Hearing mournful Faerie music.
My own experience is not too long or complicated, it is about music, coming from nowhere.
Several times as a child and once, very briefly, as an adult I have heard someone playing a sad tune on some kind of woodwind instrument in places, where you wouldn’t expect to find musicians at all (in the woods), or at least not playing such tunes (at the zoo full of kids).
The tune was, as I said, quite sad, tearful even and I heard it while looking at the scenes, one could describe as desolate: an abandoned construction project at the zoo, poorly cut clearing with stumps and branches all over the place. That was in my childhood.
Recently, after all these years, I heard the music again.
Very briefly – just ten seconds at best – but it brought back the memories at once.
I am sure it was same low woodwind (a clarinet, perhaps) and on the sad, misty, rainy November afternoon.
And again, it was in the countryside – hardly any street musicians there.
What’s funny about it all – mysterious music is not a major part of either Russian, or Latvian folklore, on the other hand, both traditions say that supernatural entities have lives of their own, with their weddings and funerals, which implies music.
Perhaps, a fairy musician was expressing his sorrow at the sight of abandoned or poorly done work (Russian fairies rejoice at human diligence and are angered by neglect).
Also, I learned that the place, where I heard the music last time as an adult was a battlefield in both great wars (and not too small at that – a metal detectorist friend of mine says the ground there sings from all the metal – bullets, spent casings, shell fragments)… Appropriate place to play a sad tune.
An Encounter with a Leshy?
One summer morning, when I was in my early teens, my father sat at the breakfast table.
He said that, just that morning ,he met a man dressed as if he just got out of bed – slightly disheveled, wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, who came out of the woods asking, where he was.
The man seemed distressed, but quite sober, so my dad told him and the man was shocked when he learned that he is a full train stop away from his home.
Then the man told what had happened: as he was having his morning smoke, he decided to pop into the woods just across the lane from his house, which is not that uncommon.
Picking wild mushrooms is a popular activity and many people do just that – briefly search the edge of the woods before breakfast in hopes of finding half a dozen – enough to make a small bowl of sauce for dinner (those, who want to get more mushrooms go into the woods better equipped, covering as much of the body as the weather allows for fear of ticks and disease they can carry).
He found nothing and walked back. And walked… and then the woods became unfamiliar, and then he went out of the woods, where he saw unfamiliar houses and met my dad.
The man asked, where the train station was and went away, cursing and mumbling about not having any money and having to explain it all to his wife. There could, of course, be any number of rational explanations, perhaps the man was not as sober after all and just lost his way and the track of time, but someone familiar with Russian fairy lore can also suspect the work a Leshy – woodland spirit and lord of the woods (“a” is intentional – every forest has one, big forests have multiple, new forest will eventually have a new keeper move in).
Leshy is a largely benevolent entity, know to help people (it is said that if an ill baby suddenly falls silent, Leshy is sitting beside the bad comforting the baby and praying for recovery), but as with most fairy creatures, is easily offended, or can just be in a bad mood.
Then, he can play mean pranks on humans, his favorite is confusing a person, making him or her loose a sense of direction and go the wrong way even in familiar places (lose one’s way among three pine trees, as the saying goes), but he can also lure a person deep into the woods by calling in a familiar voices, or transporting a person to a different place altogether, which seemed to have happened here.
What offends a Leshy?
First of all, disrespect for the woods – shouting on top of your lungs, unless in distress, breaking branches as you go, littering (and our unfortunate man smoked, as you remember, perhaps threw a cigarette butt away) and so on.
Treading on Leshy’s favorite track through the forest is even more offensive to him, but this usually invites a more immediate and violent reaction, up to and including sudden gusts of wind lifting a person from the ground.
Maybe, the man offended lord of the woods somehow, or may be it was just one of those days, when Leshy felt like pranking an unfortunate soul.
Or maybe, there is a mundane explanation, who knows…
– Edgar, Latvia.