What Sort of Witch Are You?

For some individuals, witchcraft is a journey of finding one’s unique style of magic, own cosmology, and personal philosophy.

This post was on Witches and Pagan in 2016, at http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/a-faerie-haven.html

Have you seen the popular lists of different types of witches—e.g., traditional witch, Gardnerian witch, Faerie witch, eclectic witch, hedge witch—with precise definitions for each category? These charts help some beginners. Learning you fit a certain style can be validating and reassuring. It also makes some newcomers feel they belong.

But this post is for beginners who find the categories make things really difficult. Everyone else, I’m not naysaying what works for you; this entire post is simply ideas and methods that work for me, in case they’re useful to someone. I don’t want the charts thrown out. They’re great for some people. And with that:

There are individuals whose witchcraft entails a journey of finding one’s unique style of magic, own cosmology, and personal philosophy. Being new to Pagan community and being told there are specific witch types, each with very specific definitions, can box these folks in, lead them to think they won’t fit anywhere in the Pagan community, and ill-legitimize personal self-discoveries that transcend the categories.

What if you come from a traditional witch family, talk to fairies, and enjoy practicing Gardnerian magic occasionally? Sure, that might classify you as an “eclectic witch,” but that term is redundant historically speaking; it was once a given that witches were eclectic, because witches understand the connectivity of all things. To me, the term “eclectic witch” robs me of my heritage. My witchy heritage fuels spells, making them powerful.

As to connectivity, the Old Gods unite me with the enchantment that flows through the entire universe. That current carries me, its sweep making me joyful, as it bears me toward even more joy. But “eclectic witch” implies magic is not in everything around me and thus denies what’s inherent to many folks’ witchcraft.

In the same vein, I see witches as wild creatures, transcending every limit. I’m a child of the Gods. Their infinite powers are mine. Mind you, I’m not suggesting I can successfully cast every spell anyone else can cast. I believe witches can have specialties.

In any case, categorizing keeps some people from developing specialties. These are folks whose process demands they look not at definitions but into their own selves and, despite how scary it might be, journey into seeming formlessness until it becomes recognizable as their special gift—their specialty.
WildCreaturesI love—and use—the different terms for types of witches. They’re great jumping off points, e.g., for connecting with like-minded individuals.

They also can be pointers. But I use the terms the old way: to evoke—lyric speaking to our wild witch hearts and whispering of the undefinable and unlimited—rather than as part of quantitative charts, mapping magic out so exactly as to be … boringly limited for some folks.

I love magic so much it makes me sad to realize charts might crush certain people’s magic.

Also, poor scholarship defines witch types incorrectly. For example, it’s sadly a current given that Gardnerian Wicca bears little resemblance to traditional witchcraft. I lived in a Gardnerian household in England with one of Gerald Gardner’s students and, as a traditional witch, I can tell you people living in that house practiced old-fashioned witchery. Furthermore, I met members of the family tradition that greatly influenced Gerald.

Lack of scholarship also portrays traditional witchcraft as consistently the same. It varied, village to village and family to family.

And many a scholar will say “eclectic witch” makes no historical sense. Global travel is not a modern occurrence. Various ancient cultures shared their rituals constantly.

Are you dismayed by witch categories because they make you feel the magical Art has been divided up like slices of a pie … and you feel like the whole pie? Be the whole enchanted pie.

If you’re a fledging witch who resonates with what I’ve written, I support you not by giving you categories to validate you, but by validating who you already are. Like most of us when we come into Pagan community, you’ve always had Paganism in your heart and life, perhaps without having named it as such. So trust what you already know and build on it. You have the intelligence and insightfulness needed to do so.

Enjoy the names for all the different types of witches, or use none of them. But claim your path as valid.

By “valid,” I’m not saying everything you do currently as a witch is always safe and effective. No one is perfect. Also, some spellcrafting requires substantial training. Get a teacher if you want. But don’t worry about what “type” of witch a prospective teacher is. Choose someone whose spirit calls you and who honors your spirit in turn, whether or not you know how to describe your path. Witches used to work together in all their differences and likenesses, getting along just fine, learning just fine.

I teach. Classes are mostly via group phone calls (aka telesminars): you don’t need a computer or any special technology to attend; just dial the phone. Subscribe to my free newsletter, which gives details about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

What sort of witch are you? You’re you! So mote it be.

Upcoming Class: The Spiritual Warrior

The Spiritual Warrior:
A seven-week teleseminar (group class by telephone)

The Spiritual Warrior class empowers the part of you that fights for survival, family, ideals, dreams, human rights, and Gaia.

I have not taught this class in over four years, so grab the chance.

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

This post includes some of my personal philosophy, on which the class is based.

People use the terms “spiritual warrior” and “pacifist” in various ways. Here’s how I use the terms:

* Pacifists will not engage in physical violence even if their life is on the line. Though I’ve enormous respect for pacifists, and they can legitimately be viewed as amazing spiritual warriors, that’s not what this class is about. I am not a pacifist.

* Spiritual warriors are not unduly aggressive. Nevertheless, they’ll go into combat when needed. If battle’s the only choice, they engage with their whole heart and soul.

Ceremonial and practical lessons will include:
* why effective warriors often go with the flow instead of fighting it
* the gentle uses of war
* how to shove back when push comes to shove, without losing the high moral ground
* the importance of down ‘n’ dirty fighting in business, community leadership, and inner growth
* strategizing with an ethical military mind
* standing up for yourself with no self-recrimination

The lessons also help you honor healthy aggression. Not all aggression is expressed by childish, irresponsible, hurtful rage. You’ll learn how to handle your aggressive power so that you express it healthily—you control it; it doesn’t control you.

We’ll celebrate the aggression without which we can lose our lust for life, because the two energies are so intertwined. You’ll find new passion for living because you’ll suppress your energy less.

I’ll also teach methods for self-healing after the battles of childhood and adulthood. This class helps you regain a carefree, gentle attitude.

My warrior self protects the fragile child within me, providing the safety she needs to express love, delight in fairies, and be creative. I’ll help you be a champion who shields your child self.

This class is for:
* the seasoned fighter who wants additional strengths, strategies, and self-control
* a person combatting a life-threatening challenge such as cancer
* someone needing to fight for a life that has dignity and pleasure
* and anyone else interested.

Novices to witchcraft are welcome; yet adepts will find appropriate challenges.

As I said, the above expresses my warrior philosophy as it underpins the class. The post also outlines parts of the curriculum. I hope you’ve enjoyed the material.

But warriors don’t settle for words. Join me for the work—and celebration!—needed to embody everything written here. Let’s live our lives fully.

Nuts and bolts:
* These are group meetings by phone. To participate, just dial the phone from anywhere.
* Class meets seven consecutive Thursdays, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm EST, starting Thursday July 21.
* Reserve Sept 8, same time, for a makeup class in case I’m unavailable for one of the planned sessions.
* Tuition: $250. Your usual long-distance charges apply, and appear on your phone bill. The event’s area code is a U.S. #.
* If you’ve taken this class before, repeat it at half-price.
* Enroll securely using PayPal. Sign up for “Special Event” at http://www.outlawbunny.com/special-events-registration/
* Upon receipt of payment, your place is reserved, and event phone #, etc., emailed to you. If you need more info, or want to discuss scholarship, trade, or payment plan, call me at 814-337-2490. No refunds.

The Spiritual Warrior is part of Third Road’s oral tradition and satisfies one of the two electives needed before Third Road’s advanced training.

Fight for yourself and for what is important to you.

Pagan Trends, Absolute Truths, and Trusting Yourself

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Trends change rapidly in the Pagan community. We often see “an indisputable fact” ricochet to its exact opposite within years. These “truths” cause immense discord. How can we navigate these treacherous waters without disavowing our own personal wisdoms? We all find our way of doing it. If I share mine, perhaps that might make finding yours easier.

So, a story:

Way back when, most American Pagans insisted traditional craft was nonexistent. People became downright nasty in their disdainful insistence there is no traditional witchcraft. Nowadays, many Pagans discuss traditional craft, what it is, how to do it, and where to learn it.

The party line back then was that anyone who claimed a traditional craft lineage was a liar. The person in question might be completely discredited.

To the best of my understanding back then: a big name Pagan dishonestly validated the material he taught by saying he’d gotten it from his grandmother, a traditional witch, but he lied about her being a witch.

People just decided, if he was lying, everybody else must be. Good grief!

Ok, let me continue this tale by adding how it affected me personally:

I was raised in a longstanding European-based shamanic family tradition. This was hardly a secret to some of the Pagans I knew. But, in case it’s useful context for the rest of my story, I didn’t have a best selling book yet, so the number of people who knew anything about me were far far fewer than later became the case.

You can imagine, amidst all the vitriol and possibility of being totally discredited, I was thoughtful about when to mention my traditional witchery to a Pagan. I wanted to avoid the near certainty of being branded liar in the larger Pagan community.

Close friends knew my family background, and I’d tell others when it was important. In fact, when the bestseller did come out, its back cover mentioned my mom was a Sicilian witch. To do otherwise would’ve insulted her and all my witch ancestors. But I also used discretion. For example, skirting my family history in casual conversation.

What I’m saying is: navigating the dangerous seas of trending “absolute truths” was challenging—for one thing, it can be frightening to buck popular opinion—but I found ways to maintain integrity while also guarding my emotional equilibrium. We can keeps our spirits whole. Here are two navigation skills that worked for me:

One is knowing it is vital to trust your own beliefs and respect the value of your own experiences, despite people who try to hit you over the head with trends to make you feel ignorant or otherwise not as “authentic” a Pagan as they are.

The second navigation skill is discretion. I want to practice discretion about whether to say something.

Nowadays, most people use the word discretion to mean holding silence. But discretion can also mean wisely considering the best course of action, judging each situation according to its specific circumstances. I’m using the latter definition here. So, in terms of our topic, discretion might lead one to speak—to good purpose—or to remain appropriately mum.

It’s vital to speak up for your beliefs when there’s good reason. Losing self-respect does not constitute successful navigation of treacherous waters.

As to choosing silence, let’s start with the example of avoiding arguments with people who aren’t going to listen.

Back when mentioning a family tradition might completely discredit you with many people, I was at a dinner party where someone who was constantly on power trips declared, in a high and mighty tone, that as a scholar she was devoted to naysaying the possibility of a family tradition. She did not know I came from one. I didn’t tell her. (A friend in the know did surreptitiously wink at me. That was lovely support.)

Most people who jump on trending absolutes will neither listen nor engage in a courteous, informative exchange of ideas, because they’ll rush to prop up wobbly egos with pseudo-knowledge. They’ll just try to browbeat you into feeling you’re wrong, though that may not be their conscious motivation, bless them. Wasting your time in a verbal entanglement amounts to letting someone’s pseudo-truth get the better of you. Your time is sacred.

Yet if she had been honestly interested, and merely misinformed about whether traditional witchcraft existed, I might have discussed my family.

Important aside: Though I avoided an argument at the dinner party, I admit my record’s not perfect with that sort of thing. Luckily, seeing how it depleted and upset me helps me not repeat the mistake any more. A hard won lesson, but one that frees me from other people’s opinionated insistences.

This blog is long but the following feels vital. Another example of discretion and silence:

(Please note, I’m going to use traditional witchery as an example in this essay again. That’s a coincidence. The examples have no relation. So don’t think you need to connect the dots between examples.)

More than once, a segment of the Pagan community inflated their position to one of dominance by stating “superior” pseudo-truths, and I could have deflated their posturing by disclosing a bit of traditional witchcraft’s sacred lore.

I stayed mute about the lore. I was blessed to have received it, so would not disclose it merely to prove a point to people who would not have viewed it as precious information but who would have pawed it.

They’d have greedily grabbed at it as mere words—exploited it as verbal fodder they could parrot to appear in-the-know and first string. (Heh, at least I got to feel smug about keeping my mouth shut. … Ok, I admit, feeling superior wasn’t good for me.)

Had I said anything authentic, nobody would have cared. The agenda on their table was to show how important and “wise” you were. That was not an agenda I wanted to be part of, even though telling them traditional material would’ve moved me to the top of the food chain. But climbing up would have actually, as the old expression goes, dragged me down to their level. … Goddess, I was tempted anyway. … Maybe smugness about my silence was my solace.

My story about being silent is relevant to discretion stopping fake truths from derailing your personal hard-won beliefs, in the following ways:

Opening my mouth would have been my ego reacting to theirs, as well as meeting their attempt to move up in a hierarchy with a similar attempt of my own. Both of those would have betrayed my personal belief in not living in ego or falling prey to power struggles.

It also would have wasted my time and life force, instead of me going about my merry business, living happily according to my own ecstatic truths.

Responding to someone’s power play with one of our own can be incredibly tempting, but also incredibly damaging to ourselves. Ego-driven magic and power-hungry grabs put someone on the slippery slope of chasing chimera more and more, less and less living joyously in the beautiful world the Goddess created for us.

Had I shared the lore for the purposes of my ego, I also would have debased that material. Reduced to mere words in order to feed my ego, the power of that beautiful material would’ve been lost to me, crumbled into dust like Faerie gold.

There’s one more way someone’s pseudo-truth would’ve gotten the better of me if I’d blabbed sacred knowledge for the sake of ego and dominance. I would’ve betrayed my following personal truth: I hold my religion sacred by only using it for honorable purposes. To do otherwise, I would truly have failed navigating the rocky seas of community-enforced pseudo-truths and sunk to the depths.

When magic and spirituality become tools to create unhealthy hierarchy—aka dominate others—they go sour. So does the spirit of the practitioner in question. His soiled shamanic path is handed down to his students, its very essence feeding their worst aspects, perhaps subtly but thoroughly. A nightmare for the community.

When magic and spirituality remain tools to serve, in respect for our differences, those tools become more powerful and capable. So do our spirits. Free of contentious opinions and excess verbiage, our innate magic fills each day, often silently. We become blessed by—and a blessing for—community.

I hope some of my above opinions are useful to you.

I teach traditional craft. My Gods bless me with wise students: They are wise in so many ways, but one is that we all respect each other. Honoring our differing views as assets allows each of us to uniquely contribute to the group’s magic and well-being. This in turn allows each of us to benefit from all the participants’ strengths.

If you’d like to join us, I teach mostly via group phone calls—aka teleseminars. Subscribe to my free newsletter, which tells you about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

Have a magical day.

Traditional Witchcraft, Spirituality, and Ethics

FDG2016TphatCurrently, it is a prevalent opinion among Pagans that traditional witchcraft was strictly magical, lacking theology or moral aspects. While I can respect that theory, it is not congruent with my own experiences. I suspect whether traditional witchery had sacred or ethical aspects varied by locale or by family tradition.

I never argue with anybody’s experience, only their theory. Theory is ever-changing. I’d never want to invalidate anyone’s experience, including my own. I’ll share mine below.

My experiences lead to conclusions that differ from the aforementioned current popular Pagan position. I hope to add to the Pagan dialogue on the topic, and provide support for those who, like me, have an unpopular point of view.

Growing up in a family tradition, I learned magic and a mystical worldview con leche. Therefore magic and mysticism were a given, as much a part of life as the air I was breathing. In the process, a religious and ethical worldview was deeply ingrained in my cells.

Note I say “my cells,” not “my brain.” It took my entire childhood and adolescence to imbibe the tradition’s basics, because cellular lessons take time.

The understandings of the tradition were so deeply imbedded in our home life that much of the family tradition was taken for granted, not out and out spoken, but more implied and lived. This includes the theist or moral aspects.

In fact, calling it an understanding in the above paragraph is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not so much an understanding as a way of being.

In any case, a lifestyle with many of its important aspects being subtle or unspoken seems an earmark of many traditional witches I have met.

When I got older, I saw that this subtlety sometimes causes people who were viewing the family tradition from the outside to not see the tradition’s deep religious and ethical roots, only the more overt—and perhaps less core—trappings. When I participated in family traditions in Europe, I usually found deep religious and ethical roots in them.

Observers are not engaged in the family culture. They are standing outside it, watching. Only by being part of a shamanic family culture over a long period of time can one can really understand the culture. The notion that to watch something is to fully understand it is a fairly current concept of scholarship. As I said above, learning the traditional witchcraft of my family required an experiential, long term lesson.

It has become almost de rigeur to insist traditional craft never had sacred or principled aspects. This makes it important to me to write this post about my family tradition, because I feel I’m speaking up for my Gods, for my witch ancestors, and for others who feel as I do.

I do not like it when a theory ceases to be a theory and becomes a mandated belief—in other words, when someone is mouthing somebody else’s words to, consciously or not, invalidate other seekers. Unfortunately, the concept that traditional witchcraft had neither ethical nor theological base has become yet another Pagan rote declaration, usually said—or written—in an intimidating tone of I-know-better-than-you-so-whatever-you-think-is-stupid.

I can admire people who authentically believe other than I do. An informed and friendly exchange of ideas about traditional craft, spirituality, and ethics could be a lovely thing. Healthy debate is a wonderfully educational process for everyone involved. A supportive, respectful, and thoughtful exchange of ideas can do wonders.

But debate is not the same as trying to legitimize and define one’s path by invalidating someone else’s. That hurtfully invalidates a lot of newbies who already feel insecure about their belief system. This can crush a newcomer’s spirit.

Coming to our community, hoping to finally find fellowship, but instead encountering someone just as invalidating as mainstream society, can be doubly heartbreaking, because they thought they had finally entered a safe space. So they often never participate in our community again, and end up without support in their Pagan explorations.

People who need to squash others in order to validate their own power have less power than they think, and more mere bluster than they realize.

Thus, I felt impelled to write this post to support invalidated Pagans.

A last thought on traditional witches and ethics: perhaps in some cases, a lack of morality had less to do with any tradition and more to do with human nature. Some people just take anything, even that which is moral and sacred to begin with, strip it of those roots, and use it for their own selfish—or even evil—goals.

I hope this post is a useful contribution to Pagan dialogue about traditional craft.

If you want experiential lessons in traditional craft, I teach The Third Road, a tradition I channel, informed by the magic of my ancestors and my mom. (Channeling teachings is part of traditional craft.) I teach mostly via group phone calls—aka teleseminars. Here’s the link to subscribe to my newsletter, which tells you about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

Bless you.

DNA and Ancestral Ritual

DNA Science and magic meet. I won’t choose between mysticism and science. They can feed each other.

My ancestors are spiritually important to me. So I’m combining science and spirit in a deeply personal way: I ordered an AncestryDNA test kit.

A mystic, I travel through the blood in my veins, back through time, to discover the ancient ways my family once practiced. Today, the logical rational side of me does the same by spitting into a vial. This test tube becomes a chalice that arrived by mail, enclosed in plastic. Two supposedly disparate halves of me come together to feed my spirit.

I mailed my saliva, part of my sacred body, to scientists, who will analyze it to reveal my ethnic background. They’ll go back through many generations, the same way my meditations have. Their work will expand my otherworldly travels.

The lab analysis will determine where my ancestors hail from, based on a science my layperson’s mind can’t understand, no matter how much experts explain it.

Many scientists would be equally puzzled by my ability to uncover historical information by meditating on my blood. I have my expertise, they have theirs. I get to draw on both.

A relationship with my ancestors, in ritual and daily life, is pivotal to me. They lovingly support me. And I tend them. Trance journeys give me a strong intuitive sense of my ancestors. The DNA results can help me know whether my intuitions are correct.

It would be fine to trust my intuition without the DNA results. (Check out my blog about that: Mysticism and Non-Academic Scholarship.) But corroboration is useful.

Science can support my spirituality in other ways, too.

For one, I come from a European shamanic family tradition. Some of my family history has been lost. I’m hoping DNA will fill in gaps.

For example, I might see how major societal events impacted my family’s past generations to shape the family’s spirituality. That familial story could provide context to better understand my own path.

Luck allowed me to gather a staggering amount of anecdotal evidence about my ancestors. Information from relatives, and from strangers I don’t know but who have my last name, and from other sources, provided enormously convincing material, when looked at as a whole. I believe anecdotal evidence is part of folk culture and one source of the old wise ways. This fecund anecdotal evidence can be augmented with DNA science.

For example, the DNA test might help me gather more anecdotal evidence, if it leads to relatives I hadn’t learned about previously. They might know family history I don’t.

DNA results could also be a jumping off point for more ancestral rituals. I love the wisdom of ancient cultures, and appreciate reenactment whether based in textbooks’ history or intuited history. I revere native and ancestral spiritual practices. These leanings feed my desire for DNA info about my ancestral roots.

I can best explain another reason for wanting a test by telling you a personal story.

A friend of mine was part of a DNA study. Before continuing the story, let me be clear: I’m not part of any study. My test kit is from AncestryDNA. They’re not experimenting on me, and their tests results do not show an ancestral timeline such as you’ll read about in my friend’s tale. I checked out some companies, and AncestryDNA seems to give the most comprehensive results. If you’re interested, their kit is also easy to use.

Back to my story:

My friend phoned me one day, and exclaimed rapturously, “I got the DNA results. My family originated in Egypt!”

Then she added, “My later ancestors migrated to Greece. Guess where else my ancestors migrated to?”

I responded, “Mongolia?”

There was a long pause. Then she said, in a stunned voice, “That’s right! How did you know?”

“It was obvious. Your immense love for Egyptian religions motivated you to become an Egyptian scholar, devoted to reviving ancient Egyptian spiritual practices, which became part of your personal devotions. Later, you seriously worked with Greek Gods. Then, you channeled material that had no geographical basis, as far you knew, but later found out that the material resonated with documented Mongolian traditions.”

I continued, “Your family only told you about your Caucasian Irish lineage. But your earlier ancestors influenced your mystical life. Your spiritual quest this lifetime follows the migration of your ancestors, step by step!”

The point of my story: I want to know if my DNA matches my various spiritual leanings.

There can be valid reasons we’re drawn spiritually to cultures we were not raised in. Our DNA might be one of those reasons. I don’t hold with the idea that you should only use the spiritual tools of your obvious ancestors.

Mind you, I am not okaying co-option. I’m saying legitimate cross cultural shamanism exists.

That legitimacy is hard to come by. It would take a whole book to explain how to pull it off ethically and otherwise, so I won’t get into it here, except to say:

By “cross-cultural shamanism,” I don’t mean “core shamanism,” AKA the idea that shamanism is primarily the same in all cultures. I disagree with the modern standardization of shamanism.

My experience is that shamans individualize according to cultural differences, and way past that, individualizing family by family and person by person.

My personal definition of legitimate cross-cultural shamanism is an ethical, thoughtful blend of earth based mysticism as it manifests in various cultures.

Moving on:

I am a little worried. With adventure, comes fear of the unknown: am I going to like the DNA test results?

But mostly I’m excited about the DNA adventure I am embarking on.

And I feel gratitude for science and magic.

When the DNA results arrive, I’ll post them here, and share how it impacts my mystical journey.
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Note: I first posted this blog May 2015 at http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/a-faerie-haven.html and post it again here for those of you who tend to read me here.
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Faerie Tea Party

Faerie tale, mystic art, and bedtime story for Pagan children of all ages. Do you drink moon tea? I wanted star tea, so made up a recipe for it.

TeaPartyOBOnce upon a time, two people went on a picnic. After a yummy meal, they noticed: They were falling in love! Mooning into each other’s eyes, they wiled away the afternoon, talking about butterflies, truth, moonlight, the meaning of life, and other important topics.

When it started to get dark, they packed up the picnic. Captured by each other’s eyes, they overlooked a teacup and saucer.

Love enchants everything it touches. So the tea cup and saucer were now magic. Stars came down from the sky to dance in and around the forsaken china.

Faeries joined in, because they are the stars’ best friends—not to mention close relatives.

And that would end the story of a Faerie tea party, except all good fairy tales have a warning: Don’t ever boil stars in water to make star tea. You’ll hurt the stars. And make them angry. You don’t want to know what happens when stars get angry at you. Instead, here’s my personal recipe for star tea:

TeaPartyOBWhen it gets dark, I put room temperature water in a jar, outside if possible. Then I say, “Stars in the sky, please bless this tea tonight.” Then I let the water sit for at least an hour. The stars will happily fill the water with starlight for you. This makes very yummy tea that fills you with magic.

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Limited first edition prints of the painting in this story are available at https://www.etsy.com/listing/171580248/faerie-tea-party-limited-first-edition