Source: Into the Woods
An on-going series of posts on myth, folklore, and the wild world.
To scroll through all the “Into the Woods” posts
to date, from newest to oldest, go here.
Oh! many, many Moons ago, when the World was young, there was no Winter. It was always beautiful Spring. Then Violets and Roses bloomed all the year round, and the birds sang their sweetest songs night and day.
Then there wandered through the Sky Land, a very bright little Star. It looked down on the Earth and saw the children laughing and playing, and it wished to live among them and be loved. So it put out wings like a bird’s, and flying downward, hovered above the tops of the trees. But it did not know in what form to dwell so that the children would love it.
Taking the shape of a bright maiden, the Star entered the dreams of a young brave, who slept alone in his lodge.
“Young brave,” said the maiden to the dreaming youth, “I am a Star that has left the Sky to live in your land. Lovely are the things of Earth!—its flowers! it’s birds! it’s rivers! it’s lakes! But more lovely are its children! Ask your wise men in what form I should dwell to be best loved by the children.”
Thus spoke the bright maiden, and vanished from the young man’s dreams. He awoke, and, stepping from his lodge, saw the shining Star hovering above the trees. And at dawn, he sought the wise men of his tribe and told them his dream. And when the night came again, and the brave was sleeping alone in his lodge, the Star spread its wings, and in the shape of the maiden, entered once more his dreams. Then he bade it seek a dwelling-place in the tops of giant trees, or in the hearts of the flowers. So would the children love it?
The maiden vanished as before, and becoming the Star again, wandered above the Earth, seeking some form in which to dwell.
At first, the Star crept into the heart of the White Rose of the Mountain. But it was so hidden in a lonely spot that the children never saw it.
Then it went to the prairie to live in the blades of grass. But it feared the trampling hoofs of the Buffalo.
Next, it sought the rocky cliff to lie in the moss. But the children could not climb so high.
Then said the Star: “I will live on the surface of the lake, for there, all the warm Summer day, the children paddle their canoes. They will see me reflected in the ripples, and will love me.”
So the Star alighted on the lake and dissolved in beauty.
And when the children rose in the morning and ran down to the shore, they saw hundreds and hundreds of white Lilies, like Fairy cups, floating on the water. And in the heart of each, the Bright Star was dwelling.
Soon the happy children, in their canoes, were darting to and fro, and as they trailed their hands in the water, and gathered the blossoms, they laughingly called to each other:—
“Oh! how we love the Water Lilies!”
The Story of the Star and Water Lilies
This story of the Star and Water Lilies is featured in the book entitled the Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins Olcott published in Boston, New York by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1917
Few mythical “creatures”, if you can call this one, share the kind of worldwide mythology that the will-o’-the-wisp has. In different cultures around the world, this unexplained phenomenon is known by different names and descriptions, but there are a few similarities that seem to appear in all versions of the folklore.
The most common encounters with will-o’-the-wisps occur in marshes and swampland. Travelers will see a faint but definite flame-like light in the distance. It seems to be flickering in and out of sight. Those who approach the light notice consistently that it appears to move away from them, but if they turn around and walk away, it appears to follow them. It is believed that the light wants you to follow it, but folklorists disagree as to whether it wants to help you find your way or lead you to your death.
Scientists have long suspected that these lights were simply marsh gas igniting. Small photon emissions (lights) can indeed be replicated by combining chemicals and gasses found in marshes and rotting compost.
In J.G. Owens “Journal of American Folklore”, the author makes a striking point in response:
“This is a name that is sometimes applied to a phenomenon perhaps more frequently called Jack-o’-the-Lantern, or Will-o’-the-Wisp. It seems to be a ball of fire, varying in size from that of a candle-flame to that of a man’s head. It is generally observed in damp, marshy places, moving to and fro; but it has been known to stand perfectly still and send off scintillations. As you approach it, it will move on, keeping just beyond your reach; if you retire, it will follow you. That these fireballs do occur, and that they will repeat your motion, seems to be established, but no satisfactory explanation has yet been offered that I have heard. Those who are less superstitious say that it is the ignition of the gases rising from the marsh. But how a light produced from burning gas could have the form described and move as described, advancing as you advance, receding as you recede, and at other times remaining stationary, without having any visible connection with the earth, is not clear to me.”
Again, explanations as to what will-o’-the-wisps really depend highly on the context and location of the sighting. Some cultures believe they are ghost lights, some say they are fairies, and some have different takes altogether. They all, however, share the theory that these are spirits or creatures that intend to guide travelers in a certain direction.
The optimistic view is that following a will-o’-the-wisp will lead to great treasure, much like chasing a leprechaun, but seemingly easier. The more common, and seemingly more realistic take is that these are the ghosts of the dead, not allowed in either Heaven or Hell, wandering eternally and leading travelers astray to do them harm.
Several folktales support this theory, stating that the light one sees is a single piece of burning coal from Heaven or a burning ember from Hell – both consolation prizes for trying, but failing, to get in. The name Jack-o’-the-Lantern or jack-o’-the-lantern comes from this same myth, where the burning ember is placed in a turnip or pumpkin. This is where the tradition of guiding others to your home by lighting a candle inside a pumpkin on Halloween night comes from.
Regardless of their true origin or nature, my take is that if I were, for some odd reason, out traveling in the darkness and I saw a will-o’-the-wisp, I would probably not follow it. Of course, if you are truly lost, this may indeed seem the best course of action. Or so they would like you to think…
Will-o’-wisps can be yellow, white, green, or blue. They are easily mistaken for lanterns, especially in the foggy marshes and swamps where they reside. A will-o’-wisp’s body is a globe of spongy material about 1 foot across and weighing about 3 pounds, and its glowing body sheds as much light as a torch.
They have no vocal apparatus but can vibrate to create a voice with a ghostly sound.
A startled or frightened will-o’-wisp can extinguish its glow, effectively becoming invisible.
The will o’ the wisp (called in Gaelic Teine biorach = sharp fire) is said to be of an appearance, at least in South Uist. It was first seen, it is said, in 1812, and is the haunting spirit of a young girl from Benbecula, who frequented the machair, or sandy plain beside the sea, in search of the galium verum, used in the dyeing of the local cloth or tweed. Her sin was that of seeking to get an undue share of a product which should have been equally divided for the common good, and which has at all times to be husbanded as one of the plants which bind the sandy soil together where it has been redeemed from the sea.
There is, however, another story as to the origin of the jack o’ lantern. The haunting spirit is that of a blacksmith, who could get no admittance even into hell. He was very cold and begged for a single ember to warm himself, and at last, one was given him, and he has gone shivering about with it ever since.
A special interest of this story is that it tells against the common Hebridean tradition of a cold hell, a tradition one soon learns to accept in South Uist, the land of cold mist and sweeping winds, and damp, and drafts, and rain, where even the nether regions with a fire in them have a suggestion of comfort. Hell is therefore discouragingly known as “the place of the wind of the cold passages, or the wind of the cold channels.
There are three primary groups of fae folk in Nordic Mythology: Elves, Dwarves, and Giants. Elves are mentioned but don’t seem to play a role in any of the mythoi. Dwarves and Giants are vital characters in most of the myths. Dwarves are the master-smiths who create great magical treasures for the Gods and are obsessed with gold, beautiful women, and power. Giants more or less represent the forces of chaos, continually trying to upset the order of the universe through one means or another. For the most part the Gods and Giants are in conflict with one another, however, this is not true all of the time. There are many tales of Gods and Giants who marry or become lovers.
Below are brief descriptions of the three primary categories of fae folk plus and an additional section for miscellaneous entries. These descriptions (& spellings) come directly from:
The Norse Myths. Kevin Crossley-Holland. Pantheon Books, New York. ©1980
Alfheim (Elf World): The part of Asgard inhabited by the light elves.
Svartalfheim: Land of the dark elves. The dark elves are often interchangeable with dwarfs.
Alvis (All Knowing): Wise dwarf outwitted by Thor and turned into stone.
Andvari: Dwarf who owned a treasure hoard, and cursed it when it was extracted from him by Loki to pay the ransom for Otter’s death.
Brokk: Dwarf who, with his brother Eitri, fashioned three such gifts for the gods that he won a wager with Loki.
Durin: Second-in-command of the dwarfs.
Dvalin: Dwarf who was turned to stone by the sun. The dwarfs ironically called the sun ‘Dvalin’s delight’.
Eitri: Dwarf. Brother of Brokk. He was a master-smith who fashioned three great gifts for the gods.
Fjalar: Dwarf. Brother of Galar and, with him, the murderer of the wise Kvasir from whose blood they make the mead of poetry.
Galar. Dwarf. Brother of Fjalar and, with him, the murderer of the wise Kvasir from whose blood they make the mead of poetry.
Ivaldi: Two dwarfs called the ‘sons of Ivaldi’ make three great treasures for the gods.
Angrboda (Distress-bringer) Giantess who was the mistress of Loki and mother of Fenrir, Jormungand, and Hel.
Aurgelmir: Alternative name for Ymir, the first frost giant.
Bergelmir: the Only giant to escape the flood caused by dead Ymir’s blood.
Farbauti (Cruel Striker): Giant who was Loki’s father.
Fjolsvid: Giant with some of Odin’s characteristics. Warder of the hall in Jotunheim in which Menglad lives.
Geirrod: Giant who tried to kill Thor (also the name of the king of the Goths)
Gerd (Field): Frost Giantess whose beauty ravished Freyr. He finally married her.
Gilling: Giant. He and his wife are murdered by the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar. They are avenged by their son Suttung.
Gjalp (Howler): Daughter of the giant Geirrod who tried to drown Thor in a torrent of menstrual blood and, later, to crush him against roof rafters.
Greip (Grasper): Daughter of the giant Geirrod and sister of Gjalp.
Grid: Giantess who was a mistress of Odin and assisted Thor by lending him her magic gloves, girdle, and staff with which to defend himself against the giant Geirrod.
Gunnlod: Daughter of the giant Suttung and guardian of the mead of poetry. Odin seduced her and won the mead.
Gymir: Frost Giant. Father of the giantess Gerd who marries Freyr.
Hnitbjorg: The giant Suttung’s mountain stronghold where he hid the mead of poetry.
Hraesvelf (Corpse Eater): Giant disguised as an eagle who causes the wind.
Hrungnir: Strongest of the giants. He lost a horse race with Odin and was subsequently killed in a duel with Thor.
Hugi (Thought): the Young giant who outstripped Thor’s human servant Thialfi in a running race and was, in fact, the embodiment of Utgard-Loki’s thought.
Hymir Giant: His massive cauldron required by the gods for the brewing of ale was wrested from him by Thor who subsequently killed him.
Hyndla (She-dog): Giantess who discloses the lineage of Freyja’s human lover Ottar.
Hyrrokin: Giantess who drags Balder’s burial boat, Ringhorn, down to the sea.
Jarnsaxa (Iron Cutlass) Giantess who was mistress of Thor and mother of Magni.
Jotunheim: Realm of the Giants.
Laufey: Giantess. Mother of Loki.
Logi (Flames): Fire in the form of a giant who beat Loki in an eating match at the court of Utgard-Loki.
Mist Calf (Mokkurkalfi): Giant made of clay, nine leagues tall. An ineffectual companion for the giant Hrungnir in his duel against Thor.
Modsognir: Commander of the dwarfs.
Muspell, Sons of Fire giants who will fight under the giant Surt at Ragnarok.
Narvi: Giant. Father of Night.
Skadi: Daughter of the giant Thiazi. At one time married to the Vanir Njord. Associated with skiing and hunting.
Skrymir (Big Bloke): Extra large giant (in fact Utgard-Loki in disguise) encountered by Thor and his companions on their journey to Utgard.
Surt (Black): The giant who has guarded Muspell (the realm of fire) since before the creation. He will set fire to the world at Ragnarok.
Suttung: giant. son of the giant Gilling. For some time custodian of the mead of poetry.
Thiazi: Giant. He stole the goddess Idun and the golden apples in her keeping but Loki retrieved them and Thiazi was killed by the gods.
Thokk: Giantess, probably Loki in disguise, who prevented Balder’s return from Hel.
Thrym: Giant, described as King of the frost giants. He stole Thor’s hammer and paid for it with his life.
Thrymheim (Place of Din): The giant Thiazi’s stronghold in the mountains. It passed to his daughter Skadi whose husband the god Njord refused to live there.
Utgard: Stronghold within Jotunheim, ruled by the giant king Utgard-Loki.
Vafthrudnir (Mighty of Riddles): the Wise giant who was tricked by Odin in a test of knowledge and paid with his life.
Ymir: The first giant, formed from fire and ice. The world was shaped out of his body.
Valkyries (Choosers of the Slain): Beautiful young women who choose men doomed to die in battle and brought them back to Valhalla.
Trolls: Trolls are mentioned in only one tale in Crossley-Holland’s book – 19: Thor’s Duel with Hrungnir. He gives them no mention in the glossary. In Table 19, Thor is said to be off “fighting trolls and troll women and their wolf children in Iron Wood.” No further mention is made of them.
Dragon (Corpse Tearer): Dragon that gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil in Niflheim and chews corpses.
When the Tuatha de Danaan, also known as Tuatha dé Danann, arrived with their flying ships on the Irish coast they were initially unable to land due to an energy field created by the Fomorians. They had to encircle Ireland nine times before they found a way through the energy field and were able to land in County Leitrim, which is considering the short coastline of this country quite an achievement in itself. The Tuatha de Danaan were determined to stay in Ireland at any costs. They even destroyed their own ships to make a retreat impossible.
Apart from the mishap during their arrival, the magical powers of the Tuatha de Danaan degenerated Fomorian magic to children’s party tricks. Unlike their close relatives the Fir Bolg the Tuatha de Danaan has managed to avoid slavery in their homeland by wandering the world.
The journey of the Tuatha de Danaan has clearly racked the brains of the Christian scribes. Some versions are suggesting a journey from the Scythian area, over mainland Europe to Scandinavia and eventually to the British Isles and Ireland. During their journey, the Tuatha de Danaan learned all conceivable and inconceivable skills to perfection. In Scandinavia, they got acquainted with the Goddess of Craftsmanship, Danu, and adopted her name. It is likely though that the name Tuatha de Danaan, literally translated as People of the Goddess Danu, does not refer to the Goddess herself, but to her sphere of activities, hence People of the Goddess of Craftsmanship, or in short Dextrous Folks.
Other scribes got themselves into a jam. Until the Tuatha de Danaan they consequently used the Scythian area as, religiously correct, point of origin of several mythological tribes, although the oral mythology probably stated that the tribes came from Tír na nÓg, Land of the Young. In the case of the Tuatha de Danaan, they made a slip of the pen by writing that the Tuatha de Danaan came from Falias, Glorias, Murias, and Finias, which are the mythological Four Cities of Tír Na nÓg. These cities were hidden from the mortal eye and after the departure of the Tuatha de Danaan the cities fell into decay and were eventually destroyed by natural disasters or fire.
Both the religiously correct version as the mythological version show great respect for the skills and powers of the Tuatha de Danaan. Not only did they master profane arts and crafts like poetry, music, forging and warfare, but also magic. The Tuatha de Danaan could go back and forth in time and between worlds. They could manipulate the weather and be changing their appearance was a piece of cake.
Even the Christian manuscripts admit the non-human nature of the Tuatha de Danaan. The scribes had to lean over backward to avoid blasphemous terms like demigods to describe the Tuatha de Danaan.
In folklore, they are depicted as fairies. A mythological Irish fairy can not be compared with the kind and lovely creatures like the Flower Fairies. Irish fairies are beings just like humans, but immortal, forever young and never fading, who are present in the normal world but can not be seen by mortals.
The Fir Bolg were no match for these supernatural creatures in the First Battle of Mag Tuiredh.
On the last day of the battle, the Tuatha de Danaan offered the Fir Bolg to choose one province of Ireland where they wanted to settle. The Fir Bolg picked Connacht and the Tuatha de Danaan tolerated them in the western part of Ireland.
In the First Battle of Mag Tuiredh the Tuatha de Danaan king Nuada had lost his hand and being defective he had to resign. To emphasize their alliance with the Fomorian and in an attempt to preserve the peace the Tuatha de Danaan worked out a deal.
By marrying the Tuatha de Danaan Brigit the half-Fomorian Bres would become the heir to the throne. The deal turned out to be a disaster and the Fomorians gained more and more control over Ireland.
Bres revealed himself as a tyrannical leader degrading important members of the Tuatha de Danaan such as The Dagda and Ogimos, who gave the Ogham Alphabet to the humans at a later stage.
To make matters worse there was no generosity and hospitality in Bres’ household. Soon Bres was overthrown by Lugh and Nuada, equipped with a silver hand made by the druid Diancecht, became king again. Released from blood relationships with the Fomorians Lugh led the Tuatha de Danaan in the Second Battle of Mag Tuiredh.
Lugh defeated the Fomorian champion Balor, who had a poisonous eye, with a mirror-like shield and beheaded him. After this battle, the Fomorians were permanently driven out of Ireland and the Tuatha de Danaan spread over Ulster, Míde, Leinster, and Munster.
Bres, the dethroned king, was spared because he could tell the Tuatha de Danaan when to plow, when to sow and when to reap. As mighty as they were the Tuatha de Danaan apparently did not know anything about farming.
The Hill of Tara, which had become the royal center of Ireland since the Fir Bolg, remained the seat of the Ard Rí, or High King, under the Tuatha de Danaan.
When the Tuatha de Danaan arrived in Ireland they brought with them the Four Treasures of Ireland. These treasure were the Lia Fail, the Sword of Nuada, the Spear of Lugh and the Cauldron of the Dagda.
The Lia Fail, sometimes also known as Stone of Destiny or Stone of Knowledge, originated from the city of Falias, the northern city of the mythological Four Cities. It is said the stone will cry when touched by the rightful king of Tara. The story and history of the Lia Fail are quite confusing because there are at least two artifacts with the same name. The other Stone of Destiny is said to be brought to Ireland by Jeremiah and is better known as the Stone of Scone and resides either in Scone Castle or in Edinburgh Castle, both in Scotland.
From the eastern city of Gorias came the sword An Fragarach, or The Answerer. This was a magical sword that cut through any armor and no one could escape from.
Another weapon which never missed its target and always came back to the hand that threw it was the Spear of Lugh. This Spear came from Finias, the southern city.
The Dagda, or The Good God, finally brought the Cauldron of Bounty with him from the city of Murias in the west. The Cauldron could regenerate enough food for any number of people.
Eventually, the Tuatha de Danaan were defeated by the Milesians or Gaels. Mythical as they were the Tuatha de Danaan decided to live in another dimension of space and time called Tír Na nÓg, or Land of the Young – / – Land of Eternal Youth. Tír Na nÓg was connected with our mortal world by the famous Irish portal and passage tombs.
These entrances, with the passage tomb at Newgrange taking the lead, are nowadays major attractions for visitors and objects of new-age-like fantasies.
Tir Nan Og is the land to which the Irish faeries know as Tuatha de Danann (Too-ah day Thay-nan, or Tootha day danan) fled when their lands were taken by the Milesians. In Tir Nan Og they spend their days feasting, gaming, love-making and partaking of beautiful music. The faeries can even enjoy the thrill of battle, for anyone slain is resurrected the following day. It is the paradise that mortals can only dream of.
Faeries, also known as the little people, green men, good folk, fayerye, fairye, fayre, faery, fairy, fatae (Latin), fee (French) and fay (Anglican), are one of the most popularized fanciful races in mythology and literature. They are featured in myths from the early Norse-men, Celts, Romans as well as in Medieval French, English, Irish and Scottish tales. In literature, faeries have been written about by Chaucer and Shakespeare and many others. But what are faeries, and do they have fairy tales? This article attempts to unlock just a few of the mysteries surrounding the little folk.
The Tuatha Dé Danann (which means the people of Danu) arrived in Ireland bearing with them their stone of destiny called the Lia Fail which they placed on the mound of Tara and ever after the rightful kings of Ireland were chosen when it called out. They also brought the spear of Lugh which ensured victory to whoever wielded it, The Sword of Nuada from whom none could escape and the Cauldron of the Dagda from which none would go unsatisfied.
There is a story that they came to Ireland in flying ships but could not land as the Fomorians had set up a great energy field that they could not penetrate. So they had to circle Ireland nine times before finding a breach in the energy field and setting down on Sliabh an Iarainn (The Iron Mountains) in Co. Leitrim.
They clashed with the Fir Bolg (the men of the bags or pot-bellied ones) who they defeated at the first battle of Magh Tuiredh (Moytura) and routed towards the West of Ireland where they allowed them to stay. After defeating the Fir-Bolg they were challenged by the Fomorians and had to fight another battle this time in Co. Roscommon, which became known as the second battle of Magh Tuiredh, they defeated the great Fomorian warrior Balor, and so laid undisputed claim to the land.
They prospered under their two great heroes Nuada of the Silver Arm and Lugh of the Long Arm. They were eventually defeated by the Milesians at Teltown. As they were a magical people they decided to go underground into another dimension of space and time the entrances to which are at many sites around Ireland; one of the most famous being Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange).
It was reputed that only iron weapons could injure them. They became like gods to the later Celtic people and were worshiped as such.They became known as the people of the Sidhe (mounds) and there are many Faery Mounds in existence in Ireland today.
- Name: Tuatha Dé Danann/ Danaan / Men of Dea
- Origin: The Islands of the North – Lochlann (Norway)?
- Original Cities: Failias, Gorias, Findias, & Murias
- Associated Sites: Magh Tuiredh (Moytura), Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange), Teltown, Co. Meath
- Kings: Nuada of the Silver Arm, Bres Mac Elath, Lugh the Long-handed, Dagda, Bodb, Derg
- Associated Deities: Danu Medb
- Druid: Dagda
- Warrior: Oghma
- Arts & Crafts: Lugh
- Medicine: Dian Cécht
- Smithcraft: Goibhniu
- Poet: Cairpre son of Oghma
- Brazier: Credne
- Wright: Luchtaine
- Harper: Cas Corach
There are many different faerie organizations. Each has its own hierarchy and local legends. In Scotland, there is the Sellie Court, a group of rather beneficial spirits, who may none-the-less play the occasional trick on a mortal. The Selie Court are some of the more aristocratic faeries and are known as tropping or heroic faeries. The dark Unsellie Court deserves special mention and a serious warning.
The great Tuatha de Danann of Ireland fled to Tir Nan Og after their defeat by the Milesians, however, those who remained in Ireland became the Daoine Sidhe. Side (Shee) is Gaelic for ‘people of the hills’. Originally it referred to the mounds in which faeries lived, though it has now come to refer to the inhabitants as well. With the introduction of Christianity to Ireland, the Daoine Sidhe diminished in importance, and also shrank in size, from the gigantic Tuatha de Danann to that of more traditionally sized faeries. Their king is Finvarra, who like all of his clan is a skilled warrior. He is also fond of chess playing and womanizing. Despite the fact that his wife, Donagh, is one of the most beautiful women above or below the ground, he is known to abduct brides-to-be. Like the Seelie Court, the Daoine Sidhe, enjoy riding and are famous for their faerie steeds, which can carry a rider faster than the wind over land or water.
Another group of faeries in Ireland inhabit the Lough Lean. Their ruler is O’Donoghue who rides forth from the lake every May Day on a war steed to ride into the surrounding mist.
Wales has perhaps more clans of faeries than any other area. In Glastonbury Tor, famous from Arthurian legends, Gwyn ap Nudd rules over the Plant Annwn (roughly- family of Hades). Whoever eats of their food is doomed to remain forever. The Welsh Gwyllion, mountain faeries, have a disturbing habit of sitting on rocks on either side of a path and staring silently at passers-by. The Tylwyth Teg (Terlooeth teig) can only be seen by mortals who first rub their eyes with a special faerie ointment, so strong is their glamor.
However, the most famous Welsh faeries are the Gwynedd Annwn (Gwrageh anoon), the water faeries who are though to live in a submerged town beneath a lake. They are occasionally known to take human husbands, but if the mortal should strike his wife, then she will leave him, never to return. Long ago, on every New Year’s Day, a door would appear on the side of a great rock next to a certain lake. Those who entered found that it leads to a passage that ended on the island in the middle of the lake. This island was a beautiful garden kept by the Gwynedd Annwn, who would serve wonderful food to the travelers and treat them as honored guests. They warned the fortunate mortals that the doorway was a secret and that nothing could be taken from the garden. One mortal took a single flower from the garden and as soon as he touched the soil of the earth, all of the other-other travelers were expelled and the doorway was closed, never to reopen again.
The Cornish small people are reduced in size every time they use their shape-changing abilities. They grow smaller and smaller, finally ending their days as ants. For obvious reasons, it is considered in Cornwall unlucky to kill ants.
In the Orkneys, the sea faeries are known as Selkies, who appear seal-like. The females will often shed their seal skins and walk upon the shore as beautiful damsels. If a man should take the seal-skin, he can force the Selkie to become his wife. If she should ever find her skin, however, she will leave it never to return.
The Scottish Unsellie Court contains the most malicious, malevolent and evil of the faeries, and a number of monsters of horrible appearance and fearsome abilities as well. It is one of the only groups of faeries which is known for being thoroughly evil without exception. Every night around twilight, a group known as ‘The Host’ emerge and carry off any mortals which they find. The unfortunates who are brought back to their realm are rarely heard from again.
Fairies are the Little People, said by some to be the dispossessed early tribes of the British Isles. They faded away into uninhabited places, growing smaller and smaller with time as they were forgotten and passed into legend. Oral history informs us that the Tuatha de Danann, People of the Goddess Dana, ruled Ireland before the Milesian invasion. They are said to have been driven underground, where they became the Daoine Sidhe fairies.
Other theories hold that fairies are supernatural beings, fallen angels trapped on earth, spirits of the heathen dead, elementals, nature spirits, visitors from an alternate or parallel universe, or old god/esses who have been so neglected that they have lost their powers and devolved into fairies.
Myths and legends provide a lot of information about fairies. These are some of their supposed qualities and attributes:
Wear green clothes
Maybe winged and fly
Maybe tiny, or child-sized
Can turn invisible, or blend so closely into the forest as to seem invisible
May be male or female, helpful or harmful
Have powers of magic and enchantment
Live on fruit
Brawl with each other
Enjoy music, dancing and making love
War with insects and reptiles
Are associated with certain plants, trees, and places
Sometimes take human lovers
Can breed with humans
Create artifacts, such as shoes and bows
Bestow Gifts – Fairy gifts include the cauldron of plenty, the wand of intelligence, and the tree of knowledge
Assist with housework
Steal babies and replace them with changelings
Borrow household items from humans
Enchant humans and beguile them into the fairy realm
Live on hills, in woody dells, underwater, or in the Otherworld
Fairyland, also called Elfland or Tir Nan Og, is an enchanted place where fairies live in an organized community. It may be thought of as an alternate or parallel universe, a place where time stands still and there is no sickness or death. The fairy kingdom is said to be a hilltop one, but invisible, or composed of magnificent underground cities. Fairy kings and queens rule there.
Humans who enter the fairy realm cannot leave once the door closes behind them. Those who do leave may find that years have passed on earth during what was, for them, but minutes in the fairy kingdom.
Cause fog and tempests
Fairies are the Little People, the good folk who live in woody dells. Names for them include: faery – faerie – fatae – fa’ae – fairye – Sidhe (pronounced shee) – sith – fee – fay – fae – fayerie – fair folk – very folk – feriers – ferishers – farisees – wee folk – green men – greenies – greencoaties – green children – gremlins – good neighbors – good people – grey neighbors – pixies – piskies – sprites – Tamerlane – Tamerlane – tom-lin – tom of lyn
Elves, gnomes, sprites, goblins, hobgoblins, nymphs, merfolk, trolls, leprechauns, etc. are considered types of fairies in some traditions.
Knowing a fairy’s true name gives you power over it, so fairies are said to guard their real names very closely. Nevertheless, individual fairies known to us from mythology include:
The fairy godmother is a stock character of fairy tales. She appears alone or in a group to bestow gifts, usually on newborns. Sometimes she acts like a guardian angel.
Fatae, one of the names for fairies, derives from Fata/Fatae, the Fates. This Roman Triple Goddess appeared at the birth of kings and notables to decree the child’s destiny. The archetype is much older, going back at least as far as Egypt where the Seven Hathors appeared upon the birth of a child to bestow gifts and divine its fate.
“There are other forms of life as well as ours whose sphere of evolution impinges upon the earth. In the realm of folk-lore we constantly meet with the idea of intercourse between the human and the fairy kingdoms; of the marriage of a human being with a fairy spouse, or the theft of a child by the fairies, an impish changeling being left in its place. We shall be rash if we assume that an extensive body of folk-belief is entirely without foundation in fact.”
Festival of river nymphs and water fairies, a dangerous day for swimming.
April 30/May 1 – Beltane/May Day
Fairies ride out from their hills to celebrate Beltaine on May Eve
Fairy Hills and dwellings are revealed on this day.
Doors open between our world and the fairy realm.
Another day when it is possible to catch a glimpse of fairyland.
Festival of the blackthorn fairies.
These are supernatural beings and spirits that can be either good or bad. It is believed by many who believe in fairies that they reside in a place somewhere between earth and heaven; however, many think fairies dwell on earth. Others believe they are mythical beings possessing magical powers and sometimes being close to human beings on earth. They are said to appear in various shapes being dressed in different customs. Typically a dwarf creature has green clothes and hair, lives in underground or in stone heaps, and characteristically exercises magical powers to benevolent ends.
Or, a fairy might be thought of as a diminutive, delicate feminine creature dressed in white clothing who lives in a fairyland but intervening in human lives with good intentions. Then there is the Irish leprechaun. This tiny fairy usually wearing a cocked hat and apron can be good or bad. A cobbler by trade, his tapping makes others aware of his presence. Supposedly he possesses a hidden crock of gold, which the whereabouts he is not about to divulge unless his capture threatens him with bodily harm. He might then divulge the whereabouts of his treasure if his capture constantly watches him. But, he usually tricks his capture in looking away briefly when the tiny man vanishes.
The belief in fairies seems to reach back into ancient times, being traceable both in written and oral tradition. Traces stem from the Sanskrit gandharva (semidivine celestial musicians) to the nymphs of the Greeks and Homer, the jinni of Arabic mythology, and other folk characters of the Samoans, Arctic, and other indigenous Americans. A common conception of fairies today, especially in children’s fairytales, rests largely upon their depiction in old folklore tradition where they were generally described as serious and sinister. The exceptions include the tooth fairy, the fairy godmother in Cinderella, and Snow White and the seven dwarfs.
The word “fairy” is derived from the Latin fata, or fate, referring to the mythical Fates, three women who spin and control the threads of life. The archaic English term for fairies is faes, which means “enchanted” or “bewitched.”
Since the belief in fairies is universal because they are known by various folkloric names including brownie (English and Scottish folklore), elf (German folklore), dwarf (Teutonic and Germanic folklore), troll (Norse folklore), gnome (Europe, popularized by Paracelsus), pooka (Irish folklore), Kobold (German folklore), leprechaun (Irish folklore), and Banshee (Irish and Celtic folklore). Fairy lore is thought to exist in almost every culture and is most prevalent in Europe and the British Isles. It spread to America during the colonization period and is still strong in the Appalachians, Ozarks, and other remote mountainous regions.
More generally fairies are believed to live in a land where time does not exist. This Land of the Fairy, or Fairyland or Elfland, as it is called, is accessed through barrows and mounds. Fairies come to the land at night to frolic and make mischief. Stories are told that they are eager to kidnap human women for wives and human children, which are more attractive than fairy children, or changelings, that they leave behind in exchange. Other fairies generally live in small groups along rivers, lakes, or in woods and forests. They resemble the elementals and devas.
This Fairyland, or Elfland, resembles the pre-Christian abodes for the dead. Fairyland is sometimes referred to as the Land of the Ever Young, which is eternal and beautiful. People carried off to fairyland cannot return if they eat or drink there. Fairy and human lovers can marry, though only with restrictions whose violation ends the marriage, and often, the life of the human. Some female fairies are deadly to human lovers. Fairies may resemble humans in size but can decrease to three inches (7.5 cm) or less. Female fairies may be fortune tellers, particularly prophesying at births and foretelling deaths.
The fairies were aristocratic and had monarchs; for example, in County Galway, Fin Bheara and Nuala were the king and queen. In Wales, king and queen of the fairies – known there as the Tylwyth Teg – were Gwydion ab Don and Gwenhidw. Shakespeare records the fairy rulers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon and Titania.
Fairies are unbaptized souls. They are souls caught up in a Netherland land, not good enough to enter heaven, nor bad enough to deserve hell. Such a place is frequently referred to as limbo.
Fairies are the fallen angels. Fairies were among the angels loyal to Lucifer. They were cast out of heaven with him to plunge into hell, but suddenly God stopped them in mid-flight and condemned them to remain where they were. Some were in the air, some in the earth and some in the seas and rivers. Such belief is widespread in fairy lore of Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia.
Fairies are nature spirits. Somewhat analogous to the fallen angel theory, this theory holds that fairies are among the many spirits that populate all things and places in the earth.
Fairies are diminutive human beings. There is evidence that small-structured races populated parts of Europe and the British Isles in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, before the spread of the Celts. In Ireland, they were known as the Thuathe de Danaan. They resided in barrows and in shelters burrowed under hills and mounds. They were hard working but shy, and, as stronger peoples invaded their land and captured their iron weaponry, they retreated to the woodlands to live a secretive life. Being pagan, they continued to worship the pagan deities. They were in union with nature and possessed keen psychic senses. Their skills and trades allowed them to lead somewhat normal lives while raising diminutive cattle and horses. There was sporadic guerilla warfare against invaders as described in the legends of Robin Hood and Rob Roy.
Originally the elusive fairy races were regarded with suspicion by larger races. Belief in them was thought to be superstitious. However, gradually more people began endowing these little people with magical characteristics. The races such as the Lapps, Picts, and Romano-British-Iberian peoples, were not so small as to be unable to mingle with the Celts, Normans and Saxons. Although many became servants and serfs, others married and mixed bloodlines. Until the 13th century, having fairy blood was admired.
There is much evidence of fairy lore in relation to witchcraft. The British anthropologist Margaret A. Murray and other historians state that the real “little people” gradually became identified with witches. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when belief in fairies was at its peak, the activities of fairies and witches were frequently combined. Both cast and broke spells; they both healed people and divined lost objects and the future. Both danced and sang beneath the moon often together and were said to have trafficked with the Devil. Both practiced metamorphosis, flying, and levitation, and could cause others to levitate. As well, both supposedly stole unbaptized babies, poisoned people, and stole horses that they rode hard and fast to their sabbats in the night. Both avoided salt and were repelled by iron.
King James I of England, in Daemonologie, his book about witches, called Diana, the goddess of witches, and the “Queen of Fairie.” Oberon, the name of the King of Fairies, also was the name of a demon summoned by magicians. Fairies were also claimed to be familiars of witches. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why fairies figured into witch trials. The trials richest in details occurred in the British Isles.
Currently, Neo-Pagan Witches believe in fairies and some see them clairvoyantly. Some Witches say their Craft was passed down by fairies through the generations of their families.Fairy lore is particularly prevalent in Ireland, Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland. Fairies are common in literature from the Middle Ages on and appear in the writings of the Italians Matteo Boiardo and Ludovico Ariosto, the English poet Edmund Spenser, the Frenchman Charles Perrault, and the Dane Hans Christian Andersen, among others. A.G.H.
The word Fairy is derived from the ancient “faunoe o fatuoe” which, in the pagan mythology, indicated the faun’s (deer) companions, creatures endowed with the power of foretelling the future and ruling the human events. The word Fairy also comes from “fatigue”, which in Middle Ages was synonymous with “wild woman”, that is a woman of woods, waters and, in general, of the natural world.
Fairies are so prevalent in a mythical culture that it’s natural to wonder where they came from. Different societies have come up with very different explanations of the origins of ‘the little people’.
The Little People are said to be the dispossessed early tribes of the British Isles.They faded away into uninhabited places, growing smaller and smaller with time as they were forgotten and passed into legend. The Tuatha de Danann, People of the Goddess Dana, ruled Ireland before the Milesian invasion. They were driven underground where they became the Daoine Sidhe fairies.
The Irish believe that the fairies are a previously conquered society, the Tuatha De Danaan (People of the Goddess Dana), who were driven into hiding when the Celts invaded Ireland. The Pagan gods of the Tuatha, skilled in building and magic, went underground to live in the tombs and mounds they had built. Hidden from sight, they grew smaller in the popular imagination until they turned into fairies.
Other cultures believe that fairies are the souls of the dead, people not good enough to enter Heaven yet not bad enough for Hell. They wander the Netherland in between and are occasionally seen by humans. Along with a similar theme, fairies are also believed to be angels that had been cast out of Heaven. Some fell into the sea and some onto the land, where they would do no harm if left alone.
In Wales, fairies are thought to be a race of invisible spiritual beings living in a world of their own. Some people also believe that fairies were originally local gods or nature spirits that dwindled in majesty and size over time.
I want to share with you a picture of the Fairy Kingdom, that is, some of the Fairies and Elementals in this very special, mystical world – at least the ones we know about! These wonderful beings are in abundance in our everyday lives, but we usually take no notice of them, or worse yet, we ignore them! With our busy and technological lives, this aspect of living in harmony with nature and the wonderful beings that inhabit it is rapidly fading away. Now is the time to reconnect, communicate with and appreciate our fairy friends.
The four elements are fire, earth, air and water, and the members of the Fairy, or Elemental, Kingdom belongs to one of these elements. This is why they are also commonly known as Elementals.
Fires, explosions, lightning, solar energy, candlelight – anything to do with fire and heat is within the Salamander’s jurisdiction. They are very dynamic, explosive and difficult to comprehend. They can help humans with healing, creativity, courage, and transformation. Salamanders can also arouse passion and warmth, which in turn enriches our daily lives.
The King of the Salamanders is a magnificent being called Djinn.
The Archangel associated with the Fire Element is Michael. The Zodiac signs belonging to the Fire Element are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
Gnomes create and maintain all earth-related substances; crystals, stones, plants, flowers, trees etc… There are no female Gnomes. They are reclusive, master magicians and help humans to maintain a healthy, balanced physical body. Gnomes can assist us by providing lucky breaks or opportunities, helping us to develop our innate magical abilities and renewing a deep respect for the Earth and all her natural resources.
The King of the Gnomes is the delightfully mischievous Ghob.
I would imagine that the fearsome Irish Pooka would fall into this category.
The Archangel associated with the Earth Element is Auriel. The Earth Zodiac signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
From whispering breezes to mighty gales – this is the realm of the Sylphs. Thought processes, creativity, and education are just some of the areas that these beings can help us with. They work closely with the angelic realm and particularly love children. Sylphs can also assist us to tap into the available universal wisdom and healing abilities. Of the entire Elemental Kingdom, these beautiful beings most resemble our popular vision of a fairy; ethereal, twinkling and delicate.
The King of the Sylphs is the eloquent Paralda.
The Archangel associated with the Air Element is Raphael. The Zodiac signs of the Air element are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
The Undine’s domain is all forms of water – from rain to oceans, from tears to fountains. They can help us connect to our dreams, deepest hopes, and fears. Undines have strong intuitive, clairvoyant and magical abilities and, if so inclined, can grant these powers to humans. Mermaids and mermen, water nymphs and water sprites all belong to the Water Elemental group. They often communicate with us during our dream time.
The King of the Undines is the eternally wise Niksa.
The Archangel associated with the Water Element is Gabriel. The Zodiac signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces fall under the Water element.
Respect, kindness, and generosity would be the words that spring to mind when trying to communicate with the Fairy Kingdom.
All members of the Fairy realm are suspicious and wary of humans. They long to help and interact with us, but because of the damage being done to their environment and the Earth in general, they are afraid.
Here are some of my top tips for communicating and befriending Fairies in your local environment. I’m sharing them with you because they work!
- Be kind, generous and joyful in all that you do – even the most boring and mundane daily chores. Fairies are always watching humans and will feel more like helping and even appearing to you if your behavior is exemplary.
- Spend time outside in nature, in quiet meditation. There are particular times of the day – midnight, noon, dawn and dusk – when the veil between our worlds is at it’s most transparent. This is the easiest time to open up communication.
- They absolutely adore honey and little treats! If you have a garden with shrubs or trees, a little trickle of honey down the barks of these is much appreciated by them. I know from experience that our Fairy friends have celebrations in particular on the night of the full moon and a little piece of cake and honey on a saucer is always gone the next morning!
- Cultivate plants, flowers, and trees in your environment. If you don’t have a garden – no problem. Just keep fresh flowers and healthy plants around your home. There will be elementals attached to all of these and they will bring positive energy and happiness to your surroundings.
- Respect fairy space. That is, fairy mounds or fairy circles (please walk around, not through them), lone trees or shrubs which are not cultivated and stand out on their own (do not cut down or mutilate) and wild areas of nature – always ask their permission before weeding, clearing or cutting down growth.
- Do your bit for the environment. Recycle, use organic, natural products when possible, and do not mistreat the world around us.
There are a few subtle signs that will tell you a member of the Fairy Kingdom is nearby. If any of these has happened to you – congratulations! You have probably had a close encounter of the Fairy kind!
- A beautiful feather, usually white, appears in front of you. A gift from an Elemental.
- A wonderful scent hits you out of the blue when out walking. A greeting from a Fairy.
- A surprise compliment or a lucky break – an affectionate gesture from the Elemental realm.
- An unusual breeze rustling up out of nowhere when walking through trees. Salutations from the Fairies.
- A small unexpected present from a friend – influenced by a member of the Fairy Kingdom.
“Great are the blessings that will come of treating the fairies well. They are, for instance, very fond of good wines, and in the olden times great princes and chiefs would always be leaving out a keg of wine overnight, and always in the morning the keg would be drained. Cynical folks will say, of course, that a keg might easily be drained by others than fairies, and that anyone who would be foolish enough to leave out a keg of wine at night might expect to find it none other than empty in the morning. But cynics will not be reading this…”
Snack savvy: Toddler snack ideas Toddlers are on the go from sun up to sun down. To help them make it through, they need one to three healthy snacks in addition to their meals. Serve your child her snacks at around the same time each day, at the table whenever possible. Snack time is a