June 24th is International Fairy Day
Today we celebrate the Fairies in our midst. Yes, around the world there are those who still believe in the Little People and their magical powers. However, there are some folks who may not have a lot of good things to say about Fairies. That's because Fairies have not always used their powers to benefit the human race. In some places Fairies are noted for their dirty tricks and their attacks on cattle and crops. For that reason, Fairies were often feared. Some of them were thought to have skills in casting spells or in healing, much like witches. In fact, In pre-Christian times when Fairies flourished, no one wanted to refer to by name.
Belief in Fairies as supernatural beings dates back to ancient pagan times and the "old religion" centuries before Christianity was known. In pagan times Fairies were more frightening to the ancients than ghosts. So fearful were the people of that time, they took great care to steer clear of any action that might cause offense. Some ancients even constructed their dwellings in such a way as to avoid blocking a Fairy's path! Legends about Fairies are most popular in Europe, especially in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
In Scottish legend, Fairies are divided into two separate and equally powerful groups: Seelies, and Unseelies. The former are simply mischievous, but the latter are considered evil and dangerous. The most despicable ones are those who take human babies, replacing them with Fairy youngsters. These are known as changelings.
Did you know traditional Fairies didn't have wings? Those with wings came much later. These are the Fairies we are probably most familiar with, the tiny winged creatures we've seen in old oil paintings in museums and in children's Fairy tales. Fairies come in many forms and by many names: brownies, dwarfs, sprites, banshees, goblins, hobgoblins, witches, mermaids, bug-a-boos, leprechauns, Fairy god-mothers, and there is the Celtic goddess, Danu who's known as the mother of Ireland's cave Fairies. There are hundreds more as well.
In Irish mythology, Fairies were thought to be the first race of people to settle in Ireland. They were known as the Tuatha De Danaan. During the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, smaller-built races did inhabit areas in Europe and the British Isles. Like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings, there is evidence that these smaller races lived in barrows burrowed under hills and mounds. These folk had a strong psychic sense, worshiped pagan deities, and lived close to nature. And that is why this author capitalizes the word Fairy, as it is the name of a race.
As more and more people came to the Emerald Isle, endless battles among the races caused the Tuatha De Danaan to retreat into forests and caves. Others hid in the earth in places such as "hidden mounds" (sidhe). Many of these ancient mounds are now known to be actual graves. However, inside some of these mounds it's believed this ancient race, these "Hidden People", entered a different dimension where time does not exist, a dimension parallel to our own.
When I was growing up, my mother saw to it that I had a large collection of beautiful storybooks about fairies and fairy tales. One of my favorite tales was one called Child Roland. As I remember, it was a story about several lovely princesses who were turned into precious stones by an evil wizard who used the gems to decorate his palace walls. Child Roland, a handsome prince, was the hero. My other favorite story was Puss N' Boots. I also had a cat, a small black cat. Wish I could remember his name.
Below, are two of my favorite poems from a poetry book I managed to hang onto from early childhood.
My mom loved fairy tales too, and she read to me a lot. When she took me to the park, she would show me how to build a Fairy a house from broken twigs with a roof of green moss. If there were wild violets growing nearby, we'd have flowers in the front yard and a pathway lined with small stones. On our next park visit, we'd inspect the twig house to see if any Fairies had moved in yet.