Is it feasible to go searching for fairies? Many authorities on the subject say not. Janet Bord, in Fairies- Encounters with Little People, wrote that:
“Very often, people who see fairies come across them suddenly and unexpectedly; certainly they are not thinking about them at the time of the encounter. It may be that a certain detachment of mind may be a prerequisite to having what is clearly some kind of psychic experience, and the lone traveller is well placed to be in a receptive condition.” (p.35)
Seventeenth century antiquary John Aubrey agreed with this modern opinion. He wrote in his Natural History of Wiltshire that:
“indeede it is saide they seldom appeare to any persons who go to seeke for them.”
The fairies choose whether and when to reveal themselves to mortals, appearing and disappearing at will.
In light of these comments, it’s very interesting to note an aspect of supernatural belief from the Scottish Highlands. A very useful charm against fairy magic is the herb called mothan in Gaelic (pearlwort), but for it to be effective it had to be gathered “gun iarraidh” (‘without searching’- literally, ‘without asking’). Another authority on Highland folklore confirms this, recording that another plant used to protect livestock from fairy blight, St John’s Wort, had to be picked whilst repeating the following charm:
“Unsearched for and unsought/ For luck of sheep I pluck thee.”
Lastly, Cornish fairy writer Enys Tregarthen, in her 1911 story Hunting Fairies, indicates that a human will never find pixie gold by deliberately searching for it. Having failed to locate treasure by watching for pixies digging, her character Carveth throws away his pick axe carelessly. He is told to dig wherever it happens to fall- and by this means he finds a crock of coins.
What can we learn from these scraps of information? As we know very well, the fairies are a secretive and private people who don’t like to be intruded or spied upon. We can’t petition them, praying for them to give us things or to make our wishes come true. They may choose for their own reasons to do this for those they decide to favour, but they aren’t to be begged or imprecated. They are in control, over those whom they help and those to whom they reveal themselves.
It’s all about luck, therefore. Randomness rules. If you hunt them- they’ll elude you; if you take what comes- you may be rewarded.