According to Dr. Carolyn White, “fairy is the generic term for all creatures…who are in neither God’s nor the devil’s service. Fairies inhabit most countries of the world, but each nation has its particular cultural group. Ireland has leprechauns, the Scots have brownies and in Germany they have kobolds, all independent of religion and quite natural in movement, taste and manners.”
In today’s world we see them as supernatural sweetness such as Disney’s fairy’s. In many older stories they were anything but sweet, but self-serving and delighted in absconding with whatever pleased them in the mortal world.
I like to think of them in two ways, ethereally translucent with clear eyes that blink often or as Cicely Barker painted them.
Dr. White also discusses them as either trooping or solitary. Solitary are those that brewed a tad but are fixated on mortals. Trooping fairies are found in “merry bands about the hawthorn tree or at feasts in gilded fairy palaces. They delight in company, while the solitary fairies avoid large gatherings, preferring to be left by themselves and separate from one another.”
In modern times we like to think of them as supernatural with magical presence. We could all use a little magical glitter.