From woodland glades to rocky hills, Fairies come in many sizes and types. The Spriggans, Pixies, Piskies, Sidhe (pronounced “shee”), Good Folk and Fae suffer a welter of differing reports. Some say they are not to be trusted, others that they never lie. Some are tall others tiny. Some bestow great riches and others steal children.
Beautiful to gaze upon, their music and voices are sweet to the ear and the smell of their food ravishing to the nostrils. Whether short or tall, a glimpse of the Good Folk fills the mortal observer with wonder, delight and curiosity.
Let’s start at the beginning. The Irish Book Of Invasions tells us that at one time the land of Éire was in possession of the tall, fair skinned Tuatha De Danann. Long lived and wielding powerful magic the Tuatha De held truth and fairness in high esteem and many stories are told of their time. Then the Milesians, whose descendants are the current Irish, turned up, fought the Tuatha De for the land, won, and banished the Tuatha De Danann in to the ancient burial mounds that litter the country where they still live as the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”) or faery host.
One of the oddest things about The Ever Living Ones is that they appear to be shrinking. The Tuatha De were considered tall against humans. A few hundred years ago elves were generally perceived as around three or four feet tall. The modern apprehension of the size of a fairy is probably between ten and twenty centimetres. What they have lost in stature they have made up in utility, having apparently grown wings along the way. However, just incase you thought you were getting a handle on them, some can switch from small to large if they wish.
From momentary sightings to baby changelings and stolen cups our history with the denizens of the Land Of Youth is shrouded in mystery. Women and men from each race have fallen in love with, seduced, abducted and married someone from the other; favours, trades and deals have been done leading to both lasting happiness and deep sorrow.
It is often the case with close encounters of the fairy kind that the person, whether young lad, maiden or wandering drunk, who features in the story is captivated by faint musical, magical sounds. Following the entrancing harmony they come upon the Good Folk dancing, singing and making merry. Often they will watch unobserved from behind a tree or rock at first but soon the music will pull them into the whirling dance. It may be that they stay for a couple of hours, nights or even months in an existence full of intoxicating joy and pleasantness. Nevertheless, at some point they decide to head for home. On arriving back in their village, or castle they find many things changed and unfamiliar, all the people they knew are gone and their home is occupied by strangers. On further enquiry they find that their family are long dead and there is only a faint memory of a story about someone by their name having vanished without trace more than a lifetime or two ago. As they struggle to come to grips with this news they age rapidly and crumble to dust.
Curiously it is by no means guaranteed that a sojourn in the Otherworld will lead to a powdery demise. Pwyll Prince of Dyfed manages to count off a year and a day in Annwyvn with exactitude before coming home the same year and a day later in his own land. Many others come and go between the lands with less loss of time than I encounter whilst eating breakfast. Certainly the fairies themselves have no problem reconciling time between our two plains, happily making and keeping appointments accurately to the hour.
Some places just have something about them that resonates with us in a way that other places do not. In an animist culture the assumption would be that a being of some sort lived there, a spirit or spirits specific to that place. If the spirit was friendly and the place popular the spirit might be credited with influence beyond their personal rock, dell or circle of trees, often involving the well-being of plants and animals in the general vicinity.It seems to me that a good number of the fairy folk started life as spirits of place, particularly the diminutive winged types found in sylvan glades who are clearly connected to the fertility of the forest.
If you want these denizens of the Otherworld to show themselves to you then there are obvious places to start. The good folk are fond of trees and especially thorns. Anywhere with the combination of oak, ash and thorn is likely. Of course, fairy rings indicate a favoured dancing spot and any barrow, burial mound or particularly well rounded hill should be worth a look. The best place however, may be just that place you go to yourself that has something indefinable about it that makes you happy, for the fairies who live there already know you.
If all else fails then you could look in The Tavelling Talesman’s tour dates for “Away With The Fairies” at http://www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk/giglist.shtml
The Travelling Talesman has sifted out the finest amongst these yarns to bring you an enchanting evening of fairy fun… and arm you with the best ways to survive should you be spirited away with the fairies yourself.
The Travelling Talesman, has toured the country from Penzance to York, for feasts, festivals and fun since the early nineties with energetic and engaging re-tellings of myths, legends and folktales in gardens, tents, castles, living rooms, woodlands, pubs, restaurants, museums and a river. Knee deep.This post originally appeared on http://thetravellingtalesman.wordpress.com/