The Fairy Folk
Some might wonder, who or what are the fairy folk? There are stories upon stories of them and their doings in many places, but most of all in Ireland, where it was said they lived longest and if they still walk the earth, where they can yet be found! The country folk claim they are fallen angels lacking the merit to stay in heaven while being kindly enough to avoid hell. The Book of Armagh calls them earth gods, while scholars of Irish legend and lore call them the gods of ancient Ireland, the Tuatha de Dannan who lacking worship had shrunk so they'd hardly even reach a man's knee.
These wise scholars will present to you as evidence the way that the fairies in stories are the names of de Dannan princes of old, and that they used to be called the sluagh-sidhe, or the fairy host. Set against these opinions there's much to recommend the view that they're fallen angels, given as they are to caprice without conscience.
Treating the kind hearted well and giving to the wicked in kind, the fairies are so whimisical that you should only refer to them as the gentle people for fear of their ire, if you must refer to them at all! And perhaps it is the lack of malice in their evil that was their saving, although they do look after people who leave a little milk out in a dish for them of an evening. Those that incur their wrath my find themselves paralysed by a fairy dart!
Are they then perhaps old gods of Ireland, old gods of the earth? Mystics and occultists and poets and dreamers will tell you that the world we see is but the surface of the whole, barely even ripples atop a deep pool, and perhaps the fairies are better swimmers than us! We see more of this world when we dream, but it's always there, even when you cross the street and buy a loaf of bread.
But of course the only thing we can say with certainty about the fairies is that they're inconsistent, you never know what's going to happen next with them. They can adopt any size or form that takes their fancy, and spend most of their time fighting and feasting and sharing embraces, except only one, the cobbler, who some call the leprechaun. Close to the village of Ballysadare lived a woman who went away with them, and danced for seven years! And when she came back her shoes were worn thin as paper.
They have three great feast days, the first is the day before May, when they go to the white plain and fight for the best ears of corn, struggling amongst one another. Any old man in the countryside seeing a whirling wind whipping at the trees, causing a stir will doff his cap and bow low, for he knows the fairies are close.
Their second feast is that of Midsummer's eve, that is their time for dancing and merriment, but don't get befuddled by their capering for that's also the day they steal away pretty mortals to be their mates for all eternity!
And the third then comes on November eve, that is when they are darkest, at the dying of the year, although it is said they themselves don't die. On that night they dance with the dead, and the dreaded pooka walks abroad, and witches make their spells.
They love nothing more than to sing, and it's rumoured that many of the great old songs of Ireland were overheard at their feasts, but ware should you sing them near to a fairy rath for they're none too fond of their wonderful songs being fumbled by clumsy mortals! And yet when they sing, they can charm and enchant maidens away with them. A perilous thing is a fairy's fun.
Ballysadare as mentioned is on the map below. If you'd like to visit you can find a good list of hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation here. While you're enjoying this site you might also enjoy a little Celtic and Irish music to set the mood, or just the one or two songs if you're not interested in the whole albums. Don't forget you can get some very nice Irish jewelry for yourself or someone else as well, or for the craftier maybe make your own!
The book of the Fairies is one that can never be finished, but at least it can be started here, so go and buy it.
Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland
||The Three Sons|
Times were hard in Ireland back years ago, and while some might say they've had it tough today, it was not a patch on the hardships people endured in times gone by. And so it was with Michael McGovern, a poor farmer with hardly an acre of stony soil to rent, who looked upon his three young sons with love for the life of them and fear for their ... [more]
There was a prince in Ireland a long, long time ago, back when Ireland still had princes, and O'Donall was his name. A brave fellow he was, and powerful, but given to risk and heedless thrills in his hunting and leaping and running and swimming, all the better to impress his friends. He was lord of a wide land, and he wasn't hard on the poo ... [more]
||The Dark Valley|
A woman was out one day looking after her sheep in the valley, and coming by a little stream she sat down to rest, when suddenly she seemed to hear the sound of low music, and turning round, beheld at some distance a crowd of people dancing and making merry. And she grew afraid and turned her head away not to see them. Then close by her stood a you ... [more]
||The Field of Ragweed|
They say that in Ireland you will enjoy all four seasons in a day, but on this day the four seasons were high and glorious summer, or so it seemed to Tom Fitzpatrick as he walked along a narrow road between two tall hedges in harvest time. As he walked, he chanced to hear a strange ringing like a tiny bell, and he paused, puzzled as to what it migh ... [more]
||The Taking of Connla|
Connla of the Fiery Hair was one of the sons of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and his favourite son, a swift and agile warrior with a voice that could make the mountains tremble. Himself and his father climbed the heights of Usna on Samhain, when he saw coming towards them a slender maiden of great beauty, clad in strange clothes.
“Where do ... [more]
||The Horned Witches|
Strange are the ways of the Fairies of Ireland, and strange the look about them, but for all their wild and untamed manner they follow rules written in the ripples of willow-branches on still ponds, and laws murmured by the echo of birdsong in deep wells.
Once there was a woman sitting in her cottage, a humble enough abode, and she was making wo ... [more]
There are many types of fairy in Ireland, some more risky than others, and some to be avoided due to their habits rather than out of any particular malevolence. Such a one is the Gan Ceanach, whose name means “Without Love”.
Although you might think such a title would indicate a friendless creature of a lonely nature lacking in socia ... [more]
There are a great many raths or fairy forts of old scattered throughout Ireland today, numbering in the tens of thousands, and it is here, the wise say, that the good people or fairy folk gather to hold their revels.
Nobody would dare to cross, let alone build on a fairy dwelling in the past, marking as they did the boundary between our civilise ... [more]
||The Tragedy of Cairn Thierna|
Near to the town of Fermoy in Ireland lies the great stack of Cairn Thierna, not as wide about nor as tall as some mountains perhaps but feared and respected by the local people nonetheless. For all around it and along its flanks are tall heaps of stones they say are the work of the fairy folk, or the old people who lived here long ago.
And you ... [more]
||Stairs of the Giant|
On the road going down to Cork there's an old set of four walls that used to once be called Ronayne's Court. Although there's little enough to see of it nowadays still the stack of the chimneys stands proud, and on it can be seen the coat of arms of the family that built it and used to live there.
They were a fine couple and had one ... [more]
It was known in times past in Ireland that there were men and women who could talk to the fairies, ask favours from them, and even live among them, and some used this acquaintance to work their will on the world, for good or for ill. Most famous, perhaps, among these people were the fairy healers of old.
Biddy Early is the best known of their ki ... [more]
||A Bride for the Fairy|
James Mac Neill was as strapping a young fellow as you could hope to meet, and likely with it. Never did he walk away from a tussle or a drink, and never far from his hand was his shillelagh. He had no fears save the lacking of a pint, no cares except for who would pay for it, and not a thought in his head but how to have fun after it.
One cold ... [more]
||The Rocks of Knockfierna|
Maurice Mulreaney was well known for travelling about the countryside without fear of anything living or otherwise, as quick to cross a graveyard or fairy mound as you or I would be to cross the street, for he didn't believe in that which he couldn't see with his own two eyes or touch with his own two hands, and he didn't bother with ol ... [more]
||An Unexpected Guest|
It wasn't a bad life for Fergus O'Hara in Owenmore, for all that himself and his wife Rose had little, the little they had was enough for them. Some goats, pigs and poultry ranged far and wide about their few acres, and a field of oats and potatoes kept them busy for the harvest and brought in a few pennies.
It so happened that there lay ... [more]
In many cultures those that used to be called insane held a special place of reverence, and were treated almost as envoys from another place, or as though they could see something nobody else could, or were dancing to music only they could hear and the rest of us were deaf to. From far-off India and China to more familiar shores people would doff t ... [more]
||The Hunchback of Knockgrafton|
The children of De Danann once ruled the island of Ireland, before they departed back to their own lands in the farthest west or went below the earth in their fairy mounds to dance and sing forevermore, but if you're lucky – or unlucky! – you might still come across them in the wild places and those deep forests yet untouched.
An ... [more]
||Aoibhell Fairy Queen of Love|
Some of the Sidhe in times of old would take a fondness for one particular family, protecting it and helping it rise in the world, and so it was with the O'Briens, who were known as the Dál gCais, or the Dalcassians. Their fairy guardian was called Aoibhell, whose name means burning ardour or beauty, depending on who you ask.
She had ... [more]
While most people nowadays believe fairies to be gentle creatures, prone to mischief perhaps and capricious by their natures yet well intended for all that, in Ireland they have a more sinister reputation. Some say, and some still believe, that the fairies will take small children and young people, leaving in their place creatures known as changeli ... [more]
||The Calf of Knockshegowna|
It's well known among those who know of such things that fairies love to dance more than anything else, and they take it ill should anything interfere with their merriment. And if someone wanted to spoil a dance, they could come up with few better ways of doing so than to send a herd of cattle wandering through!
The hill atop Knockshegowna w ... [more]
The cheerful Leprechaun is about as well known an emblem of Ireland as you could want, but what truth lies behind the stories? Well the truth is nobody really knows the truth, for leprechauns are are a cagey bunch at the best of times, not prone to gossip or holding forth on the important events of the day or the local hurling results, even after a ... [more]