The Fairy Path
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland
Beware the Wrath if you Build on a Fairy Path
There was a farmer in County Kerry who had a nice little cottage for himself and his wife, but the thatched roof was in a terrible state of disrepair and unlikely to last another winter. Unlike the stone houses and cottages in the west, Kerry cottages were less sturdy, and so he knew he had to build himself another place to live.
He searched through the plot of land he was renting until he came upon a likely spot, and he gathered the neighbours to help with raising his new house, as was the way back then. They came and soon the house was almost done, so they stopped to take a bite to eat and have a drink.
It happened that an old man was passing by, and he paused to survey the work. Shaking his head, he proclaimed that nobody who stayed in that house would get a night's sleep, but made off before he could be questioned about such an outlandish statement.
That very night the farmer and his wife were settled down and fast asleep, when just after midnight they were awakened by a terrible battering and rattling sound, as though the cupboard had come down from the wall and the table was dancing around the kitchen!
Scrambling out of bed he looked out the door to find everything looked the same as it had before, and nothing had moved. So, shaken, he went back to bed, but twice more that night the same thing happened, so the couple got no rest at all!
The next night he was ready and wore his clothes into the bed, and sure enough when the racket began again, he sprang out and grabbed his stick, going to the front door and back door, hoping to catch the blaggards who were battering on his wall. But not a soul was in sight, only the silent darkness of the countryside, even while his crockery toppled from the shelf.
He was at his wits end, but his wife suggested they should go to talk to the priest, a man with a fearsome reputation, and if he wouldn't do it, she would! And so she did, bringing the priest back with her the next day.
The priest arrived and said a Mass in the house, so the husband and wife went to sleep that night with an air of cautious optimism. But it was to no avail, for again the whole house shook and rocked!
Night after night it went on until the farmer was in a wretched state, but he had to bring his cattle to the market or he'd be out on his ear, so the next day he pulled himself slowly to the nearest town and managed eventually to sell his few head of cattle. He decided he'd stop off in the pub for a rest on the way back, but no sooner had he ordered his pint but he saw the same old man who had made the odd comment while his house was being built!
Quick as a flash he went out the door of that pub and asked the old man why he had said they would never sleep in that house, and the old man took in his appearance.
“You look like a man who hasn't been getting much sleep,” he declared, “but I'll tell you what, finish up your pint there and we'll take a look at your house.”
So he did, and the farmer told him everything that had happened. They went back to the farm house and the old man stood at the back door, pointing outwards.
“What is that you see there?” he said.
“Why, it is a white thorn tree,” replied the farmer.
Then the old man went to the front door, and pointed out that way.
“And what about in that direction?” he asked.
“Another white thorn tree!” said the farmer.
“And what did you expect,” said the old man, “you built your house between two hawthorns, each split into three bushes from the one trunk, for it is well known that the fairies will troop between two such trees and have been doing so since the land itself was young. You have built your house on a fairy path, and that commotion you hear nightly is nothing but the fairies trying to get through your house and running into the wall!”
“But what can I do about it?” asked the farmer as understanding dawned.
“Well what you must do is leave the front door open when night falls, and the back door as well, so that the fairies can pass through without hindrance. If you do this, the fairies won't trouble you again.”
So taking the old man's advice, the farmer left the front and back door open in his house every night, and never again was he bothered by the fairies. To this day, the doors of that house will never quite close fully, and it can be found near to the spot marked on the map below.
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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]
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]
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]
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]
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 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]
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]
Irish legends from time immemorial have a great deal to say about the land of the fairies, the home of the Tuatha De Danann, or the world of the Sidhe. There are those who claim it lies beneath fairy mounds or on the other side of deep caves where Druids once held tryst and shared magical secrets, while other tales tell of heroes and adventurers, e ... [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]
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]
After the Tuatha De Dannan were defeated in battle by the great race of Milesians, who held sway in Ireland long after, some of the Tuatha decided to leave and go elsewhere while some chose to stay in Ireland. Those that stayed agreed that they must live beneath the earth, and they were led by a great King in the west, Finnbhear son of Dagda, who i ... [more]
The Pooka or Puca is one of the most ancient fairy creatures of Ireland, and is known further abroad as well, called Puck or Pook. In some places he is feared and in others respected. He can take many shapes, most commonly that of a wild horse wrapped in chains with sulfurous or blazing crimson eyes - the night mare - a huge dog, a raging bull, a h ... [more]
Old Jack Doherty was a kindly and good natured sort of fellow, as well he might be for he had chosen to live in a strange and desolate part of the country, by a coast of jagged rocks and sucking tides. And why might that be cause for merriment, you may ask? Well, it was many's the night and many's the storm that blew an unfortunate ship too ... [more]
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 kindl ... [more]