The Fairies and Elves of the Irish People

Now I must speak of my Irish ancestry's superstitious belief in fairies. Yes, fairies. They really believed in them and many still do today. Belief in the fairy world was extremely strong in the Irish folk tradition. Fairies (and otherworldly beings) were both feared and respected. But then most cultures have believed in them. Ever hear of Santa's elves? And guess what? They believed in them just as much as others in today's world believe in their saints, angels, demons and gods.
Every civilization, it seems, has its own collection of elf and fairy myths. The notion of tiny human-like creatures with magical powers roaming the earth unseen appears to have universal appeal. This is no less true of Ireland. Treasured by adults and children alike, tales of mischief-making fairies and elves color the rich Irish oral and literary traditions. These tales have made their way down to the rest of the world and are still enjoyed and appreciated today. LINK.

The fairies of the earth and the sea are believed to be mostly gentle and beautiful creatures, who will do no harm if they are let alone, and allowed to dance on the fairy raths (or mounds) in the moonlight to their own sweet music, undisturbed by the presence of mortals. People try to make sure to keep them happy so they don't cause any problems in their lives. They were believed to cause many problems and just generally make your life miserable if disturbed. The most well known of Irish fairies has to be the Leprechaun. A close second is the Banshee. Others include the Pooka, Merrow (sea fairies of Ireland), and the Dullahan (the most feared fairies).

Here is an introductory video about the myths and legends of the Irish people (you can stop watching at 4:30 since it's a bunch of outtakes):

You could become better informed than an idiot by reading Sirona Knight's book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elves and Fairies (2005).Knight is a modern New Age witch, who wrote her book so readers can learn about these magical creatures and how to best "encounter" them. "Key topics include fairy magic in the 21st century, how to recognize an elf and what to do when you meet one, how to attract good elves and fairies, and how to protect yourself from bad ones."

The Irish Fairy Places:

Fairies are believed to live all over Ireland. The places they live are called forts, raths, or mounds. A fairy king rules each of these places. At times it is said you can hear sounds of music and merriment coming from them. Irish fairy superstitions say it is best never to disturb these places. A favorite gathering place for Irish fairies is believed to be under a Hawthorne tree. These are usually encircled by a fairy ring of flowers. Certain Hawthorne’s are considered sacred in Ireland. As recently as 1999 in Latoon, County Clare a multimillion-pound highway was diverted so it wouldn’t uproot a lone Hawthorne tree. It was believed if the tree was disturbed everyone that drove on the new road would have bad luck.

The Fairy Paths:

Fairy paths are believed to be the routes fairies use to get from here to there and are all over Ireland. Never build a house on a fairy path otherwise it's believed you will never have peace. The best way to avoid this is to set four posts at the corner of the site overnight. If they are still standing in the morning then it is safe to build there. If any have fallen or are moved try another spot. One Irish fairy superstition tells of a whole family becoming sick for no apparent reason. It was soon determined by believers that a fairy path had been built through the house. The cure for this was to board up the door and build a new one on another side of the house. This way when the fairies walked up to the boarded up door they had no choice but to go around. The sickness soon left the family.

Miseries Caused by the Fairies.:

If you offend fairies they may hit you with a Fairy dart. This is believed to cause severe pain and swelling in the hands or feet or both. There was an old cure for this. It was an ointment made from unsalted butter and a special herb rubbed on the affected area. It's believed they may cause you to have a Fairy stroke. This was a seizure that came on to people not known to ever have them before. Sinus infections and tuberculosis were also caused by the fairy stroke. It's believed that if you catch a Leprechaun and cause him harm in order to force him to tell of his treasure, you will be sorry. They can very malicious if treated badly.

Irish Fairy Superstitions of the Dead and Missing:

A pair of shovels crossed at the mouth of a grave is believed to keep out malevolent fairies. This Irish fairy superstition is still practiced today in some parts of Ireland. It’s believed that women who die in childbirth are taken to live with the fairies. The same is true of stillborn babies. It's believed that if Irish Fairy Queens fall in love with young athletic men, the men will die in order to be with these fairies. Young girls who are wanted for brides to Fairy Kings seem to pine away and die as well, it's believed. In the western islands of Connemara it's believed the dead can be heard laughing with the fairies and spinning flax at night. LINK
Many Irish people in Ireland probably still believe in fairies (who knows how many?).

There is a National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, Ireland. The picture at left is from an advertisement for this museum. It's supposed to help visitors feel what it's like being "Little People." The Leprechaun may be the favorite fairy of the Irish people because they are small in stature and enough of them are red haired. [I inherited most of my genes from my mother's side of the family.]

Caught on tape is an "actual" Leprechaun by someone who believes in them (it's not produced well, but go figure):

I think another one can be seen to the right of the picture. Do you see him like I do? ;-)

This is one person's testimony:
Today it is believed that only the uneducated believe in fairies. I don't think this is the case. I think the uneducated would be the only ones to admit to belief in fairies. Anyone else would never admit to your face this belief for fear of ridicule. Secretly many people are careful not to offend the Good People.

Up until the year 1700 virtually everyone in Ireland believed in fairies from royalty down to the rural peasants. Not even the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century could dispel this belief. Old stories were told that included fairies. It was just taken for granted that these stories were all true because it was the natural order of things that were truly part of the real world.

As the science of the day began to find cures for mankind's aliments belief in Irish fairies began to decline, but not completely. To this day in Ireland some people still practice rituals to appease the Good People even though they may not be aware of what they are doing. On mornings in May some people collect flowers, especially primroses to spread around their doors and windows. This is done to keep out the malevolent fairies. They may or may not know why they do this. They would never admit to you or me why they do this.

Milk, salt, and fire are sacred in fairy lore. I remember as a child being told by my mother to throw spilled salt over my shoulder. I wonder if this was to give the fairies their share. I would be willing to bet that it was. This most likely has been handed down through the family, but the reason behind it has been lost. LINK.

Most Christians don't believe in fairies (some Irish Catholics do though, just like Haitian Catholics believe in voodoo). So why do Christians believe in saints, angels, demons or God? Faith is the problem. It really is. With faith almost anything can be believed or denied.


For those of you who have been reading these posts the last one is tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day. It's the big finale!