Did you see the moon this weekend? It was a harvest moon and it was HUGE! It was one of those moons that was big, round and kind of golden with perfectly placed dark clouds passing through it. You know, a fall moon. A spooky moon. A moon that makes you think of ghosts, goblins and other absurd things. Ah, the absurd. My friend T has a favorite expression, “revel in the absurd” and that is exactly what we did this moonlit weekend.
“Chicago Pinup” by artist Jason Brueck of Alter Images (I bought that at the West Loop Art Fair)
My husband had plans to go to the Echo and the Bunnymen concert with his buddies on Saturday, so I called up T and told her to “get her pants on” because we needed to go have a spontaneous adventure.
My first thought was that we needed to find a little place to enjoy a drink and some small snacks. Maybe at an outdoor patio, so as to take advantage of the warm weather we are still having in September. Winter is coming and before you know it Chicago will be a city of unrecognizable people in ski masks and big puffer coats. So we ended up at Scofflaw, where we ordered a couple of cocktails and smothered this burrata cheese topped with olive oil, apples and pistachios all over our faces.
We started talking about movies and that maybe we should go see one later. But the only movies currently in theaters were of course those halloween-like, slasher films. Ugh fall season movies, the worst! We decided that our imaginations were WAY TOO overactive to go see a slasher film.
I mean, remember the movie Signs with Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson? You know the one about crop circles and aliens? Yeah, THAT film! This movie sat with me so much that I thought there we aliens in my home for over a week. Too much. Too much. I can’t. My brain just has way too overactive an imagination. I don’t even like sleeping without my arms and legs being tucked in under the covers (because you know, monsters under the bed and all, ha!)
So we decided going to the movies that night, was OUT. Next stop, ice cream. The closest ice cream shop was Black Dog Gelato. I had the olive oil almond and T had toasted coconut. And about 4 different “tastes” of some other gelato and sorbets. Did you know cucumber and rosewater makes a divine combination? It does. I have to figure that one out at home.
On the heels of our “oh I can’t do a scary movie” conversation, T and I started talking about something else we couldn’t do. Turns out we both couldn’t tolerate listening to crazy, scary stories about faeries or “neraides” as they are known in Greece. I like writing “faeries”, it’s so British.
Anyway, back to neraides…they are these supernatural pixie-like creatures that frequent streams, mountain forests or the bottom of trees and can take various forms. And they are mostly not good. Okay, never good. Almost EVERYONE in Greece knows someone or has someone in their family that has dealt with or seen these bizarre woodland nymphs. And it FREAKS. ME. OUT. I am not sure what upsets me more, the possibility that these fantastical creatures exist or the fact that there are people who swear up and down that they have dealt with these faeries.
Did you know that faeries apparently are non-smokers? Let me explain.
My grandfather once told me a story about his close encounter with the spritely kind. Many, many harvest moons ago, when he was younger, he went to divert some of the village’s well water to his crop of sultana grapes in the middle of the night. These grapes are specific to making raisins since they are seedless. What? I thought you would want to know. Anyway, on his way back home, a dog wearing a bell was following him. My grandfather stopped and turned around to look at the dog and it also stopped. And then it would start following him again. Stop. Follow. Stop. Follow. Again and again. So my grandfather suspecting that this was not your regular run of the mill dog, took out a cigarette and lit it. And POOF, the dog disappeared. This freaked my grandfather out. And it FREAKED ME out more when he told me the story. What on earth? Thanks pappou, there is no way I am sleeping tonight!
Apparently, a lit cigarette is the super top secret weapon to making these mischievous pixies disappear. You heard it here first folks. Now why he had to go “water his sultana grapes” before the butt crack of dawn is beyond me. My mom claims it’s because farmers would water their fields at night when it was still cool. Watering crops during the day was a no-no. The sun would make the water too hot and ruin the crops. Well, that’s great, but when faeries and disappearing dogs are lurking, it seems a bit risky. Don’t you think? Forget logic!
Which begs the questions, “Where have all the neraides gone?” I know you are singing that last sentence to Paul Cole‘s “Where have all the cowboys gone?” Aren’t you? That’s okay, I am.
T thought it was a valid question and so we made an attempt to ask a reputable source, a Greek in Greece, since they are apparently all experts in faeries. We wanted to know why there weren’t any documented faery encounters in modern times. Of course, it was the middle of the night in Greece and we would have to wait until the next morning to find out via WhatApp. Hopefully, our source wasn’t on a middle of the night grape watering project or collecting honey from mountain forests. Eeek!
The next morning, T and I went to Lula Cafe in Logan Square, because that is what I do every weekend, and she told me that her family had a similar story as my grandfather’s. Apparently, her grandmother’s brother was walking alone at night, smoking a cigarette and guess what? A bell wearing dog was following him. What??? I know crazy. Is this the national pixie story of Greece? Does this particular pixie prefer to transform into a dog? Who can say. But in this version however, the dog transformed into a more recognizeable faery and told him, “Good thing you have that cigarette.”
Come on! Stop! I can’t anymore!
Everyone in Greece acts like these faeries are bad news, but so far it seems that they are all anti-smoking champions. Well, our Greek source was no help. They still believed in neraides and wasn’t sure where they were hiding. I offered that perhaps the faeries had enough of Greece’s #1 past time of cigarette smoking and moved to another country that had tougher anti-smoking laws. T suspected that they were perhaps in hiding in this modern age because faeries feared being captured in a picture on someone’s phone who would subsequently post it to Instagram. Well I know I would.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted an answer to why no one had a modern pixie story. So I asked my mom. And her thoughts were that old world peoples, our elders, were much more innocent and kind hearted than people of today. So only the innocent would be able to see such things as faeries. And today, society is not so innocent, even evil at times, so the faeries fear us and stay hidden.
I have to say, while I think this whole pixie business is bunk, I think there is some hidden wisdom or symbolism in my mother’s words. Think about how man has poisoned the streams these faeries are supposed to frequent. Think about how many trees and forests man has destroyed. The mystical essence of Mother Nature is continually being damaged. Am I getting too deep? Maybe. But I think you know what I mean. Maybe there is a message to be found here.
After lunch, T and I met up with another friend of ours E at the West Loop Art Fair. As we strolled up and down the art exhibits in the blinding sun, we asked her if she had heard any stories about faeries on the Ikarian island where her family is from. She said, “No sorry. Ikarians were too Communist to believe in faeries.”
So there you have it folks, neraides are apparently afraid of cigarette smoke and communism.
True story. Do you have any tales of old world faeries? Tell me in the comments.
Have a great week everyone. 😉