The Mythology of Ancient Ireland
The Faery Lineage of Ancient Times
Up to the Middle Ages of Western Europe,
the development of the Faery was almost completely confined to the land of Ireland and its people.
There was a great focus on heroism, magick, and romance.
The Tuatha De Danann are the source of the entire Lineage.
They were the gods of the people of Ireland,
and are considered to be the most superior and pure form of the Faery.
They were at their most powerful during the Mythological Cycle.
This group eventually branched into two very distinct groups:
the Fenian Heroes and the Daoine Sidhe.
The Fenian Heroes were among the most notable heroes in all of Ireland, existing during the Fenian Cycle. Many of them were descendants of the Tuatha De Danann, and some of them were the De Danann themselves.
Many of the Fay served as a part of the fiana,
and the Fenian Heroes were not considered to be all that far removed from mortal man.
The Daoine Sidhe existed in about the same time period as the Fenian Heroes.
However, these were the Tuatha De Danann who truly did remain removed from humanity,
who preserved the purest form of Faery magick,
and who were still worshipped as the gods of the Irish pantheon.
Eventually, however, even the Daoine Sidhe had to change and adapt.
The Heroic Faery was born out of the Daoine Sidhe.
These were the ladies and knights of classic medieval romances,
the heroes of the great tales of the era, and were very much like the Fenian Heroes.
In fact, it could be said that the only difference between the Fenian Heroes
and the Heroic Faery is the time period in which they existed in mythology.
Meanwhile, the Fenian Heroes had become the Medieval Faery.
These characters were practiced in magick and sorcery.
It is here when the first outside influences begin to creep into Irish mythology.
No longer are the Faery the powerful and frightening Tuatha De Danann.
They are no longer gods. Instead, they begin to grow smaller in size,
and with the coming of Christianity, they are sometimes assumed to be evil.
The Heroic Faery makes one last appearance,
merging with the Medieval Faery and becoming the Diminutive Fairy.
Fairies in the Middle Ages and Beyond
With the birth of the Middle Ages, the traditional image of the modern fairy was born.
The Diminutive Fairy
- became connected to death and the departed.
Sometime in the 16th century, the idea of the literary fairy is introduced.
These fairies are nasty little things, demanding their privacy and pinching those who dare to invade it.
The Elizabethan Age
-brings about another change in the fairy.
Instead of a nasty little thing intent on its privacy,
the Elizabethan Fairy is mischievous and bothersome,
but not particularly evil. These fairies tend to irritate more than harm.
In the 17th century, the Jacobean Fairy makes an appearance.
They are so small that they are difficult to see with the naked eye.
These little guys have gossamer wings and,
purely due to Puritan influences, are regarded as demons or devils.
The 18th century saw a reversal of this idea.
The fairies of this era were flowery little fertility spirits.
These little Flower Fairies were said to flit and fly in the most beautiful gardens,
entertaining children and delighting anyone who chanced to see them.
This version of the fairy is still very much a part of modern folk tales.
The 19th century saw the development of the Folk Tale Fairy.
These characters were written into stories created for children,
and generally featured characters such as the classic fairy godmother.
These creatures were relentless moralists.
Like the Flower Fairy, the Folk Tale Fairy has persisted into the modern era.
With the coming of the 20th century, the Age of Faery seemed to have truly come to an end.
The gods of Ireland had become no more than fairy tales,
and most had forgotten they were ever anything more.
However, this same century brought about a renewed interest in ancient religions and beliefs,
and today, there are those who have resurrected the ancient Faery Faith in a more modern incarnation,
with the inclusion of the Elemental Faery.
Ellis, Peter Berresford, Celtic Myths and Legends. (Running Press, 2002)
Ellis, Peter Berresford, A Dictionary of Irish Mythology (Oxford Paper Reference Series) (Oxford University Press, 1992)
Gantz, Jeffrey, Early Irish Myths and Sagas. (Penguin Classics, 1982)
Heaney, Marie, Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends. (Faber & Faber, 1995)
Lady Gregory, Treasury of Irish Myths, Legend & Folklore: Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. (Gramercy, 1988)
Tuatha De Danann (thanann)~ The people of the Goddess Dana, or the people of the god whose mother was Dana. The Celts call them the Sidhe, Spirit-race, or the Feadh-Ree, a modifacation of the word Peri.
Fenian Heroes~ The noble warriors of the Tuatha De Danann, who joined allegiance with the fiana (feen-a), the great fighting force of Ireland, and whowere at their greatest when Finn mac Cumaill was their last and greatest leader.
Heroic Faery~ The knights and ladies of the medieval romances, and those that occur in Celtic legendss were of human or more than human size and of "shining beauty". They spent their time in aristocratic pursuits of hunting, fighting, riding in procession, as well as dancing and music which were beloved by all the Sidhe. A glimpse of the Fenian Hero is seen in the Heroic Faery, although of a more relaxed and gluttonous stance than of battle-worn.
Medieval Fairy~ Out of Arthurian times the Medieval Fairy was born, moving away from Ireland and into England, andd with them taleswoven with magick and sorcery, wizards and witches, Morgan Le fay and Avalon. The size of the fairy became variable, and there were both tiny a rustic fairy as well as hideous and monsterous ones.Often, they were depicted as beautiful fair maidens with long, flowing red hair and white skin, such as those portrayed in paintings by J. Waterhouse.
Diminutive Fairy~ The Diminutive Fairies took part in life and became the traditional, and very first, little fairy. With it's birth, a list of euphemistic names became inevitable( Goblins, Brownies, Bogies, Trolls). These invisible and alert little things were always mentioned with a honeyed tounge. The wily, not knowing where they may be lurking, were careful to call them the Good Neighbours, the honest folk, the little folk, the Gentry, the hill folk, the forgetful people, teh people of peace, ect., to pervent the "dint of their ill attempts and bless all they fear harm of".
Elizabethan Fairy~ The romance and feirce warrior attitude of the Daoine Sidhe was gone. The fairy became mischievous and at times bothersome. And so, the poets and dramatists of the Elizabethan Age brought a different strand of fairy tradition into prominence. The yeoman class of the sixteenth centery brought a spread of literacy and new class writers. From the country, drawn up to town, such as Shakespear, these new writers came forth bringing with them their own country traditions. Nymphs became the new source of focus and two main types of fairy were introduced: hobgoblins, with which we may call Brownie; and the small flower-loving fairies such as in A Mid Summers Night's Dream.
Jacobean Fairy~ The Jacobean fairy continued to extend the fashions in the fairy lore set in Elizabethan literature, with an added emphasis on the minuteness of the small fairies, so that at one time people found it difficult to think of fairies without thinking of smallness. The hobgoblin type was exactly the same in both periods, except now the extreme Puritans regarded all fairies as devils.
Flower Fairy~ These are gental spirits of the earth. Earth, lake, and hill are peopled by these fantastic, beautiful, willful, capricious child-spirits. These fairies passionatetly love beauty and luxury and hold in contempt all mean virtues of thrift and aconomy. Above all things they hate the tight fisthand that gathers the last grain, drains the last drop in the milk-pail, and plucks the trees bare of fruit, leaveing nothing for the spirits who wander by the moonlight.
Folk-Tale Fairy~ The Golden Age of Faery has ended, and all that is left are folk fairys turned into airy, tenuous, pretty creatures without meat, or muscle, made up of froth and whims. The eighteenth centery is the first period in which books are written expressly for the edification of children. The trend persists into the nineteenth century, and it is not until a quarter of it has passed that the reasearch og the folklorists begin to have some effect on children's literature.
Elemental Fairy~ In positive doctrines of mediaveal alchemists and mystics, the ancient metaphysical ideas of Egypt, greece, and Rome found a new expression; the folk lore of the peasantry and the subject of the fairies is turned into study of beings of nature. They are quite scientific in their methods of study, and divide all invisible beings in four distinct classes:
Angels: who in character and function are paralled to the gods of the ancients, and equal to the Tuatha De Danann of the Irish, are teh highest.
Devils or Demons: who correspond to the fallen angels of Christianity.
Elementals, sub-human Nature-Spirits: who are generally regarded as having pygmy staure, like Greek daemons.
Souls: who are the shades or ghosts of the dead.
Devas~ Now we come to the final evoluted form of the fairy, that of the "shining ones," who are known to be the soul of the plant kingdom. The spirit of the plnat as it comes alive and takes new form allies itself with human beings and gives to them the secrets of the plant (i.e. medical properties, spiritual properties, nutritional properties, magickal properties, toxic properties, ect.) These are fairies without shape. They are simply a golden glowing, effervescent cloud of energy rising from the plant; a tingeling energy that pin-pricks our skin when we enter thier feild. The Deva does not move from the plant, but remains closely attached. Theya re the life-side of Nature, an expression of the Divine energy ~ the Will ~ channeled in manifested Nature.
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