On a recent evening walk, I saw the first flicker of summer fireflies. With only my canine companion, I remembered a childhood wonder. The memory stirred thoughts about Celtic fairies.
Today, when we think of fairies, we often think of them as tiny, supernatural beings with wings; glowing with uncommon light. They also possess magical powers, like Tinkerbell in the story of Peter Pan or the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. The modern fairies, as in most myth related culture, come from oral tradition.
It was during the time of Queen Elizabeth I of England, where William Shakespeare (1564-1616) had popularized fairies in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Earlier than Shakespeare, Henry Chaucer (1342-1400) mentioned that the land of Britain was filled with fairies before the time of King Arthur.
These images of fairies are not the only kind. They are in all sorts in fairy tales and folklore. They come in all shapes and sizes - so there is really no clear definition of what fairies might look like. Different types of fairies may also have different types of magical powers.
So, where do they come from? Many cultures and civilizations have their own versions of fairies. But let’s focus on those that come from a Celtic tradition.
In Celtic religion, there were deities in all seven nations during the Roman occupation of these regions or provinces. But the situation changed when Christianity spread to the west and north. These deities that were worshipped before the conversion to Christianity were reduced to the status of fairies in Celtic mythology and folklore.
The problem is that sometimes, the Christian authors turned them into beings serving the Devil, and that the fairies were actually demons. Thankfully this view is no longer shared today.
Banshee, Brownie, Changeling, Elf, Goblin, Leprechaun or Pooka, these medieval fairies remain alive in our imagination. If you glance a sparkle on the grass at twilight, hold on to that precious memory. This is how the wonder of fairies has survived through the years, no matter what age of reason has attempted to explain the mysteries of life beyond their magic.
For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White. Slainte.