I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
— Mary Oliver, from The Summer Day
Now we approach the magical threshold between the birthing energies of Spring and the maturing and ripening of Summer. Summer Solstice beckons in all its lush splendor! What Summer fruit will our Spring planting bear?
The Summer Solstice is one of the most important and widespread solar festivals, observed throughout (and probably predating) human history. It marks the time, in the Northern hemisphere, when the Sun reaches its zenith and gives us the longest day of the year. Summer Solstice is the annual peak of power, light, and the flourishing Life Force.
At the magical Summer Solstice, the Shining Ones are very busy and their activities are most likely to overlap with the human realms. The Sidhe (pronounced “shee”) are an ancient race, cousins to humans, but not human. All continents and nations have stories of original people who are not exactly human – predecessors of the tribes who came after.
For instance, here in North Carolina where I live, the southeastern band of the Cherokee nation knows them as “the immortals,” “the Spirit People,” the “eternal ones,” and “the people who live everywhere, anywhere and forever.”
Like those in the Faery traditions of Europe, there are some who are benevolent to humans, some who are neutral, and others who are vengeful and quite dangerous.
Many legends and myths of the Cherokee people especially refer to the “Little People,” or the yunwi tsunsdi, who live in the woods, waters and caves of the land of the tsalagi (pronounced jah-lah-ghee, and which is the name the Cherokee call themselves).
Also sometimes known as the Nunnehi, the Gentle People, they are still seen and heard in the Great Smoky Mountains, original home of the Cherokee nation and where those who escaped the horrors of the Trail of Tears still live.
According to the lore, the yunwi tsunsdi are all immortal creatures who must be treated with great respect. Historian T. Peter Park writes, “If something is found in the woods (a knife, arrowhead, feathers, etc.) it is a good idea to say, ‘Little People, I wish to take this thing. I need it,’ because it may belong to them. If you don’t acknowledge them, they may follow you and do you a mischief like hiding things from you or causing you to turn over glasses of water.”
The Little People are spiritual beings, but although they are different from people and animals, they are not considered “supernatural.” They are very much a part of the natural, real world. Most people, at some point in their lives, have an experience with these spiritual beings.
The Nunnehi are invisible unless they want to be seen. When seen, they look very much like any other Cherokee, except they are very small, and have long hair, sometimes to the ground. It is most common to fleetingly glimpse them from the corner of your eye. If this should happen to you, please do not turn and stare, for this is very bad manners and they could take offense.
The storytellers agree that they are mostly friendly and helpful but can become angry and even dangerous if treated disrespectfully. “Since almost everything has its group of Little People,” they say, “it’s best to respect everything.”
A lesson we could all take to heart.