A Journey Through

I went to Ireland in search of fairies

What I got instead was the Death card.

BY Jaspre Guest

This article is part of our ongoing series on travel and magic.
Read the entire series here.

My grandfather, a hands-on healer and Tony Award-nominated choreographer, was adopted, and I grew up with stories that he was found on a doctor’s doorstep in Oregon. He was tall, lean, white-blond haired, blue eyed, and appeared to never age—but even at 92 he had no idea where he came from. On a suggestion from a friend, we did 23 and Me and found out he was 98% Irish. He passed away last year, and as a tribute to him I decided to book a trip to Ireland.

 

I wanted to do more than just connect with my roots; I wanted to turn it into a spiritual experience. Specifically: fairies. Turns out, Ireland is the land of fairies—with these mythical creatures so ingrained into the local folklore that it’s 100% normal to, say, ask your taxi driver if he could recommend a good spot to find fairies.

Day tripping on the Blasket Islands

That is exactly what I did when I first landed in Dublin. It was the eve of the country’s historic abortion vote, and I was greeted with a compassionate Ireland; the city was buzzing about being on the verge of the possible repeal of one of the world’s strictest reproductive rights laws.

It’s 100% normal to, say, ask your taxi driver if he could recommend a good spot to find fairies.

My first driver—a portly older man with the gift of gab—didn’t roll his eyes when I asked about fairies. In fact, without skipping a beat he told me about fairy forts. Turns out, he had one in his backyard. “My dear, in all my years, I’ve never messed with fairy forts,” he said. Others, apparently, learned their lesson the hard way; there are stories of roads having recurring issues—including fatal accidents—because they were built near these “sacred places.”

He alerted me to the fact that there are a ton of fake fairy forts to trap tourists. (Consider yourself warned.) Which meant that, unfortunately, there wasn’t going to be one of these legit magical spots anywhere near where I’d be during my trip. I was disappointed but, as we pulled up to my hotel—the ultra-secret, chic-even-to-locals No. 31—my driver invited me to stop by his home to check out the fort in his backyard the next time I was in town. I assured him that it was an invitation I’d eventually take him up on.

 

Since fairies were no longer on this trip’s itinerary, I instead set out to find a tarot card reader. It wasn’t simple—in fact, it made booking a woo-woo session in Paris seem easy—since everything in the country is very spread out and not necessarily on the grid. After falling down multiple rabbit holes, I discovered Lisa from The Tarot Guide.

 

The next morning, I packed my bags—I’d be taking a train to the west coast later that afternoon—and got a taxi to take me to my reading. My driver was a heavily tattooed ex-military Irishman who had lived in Dublin his entire life, and when he looked at the address and asked me what I was doing there, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. “I’m getting my tarot cards read,” didn’t seem like an option.

But he soon opened up, telling me with pride that the referendum to legalize abortion had been a landslide. He hadn’t voted for anything in the past 40 years, he told me, but he voted yesterday. He voted because the suffering had to end. “There are going to be parties at every pub tonight,” he promised as we pulled up to a house in a residential area.

Seeking Fairies

It seemed like a good omen…until I saw where I was. The house had a squeaky, rusted gate and, as I walked past a black cat in the yard (of course), I prayed that I’d leave the house intact. My fears were assuaged when Lisa—cheerful with sparkling eyes—answered the door. I parked my suitcase near the entrance, explained that I needed to make a train after the appointment, and followed her to the kitchen.

There, in the midst of your average suburban setup—stove, oven, fridge—was a table covered with a purple cloth, two bright pink candles, and a deck of beautifully illustrated tarot cards from Italy. We were there to literally cook up magic.

 

Lisa laid the ground rules: be open—and don’t try to trick her. Easy enough.

 

Here is where it gets different from my previous tarot experiences. She asked me to shuffle the cards and give her back the pile. Full disclosure I hate shuffling cards and am terrible at it. I hand the deck back and she proceeds to spread out the cards in front of me and asks me to randomly select seven. After she looks at seven cards in a row, she asks me to select another seven—and adds the selected card below the original selected card. This goes on for a while until we have seven rows of four to five cards each. We cover everything from soul mates (because obviously) and career paths.

In a kitchen that could be straight out of a ’90s network TV sitcom, it came up for me again. Over and over again, I pulled the Death card. Over and over again,

I ask similar questions to the ones I asked in Paris a few weeks before, and lo and behold: I receive similar answers. The card that had consistently been coming up for me is also one of the most feared: Death. I have learned it to be more about transformation. (Think shedding old skin, or rising like the phoenix.) The Death card showed up for me in Paris and, more recently, Los Angeles (when I got my cards read by my old favorite, Joshua).

Session in Lisa’s Kitchen

Now in a kitchen that could be straight out of a ’90s network TV sitcom, it came up for me again. Over and over again, I pulled the Death card. Over and over again, Lisa and I laughed about it. It was funny, but I also felt validated that the transformative energy I had been feeling was real—regardless of my time zone.

 

Lisa also reminded me of something: No matter how many charts, cards, or spirits tell me that something is going to happen, I always have free will. If you don’t do the work, then it won’t happen, she noted.

We ended with a spread for the entire year, broken down by what I should expect each month. She added cards to every individual stack—as if we’re playing a game of Gin Rummy—flipping over yet another one if she needed more clarity around a certain situation. Overall, the next 12 months were looking good…except for what she said would be a messy love life. (But when is that not the case?)

 

At the end of the reading, Lisa called me a cab (and I left 70 euros on the table). I had a train to catch—one that whisked me towards the west coast, through a countryside seemingly composed of 40 shades of green. I was on my way to a remote fishing village called Ballycotton, where I think my grandfather was from, and even if I couldn’t see them, I could feel the fairies following me.

The cliff walk Ballycotton 

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