At 3:30 pm on a bright June Wednesday, I found myself sandwiched between two six-year-old girls in fairy wings to whom I was distributing tubes of glitter and Elmer’s glue. Silence took over, and I felt awkward, like I was on a failing date. “So,” I said to the child to my left. “What’s your favorite part about Fairy School?” She ignored me in favor of uncapping each tube of glitter and pouring the contents into a pile. Had she not heard me? Did I say the wrong thing? I turned to the girl on my right. “And what do you like about Fairy School?” I asked. She began applying the glue and then the glitter to her hands. No response from her, either.
Maybe the answer should have been self-evident. The Fairy School, an after-school program for children (and sometimes adults) located at the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Brooklyn, is dedicated, according to co-founder Elyssa Jakim, to fairy energy—“impish, playful” behavior is exactly what these children are learning, along with wand-making, plant magic, and spell-casting.
Jakim, a 27-year-old shamanic healer and Harvard graduate, sees fairy lore as of a piece with the millennial passion for astrology, tarot, crystals, and other forms of New Age spirituality. “I think there’s really a space for a belief in something deeper than our human experience, especially in a big cultural capital like New York, where a lot of people don’t have set religious beliefs,” she told me before my visit. “We’re looking for something authentic.”
Jakim, Lisa Levine, and Lyndsey Harrington formed the school on a retreat last year in upstate New York, which is, according to Jakim, “a place that’s said to have a lot of fairy energy.” Jakim explained that Doreen Virtue’s Fairies 101 inspired her to head into the woods and ask the fairies to work with her. “I call the fairies into my life, and then two days later I meet Lyndsey, who’s grown up her whole life doing stuff with fairies, so I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I met a fairy guide!’”
As a child in Melbourne, Australia, Harrington, 24, the sprightly co-founder of the school, attended fairy events. Her memories of a now-defunct Australian fairy school, a space full of fairy teachers in elaborate regalia and “amazing little trees you could climb,” shaped her identity. “I never stopped believing in fairies,” she says. “It really worked for me—being in high school, and still believing in fairies. I was kind of a freak, but I had amazing tools for support and healing.” Harrington studied herb lore and healing as a teenager, and, in 2013 founded Moon Church, a community of self-identified witches.
That afternoon, Harrington was in charge, though in charge may be too strong a phrase—wearing a floral chiffon robe and a pink-flower crown, she coaxed the children to take breaths like a whale, and breaths like a dolphin, and then, as per a student’s suggestion, breaths like an acorn.
While the arts activity wound down, two children, wearing floral crowns and fairy wings, conducted a healing ritual. After inviting a third instructor, Ally Roberton, to lie on the floor, they pressed red glitter onto her face, spritzed the air with rosewater, and tapped a singing bowl. Roberton left the glitter on her face for the next hour and a half.
Letting the children do exactly as they please is an essential part of the curriculum, said Harrington. “As kids we are so open, and as adults, we tend to get more and more cynical and rigid in our belief systems.” At the Fairy School’s first adult workshop this winter, which was attended by women ranging from their mid-twenties to late fifties, Harrington said, “everyone came yearning for that magic that they felt like they were in touch with as children.” After making crowns and donning costumes, the women participated in a guided meditation. Harrington recalled the magic of the workshop: “I felt like we entered a different time space.”
The fairy ethos may be trickery, but the Fairy School is sincere. With its feminist and environmentally-minded approach to spirituality, the school is an offshoot of our generation’s focus on allowing for complexity, on intersectionality, on growing the humility necessary to put others, and the world, first. The best way to bring the magic into your life, said Harrington, “is to spend time in nature, and to allow yourself to really connect with the natural world, since that is the domain of the fairy.”
As the session comes to a close, the room becomes somber. A good thing, too: a woman conducting a three-hour hypnosis next door had desperately urged us to keep quiet. The fairies formed a circle, and began to sing: “I behold you, child of the earth and sun.” The parents arrived, just in time for us to vacuum up the glitter before the room’s next occupants—Alcoholics Anonymous.
And where to go from here? How to make space for the fairies beyond Maha Rose? Jakim considered the question for a moment. “Just let go,” she said, “however possible, suspend disbelief, so just start talking to them, and see what happens. Why not? It might make you feel a little goofy, and that’s all part of it.”
Photography by Molly Dektar.
Molly Dektar is from North Carolina. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn.