THIS BOOK contains some hundred tales and legends from Ireland, Britain and France, most of them as told and retold over a hundred years ago: The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries was first published by Froude in London in 1911, based on the Oxford doctoral thesis of the American Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz. The core of the work is the doctor's ethnographic fieldwork. Here much introductory material is placed at the back. Titles are added to tales by me, so you can peruse the stories more conveniently.
Evans-Wentz' work consists mainly of many hundred tales told to him and written down by him as he travelled about in several countries of Western Europe. He has furnished many comments and added material about his informers, the tale-tellers. He also records in what places he wrote down his stories and impressions of the storytellers' settings as well.
The fairy stories told to Evans-Wentz go largely unchanged here, but several dubious and passé commentator notions are dropped now and then. What is more, such omissions from the circumferential material go unmarked for the sake of readability and brevity in telling the stories. They are quite a reading experience. My updating has been modest when it comes to wording and layout. Some pictures have been added.
The Collector and Author
The famous anthropologist Dr. Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz was born on February 2, 1878 in Trenton, New Jersey. He received his B.A. and his M.A. at Stanford University. Afterwards he travelled extensively, and in 1907 he began to journey through Brittany, Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland to interview people who had encountered fairies. Evans-Wentz recounts reports in a book that is excerpted below.
Later he lived in India and Sikkim and became a Buddhist monk. He was a pioneer in the field of Tibetan Buddhism. He edited four marvellous volumes on Tibetan Buddhism, published by Oxford University Press.
The scholar passed away in 1965.
From His Dedication
At Oxford in November 1911, Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz dedicated his book on fairy lore among others to "A.E., "whose unwavering loyalty to the fairy-faith has inspired much that I have herein written," and "William Butler Yeats, who brought me at my own alma mater in California the first message from fairyland, and who afterwards in his own country led me through the haunts of fairy kings and queens."
We are now . . . to hear about the Daoine Maithee, the "Good People", as the Irish call their Sidhe race; about the "People of Peace', the "Still-Folk" or the "Silent Moving Folk", as the Scotch call their Sith who live in green knolls and in the mountain fastnesses of the Highlands; about various Manx fairies; about the Tylwyth Teg, the "Fair-Family" or "Fair-Folk', as the Welsh people call their fairies; about Cornish Pixies; and about Fees (fairies), Corrigans, and the Phantoms of the Dead in Brittany. And . . . sometimes about ghosts . . . about goblins, about various sorts of death-warnings . . . from banshees . . . and phantom-funerals, about leprechauns, about hosts of the air, and all kinds of elementals . . . in short, about all the orders of beings who mingle together in that invisible realm called Fairyland.
There can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the data from which [Mr. Wentz] draws.
I can bear witness to the fidelity with which Mr. Wentz has done his work on Irish soil, for to a great number of the beliefs which he records I have myself heard parallels, sometimes I have heard near variants of the stories, sometimes the identical stories. So we may, I think, unhesitatingly accept his subject-matter. . . .
Different parts of the Irish soil cherish different bodies of supernatural beings. The North of Ireland believes in beings unknown in the South, and North-East Leinster has spirits unknown to the West.
DOUGLAS HYDE, LL.D., D. Litt., M.R.I.A. (An Craoibhin Aoibhinn), President of the Gaelic League; author of A Literary History of Ireland, etc. - Written in September 1910.
THE FAIRY FOLK OF TARA
On the ancient Hill of Tara, . . . at night long, weird processions of silent spirits march round its grass-grown raths and forts.
Throughout Ireland there are many ancient, often prehistoric, earth-works or tumuli, which are popularly called forts, raths, or duns, and in folk-belief these are considered fairy hills or the abodes of various orders of fairies. . . . we shall see how important and varied a part these earthworks play in the Irish Fairy-Faith (cf. chapter viii, on Archaeology).
"Whenever the good people play, you hear their music all through the field as plain as can be; and it is the grandest kind of music. It may last half the night, but once day comes, it ends." - John Graham, an old man over seventy years of age, who has lived near Tara most of his life
"People killed and murdered in war stay on earth till their time is up, and they are among the good people. - John Graham
"Because there are so many spirits knocking (going) about they must appear to some people. The old folk saw the good people here on the Hill a hundred times, and they'd always be talking about them. The good people can see everything, and you dare not meddle with them. They live in raths, and their houses are in them. The opinion always was that they are a race of spirits, for they can go into different forms, and can appear big as well as little." - John Graham
Recordings from Kilmessan, near Tara
John Boylin, born in County Meath about sixty years ago, from Kilmessan, a village about two miles from Tara; offer testimony of very great value: -
"There is said to be a whole tribe of little red men living in Glen Odder, between Ringlestown and Tara; and on long evenings in June they have been heard. There are other breeds or castes of fairies; and it seems to me, when I recall our ancient traditions, that some of these fairies are of the Fir Bolgs, some of the Tuatha De Danann, and some of the Milesians. All of them have been seen serenading round the western slope of Tara, dressed in ancient Irish costumes. Unlike the little red men, these fairy races are warlike and given to making invasions. Long processions of them have been seen going round the King's Chair (an earthwork on which the Kings of Tara are said to have been crowned); and they then would appear like soldiers of ancient Ireland in review." - John Boylin
"We were told as children, that, as soon as night fell, the fairies from Rath Ringlestown would form in a procession, across Tara road, pass round certain bushes which have not been disturbed for ages, and join the gangkena (?) or host of industrious folk, the red fairies. We were afraid, and our nurses always brought us home before the advent of the fairy procession. One of the passes used by this procession happened to be between two mud-wall houses; and it is said that a man went out of one of these houses at the wrong time, for when found he was dead: the fairies had taken him because he interfered with their procession." - John Boylin
"A man named Caffney cut as fuel to boil his pot of potatoes some of these undisturbed bushes round which the fairies pass. When he put the wood under the pot, though it spat fire, and lire-sparkles would come out of it, it would not burn. The man pined away gradually. In six months after cutting the fairy-bushes, he was dead. Just before he died, he told his experiences with the wood to his brother, and his brother told me . - John Boylin
"According to the local belief, fairies are the spirits of the departed. Tradition says that Hugh O'Neil in the sixteenth century, after his march to the south, encamped his army on the Rath or Fort of Ringlestown, to be assisted by the spirits of the mighty dead who dwelt within this rath." - John Boylin
"Rose Carroll was possessed by a fairy-spirit. It is known that her father held communion with evil spirits, and it appears that they often assisted him. The Carrolls' house was built at the end of a fairy fort, and part of it. was scooped out of this fort. Rose grew so peculiar that her folks locked her up. After two years she was able to shake off the fairy possession by being taken to Father Robinson's sisters, and then to an old witch-woman in Drogheda." - John Boylin
In the Valley of the Boyne
In walking along the River Boyne, from Slane to Knowth and New Grange, I stopped at the cottage of Owen Morgan, at Ross-na-Righ,
How the Shoemaker's Daughter became the Queen of Tara
In olden times there lived a shoemaker and his wife up there near Moat Knowth, and their first child was taken by the queen of the fairies who lived inside the moat, and a little leprechaun left in its place. The same exchange was made when the second child was born. At the birth of the third child the fairy queen came again and ordered one of her three servants to take the child; but the child could not be moved because of a great beam of iron, too heavy to lift, which lay across the baby's breast. The second servant and then the third failed like the first, and the queen herself could not move the child. The mother being short of pins had used a needle to fasten the child's clothes, and that was what appeared to the fairies as a beam of iron, for there was virtue in steel in those days.
So the fairy queen decided to bestow gifts on the child; and advised each of the three servants to give, in turn, a different gift. The first one said, "May she be the grandest lady in the world"; the second one said, "May she be the greatest singer in the world"; and the third one said, "May she be the best mantle-maker in the world." Then the fairy queen said, "Your gifts are all very good, but I will give a gift of my own better than any of them: the first time she happens to go out of the house let her come back into it under the form of a rat." The mother heard all that the fairy women said, and so she never permitted her daughter to leave the house.
When the girl reached the age of eighteen, it happened that the young prince of Tara, in riding by on a hunt, heard her singing, and so entranced was he with the music that he stopped to listen; and, the song ended, he entered the house, and upon seeing the wonderful beauty of the singer asked her to marry him. The mother said that could not be, and-taking the daughter out of the house for the first time brought her back into it in an apron under the form of a rat, that the prince might understand the refusal.
This enchantment, however, did not change the prince's love for the beautiful singer; and be explained how there was a day mentioned with his father, the king, for all the great ladies of Ireland to assemble in the Halls of Tara, and that the grandest lady and the greatest singer and the best mantle-maker would be chosen as his wife. When he added that each lady must come in a chariot, the rat spoke to him and said that he must send to her home, on the day named, four piebald cats and a pack of cards, and that she would make her appearance, provided that at the time her chariot came to the Halls of Tara no one save the prince should be allowed near it; and, she finally said to the prince, "Until the day mentioned with your father, you must carry me as a rat in your pocket."
But before the great day arrived, the rat had made everything known to one of the fairy women, and so when the four piebald cats and the pack of cards reached the girl's home, the fairies at once turned the cats into the four most splendid horses in the world, and the pack of cards into the most wonderful chariot in the world; and, as the chariot was setting out from the Moat for Tara, the fairy queen clapped her hands and laughed, and the enchantment over the girl was broken, so that she became, as before, the prettiest lady in the world, and she sitting in the chariot.
When the prince saw the wonderful chariot coming, he knew whose it was, and went out alone to meet it; but he could not believe his eyes on seeing the lady inside. And then she told him about the witches and fairies, and explained everything.
Hundreds of ladies had come to the Halls of Tara from all Ireland, and every one as grand as could be. The contest began with the singing, and ended with the mantle-making, and the young girl was the last to appear; but to the amazement of all the company the king had to give in (admit) that the strange woman was the grandest lady, the greatest singer, and the best mantle-maker in Ireland; and when the old king died she became the Queen of Tara. - Owen Morgan
The "good people" of the Boyne are little men usually dressed in red.
The "Good People" at New Grange
Between Knowth and, New Grange I met Maggie Tinunons carrying a pail of butter-milk to her calves; and when we stopped on the road to talk, I asked her, in due time, if any of the "good people" ever appeared in the region, or about New Grange, which we could see in the field, and she replied, in reference to New Grange:
"I am sure the neighbours used to see the good people come out of it at night and in the morning. The good people inherited the fort."
Then I asked her what the "good people" are, and she said: "When they disappear they go like fog; they must be something like spirits, or how could they disappear in that way? I knew of people," she added, "who would milk in the fields about here and spill milk on the ground for the good people; and pots of potatoes would be put out for the good people at night." (See chap. viii for additional New Grange folk-lore.)
From an Irish Priest
In West Ireland, a scholarly priest of the Roman Church tells us is almost wholly the result of his own memories and experiences as an Irish boy in Connemara:
Knock Ma Fairies
"Knock Ma, which you see over there, is said to contain excavated passages and a palace where the fairies live, and with them the people they have taken. And from the inside of the hill there is believed to be an entrance to an underground world. It is a common opinion that after consumptives die they are there with the fairies in good health. The wasted body is not taken into the bill, for it is usually regarded as not the body of the deceased but rather as that of a changeling, the general belief being that the real body and the soul are carried off together, and those of an old person from Fairyland substituted. The old person left soon declines and dies." - Anonymous priest
Safeguards against Fairies
"It was proper when having finished milking a cow to put one's thumb in the pail of milk, and with the wet thumb to make the sign of the cross on the thigh of the cow on the side milked, to be safe against fairies. And I have seen them when churning put a live coal about an inch square under the churn, because it was an old custom connected with fairies." - Anonymous priest
Milk and Butter for Fairies
"Whatever milk falls on the ground in milking a cow is taken by the fairies, for fairies need a little milk. Also, after churning, the knife which is run through the butter in drying it must not be scraped clean, for what sticks to it belongs to the fairies. Out of three pounds of butter, for example, an ounce or two would be left for the fairies. I have seen this several times." - Anonymous priest
Crossing a Stream, and Fairies
"When out on a dark night, if pursued by fairies or ghosts one is considered quite safe if one can get over some stream. I remember coming home on a dark night with a boy companion and bearing a noise, and then after we had run to a stream and crossed it feeling quite safe." - Anonymous priest
"A heap of stones in a field should not be disturbed, though needed for building especially if they are part of an ancient tumulus. The fairies are said to live inside the pile, and to move the stones would be most unfortunate. If a house happens to be built on a fairy preserve, or in a fairy track, the occupants will have no luck. Everything will go wrong. Their animals will die, their children fall sick, and no end of trouble will come on them. When the house happens to have been built in a fairy track, the doors on the front and back, or the windows if they are in the line of the track, cannot be kept closed at night, for the fairies must march through. Near Ballinrobe there is an old fort which is still the preserve of the fairies, and the land round it. The soil is very fine, and yet no one would dare to till it. Some time ago in laying out a new road the engineers determined to run it through the fort, but the people rose almost in rebellion, and the course had to be changed. The farmers wouldn't cut down a tree or bush growing on the hill or preserve for anything." - Anonymous priest
Fairy Control over Crops
"Fairies are believed to control crops and their ripening. A field of turnips may promise well, and its owner will count on so many tons to the acre, but if when the crop is gathered it is found to be far short of the estimate, the explanation is that the fairies have extracted so much substance from it. The same thing is the case with corn." - Anonymous priest
November Eve and Fairies
"On November Eve it is not right to gather or eat blackberries or sloes, nor after that time as long as they last. On November Eve the fairies pass over all such things and make them unfit to eat. If one dares to eat them afterwards one will have serious illness. We firmly believed this as boys, and I laugh now when I think how we used to gorge ourselves with berries on the last day of October, and then for weeks after pass by bushes full of the most luscious fruit, and with mouths watering for we [?] couldn't eat it." - Anonymous priest
Fairies as Flies
"There is an old abbey on the river, in County Mayo, and people say the fairies had a great battle near it, and that the slaughter was tremendous. At the time, the fairies appeared as swarms of flies coming from every direction to that spot. Some came from Knock Ma, and some from South Ireland, the opinion being that fairies can assume any form they like. The battle lasted a day and a night, and when it was over one could have filled baskets with the dead flies which floated down the river." - Anonymous priest
Those who Return from Faerie
"Persons in a short trance-state of two or three days' duration are said to be away with the fairies enjoying a festival. The festival may be very material in its nature, or it may be purely spiritual. Sometimes one may thus go to Faerie for an hour or two; or one may remain there for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. The mind of a person coming out of Fairyland is. usually a blank as to what has been seen and done there. Another idea is that the person knows well enough all about Fairyland, but is prevented from communicating the knowledge. A certain woman of whom I knew said she had forgotten all about her experiences in Faerie, but a friend who heard her objected, and said she did remember, and wouldn't tell. A man may remain awake at night to watch one who has been to Fairyland to see if that one holds communication with the fairies. Others say in such a case that the fairies know you are on the alert, and will not be discovered." - Anonymous priest
A Galway Piper
Fairies = Sidheóga.
According to our next witness, Steven Ruan, a piper of Galway, with whom I have often talked, there is one class of fairies "who are nobody else than the spirits of men and women who once lived on earth'; and the banshee is a dead friend, relative, or ancestor who appears to give a warning. - According to Steven Ruan
A Fairy Dog
"In the course of another conversation, Steven pointed to a rocky knoll in a field not far from his home, and said: "I saw a dog with a white ring around his neck by that hill there, and the oldest men round Galway have seen him, too, for he has been here for one hundred years or more. He is a dog of the good people, and only appears at certain hours of the night." - Steven Ruan
An Old Piper in Fairyland
And before we had done talking, the subject of fairy-music came up, and the following little story coming from one of the last of the old Irish pipers himself, about a brother piper, is of more than ordinary value: "There used to be an old piper called Flannery who lived in Oranmore, County Galway. I imagine he was one of the old generation. And one time the good people took him to Fairyland to learn his profession. He studied music with them for a long time, and when he returned he was as great a piper as any in Ireland. But he died young, for the good people wanted him to play for them." - Steven Ruan
From "Old Patsy" of Aranmore
Our next witness is an old man, familiarly called "Old Patsy', who is a native of the Island of Aranmore, off the coast from Galway, and he lives on the island amid a little group of straw-thatched fishermen's homes called Oak Quarter. As "Old Patsy" stood beside a rude stone cross near Oak Quarter, in one of those curious places on Aranmore, where each passing funeral stops long enough to erect a little memorial pile of stones on the smooth rocky surface of the roadside enclosure, he told me many anecdotes about the mysteries of his native island.
"Twenty years or so ago round the Bedd of Dermot and Grania, just above us on the hill, there were seen many fairies, "crowds of them," said "Old Patsy', and a single deer. They began to chase the deer, and followed it right over the island. At another time similar little people chased a horse. "The rocks were full of them, and they were small fellows." - "Old Patsy'
A Fairy Beating in a Dream
"In the South Island," he continued, "as night was coming on, a man was giving his cow water at a well, and, as he looked on the other side of a wall, he saw many strange people playing burley. When they noticed him looking at them, one came up and struck the cow a hard blow, and turning on the man cut his face and body very badly. The man might not have been so badly off, but he returned to the well after the first encounter and got five times as bad a beating; and when he reached home he couldn't speak at all, until the cock crew. Then he told about his adventures, and slept a little. When he woke up in the daylight he was none the worse for his beating, for the fairies had rubbed something on his face." Patsy says he knew the man, who if still alive is now in America, where he went several years ago. - "Old Patsy'
Where Fairies Live
When I asked Patsy where the fairies live, he turned half around, and pointing in the direction of Dun Aengus, which was in full view on the sharp sky-line of Aranmore, said that there, in a large tumulus on the hillside below it, they had one of their favourite abodes. But, he added, "The rocks are full of them, and they are small fellows." Just across the road from where we were standing, in a spot near Oak Quarter, another place was pointed out where the fairies are often seen dancing. The name of it is Moneen an Damhisa, "the Little Bog of the Dance." Other sorts of fairies live in the sea; and some of them who live on Aranmore (probably in conjunction with those in the sea) go out over the water and cause storms and wind. - "Old Patsy"
The Testimony of a Roman Catholic Theologian
The following evidence, by the Rev. Father , came out during a discussion concerning spirits and fairies as regarded by Roman Catholic theology, which he and I enjoyed when we met as fellow travellers in Galway Town:
Of Magic and Place-spirits
"Magic, according to Catholic theology, is nothing else than the solicitation of spiritual powers to help us. If evil spirits are evoked by certain irrational practices it is unholy magic, and this is altogether forbidden by our Church. All charms, spells, divination, necromancy, or geomancy are unholy magic. Holy magic is practiced by carrying the Cross in Christ. Now evil magic has been practiced here in Ireland: butter has been taken so that none came from the churning; cows have been made to die of maladies; and fields made unproductive. A cow was bought from an old woman in Connemara, and no butter was ever had from the cow until exorcism with holy water was performed. This is reported to me as a fact." And in another relation the Rev. Father said what for us is highly significant: "My private opinion is that in certain places here in Ireland where pagan sacrifices were practised, evil spirits through receiving homage gained control, and still hold control, unless driven out by exorcisms." - A Rev. Father
Passed on by the Town Clerk of Tuam
To the town clerk of Tuam, Mr. John Glynn, who since his boyhood has taken a keen interest in the traditions of his native county, I am indebted for the following valuable summary of the fairy creed in that part of North Galway where Finvara rules:
Fairies of the Tuam Country
"The whole of Knock Ma [ Knock Magh, which probably means Hill of the Plain] is said to be the palace of Finvara, king of the Connaught fairies. There are a good many legends about Finvara, but very few about Queen Meave in this region." - John Glynn
Famine of 1846-7 caused by Fairies
"During 1846-7 the potato crop in Ireland was a failure, and very much suffering resulted. At the time, the country people in these parts attributed the famine to disturbed conditions in the fairy world. Old Thady Steed once told me about the conditions then prevailing, "Sure, we couldn't be any other way; and I saw the good people and hundreds besides me saw them fighting in the sky over Knock Ma and on towards Galway." And I heard others say they saw the fighting also." - John Glynn
Fairyland and the Seeress
"Fairies are said to be immortal, and the fairy world is always described as an immaterial place, though I do not think it is the same as the world of the dead. Sick persons, however, are often said to be with the fairies, and when cured, to have come back. A woman who died here about thirty years ago was commonly believed to have been with the fairies during her seven years' sickness when she was a maiden. She married after coming back, and had children; and she was always able to see the good people and to talk with them, for she had the second-sight. And it is said that she used to travel with the fairies at night. After her marriage she lived in Tuam, and though her people were six or seven miles out from Tuam in the country, she could always tell all that was taking place with them there, and she at her own home at the time." - John Glynn
Fairies on May Day
"On May Day the good people can steal butter if the chance is given them. If a person enters a house then, and churning is going on, he must take a hand in it, or else there will be no butter. And if fire is given away on May Day nothing will go right for the whole year." - John Glynn
The Three Fairy Drops
"Even yet certain things are due the fairies; for example, two years ago, in the Court Room here in Tuam, a woman was on trial for watering milk, and to the surprise of us all who were conducting the proceedings, and, it can be added, to the great amusement of the onlookers, she swore that she had only added "the three fairy drops "." - John Glynn
Food of Fairies
"Food, after it has been put out at night for the fairies, is not allowed to be eaten afterwards by man or beast, not even by pigs. Such food is said to have no real substance left in it, and to let anything eat it wouldn't be thought of. The underlying idea seems to be that the fairies extract the spiritual essence from food offered to them, leaving behind the grosser elements." - John Glynn
"When the fairy tribes under the various kings and queens have a battle, one side manages to have a living man among them, and he by knocking the fairies about turns the battle in case the side he is on is losing. It is always usual for the Munster fairy king to challenge Finvara, the Connaught fairy king." - John Glynn
County Sligo, and What a Peasant Informed
The Ben Bulbin country in County Sligo is one of those rare places in Ireland where fairies are thought to be visible, and our first witness from there claims to be able to see the fairies or "gentry" and to talk with them. This mortal so favoured lives in the same townland where his fathers have lived during four hundred years, directly beneath the shadows of Ben Bulbin, on whose sides Dermot is said to have been killed while hunting the wild-boar. And this famous old mountain, honeycombed with curious grottoes ages ago when the sea beat against its perpendicular flanks,
On September 8, 1909, about a year after this testimony was given, Mr. , our seer-witness, at his own home near Grange, told to me again the same essential facts concerning his psychical experiences as during my first interview with him, and even repeated word for word the expressions the "gentry" used in communicating with him. Therefore I feel that he is thoroughly sincere in his beliefs and descriptions, whatever various readers may think of them. As his neighbours said to me about him and I interviewed a good many of them "Some give in to him and some do not'; but they always spoke of him with respect, though a few naturally consider him eccentric. At the time of our second meeting (which gave me a chance to revise the evidence as first taken down) Mr. ---- made this additional statement: "The gentry do not tell all their secrets, and I do not understand many things about them, nor can I be sure that everything I tell concerning them is exact." - A "Seer-Witness"
Ben Bulbin is the very place where the "gentry" have their chief abode. Even on its broad level summit, for it is a high square table-land like a mighty cube of rock set down upon the earth by some antediluvian god, there are treacherous holes, wherein more than one hunter may have been lost for ever, penetrating to unknown depths; and by listening one can bear the tides from the ocean three or four miles away surging in and out through ancient subterranean channels, connected with these holes. In the neighbouring mountains there are long caverns which no man has dared to penetrate to the end, and even dogs, it is said, have been put in them never to emerge, or else to come out miles away.
One day when the heavy white fog-banks hung over Ben Bulbin and its neighbours, and there was a weird almost-twilight at midday over the purple heather bog-lands at their base, and the rain was falling, I sat with my friend before a comfortable fire of fragrant turf in his cottage and heard about the "gentry" – W. Y. E.-W.
Encounters with the "Gentry"
"When I was a young man I often used to go out in the mountains over there (pointing out of the window in their direction) to fish for trout, or to hunt; and it was in January on a cold, dry day while carrying my gun that I and a friend with me, as we were walking around Ben Bulbin, saw one of the gentry for the first time. I knew who it was, for I had heard the gentry described ever since I could remember; and this one was dressed in blue with a head-dress [aura] adorned with what seemed to be frills. When he came up to us, he said to me in a sweet and silvery voice,
"The seldomer you come to this mountain the better. A young lady here wants to take you away."
Then he told us not to fire off our guns, because the gentry dislike being disturbed by the noise. And he seemed to be like a soldier of the gentry on guard. As we were leaving the mountains, he told us not to look back, and we didn't.
Another time I was alone trout-fishing in nearly the same region when I heard a voice say, "It is bare-footed and fishing."
Then there came a whistle like music and a noise like the beating of a drum, and soon one of the gentry came and talked with me for half an hour. He said, "Your mother will die in eleven months, and do not let her die unanointed."
And she did die within eleven months. As he was going away he warned me, "You must be in the house before sunset. Do not delay! Do not delay! They can do nothing to you until I get back in the castle."
As I found out afterwards, he was going to take me, but hesitated because he did not want to leave my mother alone. After these warnings I was always afraid to go to the mountains, but lately I have been told I could go, if I took a friend with me." - - A "Seer-Witness"
"The gentry have always befriended and protected me. I was drowned twice but for them. Once I was going to Durnish Island, a mile off the coast. The channel is very deep, and at the time there was a rough sea, with the tide running out, and I was almost lost. I shrieked and shouted, and finally got safe to the mainland. The day I talked with one of the gentry at the foot of the mountain when he was for taking me, he mentioned this, and said they were the ones who saved me from drowning then." - A "Seer-Witness"
"Especially in Ireland, the gentry live inside the mountains in beautiful castles; and there are a good many branches of them in other countries. Like armies, they have various stations and move from one to another. Some live in the Wicklow Mountains near Dublin." - A "Seer-Witness"
'Gentry" Control Over Human Affairs
"The gentry take a great interest in the affairs of men, and they always stand for justice and right. Any side they favour in our wars, that side wins. They favoured the Boers, and the Boers did get their rights. They told me they favoured the Japanese and not the Russians, because the Russians are tyrants. Sometimes they fight among themselves. One of them once said, "I'd fight for a friend, or I'd fight for Ireland." - - A "Seer-Witness"
The "Gentry" Described
In response to my wish, this description of the "gentry" was given: "The folk are the grandest I have ever seen. They are far superior to us, and that is why they are called the gentry. They are not a working class, but a military-aristocratic class, tall and noble-appearing. They are a distinct race between our own and that of spirits, as they have told me. Their qualifications are tremendous. "We could cut off half the human race, but would not," they said," for we are expecting salvation." And I knew a man three or four years ago whom they struck down with paralysis. Their sight is so penetrating that I think they could see through the earth. They have a silvery voice, quick and sweet. The music they play is most beautiful. They take the whole body and soul of young and intellectual people who are interesting, transmuting the body to a body like their own. I asked them once if they ever died, and they said, "No; we are always kept young." Once they take you and you taste food in their palace you cannot come back. You are changed to one of them, and live with them for ever. They are able to appear in different forms. One once appeared to me, and seemed only four feet high, and stoutly built. He said, "I am bigger than I appear to you now. We can make the old young, the big small, the small big." One of their women told all the secrets of my family. She said that my brother in Australia would travel much and suffer hardships, all of which came true; and foretold that my nephew, then about two years old, would become a great clergyman in America, and that is what he is now. Besides the gentry, who are a distinct class, there are bad spirits and ghosts, which are nothing like them. My mother once saw a leprechaun beside a bush hammering. He disappeared before she could get to him, but he also was unlike one of the gentry." - A "Seer-Witness" (1)
I have been told by a friend in California . . . that there exist in certain parts of that state, notably in the Yosemite Valley . . . invisible races exactly comparable to the "gentry" of this Ben Bulbin country such as our seer-witness describes them and as other seers in Ireland have described them, and quite like the "people of peace" as described by Kirk, the seventh son, in his Secret Commonwealth (see this study, p. 85 n.). These California races are said to exist now, as the Irish and Scotch invisible races are said to exist now, by seers who can behold them; and . . . are described as a distinct order of beings who have never been in physical embodiments. . . . Equally with their Celtic relatives they are described as a warlike race with more than human powers over physical nature, and as able to subject or destroy men. - W. Y. E.-W.
Recordings from Grange
Our next witness, who lives about three miles from our last witness, is Hugh Currid, the oldest man in Grange; and so old is he that now he does little more than sit in the chimney-corner smoking, and, as he looks at the red glow of the peat, dreaming of the olden times. Hugh knows English very imperfectly, and so what he narrated was in the ancient Gaelic which his fathers spoke. When Father Hines took me to Hugh's cottage, Hugh was in his usual silent pose before the fire. At first he rather resented having his thoughts disturbed, but in a few minutes he was as talkative as could be, for there is nothing like the mention of Ireland to get him started. The Father left us then; and with the help of Hugh's sister as an interpreter I took down what he said:
The Flax-Seller's Return from Faerie
"An old woman near Lough More, where Father Patrick was drowned, who used to make her living by selling flax at the market, was taken by the gentry, and often came back afterwards to her three children to comb their hair. One time she told a neighbour that the money she saved from her dealings in flax would be found near a big rock on the lake-shore, which she indicated, and that she wanted the three children to have it." - Hugh Currid
A Wife Recovered from the "Gentry"
"A man's young wife died in confinement while he was absent on some business at Ballingshaun, and one of the gentry came to him and said she had been taken. The husband hurried home, and that night he sat with the body of his wife all alone. He left the door open a little, and it wasn't long before his wife's spirit came in and went to the cradle where her child was sleeping. As she did so, the husband threw at her a charm of hen's dung which he had ready, and this held her until he could call the neighbours. And while they were coming, she went back into her body, and lived a long time afterwards. The body was stiff and cold when the husband arrived home, though it hadn't been washed or dressed." - Hugh Currid
A Tailor's Testimony
Our next witness is Patrick Waters, by trade a tailor, living in Cloontipruckilish, a cross-road hamlet less than two miles from Hugh Currid's home. His first story is a parallel to one told about the minister of Aberfoyle:
The Lost Bride
"A girl in this region died on her wedding-night while dancing. Soon after her death she appeared to her husband, and said to him,
"I"m not dead at all, but I am put from you now for a time. It may be a long time, or a short time, I cannot tell. I am not badly off. If you want to get me back you must stand at the gap near the house and catch me as I go by, for I live near there, and see you, and you do not see me."
He was anxious enough to get her back, and didn't waste any time in getting to the gap. When he came to the place, a party of strangers were just coming out, and his wife soon appeared as plain as could be, but he couldn't stir a hand or foot to save her. Then there was a scream and she was gone. The man firmly believed this, and would not marry again." - Patrick Waters
The Invisible Island
"There is an enchanted island which is an invisible island between Innishmurray and the mainland opposite. It is only seen once in seven years. I saw it myself, and so did four or five others with me. A boatman from Sligo named Carr took two strange men with him towards Innishmurray, and they disappeared at the spot where the island is, and he thought they had fallen overboard and been drowned. Carr saw one of the same men in Connelly (County Donegal), some six months or so after, and with great surprise said to him, "Will you tell me the wonders of the world? Is it you I saw drowned near Innishmurray?"
"Yes," he said; and then asked, "Do you see me?"
"Yes," answered Carr. "But," said the man again, "you do not see me with both eyes?"
Then Carr closed one eye to be sure, and found that he saw him with one eye only. And he told the man which one it was. At this information the fairy man blew on Carr's face, and Carr never saw him again." - Patrick Waters
"My father dreamt he saw two armies coming in from the sea, walking on the water. Reaching the strand, they lined up and commenced a battle, and my father was in great terror. The fighting was long and bloody, and when it was over every fighter vanished, the wounded and dead as well as the survivors.
The next morning an old woman who had the reputation of talking with the fairies came in the house to my father, who, though greatly disturbed over the dream, had told us nothing of it, and asked him, "Have you anything to tell? I couldn't but laugh at you," she added, and before my father could reply, continued, "Well, Jimmy, you won't tell the news, so I will." And then she began to tell about the battle.
"Ketty!" exclaimed my father at this, "can it be true? And who were the men beside me?"
When Ketty told him, they turned out to be some of his dead friends. She received her information from a drowned man whom she met on the spot where the gentry armies had come ashore; and, in the place where they fought, the sand was all burnt red, as from fire." - Patrick Waters
Patrick remarked about dreams that "People believe themselves to be with the dead in dreams."
The story about Father Patrick and Father Dominick
"Father Patrick Noan while bathing in the harbour at Cams (about three miles north-west of Grange) was drowned. His body was soon brought ashore, and his brother, Father Dominick Noan, was sent for. When Father Dominick arrived, one of the men who had collected around the body said to him, "Why don't you do something for your brother Patrick?"
"Why don't somebody ask me?" he replied, "for I must be asked in the name of God."
So Jimmy McGowan went on his knees and asked for the honour of God that Father Dominick should bring Father Patrick back to life; and, at this, Father Dominick took out his breviary and began to read. After a time he whistled, and began to read again. He whistled a second time, and returned to the reading. Upon his whistling the third time, Father Patrick's spirit appeared in the doorway.
""Where were you when I whistled the first time?" Father Dominick asked. "I was at a hurling match with the gentry on Mulloughmore strand."
"And where were you at the second whistle?"
"I was coming over Corrick Fadda; and when you whistled the third time I was here at the door."
Father Patrick's spirit had gone back into the body, and Father Patrick lived round here as a priest for a long time afterwards.
"There was no such thing as artificial respiration known hereabouts when this happened some fifty or sixty years ago. I heard this story, which I know is true, from many persons who saw Father Dominick restore his brother to life." - Patrick Waters
A Druid Enchantment
After this strange psychical narrative, there followed the most weird legend I have heard in Celtic lands about Druids and magic.
One afternoon Patrick Waters pointed out to me the field, near the sea-coast opposite Innishmurray, in which the ancient menhir containing the "enchantment" used to stand; and, at another time, he said that a bronze wand covered with curious marks (or else interlaced designs) was found not far from the ruined dolmen and allée couverte on the farm of Patrick Bruan, about two miles southward. This last statement, like the story itself, I have been unable to verify in any way.
"In times before Christ there were Druids here who enchanted one another with Druid rods made of brass, and metamorphosed one another into stone and lumps of oak, The question is, Where are the spirits of these Druids now? Their spirits are wafted through the air, and the man or beast they meet is smitten, while their own bodies are still under enchantment. I had such a Druid enchantment in my hand; it wasn't stone, nor marble, nor flint, and had human shape. It was found in the centre of a big rock on Innis-na-Gore; and round this rock light used to appear at night. The man who owned the stone decided to blast it up, and he found at its centre the enchantmentjust like a man, with head and legs and arms.
It happened that I had in my pocket a fossil, picked out of the neighbouring sea-cliff rocks, which are very rich in fossils. I showed this to Pat to ascertain if what he had had in his hand looked anything like it, and he at once said "No".
Father Healy took the enchantment away, when he was here on a visit, and said that it was a Druid enchanted, and that to get out of the rock was one part of the releasement, and that there would be a second and complete releasement of the Druid."
The Fairy Tribes Classified
Finally I asked Patrick to classify, as far as he could, all the fairy tribes he bad ever heard about, and he said:" The leprechaun is a red-capped fellow who stays round pure springs, generally shoemaking for the rest of the fairy tribes. The lunantishees are the tribes that guard the blackthorn trees or sloes; they let you cut no stick on the eleventh of November (the original November Day), or on the eleventh of May (the original May Day). If at such a time you cut a blackthorn, some misfortune will come to you. Pookas are black-featured fellows mounted on good horses; and are horse-dealers. They visit racecourses, but usually are invisible. The gentry are the most noble tribe of all; and they are a big race who came from the planets according to my idea; they usually appear white. The Daoine Maithe (though there is some doubt, the same or almost the same as the gentry) were next to Heaven at the Fall, but did not fall; they are a people expecting salvation."
Bridget O'Conner's Testimony
Our next witness is Bridget O'Conner, a near neighbour to Patrick Waters, in Cloontipruckilish. When I approached her neat little cottage she was cutting sweet-pea blossoms with a pair of scissors, and as I stopped to tell her how pretty a garden she had, she searched out the finest white bloom she could find and gave it to me. After we had talked a little while about America and Ireland, she said I must come in and rest a few minutes, and so I did; and it was not long before we were talking about fairies:
The Irish Legend of the Dead
"Old Peggy Gillin, dead these thirty years, who lived a mile beyond Grange, used to cure people with a secret herb shown to her by her brother, dead of a fairy-stroke. He was drowned and taken by the fairies, in the big drowning here during the herring season. She would pull the herb herself and prepare it by mixing spring water with it. Peggy could always talk with her dead relatives and friends, and continually with her brother, and she would tell everybody that they were with the fairies. Her daughter, Mary Short, who inherited some of her mother's power, died here about three or four years ago.
"I remember, too, about Mary Leonard and her daughter, Nancy Waters. Both of them are dead now. The daughter was the first to die, as it happened, and in child-birth, When she was gone, her mother used to wail and cry in an awful manner; and one day the daughter appeared to her in the garden, and said, "The more you wail for me, the more I am in torment. Pray for me, but do not wail."" - Bridget O'Conner
A Midwife Story
"A country nurse was requested by a strange man on horseback to go with him to exercise her profession; and she went with him to a castle she didn't know. When the baby was born, every woman in the place where the event happened put her finger in a basin of water and rubbed her eyes, and so the nurse put her finger in and rubbed it on one of her eyes. She went home and thought no more about it.
But one day she was at the fair in Grange and saw some of the same women who were in the castle when the baby was born; though, as she noticed, she only could see them with the one eye she had wet with the water from the basin. The nurse spoke to the women, and they wanted. to know how she recognized them; and she, in reply, said it was with the one eye, and asked, "How is the baby?"
"Well," said one of the fairy women; "and what eye do you see us with?"
"With the left eye," answered the nurse.
Then the fairy woman blew her breath against the nurse's left eye, and said, "You"ll never see me again."
And the nurse was always blind in the left eye after that." - Bridget O'Conner
The Spirit World at Carns
The Carns or Mount Temple country, about three miles from Grange, County Sligo, has already been mentioned by witnesses as a "gentry" haunt, and so now we shall hear what one of its oldest and most intelligent native inhabitants says of it. John McCann had been referred to, by Patrick Waters, as one who knows much about the "gentry" at first hand, and we can be sure that what he offers us is thoroughly reliable evidence. For many years, John McCann, born in 1830, by profession a carpenter and boat-builder, has been official mail-carrier to Innishmurray; and he knows quite as much about the strange little island and the mainland opposite it as any man living. His neat little cottage is on the shore of the bay opposite the beautiful fairy-haunted Darnish Island; and, as we sat within it beside a brilliant peat fire, and surrounded by all the family, this is what was told me:
A "Gentry" Medium
"Ketty Rourk (or Queenan) could tell all that would happen funerals, weddings, and so forth. Sure some spirits were coming to her. She said they were the gentry; that the gentry are everywhere; and that my drowned uncles and grandfather and other dead are among them. A drowned man named Pat Nicholson was her adviser. He used to live just a mile from here; and she knew him before he was drowned." - John McCann
Here we have, clearly enough, a case of "mediumship", or of communication with the dead, as in modern Spiritualism. And the following story, which like this last has numerous Irish parallels, illustrates an ancient and world-wide animistic belief, that in sickness as in dreams the soul goes out of the body as at death, and meets the dead in their own fairy world.
The Clairvoyance of Mike Farrell
"Mike Farrell, too, could tell all about the gentry, as he lay sick a long time. And he told about Father Brannan's youth, and even the house in Roscommon in which the Father was born; and Father Brannan never said anything more against Mike after that. Mike surely saw the gentry; and he was with them during his illness for twelve months. He said they live in forts and at Alt Darby (" the Big Rock "). After he got well, he went to America, at the time of the famine." - John McCann
The "Gentry" Army
"The gentry were believed to live up on this hill (Hill of the Brocket Stones, Cluach-a-brac), and from it they would come out like an army and march along the road to the strand. Very few persons could see them. They were thought to be like living people, but in different dress. They seemed like soldiers, yet it was known they were not living beings such as we are."
The Seership of Dan Quinn
"On Connor's Island (about two miles southward from Cams by the mainland) my uncle, Dan Quinn, often used to see big crowds of the gentry come into his house and play music and dance. The house would be full of them, but they caused him no fear. Once on such an occasion, one of them came up to him as he lay in bed, and giving him a green leaf told him to put it in his mouth. When he did this, instantly he could not see the gentry, but could still hear their music. Uncle Dan always believed he recognized in some of the gentry his drowned friends. Only when he was alone would the gentry visit him. He was a silent old man, and so never talked much; but I know that this story is as true as can be, and that the gentry always took an interest in him."
Under the Shadow of Ben Bulbin and Ben Waskin
I was driving along the Ben Bulbin road, on the ocean side, with Michael Oates, who was on his way from his mountain-side home to the lowlands to cut hay; and as we looked up at the ancient mountain, so mysterious and silent in the shadows and fog of a calm early morning of summer, he told me about its invisible inhabitants:
The "Gentry" Huntsmen
"I knew a man who saw the gentry hunting on the other side of the mountain. He saw hounds and horsemen cross the road and jump the hedge in front of him, and it was one o'clock at night. The next day he passed the place again, and looked for the tracks of the huntsmen, but saw not a trace of tracks at all." - Michael Oates
The "Taking" of the Turf-Cutter
After I had heard about two boys who were drowned opposite Innishmurray, and who afterwards appeared as apparitions, for the gentry had them, this curious story was related:
"A man was cutting turf out on the side of Ben Bulbin when a strange man came to him and said, "You have cut enough turf for today. You had better stop and go home."
The turf-cutter looked around in surprise, and in two seconds the strange man had disappeared; but he decided to go home. And as soon as he was home, such a feeling came over him that he could not tell whether he was alive or dead. Then he took to his bed and never rose again."
Hearing the " Gentry" Music
At this Michael said to his companion in the cart with us, William Barber, "You tell how you heard the music"; and this followed:
"One dark night, about one o'clock, myself and another young man were passing along the road up there round Ben Bulbin, when we heard the finest kind of music. All sorts of music seemed to be playing. We could see nothing at all, though we thought we heard voices like children's. It was the music of the gentry we heard." - William Barber
My next friend to testify is Pat Ruddy, eighty years old, one of the most intelligent and prosperous farmers living beside Ben Bulbin. He greeted me in the true Irish way, but before we could come to talk about fairies his good wife induced me to enter another room where she had secretly prepared a great feast spread out on a fresh white cloth, while Pat and myself had been exchanging opinions about America and Ireland. When I returned to the kitchen the whole family were assembled round the blazing turf fire, and Pat was soon talking about the "gentry"
Seeing the "Gentry" Army
"Old people used to say the gentry were in the mountains; that is certain, but I never could be quite sure of it myself. One night, however, near midnight, I did have a sight: I set out from Bantrillick to come home, and near Ben Bulbin there was the greatest army you ever saw, five or six thousand of them in armour shining in the moonlight. A strange man rose out of the hedge and stopped me, for a minute, in the middle of the road. He looked into my face, and then let me go." - Pat Ruddy
An Ossianic Fragment
"A man went away with the good people (or gentry), and returned to find the town and all in ruins. As he came back riding on a horse of the good people, he saw some men in a quarry trying to move a big stone. He helped them with it, but his saddle-girth broke, and he fell to the ground. The horse ran away, and he was left there, an old man."
I asked Pat if he had ever heard the old people talk about Dermot and Grania, and he replied: "To be sure I have. Dermot and Grania used to live in these parts. Dermot stole Finn MacCoul's sister, and had to flee away. He took with him a bag of sand and a bunch of heather; and when he was in the mountains he would put the bag of sand under his head at night, and then tell everybody he met that he had slept on the sand (the sea-shore); and when on the sand he would use the bunch of heather for a pillow, and say he had slept on the heather (the mountains). And so nobody ever caught him at all."
A Schoolmaster's Testimony
A SCHOOLMASTER, who is a native of the Ben Bulbin country, offers this testimony: "There is implicit belief here in the gentry, especially among the old people. They consider them the spirits of their departed relations and friends, who visit them in joy and in sorrow. On the death of a member of a family, they believe the spirits of their near relatives are present; they do not see them, but feel their presence. They even have a strong belief that the spirits show them the future in dreams; and say that cases of affliction are always foreshown in a dream.
"The belief in changelings is not now generally prevalent; but in olden times a mother used to place a pair of iron tongs over the cradle before leaving the child alone, in order that the fairies should not change the child for a weakly one of their own. It was another custom to take a wisp of straw, and, lighting one end of it, make a fiery sign of the cross over a cradle before a babe could be placed in it."
With the Irish Mystics in the Sidhe World
The Rosses Point country . . . is one of the very famous places for seeing the" gentry", or, as educated Irish seers who make pilgrimages thither call them, the Slake. I have been told by more than one such seer that there on the hills and Greenlands (a great stretch of open country, treeless and grass-grown), and on the strand at Lower Rosses Point called Wren Point by the country-folk these beings can be seen and their wonderful music heard; and a well-known Irish artist has shown me many drawings, and paintings in oil, of these Sidhe people as he has often beheld them at those places and elsewhere in Ireland. They are described as a race of majestic appearance and marvellous beauty, in form human, yet in nature divine. The highest order of them seems to be a race of beings evolved to a superhuman plane of existence, such as the ancients called gods; and with this opinion, strange as it may seem in this age, all the educated Irish seers with whom I have been privileged to talk agree, though they go further, and say that these highest Sidhe races still inhabiting Ireland are the ever-young, immortal divine race known to the ancient men of Erin as the Tuatha De Danann.
Of all European lands I venture to say that Ireland is the most mystical, and, in the eyes of true Irishmen, as much the Magic Island of Gods and Initiates now as it was when the Sacred Fires flashed from its purple, heather-covered mountain-tops and mysterious round towers, and the Greater Mysteries drew to its hallowed shrines neophytes from the West as well as from the East, from India and Egypt as well as from Atlantis [As to probable proof that there was an Atlantis(1) and Erin's mystic-seeing sons still watch and wait for the relighting of the Fires and the restoration of the old Druidic Mysteries. Herein I but imperfectly echo the mystic message Ireland's seers gave me, a pilgrim to their Sacred Isle. And until this mystic message is interpreted, men cannot discover the secret of Gaelic myth and song in olden or in modern times, they cannot drink at the ever-flowing fountain of Gaelic genius, the perennial source of inspiration which lies behind the new revival of literature and art in Ireland, nor understand the seeming reality of the fairy races.
(1) One of the commonest legends among all Celtic peoples is about some lost city . . . or some lost land or island . . .; and we can be quite sure that if, as some scientists now begin to think . . . Atlantis once existed, its disappearance must have left from a prehistoric epoch a deep impress on folk-memory. [Can we be quite sure?] . . . The real evolutionary process, granting the disappearance of this island continent, would seem rather to have been one of localizing and anthropomorphosing very primitive Aryan and pre-Aryan beliefs about a heaven-world . . . [Is that so?] [From Dr. Evans-Wentz' note on p. 333]
An Irish Mystic's Testimony
Through the kindness of an Irish mystic, who is a seer, I am enabled to present here, in the form of a dialogue, very rare and very important evidence, which will serve to illustrate and to confirm what has just been said above about the mysticism of Ireland. To anthropologists this evidence may be of more than ordinary value when they know that it comes from one who is not only a cultured seer but who is also a man conspicuously successful in the practical life of a great city:
Q. Are all visions which you have had of the same character?
A. "I have always made a distinction between pictures seen in the memory of nature and visions of actual beings now existing in the inner world. We can make the same distinction in our world: I may close my eyes and see you as a vivid picture in memory, or I may look at you with my physical eyes and see your actual image. In seeing these beings of which I speak, the physical eyes may be open or closed: mystical beings in their own world and nature are never seen with the physical eyes."
Q. By the inner world do you mean the Celtic Otherworld?
A. "Yes; though there are many Otherworlds. The Tir-na-nog of the ancient Irish, in which the races of the Sidhe exist, may be described as a radiant archetype of this world, though this definition does not at all express its psychic nature. In Tir-na-nog one sees nothing save harmony and beautiful forms. There are other worlds in which we can see horrible shapes."
Classification of the Sidhe
Q. Do you in any way classify the Sidhe races to which you refer?
A. "The beings whom I call the Sidhe, I divide, as I have seen them, into two great classes: those which are shining, and those which are opalescent and seem lit up by a light within themselves. The shining beings appear to be lower in the hierarchies; the opalescent beings are more rarely seen, and appear to hold the positions of great chiefs or princes among the tribes of Dana."
Conditions of Seership
Q. Under what state or condition and where have you seen such beings?
A. "I have seen them most frequently after being away from a city or town for a few days. The whole west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Kerry seems charged with a magical power, and I find it easiest to see while I am there. I have always found it comparatively easy to see visions while at ancient monuments like New Grange and Dowth, because I think such places are naturally charged with psychical forces, and were for that reason made use of long ago as sacred places. I usually find it possible to throw myself into the mood of seeing; but sometimes visions have forced themselves upon me."
The Shining Beings
Q. Can you describe the shining beings?
A. "It is very difficult to give any intelligible description of them. The first time I saw them with great vividness I was lying on a hill-side alone in the west of Ireland, in County Sligo: I had been listening to music in the air, and to what seemed to be the sound of bells, and was trying to understand these aerial clashings in which wind seemed to break upon wind in an ever-changing musical silvery sound. Then the space before me grew luminous, and I began to see one beautiful being after another."
The Opalescent Beings
Q. Can you describe one of the opalescent beings?
A. "The first of these I saw I remember very clearly, and the manner of its appearance: there was at first a dazzle of light, and then I saw that this came from the heart of a tall figure with a body apparently shaped out of half-transparent or opalescent air, and throughout the body ran a radiant, electrical fire, to which the heart seemed the centre. Around the head of this being and through its waving luminous hair, which was blown all about the body like living strands of gold, there appeared flaming wing-like auras. From the being itself light seemed to stream outwards in every direction; and the effect left on me after the vision was one of extraordinary lightness, joyousness, or ecstasy.
"At about this same period of my life I saw many of these great beings, and I then thought that I had visions of Aengus, Manannan, Lug, and other famous kings or princes among the Tuatba De Danann; but since then I have seen so many beings of a similar character that I now no longer would attribute to any one of them personal identity with particular beings of legend; though I believe that they correspond in a general way to the Tuatha De Danann or ancient Irish gods."
Stature of the Sidhe
Q.You speak of the opalescent beings as great beings; what stature do you assign to them, and to the shining beings?
A. "The opalescent beings seem to be about fourteen feet in stature, though I do not know why I attribute to them such definite height, since I had nothing to compare them with; but I have always considered them as much taller than our race. The shining beings seem to be about our own stature or just a little taller. Peasant and other Irish seers do not usually speak of the Sidhe as being little, but as being tall: an old schoolmaster in the West of Ireland described them to me from his own visions as tall beautiful people, and he used some Gaelic words, which I took as meaning that they were shining with every colour."
The worlds of the Sidhe
Q. Do the two orders of Sidhe beings inhabit the same world?
A. "The shining beings belong to the mid-world; while the opalescent beings belong to the heaven-world. There are three great worlds which we can see while we are still in the body: the earth-world, mid-world, and heaven-world,"
Nature of the Sidhe
Q. Do you consider the life and state of these Sidhe beings superior to the life and state of men?
A. "I could never decide. One can say that they themselves are certainly more beautiful than men are, and that their worlds seem more beautiful than our world.
"Among the shining orders there does not seem to be any individualized life: thus if one of them raises his hands all raise their hands, and if one drinks from a fire-fountain all do; they seem to move and to have their real existence in a being higher than themselves, to which they are a kind of body. Theirs is, I think, a collective life, so unindividualized and so calm that I might have more varied thoughts in five hours than they would have in five years; and yet one feels an extraordinary purity and, exaltation about their life. Beauty of form with them has never been broken up by the passions which arise in the developed egotism of human beings. A hive of bees has been described as a single organism with disconnected cells; and some of these tribes of shining beings seem to be little more than one being manifesting itself in many beautiful forms. I speak this with reference to the shining beings only: I think that among the opalescent or Sidhe beings, in the heaven-world, there is an even closer spiritual unity, but also a greater individuality."
Influence of the Sidhe on Men
Q. Do you consider any of these Sidhe beings inimical to humanity?
A. "Certain kinds of the shining beings, whom I call wood beings, have never affected me with any evil influences I could recognize. But the water beings, also of the shining tribes, I always dread, because I felt whenever I came into contact with them a great drowsiness of mind and, I often thought, an actual drawing away of vitality."
Water Beings Described
Q. Can you describe one of these water beings?
A. "In the world under the watersunder a lake in the West of Ireland in this caseI saw a blue and orange coloured king seated on a throne; and there seemed to be some fountain of mystical fire rising from under his throne, and he breathed this fire into himself as though it were his life. As I looked, I saw groups of pale beings, almost grey in colour, coming down one side of the throne by the fire-fountain. They placed their head and lips near the heart of the elemental king, and, then, as they touched him, they shot upwards, plumed and radiant, and passed on the other side, as though they had received a new life from this chief of their world."
Wood Beings Described
Q. Can you describe one of the wood beings?
A. "The wood beings I have seen most often are of a shining silvery colour with a tinge of blue or pale violet, and with dark purple-coloured hair."
Reproduction and Immortality of the Sidhe
Q. Do you consider the races of the Sidhe able to reproduce their kind; and are they immortal?
A. "The higher kinds seem capable of breathing forth beings out of themselves, but I do not understand how they do so. I have seen some of them who contain elemental beings within themselves, and these they could send out and receive back within themselves again.
"The immortality ascribed to them by the ancient Irish is only a relative immortality, their space of life being much greater than ours. In time, however, I believe that they grow old and then pass into new bodies just as men do, but whether by birth or by the growth of a new body I cannot say, since I have no certain knowledge about this."
Q.Does sexual differentiation seem to prevail among the Sidhe races?
A. "I have seen forms both male and female, and forms which did not suggest sex at all."
Sidhe and Human Life
Q. (1) is it possible, as the ancient Irish thought, that certain of the higher Sidhe beings have entered or could enter our plane of life by submitting to human birth?
(2) On the other hand, do you consider it possible for men in trance or at death to enter the Sidhic world?
A. (1) "I cannot say." (2) "Yes; both in trance and after death. I think any one who thought much of the Sidhe during his life and who saw them frequently and brooded on them would likely go to their world after death."
Social Organization of the Sidhe
Q. You refer to chieftain-like or prince-like beings, and to a king among water beings; is there therefore definite social organization among the various Sidhe orders and races, and if so, what is its nature?
A. "I cannot say about a definite social organization. I have seen beings who seemed to command others, and who were held in reverence. This implies an organization, but whether it is instinctive like that of a hive of bees, or consciously organized like human society, I cannot say."
Lower Sidhe as Nature Elementals
Q. You speak of the water-being king as an elemental king; do you suggest thereby a resemblance between lower Sidhe orders and what mediaeval mystics called elementals?
A. "The lower orders of the Sidhe are, I think, the nature elementals of the mediaeval mystics."
Nourishment of the Higher Sidhe
Q. The water beings as you have described them seem to be nourished and kept alive by something akin to electrical fluids; do the higher orders of the Sidhe seem to be similarly nourished?
A. "They seemed to me to draw their life out of the Soul of the World."
Collective Visions of Sidhe Beings
Q. Have you had visions of the various Sidhe beings in company with other persons?
A. "I have had such visions on several occasions."
And this statement has been confirmed to me by three participants in such collective visions, who separately at different times have seen in company with our witness the same vision at the same moment. On another occasion, on the Greenlands at Rosses Point, County Sligo, the same Sidhe being was seen by our present witness and a friend with him, also possessing the faculty of seership, at a time when the two percipients were some little distance apart, and they hurried to each other to describe the being, not knowing that the explanation was mutually unnecessary. I have talked with both percipients so much, and know them so intimately that I am fully able to state that as percipients they fulfil all necessary pathological conditions required by psychologists in order to make their evidence acceptable.
Parallel Evidence as to the Sidhe Races
In general, the rare evidence above recorded from the Irish seer could be paralleled by similar evidence from at least two other reliable Irish people, with whom also I have been privileged to discuss the Fairy-Faith. One is a member of the Royal Irish Academy, the other is the wife of a well-known Irish historian; and both of them testify to having likewise had collective visions of Sidhe beings in Ireland.
This is what Mr. William B. Yeats wrote to me, while this study was in progress, concerning the Celtic Fairy Kingdom: "I am certain that it exists, and will some day be studied as it was studied by Kirk (1)."
(1) Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, who wrote The Secret Commonwealth (see this study, p. 85 n.).
Independent Evidence from the Sidhe World One of the most remarkable discoveries of our Celtic researches has been that the native population of the Rosses Point country, or, as we have called it, the Sidhe world, in most essentials, and, what is most important, by independent folk-testimony, substantiate the opinions and statements of the educated Irish mystics to whom we have just referred, as follows:
John Conway's Vision of the "Gentry"
In Upper Rosses Point, Mrs. J. Conway told me this about the "gentry":
"John Conway, my husband, who was a pilot by profession, in watching for in-coming ships used to go up on the high hill among the Fairy Hills; and there he often saw the gentry going down the hill to the strand. One night in particular he recognized them as men and women of the gentry and they were as big as any living people. It was late at night about forty years ago."
Ghosts and Fairies
When first I introduced myself to Owen Conway, in his bachelor quarters, a cosy cottage at Upper Rosses Point, he said that Mr. W. B. Yeats and other men famous in Irish literature had visited him to hear about the fairies, and that though he knew very little about the fairies he nevertheless always likes to talk of them. Then Owen began to tell me about a man's ghost which both he and Bran Reggan had seen at different times on the road to Sligo, then about a woman's ghost which he and other people had often seen near where we were, and then about the exorcizing of a haunted house in Sligo some sixty years ago by Father McGowan, who as a result died soon afterwards, apparently having been killed by the exorcized spirits. Finally, I heard from him the following anecdotes about the fairies:
A Stone Wall overthrown by "Fairy" Agency
"Nothing is more certain than that there are fairies. The old folks always thought them the fallen angels. At the back of this house the fairies had their pass. My neighbour started to build a cow-shed, and one wall abutting on the pass was thrown down twice, and nothing but the fairies ever did it. The third time the wall was built it stood."
Fairies passing through Stone Walls
"Where MacEwen's house stands was a noted fairy place. Men in building the house saw fairies on horses coming across the spot, and the stone walls did not stop them at all."
Seeing the "Gentry"
"A cousin of mine, who was a pilot, once went to the watch-house up there on the Point to take his brother's place; and he saw ladies coming towards him as he crossed the Greenlands. At first he thought they were coming from a dance, but there was no dance going then, and, if there had been, no human beings dressed like them and moving as they were could have come from any part of the globe, and in so great a party, at that hour of the night. Then when they passed him and he saw how beautiful they were, he knew them for the gentry women."
"Michael Reddy (our next witness) saw the gentry down on the Greenlands in regimentals like an army, and in daylight. He was a young man at the time, and had been sent out to see if any cattle were astray."
And this is what Michael Reddy, of Rosses Point, now a sailor on the ship Tartar, sailing from Sligo to neighbouring ports on the Irish coast, asserts in confirmation of Owen Conway's statement about him:
"I saw the gentry on the strand (at Lower Rosses Point) about forty years ago. It was afternoon. I first saw one of them like an officer pointing at me what seemed a sword; and when I got on the Greenlands I saw a great company of gentry, like soldiers, in red, laughing and shouting. Their leader was a big man, and they were ordinary human size. As a result [of this vision] I took to my bed and lay there for weeks. Upon another occasion, late at night, I was with my mother milking cows, and we heard the gentry all round us talking, but could not see them."
Going to the "Gentry" through Death, Dreams, or Trance
John O'Conway, one of the most reliable citizens of Upper Rosses Point, offers the following testimony concerning the "gentry": "In olden times the gentry were very numerous about forts and here on the Greenlands, but rarely seen. They appeared to be the same as any living men. When people died it was said the gentry took them, for they would afterwards appear among the gentry."
"We had a ploughman of good habits who came in one day too late for his morning's work, and he in excuse very seriously said, "May be if you had travelled all night as much as I have you wouldn't talk. I was away with the gentry, and save for a lady I couldn't have been back now. I saw a long hall full of many people. Some of them I knew and some I did not know. The lady saved me by telling me to eat no food there, however enticing it might be."
"A young man at Drumcliffe was taken [in a trance state], and was with the Daoine Maithe some time, and then got back. Another man, whom I knew well, was haunted by the gentry for a long time, and he often went off with them" (apparently in a dream or trance state).
The story which now follows substantiates the testimony of cultured Irish seers that at Lower Rosses Point the music of the Sidhe can be heard:
"Three women were gathering shell-fish, in the month of March, on the lowest point of the strand (Lower Rosses or Wren Point) when they heard the most beautiful music. They set to work to dance with it, and danced themselves sick. They then thanked the invisible musician and went home."
The Testimony of a College Professor
Our next witness is the Rev. Father a professor in a Catholic college in West Ireland, and most of his statements are based on events which happened among his own acquaintances and relatives, and his deductions are the result of careful investigation:
Apparitions from Fairyland
"Some twenty to thirty years ago, on the borders of County Roscommon near County Sligo, according to the firm belief of one of my own relatives, a sister of his was taken by the fairies on her wedding-night, and she appeared to her mother afterwards as an apparition. She seemed to want to speak, but her mother, who was in bed at the time, was thoroughly frightened, and turned her face to the wall. The mother is convinced that she saw this apparition of her daughter, and my relative thinks she might have saved her.
"This same relative who gives it as his opinion that his sister was taken by the fairies, at a different time saw the apparition of another relative of mine who also, according to similar belief, had been taken by the fairies when only five years old. The child-apparition appeared beside its living sister one day while the sister was going from the yard into the house, and it followed her in. It is said the child was taken because she was such a good girl."
"As children we were always afraid of fairies, and were taught to say " God bless them! God bless them!" whenever we heard them mentioned.
"In our family we always made it a point to have clean water in the house at night for the fairies.
"If anything like dirty water was thrown out of doors after dark it was necessary to say " Hugga, hugga salach!" as a warning to the fairies not to get their clothes wet.
"Untasted food, like milk, used to be left on the table at night for the fairies. If you were eating and food fell from you, it was not right to take it back, for the fairies wanted it. Many families are very serious about this even now. The luckiest thing to do in such cases is to pick up the food and eat just a speck of it and then throw the rest away to the fairies.
"Ghosts and apparitions are commonly said to live in isolated thorn-bushes, or thorn-trees. Many lonely bushes of this kind have their ghosts. For example, there is Fanny's Bush, Sally's Bush, and another I know of in County Sligo near Boyle."
"The fairies of any one race are the people of the preceding racethe Fomors for the Fir Boigs, the Fir Boigs for the Dananns, and the Dananns for us. The old races died. Where did they go? They became spirits and fairies. Second-sight gave our race power to see the inner world. When Christianity came to Ireland the people had no definite heaven. Before, their ideas about the other world were vague. But the older ideas of a spirit world remained side by side with the Christian ones, and being preserved in a subconscious way gave rise to the fairy world."
Recordings from County Roscommon
Our next place for investigation will be the ancient province of the great fairy-queen Meave, who made herself famous by leading against Cuchulainn the united armies of four of the five provinces of Ireland, and all on account of a bull which she coveted. And there could be no better part of it to visit than Roscommon, which Dr. Douglas Hyde has made popular in Irish folk-lore.
Dr. Hyde and the Leprechaun
One day while I was privileged to be at Ratra, Dr. Hyde invited me to walk with him in the country. After we had visited an old fort which belongs to the "good people", and had noticed some other of their haunts in that part of Queen Meave's realm, we entered a straw-thatched cottage on the roadside and found the good house-wife and her fine-looking daughter both at home. In response to Dr. Hyde's inquiries, the mother stated that one day, in her girlhood, near a hedge from which she was gathering wild berries, she saw a leprechaun in a hole under a stone:
"He wasn't much larger than a doll, and he was most perfectly formed, with a little mouth and eyes."
Nothing was told about the little fellow having a money-bag, although the woman said people told her afterwards that she would have been rich if she had only had sense enough to catch him when she had so good a chance. (1)
(1) A Little Fellow with a Money Bag
"In going from East Ireland to Galway, during the summer of 1908, I passed through the country near Mullingar, where there was then great excitement over a leprechaun which had been appearing to school-children and to many of the country-folk. I talked with some of the people as I walked through part of County Meath about this leprechaun, and most of them were certain that there could be such a creature showing itself; and I noticed, too, that they were all quite anxious to have a chance at the money-bag, if they could only see the little fellow with it. I told one good-natured old Irishman at Ballywillan where I stopped over night as we sat round his peat fire and pot of boiling potatoes, that the leprechaun was reported as captured by the police in Mullingar.
"Now that couldn't be, at all," he said instantly, "for everybody knows the leprechaun is a spirit and can't be caught by any blessed policeman, though it is likely one might get his gold if they got him cornered so he had no chance to run away. But the minute you wink or take your eyes off the little devil, sure enough he is gone."
The Death Coach
The next tale the mother told was about the death coach which used to pass by the very house we were in. Every night until after her daughter was born she used to rise up on her elbow in bed to listen to the death coach passing by. It passed about midnight, and she could hear the rushing, the tramping of the horses, and most beautiful singing, just like fairy music, but she could not understand the words. Once or twice she was brave enough to open the door and look out as the coach passed, but she could never see a thing, though there was the noise and singing. One time a man had to wait on the roadside to let the fairy horses go by, and he could hear their passing very clearly, and couldn't see one of them.
When we got home, Dr. Hyde told me that the fairies of the region are rarely seen. The people usually say that they hear or feel them only.
The "Good People" and Mr. Gilleran
After the mother had testified, the daughter, who is quite of the younger generation, gave her own opinion. She said that the "good people" live in the forts and often take men and women or youths who pass by the forts after sunset; that Mr. Gilleran, who died not long ago, once saw certain dead friends and recognized among them those who were believed to have been taken and those who died naturally, and that he saw them again when he was on his death-bed.
We have here, as in so many other accounts, a clear connexion between the realm of the dead and Fairyland.
The Testimony of a Lough Derg Seer
Neil Colton, seventy-three years old, who lives in Tamlach Towniand, on the shores of Lough Derg, County Donegal, has a local reputation for having seen the "gentle folk", and so I called upon him. As we sat round his blazing turf fire, and in the middle of his family of three sturdy boysfor he married late in lifethis is what he related:
A Girl Recovered from Faerie
"One day, just before sunset in midsummer, and I a boy then, my brother and cousin and myself were gathering bilberries (whortleberries) up by the rocks at the back of here, when all at once we heard music. We hurried round the rocks, and there we were within a few hundred feet of six or eight of the gentle folk, and they dancing. When they saw us, a little woman dressed all in red came running out from them towards us, and she struck my cousin across the face with what seemed to be a green rush. We ran for home as hard as we could, and when my cousin reached the house she fell dead. Father saddled a horse and went for Father Ryan. When Father Ryan arrived, he put a stole about his neck and began praying over my cousin and reading psalms and striking her with the stole; and in that way brought her back. He said if she had not caught hold of my brother, she would have been taken for ever."
The "Gentle Folk"
"The gentle folk are not earthly people; they are a people with a nature of their own. Even in the water there are men and women of the same character. Others have caves in the rocks, and in them rooms and apartments. These races were terribly plentiful a hundred years ago, and they"ll come back again. My father lived two miles from here, where there were plenty of the gentle folk. In olden times they used to take young folks and keep them and draw all the life out of their bodies. Nobody could ever tell their nature exactly."
Recordings from County Fermanagh
From James Summerville, eighty-eight years old, who lives in the country near Irvinestown, I heard much about the "wee people" and about banshees, and then the following remarkable story concerning the "good people":
Travelling Clairvoyance through "Fairy" Agency
From near Ederney, County Fermanagh, about seventy years ago, a man whom I knew well was taken to America on Hallow Eve Night; and they (the good people) made him look down a chimney to see his own daughter cooking at a kitchen fire. Then they took him to another place in America, where he saw a friend he knew. The next morning he was at his own home here in Ireland.
"This man wrote a letter to his daughter to know if she was at the place and at the work on Hallow Eve Night, and she wrote back that she was. He was sure that it was the good people who had taken him to America and back in one night."
Recordings from County Antrim
At the request of Major R. G. Berry, M.R.I.A., of Richill Castle, Armagh, Mr. H. Higginson, of Glenavy, County Antrim, collected all the material he could find concerning the fairy-tradition in his part of County Antrim, and sent to me the results, from which I have selected the very interesting, and, in some respects, unique tales which follow:
The Fairies and the Weaver
"Ned Judge, of Sophys Bridge, was a weaver. Every night after he went to bed the weaving started of itself, and when he arose in the morning he would find the dressing which had been made ready for weaving so broken and entangled that it took him hours to put it right. Yet with all this drawback he got no poorer, because the fairies left him plenty of household necessaries, and whenever he sold a web [of cloth~ he always received treble the amount bargained for."
Meeting Two Regiments of "Them "
"William Megarry, of Ballinderry, as his daughter who is married to James Megarry, J.P., told me, was one night going to Crumlin on horseback for a doctor, when after passing through Glenavy he met just opposite the Vicarage two regiments of them (the fairies) coming along the road towards Glenavy. One regiment was dressed in red and one in blue or green uniform. They were playing music, but when they opened out to let him pass through the middle of them the music ceased until he had passed by."
In Cuchulainn's Country: A Civil Engineer's Testimony
In the heroic days of pagan Ireland, as tradition tells, the ancient earthworks, now called the Navan Rings, just outside Armagh, were the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the Red Branch Knights; and, later, under Patrick, Armagh itself, one of the old mystic centres of Erin, became the ecclesiastical capital of the Gaels. And from this romantic country, one of its best informed native sons, a graduate civil engineer of Dublin University, offers the following important evidence:
The Fairies are the Dead
"When I was a youngster near Armagh, I was kept good by being told that the fairies could take bad boys away. The sane belief about the fairies, however, is different, as I discovered when I grew up. The old people in County Armagh seriously believe that the fairies are the spirits of the dead; and they say that if you have many friends deceased you have many friendly fairies, or if you have many enemies deceased you have many fairies looking out to do you harm."
Food-Offerings to Place-Fairies
"It was very usual formerly, and the practice is not yet given up, to place a bed, some other furniture, and plenty of food in a newly-constructed dwelling the night before the time fixed for moving into it; and if the food is not consumed, and the crumbs swept up by the door in the morning, the house cannot safely be occupied. I know of two houses now that have never been occupied, because the fairies did not show their willingness and goodwill by taking food so offered to them."
On the Slopes of Slieve Gullion
In climbing to the summit of Cuchulainn's mountain, which overlooks parts of the territory made famous by the "Cattle Raid of Cooley", I met John O'Hare, sixty-eight years old, of Longfield Towniand, leading his horse to pasture, and I stopped to talk with him about the "good people".
"The good people in this mountain," he said, "are the people who have died and been taken; the mountain is enchanted."
The "Fairy" Overflowing of the Meal-Chest
"An old woman came to the wife of Steven Callaghan and told her not to let Steven cut a certain hedge. "It is where we shelter at night," the old woman added; and Mrs. Callaghan recognized the old woman as one who had been taken in confinement. A few nights later the same old woman appeared to Mrs. Callaghan and asked for charity; and she was offered some meal, which she did not take. Then she asked for lodgings, but did not stop. When Mrs. Callaghan saw the meal-chest next morning it was overflowing with meal: it was the old woman's gift for the hedge."
The Testimony of Two Dromintee Percipients
After my friend, the Rev. Father L. Donnellan, C. C., of Dromintee, County Armagh, had introduced me to Alice Cunningham, of his parish, and she had told much about the "gentle folk", she emphatically declared that they do exist and this in the presence of Father Donnellan because she has often seen them on Carrickbroad Mountain, near where she lives. And she then reported as follows concerning enchanted Slieve Gullion:
The Sidhe Guardian of Slieve Gullion
"The top of Slieve Gullion is a very gentle place. A fairy has her house there by the lake, but she is invisible. She interferes with nobody. I hear of no gentler places about here than Carrickbroad and Slieve Gullion."
Father Donnellan and l called next upon Thomas McCrink and his wife at Carrifamayan, because Mrs. McCrink claims to have seen some of the" good people", and this is her testimony:
Nature of the "Good People"
"I"ve heard and felt the good people coming on the wind; and I once saw them down in the middle field on my father's place playing football. They are still on earth. Among them are the spirits of our ancestors; and these rejoice whenever good fortune comes our way, for I saw them before my mother won her land [after a long legal contest] in the field rejoicing.
"Some of the good people I have thought were fallen angels, though these may be dead people whose time is not up. We are only like shadows in this world: my mother died in England, and she came to me in the spirit. I saw her plainly. I ran to catch her, but my hands ran through her form as if it were mere mist. Then there was a crack, and she was gone."
And, finally, after a moment, our percipient said:
"The fairies once passed down this lane here on a Christmas morning; and I took them to be suffering souls out of Purgatory, going to mass."
The Testimony of a Dromintee Seeress
Father Donnellan, the following day, took me to talk with almost the oldest woman in his parish, Mrs. Biddy Grant, eighty-six years old, of Upper Toughal, beside Slieve Gullion. Mrs. Grant is a fine specimen of an Irishwoman, with white hair, clear complexion, and an expression of great natural intelligence, though now somewhat feeble from age. Her mind is yet clear, however; and her testimony is substantiated by this statement from her own daughter, who lives with her:
"My mother has the power of seeing things. It is a fact with her that spirits exist. She has seen much, even in her old age; and what she is always telling me scares me half to death."
The following is Mrs. Grant's direct testimony given at her own home, on September 20, 1909, in answer to our question if she knew anything about the "good people".
Seeing the "Good People" as the Dead
"I saw them once as plain as can bebig, little, old, and young. I was in bed at the time, and a boy whom I had reared since he was born was lying ill beside me. Two of them came and looked at him; then came in three of them. One of them seemed to have something like a book, and he put his hand to the boy's mouth; then he went away, while others appeared, opening the back window to make an avenue through the house; and through this avenue came great crowds. At this I shook the boy, and said to him, "Do you see anything?"
"No," he said; but as I made him look a second time he said, "I do." After that he got well.
"These good people were the spirits of our dead friends, but I could not recognize them. I have often seen them that way while in my bed. Many women are among them. I once touched a boy of theirs, and he was just like feathers in my hand; there was no substance in him, and I knew he wasn't a living being. I don't know where they live; I"ve heard they live in the Carrige (rocks). Many a time I"ve heard of their taking people or leading them astray. They can't live far away when they come to me in such a rush. They are as big as we are. I think these fairy people are all through this country and in the mountains."
An Apparition of a" Sidhe" Woman?
"At a wake I went out of doors at midnight and saw a woman running up and down the field with a strange light in her hand. I called out my daughter, but she saw nothing, though all the time the woman dressed in white was in the field, shaking the light and running back and forth as fast as you could wink. "I thought the woman might be the spirit of Nancy Frink, but I was not sure." (Cf. pp. 60 ff., 83, 155, 215.)
Recordings from Lough Gur, County Limerick
One of the most interesting parts of Ireland for the archaeologist and for the folklorist alike is the territory immediately surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick. Shut in for the most part from the outer world by a circle of low-lying hills on whose summits fairy goddesses yet dwell invisibly, this region, famous for its numerous and well-preserved cromlechs, dolmens, menhirs, and tumuli, and for the rare folk-traditions current among its peasantry, has long been popularly regarded as a sort of Otherworld preserve haunted by fairy beings, who dwell both in its waters and on its land.
There seems to be no reasonable doubt that in pre-Christian times the Lough Gur country was a very sacred spot, a mystic centre for pilgrimages and for the celebration of Celtic religious rites, including those of initiation. The Lough is still enchanted, but once in seven years the spell passes off it, and it then appears like dry land to any one that is fortunate enough to behold it. At such a time of disenchantment a Tree is seen growing up through the lake-bottom a Tree like the strange World-Tree of Scandinavian myth. The Tree is covered with a Green Cloth, and under it sits the lake's guardian, a woman knitting (1). The peasantry about Lough Gur still believe that beneath its waters there is one of the chief entrances in Ireland to Tir-na-nog, the "Land of Youth", the Fairy Realm. And when a child is stolen by the Munster fairies, "Lough Gur is conjectured to be the place of its unearthly transmutation from the human to the fairy state." (1)
(1) Cf. David Fitzgerald, Popular Tales of Ireland, in Rev. Celt., iv. 185-92; and All the Year Round, New Series, iii. "This woman guardian of the lake is called Toice Bhrean, "untidy" or "lazy wench". According to a local legend, she is said to have been originally the guardian of the sacred well, from which, owing to her neglect, Lough Gur issued; and in this role she corresponds to Liban, daughter of Eochaidh Finn, the guardian of the sacred well from which issued Lough Neagh, according to the Dinnshenchas and the tale of Eochaidh MacMairido.". J. F. LYNCH.
To my friend, Count John de Salis, of Balliol College, I am indebted for the following legendary material, collected by him on the fairy-haunted Lough Gur estate, his ancestral home, and annotated by the Rev. J. F. Lynch, one of the best-informed antiquarians living in that part of South Ireland.
The Fairy Goddesses, Aine - and Fennel (or Finnen)
"There are two hills near Lough Gur upon whose summits sacrifices and sacred rites used to be celebrated according to living tradition. One, about three miles south-west of the lake, is called Knock Aine, Aine or Ane being the name of an ancient Irish goddess, derived from an, "bright." The other, the highest hill on the lake-shores, is called Knock Fennel or Hill of the Goddess Fennel, from Finnen or Finnine or Fininne, a form of fin, "white." The peasantry of the region call Aine one of the Good People (1); and they say that Fennel (apparently her sister goddess or a variant of herself) lived on the top of Knock Fennel" (termed Finnen in a State Paper dated 1200).
(1) It was on the bank of the little river Camog, which flows near Lough Gur, that the Earl of Desmond one day saw Aine as she sat there combing her hair. Overcome with love for the fairy-goddess, he gained control over her through Seizing her cloak, and made her his wife. From this union was born the enchanted son Geroid larla, even as Galahad was born to Lancelot by the Lady of the Lake. When Geroid had grown into young manhood, in order to surpass a woman he leaped right into a bottle and right out again, and this happened in the middle of a banquet in his father's castle. His father, the earl, had been put under taboo by Aine never to show surprise at anything her magician son might do, but now the taboo was forgotten, and hence broken, amid so unusual a performance; and immediately Geroid left the feasting and went to the lake. As soon as its water touched him he assumed the form of a goose, and he went swimming over the surface of the Lough, and disappeared on Garrod Island.
According to one legend, Aine, like the Breton Morgan, may sometimes be seen combing her hair, only half her body appearing above the lake. And in times of calmness and clear water, according to another legend, one may behold beneath Aine's lake the lost enchanted castle of her son Geroid, close to Garrod Islandso named from Gerdid or "Gerald".
Geroid lives there in the under-lake world to this day, awaiting the time of his normal return to the world of men (see our chapter on re-birth, p. 386). But once in every seven years, on clear moonlight nights, he emerges temporarily, when the Lough Gur peasantry see him as a phantom mounted on a phantom white horse, leading a phantom or fairy cavalcade across the lake and land. A well-attested case of such an apparitional appearance of the earl has been recorded by Miss Anne Baily, the percipient having been Teigue O'Neill, an old blacksmith whom she knew (see All the Year Round, New Series, iii. 495-6, London, 1870). And Moll Riall, a young woman also known to Miss Baily, saw the phantom earl by himself, under very weird circumstances, by day, as she stood at the margin of the lake washing clothes (ib., p. 496).
Some say that Aine's true dwelling-place is in her hill; upon which on every St. John's Night the peasantry used to gather from all the immediate neighbourhood to view the moon (for Aine seems to have been a moon goddess, like Diana), and then with torches (cliars) made of bunches of straw and hay tied on poles used to march in procession from the hill and afterwards run through cultivated fields and amongst the cattle. The underlying purpose of this latter ceremony probably was as is the case in the Isle of Man and in Brittany (see pp. 124 n., 273), where corresponding fire-ceremonies surviving from an ancient agricultural cult are still celebrated to exorcise the land from all evil spirits and witches in order that there may be good harvests and rich increase of flocks. Sometimes on such occasions the goddess herself has been seen leading the sacred procession (cf. the Bacchus cult among the ancient Greeks, who believed that the god himself led his worshippers in their sacred torch-light procession at night, he being like Aine in this respect, more or less connected with fertility in nature). One night some girls staying on the bill late were made to look through a magic ring by Aine, and lo the hill was crowded with the folk of the fairy goddess who before had been invisible. The peasants always said that Aine is "the best-hearted woman that ever lived" (cf. David Fitzgerald, Popular Tales of Ireland, in Rev. Celt., iv. 185 92).
In Silva Gadelica (ii. 347-8), Aine is a daughter of Eogabal, a king of the Tuatha De Danann, and her abode is within the sidh, named on her account "Aine cliach, now Cnoc Aine, or Knockany". In another passage we read that Manannan took Aine as his wife (ib., ii. 197). Also see in Silva Gadelica, ii, pp. 225, 576.
The Fairy Boat-Race
"Different old peasants have told me that on clear calm moonlight nights in summer, fairy boats appear racing across Lough Gur. The boats come from the eastern side of the lake, and when they have arrived at Garrod Island, where the Desmond Castle lies in ruins, they vanish behind Knock Adoon. There are four of these phantom boats, and in each there are two men rowing and a woman steering. No sound is heard, though the seer can see the weird silvery splash of the oars and the churning of the water at the bows of the boats as they shoot along. It is evident that they are racing, because one boat gets ahead of the others, and all the rowers can be seen straining at the oars. Boats and occupants seem to be transparent, and you cannot see exactly what their nature is. One old peasant told me that it is the shining brightness of the clothes on the phantom rowers and on the women who steer which makes them visible.
"Another man, who is about forty years of age, and as far as I know of good habits, assures me that he also has seen this fairy boat-race, and that it can still be seen at the proper season."
The Bean-Tighe (1)
"The Bean-tighe, the fairy housekeeper of the enchanted submerged castle of the Earl of Desmond, is supposed to appear sitting on art ancient earthen monument shaped like a great chair and hence called Suidheachan, the "Housekeeper's Little Seat," on Knock Adoon (Hill of the Fort), which juts out into the Lough. The Bean-tighe, as I have heard an old peasant tell the tale, was once asleep on her Seat, when the Buachailleen (2) or "Little Herd Boy" stole her golden comb. When the Bean-tighe awoke and saw what bad happened, she cast a curse upon the cattle of the Buachailleen, and soon all of them were dead, and then the "Little Herd Boy" himself died, but before his death he ordered the golden comb to be cast into the Lough."(1)
(1) "Compare the tale of Excalibur, the Sword of King Arthur, which King Arthur before his death ordered Sir Bedivere to cast into the lake from where it had come." J. F. LYNCH.
(1) Wailing Woman, or Bean-Tighe
"In some local tales the Bean-tighe, or Bean a"tighe is termed Beansidhe (Banshee), and Bean Chaointe, or "wailing woman ", and is identified with Aine. In an elegy by Ferriter on one of the Fitzgeralds, we read:
Aine from her closely bid nest did awake,
"Thomas O'Connellan, the great minstrel bard, some of whose compositions are given by Hardiman, died at Lough Gur Castle about 1700, and was buried at New Church beside the lake. It is locally believed that Aine stood on a rock of Knock Moon and "keened" O'Connellan while the funeral procession was passing from the castle to the place of burial." J. F. LYNCH.
A Banshee was traditionally attached to the Baily family of Lough Gur; and one night at dead of night, when Miss Kitty Baily was dying of consumption, her two sisters, Miss Anne Baily and Miss Susan Baily, who were sitting in the death chamber, "heard such sweet and melancholy music as they had never heard before. It seemed to them like distant cathedral music … The music was not in the house … It seemed to come through the windows of the old castle, high in the air." But when Miss Anne, who went downstairs with a lighted candle to investigate the weird phenomenon, had approached the ruined castle she thought the music came from above the house; "and thus perplexed, and at last frightened, she returned."
Both sisters are on record as having distinctly heard the fairy music, and for a long time (All the Year Round, New Series, iii. 4967; London, 1870).
(2) The Little Herd-boy
The Buachailleen is most likely one of the many forms assumed by the shape-shifting Fer Fi, the Lough Gur Dwarf, who at Tara, according to the Dinnshenchas of Tuag Inbir (see Folk-Lore, iii; and A. Nutt, Voyage of Bran, i. 195 ff.), took the shape of a woman; and we may trace the tales of Geroid larla to Fer Fi, who, and not Geroid, is believed by the oldest of the Lough Gur peasantry to be the owner of the lake. Fer Fi is the son of Eogabal of Sidh Eogabail, and hence brother to Aine. He is also foster. son of Manannan Mac Lir, and a Druid of the Tuatha De Danann (ci. Silva Gadelica, ii. 225; also Dinnshenehas of Tuag Inbir). At Lough Gur various tales are told by the peasants concerning the Dwarf, and he is still stated by them to be the brother of Aine, For the sake of experiment I once spoke very disrespectfully of the dwarf to John Punch, an old man, and he said to me in a frightened whisper:
"Whisht! he"ll hear you."
Edward Fitzgerald and other old men were very much afraid of the Dwarf: J. F. LYNCH.
Lough Gur Fairies in General
"The peasantry in the Lough Gur region commonly speak of the Good People or of the Kind People or of the Little People, their names for the fairies. The leprechaun indicates the place where hidden treasure is to be found. If the person to whom he reveals such a secret makes it known to a second person, the first person dies, or else no money is found: in some cases the money is changed into ivy leaves or into furze blossoms.
"I am convinced that some of the older peasants still believe in fairies. I used to go out on the lake occasionally on moonlight nights, and an old woman supposed to be a "wise woman" (a Seeress), hearing about my doing this, told me that under no circumstances should I continue the practice, for fear of "Them People" (the fairies). One evening in particular I was warned by her not to venture on the lake. She solemnly asserted that the" Powers of Darkness" were then abroad, and that it would be misfortune for me to be in their path. (1)
(1) It is commonly believed by young and old at Lough Gur that a human being is drowned in the Lake once every seven years, and that it is the Bean Fhionn, or " White Lady" who thus takes the person." J. F. LYNCH.
"Under ordinary circumstances, as a very close observer of the Lough Gur peasantry informs me, the old people will pray to the Saints, but if by any chance such prayers remain unanswered they then invoke other powers, the fairies, the goddesses Aine and Fennel, or other pagan deities, whom they seem to remember in a vague subconscious manner through tradition."
Testimony from a County Kerry Seer
To another of my fellow students in Oxford, a native Irishman of County Kerry, I am indebted for the following evidence:
A Collective Vision of Spiritual Beings
"Some few weeks before Christmas, 1910, at midnight on a very dark night, I and another young man (who like myself was then about twenty-three years of age) were on horseback on our way home from Limerick. When near Listowel, we noticed a light about half a mile ahead. At first it seemed to be no more than a light in some house; but as we came nearer to it and it was passing out of our direct line of vision we saw that it was moving up and down, to and fro, diminishing to a spark, then expanding into a yellow luminous flame. Before we came to Listowel we noticed two lights, about one hundred yards to our right, resembling the light seen first.
Suddenly each of these lights expanded into the same sort of yellow luminous flame, about six feet high by four feet broad. In the middle of each flame we saw a radiant being having human form. Presently the lights moved toward one another and made contact, whereupon the two beings in them were seen to be walking side by side. The beings' bodies were formed of a pure dazzling radiance, white like the radiance of the sun, and much brighter than the yellow light or aura surrounding them. So dazzling was the radiance, like a halo, round their heads that we could not distinguish the countenances of the beings; we could only distinguish the general shape of their bodies; though their heads were very clearly outlined because this halo-like radiance, which was the brightest light about them, seemed to radiate from or rest upon the head of each being.
As we travelled on; a house intervened between us and the lights, and we saw no more of them. It was the first time we had ever seen such phenomena, and in our hurry to get home we were not wise enough to stop and make further examination. But ever since that night I have frequently seen, both in Ireland and in England, similar lights with spiritual beings in them." (Cf. pp. 60 ff., 77, 133, 155, 215, 483.)
Reality of the Spiritual World
"Like my companion, who saw all that I saw of the first three lights, I formerly had always been a sceptic as to the existence of spirits; now I know that there is a spiritual world. My brother, a physician, had been equally sceptical until he saw, near our home at Listowel, similar lights containing spiritual beings and was obliged to admit the genuineness of the phenomena,
"In whatever country we may be, I believe that we are for ever immersed in the spiritual world; but most of us cannot perceive it on account of the unrefined nature of our physical bodies. Through meditation and psychical training one can come to see the spiritual world and its beings. We pass into the spirit realm at death and come back into the human world at birth; and we continue to reincarnate until we have overcome all earthly desires and mortal appetites. Then the higher life is open to our consciousness and we cease to be human; we become divine beings." (Recorded in Oxford, England, August 12, 1911.)
Glta: Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. London: Academy, 1980.
Mme: Kearney, Richard. Modern Movements in European Philosophy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986.
Tff: Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. London: H. Froude, 1911. Online at Sacred-Texts: [www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/index.htm]
Tfg: Findhorn Community. The Findhorn Garden: Pioneering a New Vision of Humanity and Nature in Cooperation. Forres: The Findhorn Press, 1979.
Th: Maclean, Dorothy. To Hear the Angels Sing: An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdom. Herndon, VA: Lindisfarne Books, 1980.
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