Who are the fairies, the fairy folk spoken of in Ireland? Seemingly a preternatural class of being. The Sidheóg(Shee-og), like the infamous Banshee.
This is different from the Piseóg, a human putting bad luck on their neighbour. Such is done by throwing milk over a wall or eggshells in the hay, done with intent much like laying a curse on them. Is this malice? True malice? Or perhaps human nature, superstition and tradition. Some still throw holy water over their cattle on Bealtine to protect them. Or sprinkle drops over their turf once a week.
W. B. Yeats described “The Trooping Fairies”, but part of this is the implication of their being part of a greater mystery. These guardians of the earth harken from pagan Ireland, just like the fairy forts of the land and much imaginative tradition still preserved in folk-memory. His specific words though, were on their origin from a pre-Celtic Ireland. We now know Celt to be a moot term, as the Celts never existed as a race or group of people. The word Celt was used by the Roman Empire to describe the other, a broad collection of peoples and associated cultures, who they couldn’t understand. This far west they couldn’t defeat or control, as the warriors were fearless and the people resiliant. The were wild, treasuring freedom. The fairy folk are at least part ancestral, from long ago they have shaped the land. They are a part of Ireland, and remain a part of us. They remain immortalised in the songs, verse and other imaginative traditions of those who became the peasantry.
We can agree that perhaps once worshipped, though still revered, they dwindle away. Religion arrived, finally driving out the fairies through the controlling forms of Christianity – though they still exist on the fringes, skirting the edges. Now seen as fallen angels, neither damned nor saved. They do good to the good, and bad to the bad, overall keeping us in check.
Morality, and desparity. The fairy folk have charm, but lack consistancy. A gentry before Christianity, before the Normans, and before the British divided the land. They leave their traces, the fairy forts and the stories that remain. Once rulers, they remained after their fall. Just like the Gaelic families of the land. Though invisible, they hold longstanding power and are best left to their own devices. Respect them, as while any evil they do is not malicious, they remain capable. Just as each of us is.
They remain in the imagination today, in a hypothetical space which must exist as we can percieve them. The fairy folk are representation, with their own magic and ability to affect the physical world. Not of heaven, and not of this earth. They have the power to change forms, themselves or in the minds of those who bore witness. They are seen in our dreams, or trapaising accross the mortal world that we occupy. Following their own whims, their own paths.
They are distinct by their spirit, not by their form. They occupy the mind. Changing shape, size and gravity as it pleases them. The fairy folk are those who dance, or play pranks as it pleases them. They are free, possessing a freedom that most cannot share, a freedom of the mimd and the spirit. Wearing out your dancing shoes, and your toes too if you dance with them for too long.
Therefore, they are a danger to some. A danger to convention, a danger to control. As elements shift alongside their mood. The pathetic fallacy, reflecting and influencing mood like the poets, artists and musicians of the world. They are one with the earth, and one with us. One in the same.
They have their great festivals, their freedom for half the year. Their days start with night. But the winter brings a gloom over them, beginning Samhain night when the veil thins and they begin to dance with the ghosts. Though Blake saw a fairy funeral, they are also immortal. Eternal life, lasting in the present moment forever, free of harrowing age. They are memories.
They sing and inspire, eavesdroppers preserve their memory in snippets of verse. Like Carolyn, the last true bard, who slept outside and lived amongst them. Though blind, his vision is still echoed upon the harp.