Real Fairies - Woman in Wool

We all know a fairy tale, maybe even lots of them. Luckily for us we live in a culture that values story telling so you may know your favourite fairy tale from a Disney film, a children’s book or even a TV show from your childhood. Of course while many of these have the main elements of the story staying the same, the creators of these movies intentionally leave out the darker parts to the story just to make sure they don’t become nightmare fuel for children.

The stars of this genre are of course the Grimm Brothers, with their timeless horrors that have since been flipped into musical cartoons complete with anthropomorphic animals and women who have waists the size of gumdrops.

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However these are not the same fairy tales told by the Irish for generations, the fairies on the Emerald Isle have bit more mischievous intentions, that meay have even served a deeper, more human need for purpose.

Let’s start with the Aos Sí (pronounced Shee), they are sort of Elvin or Fairy-type creatures descended from fallen angels called the Tuatha Dé Danann (TOO-uh Day DA-ninn) who tend to represent pre-Christian Irish Deities. The Aos Sí live among the humans in Ireland…kind of.

The Aos Sí agreed to live underground and within hills of Ireland after a war with humans, and had since grown to be physically weaker than humans. This is very important to their story arc as the Loki/Puck chaos-makers they become. Since many of the Fair Folk are keen to regain control of the outside world, they become instigators and make their way into making human lives as difficult as possible.

To avoid being the target of Fairy trouble, they can be appeased with offerings and respect. One way to respect these folks is to not called them by their name, rather “the fair folk”, “the good neighbours” and later on “the little people”, although some of them are hardly little…

The other way to respect them is well known all over Ireland and beyond, and that is to NEVER touch their property. Fairy Forts, Fairy Hills, Fairy circles, all of them are no-no zones for the human influence. Fun Fact: there are over 60,000 Fairy Forts known on the Island of Ireland, and some are known only to locals.

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There are tales of things you could have done to you by Fairies should you anger them, and to me they remind me of the Greek-God-style, or mythical explanations of things that otherwise may confuse a person living a few hundred years ago.

For example, if your loved one started acting differently, or started to get sick, today we may associate it with a diagnosis, maybe an illness or infection of some kind. But if you talk to someone who held a strong belief in the Fair Folk, this loved one was probably replaced with a Fairy or “Changeling”. Since Fairies are weaker than humans, this was often used as an explanation as to why someone may be getting weak, perhaps developing Dementia, or losing their motor skills.

It was also a strong belief within communities that Fairies would commonly replace strong human babies with weaker Fairy Babies that looked the same. The baby would fail to thrive and potentially even die, leading many people to cope with one of the biggest tragedies of their lives the only way they knew how, by finding blame in something else. Many instances of “Changelings” would lead to the parents leaving the sickly baby in the Fairy Fort for the night, in hopes that they would switch the babies back, and give them their healthy human baby again in the morning.

Not all Fairy Tales are this dark however, there are stories of Kings, Children, Musicians and essentially anyone, all falling into the hands of the Fair Folk, and making it into a different adventure. My favourite one without question is the story of a Fairy who’s only job is to stop men on the way home from the Pub at night, turn their clothes inside-out and send them home to their wives hours past when they promised to be home. What could that be talking about I wonder…

Image from the Irish Sun

Looking pretty guilty there friend.