Ireland, the Sidhe, and Exploration This Summer

1280px-sophieandersontakethefairfaceofwoman At the request of a friend, I have been tasked to find “fairy things” in Ireland. More appropriately I think that would be called “wee folk things,” though you could get more specific, with fairy trees, fairy rings, fairy forts, and the like. As such, I have been researching a bit about Celtic fairies, or wee folk, sometimes referred to as Sidhe, which  means “earthen mound” but has also come to be known to mean a fairy.

The Sidhe include changelings, dullahan, pooka, merrow, banshee, and obviously the well-known leprechaun. Some of the wee folk are known to be fickle and may curse individuals who harm or demolish their homes with ill fortune, illness or even death.

(Take the Fair Face of a Woman. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.)

I’ve been looking for old Celtic sites, as well as landmarks associated with the Sidhe. Without delving deep into old lore, there are definitely sites of religious significance in Ireland, but I cannot say necessarily ones associated primarily with the wee folk. However, there are landmarks I may come across in my travels such as:

Fairy Trees

Fairy trees are hawthorns that stand alone in the middle of fields or clearings. fairy-thorn-curbar

(Vincent, Sue. Fairy Thorn. Digital image. Daily Echo. N.p., 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 May 2016. <https://scvincent.com/2014/09/23/forgotten-stones/&gt;.)

Some Sidhe are thought to live in hawthorns, or “fairy thorns,” enough so that people will avoid cutting them down or will build roads around them at times for fear of angering the wee folk within and dishonoring their traditions.

Fairy Forts

Fairy forts are the remnants of ring forts, basically circular mounts of earth or stones. Ring forts were dwellings designed in a ring shape to deter predators and to protect livestock. 

fairy_fort-500

(Manz, Donna. Fairy Fort. Digital image. Never Stop Traveling. N.p., 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://www.neverstoptraveling.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Fairy_Fort-500.jpg&gt;.)

Similarly to fairy thorns, disturbing a fairy fort is viewed as inadvisable as it is a seasonal home to the Sidhe. As mentioned prior, the Sidhe can be easily angered and ill fortune may befall those who disturb or destroy their homes.

Fairy Rings

Fairy rings are circles of mushrooms made apparent by either the mushrooms themselves or raised circles of grass, underneath which reside the mushrooms. Fairy rings are thought to be formed by the dancing of elves.

fairy-ring-mushrooms

(Unukorno. Fairy Ring Mushrooms. Digital image. Earthsky. N.p., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://earthsky.org/earth/fairy-rings&gt;.)

As with many natural phenomena involving the wee folk, in the past it has been thought that entering a fairy ring might allow one to see the elves; however, one might also be enthralled by their illusions. 

Other Fairy Places

I’m unsure about the specifics, but there are a few places that have been suggested to be associated with Sidhe lore online, but without the proper reading I can make no claim this is correct. One of these is Benbulben, a mountain peak.

ben-bulben

(Ben Bulben. Digital image. Fairyist. N.p., 7 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://www.fairyist.com/fairy-places/irish-fairies/ben-bulben/&gt;.)

Fairies were said to be visible at Benbulben, which was a rarity. However, I don’t think I’ll be able to visit the mountain; it’s a good distance away from Dublin, where I’ll be working and spending most of my time, and even if I could, the hike to the top is long enough that it would give me pause given my health.

Tombs, cairns, and megalithic sites may have also been thought to be entrances to the Otherworld. There are a number of these closer to Dublin, such as Fourknocks and Newgrange. Perhaps I will actually get a chance to visit these on my trip to Ireland.

In the meantime, I have a lot of research, packing, and planning to do! Hopefully I’ll find some more sites to look at, and have some sort of idea of what I want to see by the time June comes.

 

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