changeling, which is a sickly being, not entirely human. I am pretty sure my first child was a changeling.
Everyone in the province has roots going back to Ireland, England or Scotland and with Gaelic roots come leprechauns and little people. My mother warned me they come in different shapes and are not always little cherub children. Some are adults, glowing lights and even animals.
If you dare to head out to Harbour Grace to find the Fairy Circle remember you can’t tell anyone where it is or the fairies will come get your children. If you do decide to take your life in your own hands, remember to keep a crust of bread in you pocket, your underwear on backwards, and make sure you have a few coins in your pocket or pin a silver coin to your clothing or a religious medal and if your taking infants put coins inside their baby carriage.
Don’t talk to the locals as they could be adult fairies who are trying to point you in the direction of the wrong woods just so they can take you away. (No one seems to know where they take you to.) It must be like some big fairy Bermuda Triangle.
I will tell you that when we were leaving I could still hear the Irish music coming down over the hill and a few times I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was just a glimpse of something traveling quickly through the woods. Hiding in shadows. I turned back toward the fairy Circle but it was gone. We could no longer see the tall beech trees towering above the forest. The fairies had closed it down.
Do you believe in fairies?