Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Irish Fae

The Irish Fae world includes the Tuatha De Danann, who were the "gods and not-gods" (in Irish: de agus ande) of early Ireland. The Tuatha De Danann were--and are--real people, or perhaps "beings" is a better word. They were also biologically compatible with humans. They married into the (very human) Milesians and had children when the Milesians conquered Ireland. (This history is documented in many ancient sources, including The Annals of the Four Masters, one of Ireland's earliest written histories, transcribed by monks.

The Milesians were the people who populated modern Ireland. Their surnames are the ones that start with O' and Mac. As times changed, the Irish emigrated to other countries, and dropped these letters from their name. For example, O'Baoighill became O'Boyle and then simply Boyle. Murphy was O'Murchadha and Sullivan was O'Suileabhain, and the list goes on.

If you have Irish ancestry, and your Irish ancestors lived in Ireland for at least three generations then you may have Milesian blood in your veins. This means you probably have Fae ancestry. If you could trace your heritage back far enough, you'd get to the Milesian ancestor who married one of the Tuatha de Danann, and you'd actually have the name of your faerie ancestor.

If you're a FitzGerald from the Limerick area, the process may be a lot easier. Lord Desmond, the third Earl of Desmond, married the Tuatha De Danann goddess, Aine. Their son, Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, is still seen riding from Lough Gur every seven years when the lake is dry.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Banshee

The bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy may be an ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of certain ancient Irish families of their time of death. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list.

Whatever her origins, the banshee chiefly appears in one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death, namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.)The Banshee She usually wears either a grey, hooded cloak or the winding sheet or grave robe of the unshriven dead. She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die. In this guise she is known as the bean-nighe (washing woman).

Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die. In 1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by an Irish seeress or banshee who foretold his murder at the instigation of the Earl of Atholl. This is an example of the banshee in human form. There are records of several human banshees or prophetesses attending the great houses of Ireland and the courts of local Irish kings. In some parts of Leinster, she is referred to as the bean chaointe (keening woman) whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass. In Kerry, the keen is experienced as a "low, pleasant singing"; in Tyrone as "the sound of two boards being struck together"; and on Rathlin Island as "a thin, screeching sound somewhere between the wail of a woman and the moan of an owl".

The banshee may also appear in a variety of other forms, such as that of a hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel - animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Faery Lore

Faerie are human in their appearance with an abundance of magickal powers. Their origins were purposely veiled over time by folklore that claims the Fae are both dead, a daemon or some kind of species independent of mere humans or sweet angels. Folklorists believe they were a conquered race who now disguise themselves and hide in plain sight. The enigma of the Fae exists today in various forms, though don't be deceived, these are not sweet angelic creatures. They are warriors with the ability to faery-glamour their prey into submission. Clever Fae, both male and female use their charm to become invisible when necessary or change their form to look as they please. They are cunning shape-shifters.

Another view held that the faeries were an intelligent species, distinct from humans and angels. In alchemy in particular they were regarded as elementals, such as gnomes and sylphs, as described by Paracelsus. This is uncommon in folklore, but accounts describing the faeries as "spirits of the air" are popular.

Fae are known for their malice to cows, sheep and other beasts who have succumbed to the healthy appetites of the faeries. For reasons known only to them they have stolen children and left changelings in their place. On occasion, the Fae have taken the very old, maybe for their wisdom and experience needed by the young faeries. You may need protection from the Fae if you give offense by traipsing through their lands, crushing fawn and fauna. Cold iron is poison to fairies, charms of rowan and herbs work if worn outside your clothes and a protection talisman may let you pass freely.

Reverend Robert Kirk, Minister of the Parish of Aberfoyle, Stirling, Scotland, wrote in 1691:
    "These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People...are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure." ~The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies~

Our culture depicts the Fae as young, sometimes winged, humanoids of small stature. Though originally artists and eye witnesses depicted the Fae much differently. A tall, radiantly statuesque being were written in journals for centuries. Wings, were added in Victorian art, but are rare in folklore. Most believed faeries flew with magick, and on the backs of insects and birds. Many artists today show faeries with insect wings or butterfly wings.