A Brief History of Faeries

Hellooooo dear readers and happy October!

After writing my last post on the mythologies and legends of the foxglove, I thought I’d write a bit about faeries. And it’s October so Halloween will be celebrated for a whole month. By me. Anyone else wanna join? We can have a cyber, monthlong party. It’ll be fuuuuuuun. 🙂

Ok, anyway, faeries. Also known as fae, fay, and fairies, these wee folk are more than the gossamer little ladies we think them to be. The first fae were recorded in the none other than Homer’s The Iliad, in 1000 BC. Later, in the thirteenth century, an English historian, Gervase of Tilbury, wrote about a faerie called a portune. A fae about 1.5 inches tall, who inhabits farms and can trick lone horsemen into muddy swamps.

Each culture has their own fae and description of what those fae look like.

In Greece, nymphs, satyrs, and sileni are considered to be fae. Nymphs are elemental guardians who often appear as women. Nymphs exist in rivers, ponds, forests, fires, they’re in the wind. As I said, nymphs are elemental.
Now satyrs– for the Greeks they had the ears and tail of a horse. For the Romans, they had the horns and lower body of a goat and were referred to as Fauns. Perhaps the most famous satyr is Pan, Greek God of the wild, shepherds, flocks, mountains, rustic music, impromptus, and a companion to the nymphs. His Roman counterpart is Faunus who is responsible for the term Fauna. The satyr is also associated with sexuality, spring, and fertility.
Sileni are a lot like satyrs, so similar in fact that people aren’t quite sure what or why there’s a difference. Myself included, haha. One thing is for certain, however, and that is these amorous chimera are groupies to the god Dionysus– better known as, the party god.

In Norse mythology, the fae are elves. Beautiful women who are either completely physical or transparent. They are practitioners of magic and illusions, often bewitching careless men and draining their life force or making them disappear.

Now Ireland has got an incredible mythology. Did you know that the first of the Irish were the Tuatha De Danann fae? The most famous of the Tuatha De Danann is Brigid. Believed to be a triple goddess (a goddess appearing in three different forms, resembling three different symbols, or three sisters), she is the goddess of spring, poetry, fertility, healing, and smithcraft. (Can I just talk about the vikings for a second? If you go back into history the first English and Celts were nomadic, viking tribes at one point. Anywho, I just think it’s cool that a lot of old mythologies have women gods who heal and do smithing, or who represent fertility and war, it’s nice 🙂 Now back on track!) Brigid is best known for her pagan festival, Imbloc, the beginning of spring. The first Irish people are descendants of fae, how rad is that?
Some Tuatha De Danann went below the earth and became known as Daoine Sidhe or “people of the mound”. Leprechauns, brownies, and dwarves are said to be some of the Daoine Sidhe.
Leprechauns appear as tiny old men in red or green coats. They are best known for making shoes and hiding pots of gold at the end of rainbows. It is said if you catch one he will grant you three wishes to let him go.
Brownies are house fae who appear in different forms depending on the country of origin. They protect the house and what’s inside, and will do small chores.
Tolkien best describes the dwarves. They’re miners, a bit greedy, and responsible for the noises and movements below ground.

Scotland views the fae a bit differently. It’s from the Scots we get Banshees and Will-o-the-Wisps, also known as! Jack-o-Lanterns!
Banshees are weeping ghosts, said to wail whenever a person in the household is about to die.
Will-o-the-Wisps are light-bearing fae who lure weary, lost travelers into the swamps.

It wasn’t until Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that fae took on their beautiful form. As people stopped believing in the fae, sightings of them lessened. However, in places where the fae originate, and are perhaps most at home, people have reported sightings.

 

I hope you enjoyed your brief history of the fae!

Thank you for reading,

-M

 

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