Fairy Foods: What DO Fairies Eat? Fairy Cakes & More
According to Celtic lore, you must NEVER take food from a fairy or while traveling in fairyland. Else ye be stuck there forever! But what if we want to appease the faeries living in our own homes? Or the fae in our gardens? Follow us on a journey to the enchanting realm of the fae and learn what foods and libations they most prefer, according to tradition, and our modern take on ancient recipes. Including a clarification on fairy bread, fairy cakes, and much more!
First, What is Fairy Food?
You might notice if you type “fairy food” into your Google machine, it comes back with a cornucopia of frilly, froo-froo fairy cupcakes, children’s birthday cakes, and other nonsensical sprinkled fodder. But here’s the truth of the matter, fairies might like anything sweet, but fairy food is actually food that’s traditionally fed to or provided to us by the faeries in Celtic fairy tales, folklore, and oral tradition. You might have also noticed the cook (Mr. Kobold) and kitchen witch (Mumma Kitty) at the Otherworldly Oracle Kitchen don’t just believe in the fae…they know them…intimately.
Keep in mind, it truly depends on the type of fae what fairy food they prefer. Not only the type of fae but also the region and the people living in that region. We will explore folkloric fairy food offerings from the British Isles, Ireland, Central and Eastern Europe.
A List of Typical Fairy Foods:
- Honey cakes
- Fresh Fruit
- Meats (sometimes – depends on the fairy)
- Salt (VERY rarely – depends on the fairy. Read more under Russia below)
Fairy Food Across Europe
There are many similarities across ancient cultures, regions and modern lore from the British Isles all the way to Eastern Europe. But don’t let the similarities fool you into thinking a kobold from Germany likes the same food as the Slavic Domovoy. ALWAYS do your research before attempting to offer fairy food to the fae themselves! While the Domovoy enjoys offerings of salt, many other household faeries steer clear. Some are even warded off by salt.
In Ireland, the fairy faith has continued for centuries. Some folks leave offerings for their household faeries, while others still acknowledge the trooping fairies that ride by their homes on the high holy days. According to Edain McCoy in A Witch’s Guide to Faeries, fresh butter is a preferred food, especially in the Spring. I’d venture to say the fae would enjoy herbed-butter with fresh rosemary and thyme. Add saffron to nearly any fairy food and they’ll rejoice! McCoy also states to give the fae a little of each of your sabbat feasts AND the last fruit of any harvest from your garden. In addition, leave some food behind following your full moon esbats.
Nearly every Celtic fae enjoys fresh fruit, specifically apples. The apple is a fruit featured frequently in Irish Celtic mythology, particularly on Immramma (journeys) to the Celtic Otherworld. It is an otherworldly, enchanted fruit that often heals and provides vitality to weary sailors and heroes. In the ancient tale of Cian’s Son Teigue, the fairy queen Cliodhna offers Teigue and his men sustenance from a magical apple tree. She tells him this sacred tree “sustains us all”, which we can assume is the faeries and all elemental creatures on her island in the Celtic Otherworld. The apple was brought to this earthly plane from the other realm. Who knows if that was intentional, for the seeds do contain a tiny bit of poison – hydrogen cyanide.
Milk is a traditional fairy food in nearly every region and culture. It seems to be ubiquitous in the fairy faith. Interestingly, in milk we find a story of the fairies giving humans food. Once there was a fairy cow, an otherworldly cow given to Ireland by the faeries, that produced a limitless supply of milk. But the fairy cow was specifically given to the people to help feed the poor. Unfortunately, the people took advantage and eventually the fairy cow was taken away because of their greed and gluttony. But fairies will ALWAYS enjoy a cup or saucer of milk from us. (Summarized from Lenihan and Green’s “Meeting the Other Crowd”).
NOTE: Any food left out over night is now in the fairies’ domain and MUST NEVER be consumed after!
Britain: Fairy Bannocks and Cream
In Cornwall, it’s said to never scold a child who has spilled the milk. The people see it as a gift to the faeries. Hence comes the renowned phrase, “don’t cry over spilled milk.” You shan’t cry if it appeases the good folk! In Scotland, an ancient dish called bannocks is a common fairy food offered to all types of household spirits, trooping fairies, and the like. The household Brownie is known to adore this oatmeal flatcake. Throughout the Isles, it was traditional to set a bowl of cream or milk on the windowsill or doorstep for the fae. But it was crucial to never watch for the fairies to come around. Else you anger them. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
What Fairies Eat in Eastern Europe & Russia
We know that fairies are worldwide. And Eastern Europe and Russia are no strangers to the wee folk. They just have different names and temperaments.
In Latvia and Estonia
In Latvia, Christmas is a big deal. And has been for years. A tradition of the elders in a family placing a pig’s head, beer and bread in the bija (barn) for the master of the house is still a practice for some. This takes place on Christmas Eve to appease the Majas kungs (masters of the house). There is some speculation as to whether the masters of the house are actually ancestors, spirits of the land or fairies. But, then again, you’ll notice a lot of blurred lines with the spirits and wee folk in nearly every culture.
In Estonia, the people feed a piece of bread and drip a few drops of water or wine onto the ground for the “invisible spirit”. In many cultures, giving the fae folk a bit of whatever meal they’re eating was common place in the old days.
Fairy Food in Russia
Just as dairy is a staple food in Ireland, it’s also a staple in Russia. And when the fairies are feeling extra mischievous or have been angered, they tend to mess with the peoples’ dairy supply. Which, as you can guess, causes some distress. The fae will spoil milk, ruin the butter, and are even prone to stealing cheese and yogurt. They’ve been known to do this in other countries, as well. (Mr. Kobold himself has been known to pocket a wheel of gouda, on occasion.)
The Domovoi, the “one of the house” in Slavic cultures, is one of the exceptions to the salt rule in fairyland. He is much pleased when given offerings of bread, beer and salt. Remember how we said salt is a rare fairy food? Not for the domovoi! We suspect though that this may have to do with his true origins, as he is an ancestor of the family’s. And while he may appear to be one of the fae folk, he may truly be an tutelary spirit crossed-over to fae. Remember! He doesn’t appreciate foul language at the dinner table and MUST be provided regular offerings to keep him happy and encourage him to do his duties. Which are protecting the family and house, and providing prosperity and health.
Food Offerings to Appease the Fae
If you decide to invite a faery into your home or garden, the first thing you have to know is they LOVE offerings of food and drink. Regular offerings, mind you. I don’t think our resident Mr. Kobold would have stuck around in our humble abode if it wasn’t for the weekly meals, desserts, and libations we’ve offered over the years. YES it’s like feeding another member of the family! Particularly when it comes to household fairies like kobolds and brownies. If you can’t offer regular offerings to your household fae, it might be best to steer clear of inviting one inside. The garden variety of fae require less care and feeding.
Depending on what type of fairy you’re honoring will define their preferred offering. Do your research first! We have quite a bit of info on fairy foods and what fairies like to eat here, but it would take an entire book to list all of them. So read and research on your own, too. Just to be safe. You don’t want to turn your Scottish brownie into an angry, violent boggart because of the wrong food offerings, now do you?
RULE: NEVER EVER try to catch your fairies in the act of partaking in your offerings! This is a rule across the board in fairyland and will likely anger your fairy. Many will simply take the offering and leave, never to return to your home or garden. While others will be angered and turn into a pesky, sometimes aggressive spirit.
Modern Fairy Cakes and Fairy Bread
Fairies love eating sweets, particularly little cakes, breads, and cookies. But just because something has the word “fairy” before it online, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a traditional fairy food or offering. Fairy cakes and fairy bread are two examples of this. Fairy cakes are actually a smaller British version of the American cupcake. They also don’t have buttercream frosting like in the U.S., but more of a glaze icing instead. And much less of it. The cake itself is also a spongier texture than the American cupcake. Do the fairies appreciate a tasty fairy cake of this kind? Absolutely! But it doesn’t mean that it was once a traditional fairy food, mind you. In the same breath, any small cake made specifically for the fae is technically a fairy cake!
As for fairy bread, again fairies love baked goods. So any bread you make or provide with intention to them, they’ll appreciate. But fairy bread of the modern perception is an Australian concept. It’s essentially sliced white bread, coated in copious amounts of butter and covered in “hundreds and thousands”. Or what Americans call sprinkles. It’s frequently provided to children at birthday parties. It’s truly fun to make!
Herbal Teas for the Fae
Something we’ve found to appease the fae folk and amplify our intentions here at the Kobold Kitchen is herbal teas. The garden variety of fae aid in growing herbs so why wouldn’t they enjoy drinking an infusion or two? In addition to offering the tea, drink your own cup to aid in visionary journeying to fairyland. Here’s a few herbal teas that increase psychic abilities and ease in trance-like meditations:
- Hawthorn leaf and berries
- Elder flower and berries
Add a little local honey to your herbal tea. Bees are friends of the faery folk, after all. And honey is an ancient elixir of life. Drink your tea before bed to dream of the fae or receive messages from Elfland in your sleep. Mugwort specifically helps in increasing your dreaming abilities. Always be careful before consuming any herbs…consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting an herbal regimen as some herbs can interact with medications and with other herbs too! In addition, make sure you don’t have an allergy to an herb before consuming an entire cup.