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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Origine of the Fairies

Faeries
Timeless Myths

  Background


  Fairy People




  Origin of the Faeries
  Types of Fairies


Origin of the Faeries

Fairy comes from the Old French word faerie. The word has been overused to describe a supernatural being. There is a great deal of difference in classifying a being as a fairy from the medieval literature and those from modern literature, especially those belonging to the Celtic tradition.

There are other traditions such as that found in English, German and Slavic folklores.

Today, when we think of fairies, we often visualise them as tiny, supernatural beings with wings and glowing with uncommon light in today's children fairy tales. And they also possessed some sorts of strange magical powers, like Tinklebell in the story of Peter Pan or the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. The modern fairies, between the 18th and 20th century, comes from oral tradition before they were transmitted into writing.

The fairies are supernatural beings that can be best described by the Greek word - daimon, which means "spirit". They are not divinity, ie. god or goddess, in the usual sense of the word, and yet they are not mere mortal; often, it is easier to classify them as minor divinity.

However, if we look at the idea of fairies, then you would find that have been around a lot longer than everyone expects. Perhaps the earliest form of faeries can be found loosely in the mythical beings in Greek mythology, such as the nymphs, satyrs and sileni. The nymphs from ancient Greek myths can be considered as fairies and they existed as early as the time of Homer writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even the river gods in Greek myths can be classified as fairies. These are spirits or minor deities of nature or of the natural phenomena.

And then, there are household or guardian spirits that can be found in Roman religion and mythology, such as the penates, lares and genii.

The Norse versions of the fairies are the wide variety of elves and the dísir that exist in the Teutonic traditions. The Valkyries could also be classified as fairies.

It was during the time of Queen Elizabeth I of England, where William Shakespeare (1564-1616) had popularised fairies in English folklore, in his play Midsummer Night's Dream, with the characters Oberon, Titania and Puck (Robin Goodfellow). Earlier than Shakespeare, Chaucer (1342-1400) mentioned that the land of Britain was filled with fairies before the time of King Arthur.


In the Arthurian legends, the divine or fairy figures also appeared in abundance. Morgan, Arthur's half-sister, seemed to be great sorceress and healer, was often called Morgan le Fay; her nickname Fay, which means "Fairy". And then there is this Lady of the Lake. Arthur's wife, Guinevere, or Gwenhwyfar in the Welsh tradition, also appeared to be a fairy, as well as the sovereignty goddess. Many knights were either born from fairies or they took female fairies as their lovers. Even Merlin was only part mortal.



Then you would discover that that these images of fairies are not the only kind. There were all sorts in fairy tales and folklores. Some are benign, while others are maligned and hostile to mortals. Some were seen as fair, while others were considered ugly and monstrous to look at. They can come in all size and sizes - tall or short, fat or skinny, so there is really no clear definition of fairies may look like. Different types of fairies may also have different types of magical powers.

So, what are these fairies? Where do they come from?

To understand what they are, we should look at some of those found in Celtic mythology and other Celtic traditions. But, then you would discover that fairies are not just confined in Celtic traditions. Many cultures and civilizations have their own versions of fairies.

There are enough kinds of fairies to confuse anyone, because sometimes writers have associated one fairy with a different kind.

In Celtic religion, there was Celtic deities in Gaul (France and Belgium), Hispania (Spain) and Britannia (Britain) 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.

So in Ireland the gods in the Tuatha De Danann were degenerated to the roles of fairies (eg. Dagda and Lugh), people living under the dune mound or fabled islands, or even within underwater domains. Similar degeneration occurred with old deities in Wales, Scotland and other surviving pockets of Celtic kingdoms (such as Cornwall, Brittany and island of Man).


These earlier Celtic traditions of fairies, the former Irish or Welsh deities were also not fairies in the usual sense. They looked very much like human, in size and shape, except that they have special magical powers and they seemed eternally young, but they don't have wings. The Dananns or their Welsh counterparts were usually seen as race of fair people. They can die just as mortals can, but their lives could last hundreds or even thousands of years.

The problem is that sometimes, the Christian authors have also turned them into beings serving the Devil, and that the fairies were actually demons. However this view is no longer shared, today.

These medieval fairies are different from the common folklore and fairy tales of today. The Tuatha de Danann is nothing like the brownie, leprechaun and goblin of these later traditions.

 
Related Information
Name
Faerie, Færie, Faery, Fairy.
Faeries (plural).

Irish: sidheog (unreformed); síóg (reformed); sheogue (anglicised).
daoine maithe ("good people"), daoine sidhe;
áes sidhe ("people of the mound");
daoine uaisle ("the noble people");
bunadh na cro, bunadh na gcnoc ("host of the hills");
bunadh beag na farraige ("wee folk of the sea").

Scottish Gaelic: boctogaí, s'thiche.
daoine s'th ("people of the mound").

Manx: ferrish.
ny guillyn beggey ("the little boys");
ny mooinjer veggey ("the little kindred");
ny sleih veggey ("the little people").

Welsh: y tylwyth teg (the fair folk).
bendith y mamau ("mother's blessing").

Cornish: spyrys.
an bobel vyghan ("the little people").

Breton: korriganez, boudig.

Sources
Midsummer Night's Dream was written by William Shakespeare.

Related Articles
See also Tuatha De Danann.

Back



Types of Fairies

Most of the information that I have about Irish fairies, comes from 19th century poet, Williams Butler Yeats.

He wrote two works, which is of interests:

The Celtic Twilight (1893, 1902)
Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888)
In Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, is not only description of fairies; it is a collection of works, poems and prose, from other authors, such as T. Crofton Croker and Lady Wilde.

In this work, he divided the fairies into two broad categories:

Trooping Fairies or Social Fairies
Solitary Fairies
Social or trooping fairies are those who lived in large company, like in a clan. The Tuatha de Danann who lived in the sidh, ruled by a king, and sometimes a queen (or both), can be considered as the social fairies. They were often seen feasting, singing and dancing. They can be either benevolent or hostile to humans. Another example of trooping fairies is the Merrow.

The solitary fairy usually avoid large gathering. There are many types of solitary fairy, such as banshee, leprechaun, cluricaune, brownie, pooka, etc.

Generally, they can recognise by the type of jackets they wore. The social fairies wore green jackets, while the solitary fairies wore red ones, but sometimes their jackets are brown or grey.

Scottish fairy folklore can also be divided in the similar fashion of solitary and social fairies.

Another writer, Wirt Sikes wrote in the British Goblins (1880), comparing the Welsh fairies with that of Norse/Teutonic fairies.

Sikes says that there are four types in the Norse tradition: 1) elves, 2) dwarves and troll, 3) nisses and 4) necks, mermen, and mermaids.

While in the Welsh traditions there are:

the ellyllon, or the elves;
the coblynau, or the mine fairies;
the bwbachod, or the household fairies;
the gwragedd annwn, or the fairies of the lakes and streams;
the gwyllion, or the mountain fairies.
Here, the classification of Welsh fairies distinguished household fairies from that of the mines, lakes and mountains. Like the Irish tradition, the Welsh can be further divided into solitary and social fairies.

The Welsh name use for fairies is y Tylwyth Teg, which mean "the fair folk". And these folk lived in Gwlad y Tylwyth Teg, "Fairyland".

 
Related Information
Name
Solitary fairy.

Social fairies, trooping fairies.

Sources
Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) and The Celtic Twilight (1893) were written and edited by William Butler Yeats.

British Goblins was written by Wirt Sikes (1880).Back





Fairy People

 
Here are the list and descriptions of faeries.

Since there are many types of faeries, there will only be articles on faeries that have parallel to or has antecedents from the mythical beings of the Celtic mythology. So there won't be many faeries that are found in this page, about fairies (eg. pixie) and goblins that appear in later folklore. I will also concentrate mainly in the Celtic regions (eg. Britain, Ireland and Brittany), ignoring Germanic and Slavic faeries.

Anyone interested here are the links to follow for the rest of the classifications of thes spirit beings.
Banshee
Baobhan Sith
Bean Nighe
Brownie
Changeling
Dullahan
Elf
The Fool (Amandán)
Goblin
Leprechaun
Pooka
Washer at the Ford, see Bean Nighehttp://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/faeries.html

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