“Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold.”
– JRR Tolkien, On Faery Stories [Tweet this!]
If America has a fairy path, it’s the Natchez Trace. [Tweet this!]
As the name suggests, fairy paths are paths walked by fairies (or faeries). Traditionally avoided because fairies are not to be crossed, the paths generally follow straight lines, running along ley lines and/or between sacred places – particularly mounds.
And a trace is a footpath. This particular 10,000 year-old footpath winds 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville. Only bits of the original trail still exist for you to wander. But unfurling alongside it is the Natchez Trace Parkway, managed by the National Park Service.
The Natchez Trace breaks the straight line rule of the fairy path. But like the British fairy trails, the Natchez Trace links multiple clusters of sacred mounds.
I think that counts as a fairy trail.
The Emerald Mound at mile marker 10.3 is the second largest temple mound in the United States, built by the ancestors of the Natchez Indians. Further north, the eight Pharr burial mounds, built from 1 – 200 AD, are the most important archaeological site in Mississippi. (Milepost 286.7)
Okay, these are Indian and not fairy mounds. But the fairy mounds in Britain weren’t built by fairies either. They’re mysterious and lovely and built by a people lost in the mists of time, and so we call them fairy mounds.
And perhaps it’s just my out-of-control imagination, but the mounds along the Natchez Trace have got the same fae feel. There’s something uncanny about the sites, a sense of timelessness. So I wasn’t completely surprised when a photo I took at the Bynum mounds just as the sun set turned up several orbs (below).
Occasionally, one drives over or beneath a bridge to the outside world, catching a glimpse of everyday traffic and bustle. One is rarely alone for long on the Trace. But it retains the feel of a place apart, another world, a winding, sacred path.
About the Author
Kirsten Weiss is the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective.