Do you believe in faeries?
In my late teens, I used to believe in faeries enough so I painted a series of faerie oil paintings, all but one which have been lost or given away. My friend and I used to walk in the forest preserve and we convinced ourselves sprites were speaking to us, responding to our spells, and revealing to us their wonders.
Nowadays, I don't lend any more credence to the existence of elementals than I would to flying unicorns or the possibility of Kim Kardashian settling down and getting a real job because she finds value in a good day's work. As a card-carrying atheist horror novelist, I use fantasies of the supernatural to make a living rather than living in the fantasy that I have access to the supernatural. If anything, I have come to see magical things as improbable if not impossible. I can't dismiss or accept magick's existence; all I can say is that if magick exists, it is effectively undiscovered science. Just because my little human pea brain cannot see the pretty rainbow color does not mean the color is not there, lurking at the wide end of the spectrum beyond my scope. As it stands, I don't see those colors and therefore can no longer presume I know what they look like if they do indeed exist.
Though I have utterly renounced my belief in little magical people who live in flowers and dance in circles around patches of mushrooms, I can see why people are attracted to believing in faery powers and wearing nylon hose craft butterfly wings well into adulthood. I grew up in a demoralizing, car-choked suburb that started off as kind of beautiful in the 1970s and was progressively eaten alive by housing developments, half-empty strip malls, and desolate office parks. By 1990, my pretty town of Downers Grove was pretty much wrecked. The mysterious farm behind my elementary school where us kids made up our own Legend of Sleepy Hollow adventures was slaughtered for $400,000 executive homes. The bike trails where little boys skinned their knees popping wheelies between patches of wonderful native Illinois wildflowers died for the sake of a sprawling, shitty mall quadra-complex with no sidewalks except for the ones designed to dump customers into stores. Crossing the six lane street on foot in this complex of four unnecessary underused shopping malls is a life-endangering endeavor. The "development" of my home town continues to this day, with the last spare patches of scrubby wood sited for new housing lots even though foreclosures reign the market at an all-time high. There are no rings of mushrooms left to wonder about or untouched landscapes to inspire a Lord of the Rings type epic in Downers Grove. All that was left by 1990 was my parent's spooky backyard with its majestic oaks. Even those are going away as each gentrification-bent yuppie rips down another modest house for his latest home-equity funded five-bedroom two story with a four-car garage.
I understand people who believe in faeries because I used to believe out of desire. I would also love to jettison the strip-mall infested world I live in for a verdant, natural paradise where trees can talk and where creeks are inhabited by handsome, temperamental incubi. I want to believe but I can no longer do so in light of what I currently understand. I find it easier to make the most of the problematic world I live in rather than to forcibly cultivate the supernatural or the magical in my life. I am glad other people are not like me because things would be much more boring. If everyone were like me, there would be no faery-fests or Tinkerbell parties. Ren fair attendance would be too low to bother hosting the events.
I did spare myself one thing by giving up my faery mysticism: that special horror when a person living in a Peter Pan fantasy gets old. When the hero of the story is no longer a swashbuckling, dashing prince in a cape and knee boots but a pot-bellied, balding mid-level executive who pretends to be a pirate at weekend conventions, we're all collectively disappointed. Once the veil is pierced, there is no going back. We see the fantasists for what they are and we pity them. Like self-labeled "environmentalists" who eat meat, nothing they actually do on the literal, physical plane matches the ideals of the fantasy world they have constructed in their heads.
I don't even miss being a gothy faery teenager. At best, I was an annoying kind of cute prancing through the forest with mopey black hair and quasi-Egyptian makeup. So many of the gothy faery kids I grew up with never gave up their teenage modes of expression. You see them at Cosplay conventions and at certain bars, late at night. They're the ones in 2 millimeters of pancake makeup covering their crow's feet, half a tube of liquid eyeliner, a bustier and a stovepipe hat. It is belief that something special is going to happen that keeps them dressed that way -- becoming a mystical creature through makeup and clothing takes a lot of work! In the midst of all of the artifice, there is always the core yearning to live in a simpler, more beautiful world. As a fairy-believer, I also thought becoming the physical archetype was the key to living among the archetypes. We are always the hero of our own stories yet as a teen I took it one step farther. If only I could have walked into the mystical, magical world of my imaginings. I longed for it with every fiber of my being.
Irony gnawed at me as a wannabe mystical creature of fairyland. I pretended not to see the Dewars Scotch billboard rising above the edge of the forest preserve my friend and I walked through. I denied the existence of the ripe sewage smell and the sight of crumpled T-shirt bags when my friend and I spoke to the faeries who were surely swarming every dandelion creek. I read entire novels of prophetic meaning into my mundane dreams and planned for a "one day" when I would lord over my own mansion in a deeply forested rural outpost running a haven for seekers of the occult. Meanwhile, my ability to see the future wasn't foresight enough to avoid several toxic relationships and I never managed the simple task of avoiding automobile travel for more than a week.
I wanted badly to be close to nature, though it was not a natural world based in reality. Raised in the most abject materialism, my fantasy of back-to-nature included contact lenses, daily baths, a full stomach, and pretty dresses for my chance encounter with the fae hunk living at the edge of the stream.
Fast forward to now, where I live wholly within the realm of human artifice and have the pointy-toed slingback heels to prove it. Nevertheless, when I truly contemplate current situation in comparison to my past, I am much closer to nature now than when I was actively trying to be. I tried to commune with nature as much as a person could while not understanding my attitude, not my circumstances, was causing my separation from the natural world I longed to be part of.
I was vegetarian from about the age of seventeen and not a healthy one. I was severely anemic, which my doctor (typical of uninformed physicians of our time) blamed on my vegetarianism and not on the fact I ate the Standard American Diet minus meat. Now that I eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, anemic is the last thing I am. One of my biggest areas of cognitive dissonance and pain as a teenager was the way I viewed animals, even if I got away from carnism enough to stop eating the ones society wanted to force onto my plate. Inasmuch as I wanted to communicate with animals and be their faery-friend, like anyone raised in carnist culture, I saw them as lower life forms who weren't as "special" as I was in the eyes of the Goddess I believed in. Part of me still thought hunting was cool. Only now do I understand it is impossible to truly love animals while you are still eating them or stealing their milk or eggs. My love of animals was messed up by my daily violence towards them in the form of egg, cheese, and occasional meat-eating. I was still well-indoctrinated in the horrible system of animal factories where beaks are cut off to circumvent natural pecking behaviors and where babies are torn away from screaming, terrified mothers to become crated veal calves. For all my faery well-wishing, I was directly responsible for the mowing down of the real-life magic of the Amazon rainforest, seventy percent of which has been destroyed for the sake of meat and dairy cows. I was no better than the horrid Cosplayers who purchase Made In China plastic headbands adored with the severed, taxidermied ears of shelter cats and captured foxes in a desperate bid for sex appeal. I wish I had known the benefits of eating the herbivorous diet to which my herbivorous body is suited to. I could have avoided so much mental and physical anguish, and besides, all the elves in Lord of the Rings eat vegetables!
There is a point where I had to make the most of my modern world instead of being constantly disappointed in the world around me not matching my ancient fantasy one. The construct gets hard to keep running.
Sadly, I know of very few ethereal, magical types who have experienced the same vegan epiphany I did three years ago at age thirty seven. I see legions of would-be wizards and witches who will, this very summer, cavort at nature and music festivals for which they will require petroleum-guzzling plane tickets. They will say that they can feel the spiritual energy permeating the night air while I stay home and eat nutritional yeast popcorn with cat on my lap. They will share jokes over factory-farmed animals skewered on sticks and slathered on barbecue sauce around campfires at the very moment I chug away at a sterile, solitary, late night recording project on my computer. They will believe in magical beings blessing their thoughts when I just cannot get there anymore no matter how hard I try. They will enjoy delusions I am no longer capable of foisting upon myself even with the aid of copious alcoholic beverages.
These are people whom I like and get along with. I just won't be joining them because I no longer live in their world.