Illustrations by Carolyn Figel

My Wild Weekend at FairyCon

Greetings from the Fairy & Human Relations Congress, where the fairies may be pretend but the magic is real

Stephen Marche
Published in
16 min readAug 15, 2019

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OOnce upon a time, in a bright meadow, I came upon a young woman crying to herself. She was on her knees, sobbing, folded over, her face buried in the earth. “What’s wrong?” I hurried over to ask. Her eyes flashed. She looked — there’s no other phrase for it but a terribly antiquated one — she looked like a troubled waif, blonde and tall and thin and sad-eyed. “They’re disturbing that tree,” the troubled waif said meekly, nodding to a tent on the edge of the meadow. The tent was indeed under a blossoming tree that should not have been disturbed. Then she folded herself over with her face to the earth and began again to sob. This was about two hours into my visit to the 2019 Fairy & Human Relations Congress. By its end, I would see many more women crying. They cried in the fields, alone and in groups, and under shelters of sticks in the woods, and in each other’s arms, and while remembering their psychic connections to trees, and during the Ritual. They cried most during the Ritual.

Since 2001, the Human-Fairy Congress has taken place annually at Skalitude Retreat, in a valley nestled in the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. The landscape at Skalitude could not be more amenable to fairy communion. Ponderosa pines, flitted through by spotted towhees and calliope hummingbirds and dusky flycatchers, catch and reflect light in subtle off-shades: The sage, the electric yellow of lichen, and the reddish brown of the needle carpet mix together. The trees make the thick air sweet. They creak in the wind and drop their cones after the scurrying of squirrels, and huge bees lope between asters, so the woods are full of peripheral creaking and buzzing. At night, a pack of wolves visits, howls, then retreats. It is a magical place, however you care to define that word.

I’m at the Human-Fairy Congress because I’m sick and exhausted, like everybody else. I’ve been traveling around the United States for several years now, reporting on what feels increasingly like the possibility of its collapse, and I don’t want to talk to guys who sell Nazi paraphernalia at gun shows anymore, or white separatists, or fans of hologram celebrities. The country…

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Stephen Marche
GEN
Writer for

Writer for everybody. Enemy of boredom. Books, essays, podcast, stories here: www.stephenmarche.com