Myth and Legends 1: Faerie Folk
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
"Faerie" vs "Fairy": What's the difference?
Since I'm writing a series about faeries, I thought I would write a series of blog posts on the faerie people who have inspired the stories. I've been interested in the paranormal all my life. This includes anything paranormal, but faeries are perhaps some of the most intriguing topics out there. Why? Faeries have been with us in folklore and mythology long before the brother's Grimm wrote about them and way before fairy stories became cute children's tales.
"Faeries" is an older spelling of the word "fairies" and used to refer to a wide range of creatures of another world. The otherworld of the faeries is occupied by beings big and small with many being human-like and others completely inhuman. While some people define faeries as only being dark in nature, others use the term more broadly. There are those who believe the faeries are descendants of the Tuatha de Danaan (also commonly spelled Danann), a group of otherworldly people who settled in Ireland long ago. Also known as the People of the God of Dana, they traveled to Ireland through the "air and the high air" (Lady Gregory, 2004) like magical beings, but no one knows exactly how to define them.
In all the legends, the Tuatha de Danaan were an advanced group of people. There are many conflicting theories about their origins. Some have speculated they belonged to the legends of Atlantis, which means they would have had technology far beyond other people on Earth at the time. Others believe that they were not technologically advanced, but were, in fact, magical.
Some stories elevate them to the status of gods of mythology while others relegate them to the fate of fallen angels who were not evil, but rather mischievous and therefore fell to Earth rather than any worse fate. In this context, they are referred to as the Daoine Maithe, the Good People. Another common name for them is the Gentry. The Daoine Maithe may very well be people from the stars, spirits, angels, fallen angels, or anything in between. They may be good or evil. Some separate the Daoine Maithe from the Tuatha de Danaan altogether as different peoples.
The more mundane of the theories about the Tuatha de Danaan is that the legends of faeries are simply exaggerated ancestor tales and that modern sighting of faeries are simply ghost stories or a way to remember the spirits of the dead. This is why stories of faeries also tend to include ghostly beings such as the ankou (aka grim reaper). To make things more interesting along this line, a Tuatha de Danaan known as Manaan MacLir is said to be the gatekeeper to the realm of the dead and the high king of the sidhe and elves known as Finvarra is said to also rule the land of the dead.
Whoever the original Tuatha de Danaan were, they eventually were defeated by the Milesians, who eventually became the Irish people. Upon their defeat, the Tuatha de Danaan hid themselves away in their own lands. There are many stories of hidden islands said to exist in the Atlantic where they live completely cloaked from human eyes. Some sailors have even said that they've visited such places and encountered faeries there. Whether these were hallucinations or fact, many islands have come to be included in faerie myths. These include Avalon, Tir Na Nog, and Hy Brasil, to name a few.
From the Tuatha de Danaan come the modern day faeries. Their descendents are sometimes grouped together into one: The Sidhe. Sidhe literally means the people of the mounds, as they are said to be hidden in the Earth itself. Some scholars see the sidhe and elves as the same race while still keeping other fae types as different. Others distinguish between the sidhe and elves and all the faerie races.
Faerie encounters today are often described as ending with the fae disappearing from sight. People assume they are vanishing into another dimension or some unseen world. This is the otherworld referenced in the series. The idea of two worlds, seen and unseen to human eyes, has been around a long time and is a fascinating, if not slightly spooky, concept.
In the books, The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, I've separated the races of faeries into older and younger races, all descending from the Tuatha de Danaan. I use this name interchangeably with the Daoine Maithe (although I've used the english translation "The Good People). I'm borrowing stories loosely from mythology using a variety of reference books and websites. Overall, the stories in the books diverge a lot from the original historical myths because I've tailored them to fit a unique storyline. So, while some myths might be recognizable to those who know them, I've changed names, details, timelines and more to fit Moss Hill's special circumstances. (By now I'm hoping readers are asking what Moss Hill is, why it's there, and why oh why has no one in any of the countries around them noticed that there's an island of human and faeries nearby when they obviously aren't completely hidden away.)
In the next few posts, I'll talk specifically about some of the myths and how I've changed them. This will be a delicate balancing act because I don't want to give away spoilers to the books' endings. It may be best to read the books before reading the posts. I hope that you are enjoying the books and would love to hear your feedback either here or on Goodreads.
Thanks for reading!
Gregory, Lady I.A. (2004) Gods and Fighting Men.Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14465/14465-h/14465-h.htm