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The Irish word for fairy is sheehogue [sidheog], a diminuitive of "shee" in banshee. Fairies are deenee shee [daoine sidhe] (Fairy People).
     Who are they? "Fallen angels who were not good enough to be saved nor bad enough to be lost," say the peasantry. "The gods of the earth," says The Book of Armagh. " The gods of pagan Ireland," say the antiquarians, "the Tuatha De Danan, who, when no longer worshipped and fed with offerings, dwindled away in the popular imagination, and now are only a few spans high."
     And they will tell you, in proof, that the names of the fairy chiefs are the names of the old Danan heroes, and the places where they especially gather together, Danan burying places, and that the Tuatha de Danan used also to be called the slooa-shee [sheagh sidhe] (the fairy host), or Marcra shee (the fairy cavalcade).
     On the other hand, there is much evidence to prove them fallen angels. Witness the nature of the creature, their caprice, their way of being good to the good and evil to the evil, having every charm but conscience-consistency. Beings so quickly offended that you must not speak much about them at all, and never call them anything but the "gentry", or else daoine maithe, which in English means good people, yet so easily pleased, they will do their best to keep misfortune away from you, if you leave a little milk for them on the window-sill over night. On the whole, the popular belief tells us most about them, telling us how they fell, and yet were not lost, because their evil was wholly without malice.
     Are they "the gods of the earth?"1 Perhaps! Many poets, and all mystic and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are not of heaven but of the earth, who have no inherent form but change according to whim, or the mind that sees them. You cannot lift you hand without influencing and being influenced by hoards. The visibly world is merely there skin. In dreams we go among them, and play with them, and combat with them. They are, perhaps, human souls in the crucible—these creatures of whim.
     Do not think the faeries are always little. Everything is capricious about them, even their size. They seem to take what size or shape pleases them. Their chief occupations are feasting, fighting, and making love, and playing the most beautiful music. They have only one industrious person among them, the leprachaun--the shoemaker. Perhaps they were their shoes out with dancing. Near the village of ballisodare is a little woman who lived among them seven years. when she came home she had no toes--she had danced them off.
     They have three great festivals in the year--May Eve, Midsummer Eve, November Eve. On May Eve, every seventh year, they fight all around, but mostly on the "Plain-A-Brown" (wherever that is), for harvest, for the best ears of grain belog to them. An old man told me he saw them fight once; they tore the thatch off a house in the midst of it all. Had anyone else been near they would merely have seen a great wind whirling everything into the air as it passed. When the wind makes the straws and leaves whirl as it passes, that is the fairies, and the peastantry take their hats off and say, "God bless them".
     On Midsummer Eve, when the bonfires are lighted on every hill in honour of St. John, the faeries are at their gayest, and sometimes steal away beautiful mortals to be their brides.
     On November Eve they are at their gloomiest, for according to the old Gaelic reckoning, this is the first night of winter. This night they dance with the ghosts, and the pooka is abroad, and witches make their spells, and girls set a table with food in the name of the devil, that the fetch of their future lover may come throught the window and eat of the food. After November Eve the blackberries are no longer wholesome, because the pooka has spoiled them.
     When they are angry they paralyse men and cattle with their fairy darts.
     When they are gay the sing. Many a poor girl has heard them, and pined away and died, for love of that singing. Plenty of the old beautiful tunes of Ireland are only their music, caught up by eavesdroppers. No wise peasant would hum "The Pretty Girl milking the Cow" near a fairy rath, for they are jealous, and do not like to hear their songs on clumsy mortal lips. Carolan, the last of the Irish bards, slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head, and made him the great man he was.
     Do they die? Blake saw a fairy's funeral; but ib Ireland we say they are immortal.


GODS OF THE EARTH-para 5, page 11.

     Occultists, from Paracelsus to Elephas Levi, divide the nature spirits into gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, undines; or earth, air, fire, and water spirits. Their emperors, according to Elephas, are named Cob, Paralda, Djin, Hicks respectively. The gnomes are covetous, and of melancholic temperment. Their usual height is but two spans, though they can elongate themselves into giants. The sylphs are capricious, and of the bilious temperment. They are in size and strength much greaer than men, as becomes the people of the wind. The salamanders are wrathful, and in temperment sanguine. In appearance they are long, lean, and dry. The undines are soft, cold, fickle, and phlegmatic. In appearance they are like unto man. The salamanders and sylphs have no fixed dwelling.
     It has been held by many that somewhere out of the void there is a perpetual dribble of souls; that these souls pass through many shapes before they incarnate as men—hence the nature spirits. They are invisible—except at rare moments and times; they inhabit the interior elements, while we live upon the outer and the gross. Some float perpetually through space, and the motion of the planets drives them hither and thither in currents. Hence, some Rosicrucians have thought astrology may foretell many things; for a tide of them flowing around the earth arouses there, emotion and changes, according to its nature.
     Besides those of human appearance are many animal and birdlike shapes. It has been noticed that from these latter entirely come the familiars seen by Indian braves when they go fastig in the forest, seeking instruction of the spirits. Though all at times are friendly to men—to some men—"They have," says Paracelsus, "an aversion to self-conceited and opinionated persons, such as dogmatists, scientists, drunkards, and gluttons, and against vulgar and querrelsome people of all kinds; but they love men, who are simple-minded and childlike, innocent and sincere, and the less there is of vanity and hypocrisy in a man the easier will it be to approach them; but otherwise they are as shy as wild animals."


(From W.B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland, Collier Books Macmillan Pub. Co.,1986, p. 11-12 and 287.)

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