Blog Post

The Fairies of Cicely Mary Barker

cicely mary barkerKK writes: “I have this book, The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by English poet Cicely Mary Barker. She claims to be Christian but writes poetry about fairies. Her other book is a fairy journal; claims also to have seen and heard them. I want to know if her writings are truly Christian or occult?”

There are actually several questions in this inquiry and I will address them one-by-one.

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies, published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1996, is a collection of the books written by Cicely Mary Barker which were published between 1923 and 1948.

Barker was a popular children’s book author, illustrator and British artist who was born in 1895 in Surrey, England. She suffered from epilepsy as a child and was homeschooled where her creative drawing and writing skills were nurtured through correspondence courses and instruction at the nearby Croydon School of Art. Her father, Walter Barker, was an amateur artist and a partner in a seed company that did well enough to provide a good living for his family.

However, when he died in 1912, the family began to struggle financially. By then, Cicely’s older sister Dorothy was working as a teacher but the salary was too small to provide the support they needed. The year before his death, when she was just 15 years old, some of Cicely’s drawings were purchased by a stationery printer, which opened the door for her work to being sold to magazines, greeting card manufacturers and eventually book publishers. Thus, she began to contribute to the upkeep of her family.

In 1923, her first book of illustrations and poetry was published. Entitled, Flower Fairies of the Spring, it would become the first in a series of eight books.

flower fairies of summerAt the time, fairies were a popular theme in art and literature with Queen Mary being a devotee of these types of illustrations. As a result, Cicely’s work quickly became hugely popular.

Her choice of fairies had nothing to do with her belief in the fictitious characters. In fact, it is a well-known fact that the children who frequented her sister’s kindergarten school were the models for her drawings, not the fairies she supposedly saw in the garden.

Cicely was known to be a deeply religious person who retained a strong faith throughout her lifetime. In addition to her fairy stories, she also painted many religious works including an illustrated book of Bible stories for children which was written by her sister.

Even though she was quite famous, Cicely lived a quiet, modest life and continued to paint until her eyesight deteriorated. She died on February 16, 1973, at the age of 77, which was the same year she celebrated the 50th anniversary of her first published fairy book.

There is no indication that Barker ever believed in fairies or claimed to have seen them. The official website of The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker makes no mention of any such belief.

This misunderstanding is more than likely coming from the popular book series, Fairyopolis, which is based on the antics of a fictitious Cicely Mary Barker who discovers the secret world of fairies. Although Fairyopolis ties in with real dates and events, and uses Cicely's sketches and poems, it is in the juvenile fiction genre.

Fairies are an invention of neopagans and New Agers who believe they are a kind of angelic spirit possessed of magical powers that can be used for a variety of purposes. As nonsensical as it might sound, there has been a resurgence of belief in fairies these days with even the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, professing her belief in the whimsical little creatures.

As this blog reports, she wrote in a new book being sold to help Children in Need that “I do believe in fairies . . . . I do believe in magic and, when you blow on a dandelion, you will see the flight of the enchanted spreading their wings and disappearing off on their own journeys. Don’t let the day go by without looking for fairies and magic.”

To the best of my knowledge, Barker never believed in fairies – but a lot of other people do. And because these beliefs are based in the occult, believing in fairies would be a violation of the First Commandment.