A Guide to the Faeries of Avalon

There are almost as many names for faeries in these parts as there are stories about them, courtesy of the exiled Irish and Welsh whose memories still remain like holographic movies hovering in the morphogenic fields of the land they left behind.

To the Irish, the faeries are known as the Tuatha da Danaan, and also the Daoine Sidhe (pronounced shay) who are pivotal in shamanic work with the ancestors in the Underworld. They are like pilots who guide the shaman in trance along the Rivers of Blood or DNA, to help him in redeeming his family line.

fairyland

The Scottish fae are very much like the Irish fae, which is hardly surprising since they come from the same mythological root stock. They are called the Sith, but it is also pronounced shay like their cousins on the Emerald Isle. There are too many races of Sith to name here, but they include the Black Angus or Cu Sith who are named after a faery dog, the Fachan who are all as ugly as their tempers and to be avoided at all costs, and the Selkies who are seals that live in the lochs but who, from time to time, shapeshift into human form.

In Wales, we find the Tylwyth Teg (pronounced till-with-teeg) who are famous for their skills in alchemy and for riding through the skies on yarrow sticks. They are divided into five races: the Ellyllon (elves), the Coblynau (dwarf miners), the Bwbachod (guardians of the hearth), the Gwragedd Annwn (well maidens) and the Gwyllion (crones of the mountains).

Those who know them are respectful about using their names, because just naming them can call them. So they are often referred to more obliquely in these parts as the Gentry, the Little People and the Dod, while to the Scots they are the People of Peace, the Prowlies, the Silent Moving Folk, the Wee Folk and the Pixies.

So yes, we really do have faeries living at the bottom of our gardens, although they rarely look like the tiny gossamer winged Tinkerbell of Victorian fantasies, or Moth and Peaseblossom of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On the contrary, some of them are huge hags and giants, or have just one eye, one arm and one leg, while others are covered in fur. But more often than not, they look very much like you and me and if you passed one on the street when you were in a hurry, you may not even notice them.

The Fae tend to live in prominent mounds, like Glastonbury Tor which is the home of the King of the Faeries, Gwyn ap Nudd, the guide of the souls of the dead into the Otherworlds at the time of the Wild Hunt.

Thomas James Russell
Photograph of Glastonbury Tor under the Milky Way by Thomas James Russell

These faery mounds are also known as sidhes and in Scotland, burghs (hence Edinburgh) from which music can often be heard at night, especially during their revels celebrating the cross-quarter festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain.

Four Quarters and Equinoxes

There are all sorts of stories about people who are out past midnight on such nights and unwittingly stumble upon one of these mounds, and then either never come back or return one hundred years later when all their friends and relatives are long dead. However, those tales are usually just bastardisations of archetypal myths about the hero falling into the Underworld to redeem his ancestors, and then salted-and-peppered with Christian fear porn.

The Fae are spirits of the Land and are not to be confused with goddesses or angels who are from another part of the shamanic World Tree: the Upper World.

Another name commonly used for the Fae is the Elders, because they fell from the stars at a much earlier Time than we did, and their experience of Time is very different to ours.

In the old folk tales that still survive in parts of the British Isles relatively untouched by modernism, it is said that the Fae fell to Earth at the First Utterance or primordial vibration. It is also told that all the animals fell to Earth on the Second Utterance and on the Third, the humans fell.

The Fae, apparently, fell to Earth at the same time as the Bright One in order to protect her as she lay dreaming in the land of the Hollow Hills. This Sleeping Beauty is the Celtic equivalent of the Dreamer in Land, the genius locii who is known in Avalon as Breed, Brigantia or Brigid.