Friday, January 04, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Fairies

The term Faerie is derived from "Fé erie.” It means the enchantment of the Fées, while is derived from Fay, derived from Fatae, or the Fates. The term originally applied to supernatural women who directed the lives of men and attended births. Now it has come to mean any supernatural creature tied to the earth, except monsters and ghosts. The modern term, “fairy,” was created, due to fairy tales.

In Ireland, the Faeries are called the Aes Sídhe (the singular being Aes Sídh). Sídhe happens to be the name for the earthen mounds and hills dotting the Irish landscape. Irish tales claim the Faeries live under these mounds, so the term "sídhe" has come to mean Faerie in general. The word also refers to the palaces, courts, halls, and residences of the Faeries. Fairies are also known b y other euphemisms, "the Fair Folk", "the Good Neighbors", "the Little Folk", "the Little Darlings", and "the People of Peace". The reason why: first is to avoid attracting their attention. The second was to avoid insulting them.

Thanks to legends and folklore of Scandinavia the elf was used the same way Aes Sídh was used in Ireland, to refer to any Faeries, and it was introduced to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons. English literature made the elves the diminutive fairies of Spenser and Shakespeare, which in conventional Faerie lore would be the equivalent of the little nature spirits.

There are tales in myths of how fairies came to be. The first way had them as fallen angels. A few did not follow Lucifer into Hell, but decided to reside on earth.

Second: It is explained them as the dead not good enough to enter Heaven, but too good for Hell. It is said they live in limbo as they recreate their former lives.

Third and last: This has them as children of Eve. She hides them from God, who curses her that the children she tried to hide from Him would remain hidden from her, and subsequently all Mankind.

Myth also divides fairies into three groups. This explains Faeries as an older race of people driven into hiding by invading newcomers. This old race continues to survive in part by stealing tools, food, animals, even woman and children from the invaders, attacking solitary travelers who wander into their territory, or haunting isolated farms where they do work in exchange for food. In time, the invaders come to think of these people as having supernatural powers, and develop traditions about them to protect themselves and try to stay out of their way. Of course, this may have occurred in Ireland, when the Mesolithic hunter-gathers were supplanted by Neolithic farmers sometime around 4500 B.C. Irish mythological history says defeated races retreated under mounds to become the Faeries (this is also in England too—the “little people” of mounds there). It was also said that Fairies might be a form of ancestor worship, especially forebears from a past "Golden Age" of heroic history. Legends and folktales tell how great kings and heroes entered Faerieland when they died, to establish new kingdoms under hills and mounds. Does this not also sound like what happened to King Arthur, taken to Avalon? But then the Celts were not only in Ireland, but in England and Wales then, too.  Same of some in Scotland. Anyway, the Irish generally believed that Faeries were the dead, and Faerieland was the afterlife. Even after their conversion to Christianity, the Irish continued to believe that most people when they died waited for the Last Judgment inside one or another Faerie mound. Last theory concerned that Faeries were dwindled gods. It  is said that generations of people retold their myths, changing them from deities to nature spirits, especially after the coming of Christianity. In Ireland, the legends and folktales say that the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann and Fir Bholg retreated under the mounds to become the first Faeries, and most mythographers believe they were the gods of the ancient Irish


Janice Seagraves said...

Interesting post. It goes along with some of the things that I have read.


C.E. Martin said...

Great post. I'll definitely follow up on some of this for my ongoing supernatural book series.

Celtic Chick said...

Great post. One thing most people don't realize is that not all faeries are tiny beings. Some are human size. W.B. Yeats described the Irish Tuatha de Danaan as tall and noble and could change their shape to other shapes. In my stories, the De Danaans are gods and goddesses, but there is so much that a writer can do with these old myths. Thanks for sharing this great information on faeries.


Pamela K. Kinney said...

You're welcome, Janice, C. E. and Celtic Chick.