Generally considered to be any of a number of beings—ranging from hobgoblins to pixies—that live in a world apart from humanity, it is also said that fairies are a specific race of beings, the last of the original Irish Tuatha de Danann, the people of Dana, who once ruled Ireland but took up residence in Tir Na Nog, the magical otherworld, when they became dispossessed of their ancestral lands. Tradition has it that Midsummer, between June 20 and June 29, is a time when fairies—whatever their true nature might be—are easy to be seen.
Because fairies exist in another world that only sometimes merges with ours, they are best seen on Midsummer when time itself merges—twilight and dawn—when it is neither light nor dark, day or night. Picking a place to see them that is neither here or there—on a river bank, or a lake shore, at a clearing in a forest, in the shadows of a great tree—is traditionally considered wise.
Oaks with hollows have long been known as fairy dwellings, and trees such as alder, holly and willow are also favorites of the otherworld. It has been said that the wind in the willows is literally the sound of the otherworld.
If you have a stone with a natural hole in it (a hag stone), bring it with you, these stones are legendary for helping humans see fairies. Midsummer is the perfect time to use it.
Rings of mushrooms (toadstools, elfstools, fairycaps), as well as rings of obviously darker grass, are both good and bad to see in the area. These fairy rings, or fairy courts as they are known, are where fairies traditionally dance; seeing one means you are in the right place to see fairies, but at the same time these rings can be dangerously perilous—anything from a lifetime of bad luck to being taken bodily away result from even accidently stepping in one, unless you wear a four leaf clover, or carry one with you.
Having found the right place, and coming at the right time, do not guarantee success, however, even at Midsummer. Traditions claim that you must charm and lure these magical folk into view. The easiest way is to play a flute or the pipes—all the natural folk love those sounds. If you are lucky, you will be able to hear them playing along with you after a while. If you are very lucky, you will also hear them accompany you with bells and haunting whistles as well as echoes of your own playing.
There is a folk spell that exists for seeing fairies on Midsummer. Before dusk on Midsummer, gather fern seeds, apple tree bark, quartz crystals (some sources just say stones), primroses and foxgloves. Make a crown of the foxgloves (sometimes known as fairy bells) for your head, make a circle of the crystals/stones and sit inside it. As the sun goes down prepare a fire from the bark and light it inside the circle, eat the primrose (considered a vegetable in Medieval times) and place the fern seeds on your closed eyes. Open your eyes and soft focus around you as the sun sinks and night comes up. Look for the fairies. Do not leave the circle or remove the foxglove crown, however, or you will be spirited away forever, whether you see any fairies or not. In Finland, Midsummer-gathered fern seeds are said to merely transport the wearer to a place where will o’ the wisps (sparkling fairies) show off their golden treasure, but unless you are willing to chance Finnish fairies coming upon you, stay as protected from otherworld kidnapping as possible. Fairies aren’t known as friends to mankind.
And yet, fairies and mankind are always drawn to each other, particularly at Midsummer Even Shakespeare acknowledged that fact.