Tonight a conversation with Oein, a friend of mine saw the re-ermergence of an old discussion between us. As always Oein’s insights often leave me inspired but I must confess a deep routed shame about my own culture. While on the one hand I know that the Sídhe of Irish culture have a different more revered presence in Irish culture than that of the Disney concepts of fairies. I’m quickly able to explain that Irish culture would not have “saw” the Good People as little beneign helpers but more like forces of nature to be respected equally for their destructive powers as well and their creative or productive abilities.
Oein raised the question on different traditions for Honouring the Fae/Faeries or Sídhe as spirits of the land. For many Witches in countries such as, the US, Canada, South America and Australia, where there are native or aboriginal traditions it has become almost common practice to host “meeting ceremonies” were a European or Ecrustian deity is introduced to the Spirits of the Land (genius loci). I wish I could go more into this but I’ve never really considered it something I needed to do as the gods always seemed to possess something of a commonality regardless of geographic origins.
Some of the questions he posed had me going “wha?”. Such as, who the gray men are, to the dluagh, changelings, dullahan, pooka, selkies, merrows, leanán sidh – suggesting their legends and associated lore should be very helpful to modern practioners of the Craft. And while there is a lot out there on the Irish Gods and the Tuatha de Danann (often referred to as demi-gods or faeries at certain times) very little on these spirits of Ireland and surrounding areas.
Oein has the following to say on the matter of minute differences which pepper Irish culture as a whole, particularly focusing on the differences between the Sidhe of the settled community and the spirits as can be found in Irish Travelling Community:-
“I know the Irish traveller name for Faires is Griwog. The Griwog themselves can be seen as a personification of the natural forces, giving guise and form to the innate anxieties found within the bonds of living in unison with the harsh natural world. While encompassing a wide array of psychological archetypes to aspects of mythological lore, and the possibility of being sensitive to an unseen world, it providing a dynamic and living conduit to a greater personal and cultural understanding between both communites as well as the lingering nature of our own.”
With the addition of traveller mythology concerning the spirits of the land, which as we must remember is also a part of Irish culture, my head was spinning the the complexities that would present themselves in constructing rites for these spirits (though the history would need to be examined to find out those spirits that have been willing to lend assistance to a human and under what conditions if any. As Oein points out: “Regardless of the intricacies of their presence, the topic and treatment of Fairies was of a genuine and realistic importance to the elder generations of Irish Generations. For to work in harmony with nature brought the promises of survival, and to work against the regents of such embodiments was to quicken the path to demise and self destruction.”
I would like to leave you now with this extract from the poem by WB Yeats’ called, ‘The Stolen Child’ (1889)
WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can