Are you a witch
Or are you a fairy
Or are you the wife
Of Michael Cleary?
Introduction to Fairy Pairings
Content warnings: violence against women, ostracization, abuse, description of corpse
Once upon a time, in the human year of 1895 in Tipperary, Ireland, a rather wicked thing happened to a woman named Bridget Boland Cleary. I will start this story at its tragic and gruesome end, rather than at its beginning.
How does a trusted local businesswoman meet her end burned to death on her own kitchen floor?
Encouraged by other local men and relatives, Michael Cleary killed his wife Bridget. He poured fuel from a paraffin lamp upon her and lit it aflame. The damage was so severe to the woman’s skin that Cleary’s violent acts exposed her bone.
When the police found Bridget’s body, what they discovered was the consequence of living as an independent minded woman who was fascinated with fairy folk: “a moral darkness,” according to the judge who sentenced Michael Cleary.
You see, like many who have lived through the ages, twenty-six-year-old Bridget was different. She represented a changing late Victorian landscape that was slow to come to rural Ireland, but present nonetheless. Bridget was a successful dressmaker and also sold eggs, and it was said that her cooper husband, seven years her senior, did not quite match her income. He was also jealous of her association with another man.
Just before her death, Michael had forced Bridget to eat three pieces of food. This was not the beginning of his superstition, but the result.
When Bridget had developed a cough and fever, Michael had come to believe (through a fair amount of encouragement from other men) that his wife had been replaced by a fairy. He called a fairy doctor and fed her a milky concoction. He insisted that she was not Bridget.
After he burned her body in an attempted exorcism of the fairy, Michael Cleary waited for the real Bridget for three nights, certain she’d appear riding a white horse.
But Bridget never arrived. She was mortally punished so that her husband could declare control over her. He left her body shallowly covered by brambles and clay.
In Fairy Pairings, you will have the chance to explore what it means to be different: as a human living in the fairy realm, or as a fairy taking the place of a human. When summoned, you will meet the being who replaced you and contend with what your life has been and might have been if only things had gone differently.
Were you exiled from your realm for being wicked, or bartered away for a fine song? Perhaps your desperate parents simply sold you for money, or maybe you were tricked. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to you and a small group of other Fairy Pairings to correct the imbalance between the realms.
All players must be 18 years or older, and will portray only adults. This larp is in English.
What is a Digital Larp?
In this experience, participants connect via Zoom and portray characters in a guided collaborative story. There is a somewhat structured plot, though the interactions are largely freeform. This is non-narrative: players do not describe what their characters do: they do and say it. Learn more by watching this video.
What is the Structure and Schedule of This Larp?
Fairy Pairings takes place in three sessions, each representing an act:
- Safety Workshop
- Meeting Your Fairy Pair (yes, it’s a surprise)
- Explore Your Relationship With Your Fairy Pair (Breakout Session)
- Explore Your Feelings About Your Worlds/Families
- Guest Appearances (optional)
- Closure (or not)
- Guest Appearances (optional)
- Restore the Balance: Who Goes Where?
Mixer (One event at end of all runs)
- Meet other fairies and humans
- Listen to music
There are three initial runs of Fairy Pairing. All players are welcome to return for the final session, which is a mixer.
The mixer is a party where you can meet new fairies and humans! All participants are welcome to the party. It will be facilitated by a participant who is encouraged to collect tips for hosting it (tip the dj, too!).
- Run 1: January 11, 18, 25 8 – 11 pm Eastern Time (Mondays)
- Run 2: January 15, 16, 17 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 7 – 10 pm Eastern Time (intense weekend run)
- Run 3: January 17, 24, 31 (Sundays), 1 – 4 pm Eastern Time (Europe friendly time)
- Mixer (for everyone who played in any run, optional): February 7, 1 – 4 pm Eastern Time (Europe friendly time) with live DJ
What You Get
- Fairy Lore Guide (lore specific to the game) – PDF
- In Character Workbook – PDF
- Bespoke Character, Created Just For You (Based off of survey)
- 9-12 Hours of Professionally Facilitated Play
The cost of this larp is $49 per ticket. If you sign up with a friend or partner to play together, please make sure you select the same run. You may sign up alone, or play with a friend. Every person will be matched. In the event of a no show, odd number of players, etc., the game master character will participate fully as a paired character.
What Kind of Fairies Can You Play?
As a fairy, you have lived most of your life in the mortal world with humans. You felt different in some way–or maybe others ostracized you or treated you poorly because there was something about you that wasn’t like them. Some fairies may appear similar to mortals, or look human but with pointed ears. Others display unnatural tones and tints when they enter or spend a significant amount of time in the fairy realm.
You can play any fairy type creature, but please take care to avoid appropriating other cultures’ practices. Tread carefully in your portrayal and understand that for some, fairy witchcraft is very real. From a pop culture princess to a formidable pooka or an African ọgbanje, fairies in their true form can appear human-like, have pointed ears, or look extremely ethereal. Like the real world, fairy folklore appears in cultures throughout the world, sometimes defined as nature spirits.
What Kinds of Humans Can You Play?
As a human, you found your way to the fairy realm somehow, and grew up there. Perhaps you wandered in, or the fairies liked your song. Maybe your parents even traded you in, resulting in feelings of abandonment. You have spent your life among wondrous creatures, but you always knew you weren’t quite like the others in your realm. Over time, your skin might have taken on a shimmer or sheen, but you generally look human.
You can play a human from anywhere in the real world, but please take care to avoid appropriating other cultures’ practices. Tread carefully in your portrayal and understand that for some, fairy witchcraft is very real. From a former child prodigy musician or athlete to an absent-minded explorer that walked too far down the beach, there is some reason why the fairies wanted you. What is it that makes you so remarkable?
Safety and Consent
All participants must watch a safety video and agree to TGI’s Safety, Consent, & Inclusion Policies. While larp sessions remain ephemeral and unrecorded, those willing may consent to photography (screen capture). All safety instruction will be gone over again at the beginning of the larp. Those violating our policies may be ejected with no refund. We take the safety of our players very seriously, especially in “close to home” experiences such as this.
- Costuming restrictions: No skin darkening or black face. Regardless of your skin tone, making your skin unnatural colored (according to your preferences and what you feel like you would look like as a fairy or a human who has lived in their realm) is welcomed, but no one is required to lighten their face to play this game or portray a fairy, nor does “lighter skin” represent improved power or status in any way. Please focus on what makes you comfortable and what is accessible to you.
- We require sensitivity in portrayal. Note that this larp is designed to empower players and characters by portraying someone who was once ostracized but now faces truth. As a result, we’re creating characters together – characters who may have experienced racism, homophobia, sexism, or a feeling of powerlessness or loss of control due to how others treated them. We ask for sensitivity and understanding in that many players are playing close to home here. We encourage players to consider exploring their own feelings of marginalization and othering. Those wishing to explore struggles other than their own must think hard about this decision, perform precise research, and proceed with extreme empathy. You will not need to justify anything you want to play, but playing another’s experience is extremely sensitive subject matter when it comes to marginalization. Participation means understanding and acknowledging this point.
- Verbal and symbolic restrictions: Derogatory language and symbols of any kind are prohibited. You cannot ‘play an anti-Semitic character who wears a swastika.’ You will be immediately ejected and banned with no refund. Marginalized players wishing to play empowerment scenes may do so, but some scenes may require a content warning for other players. An example: two players have consented to playing out a competitive brother-sister relationship in which sexism was involved. They decide that the woman fairy is more powerful than the male, and the player wishes to play out her empowerment arc through the exploration of this in reaction to a sexist comment from her brother, changing the power dynamic in their family. In this case, all participants would receive a content warning about potential sexist language, and as a group we would determine limits on this language.
- Tara M. Clapper, Game Designer, Game Organizer, Larp Marketer, Game Master
- Review and Sensitivity: Ron T. Blechner
- Playtesting: Valley Larp
- Brainstorming and Coaching: Aj Smit, In Joy Productions: https://in-joyproductions.com/
- Elsewhere, by Joie Martin of Drowning Moon Studios: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/301058/Elsewhere (changeling concept in larp play)
- The Fortunate Ones, by Ron T. Blechner: http://www.goldencobra.org/pdf/2020/Blechner_TheFortunateOnes.pdf (paired roleplay / interaction)
- The Irish History Podcast: Bridget Cleary, the last woman burned alive in Ireland: https://irishhistorypodcast.ie/
- Lore: Black Stockings: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6967582/
- The Battle of Primrose Park: Playing for Emancipatory Bleed in Fortune & Felicity, by Jonaya Kemper: https://nordiclarp.org/2017/06/21/the-battle-of-primrose-park-playing-for-emancipatory-bleed-in-fortune-felicity/
- The Bizarre Death of Bridget Cleary, the Irish “Fairy Wife” https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/539793/bizarre-death-bridget-cleary-irish-fairy-wife