Not only do we celebrate the Solstice and MidSummer in June, but the world at large has recognized June 24th as International Fairy Day!
An gcreideann tú sna síoga? Do you believe in fairies?
The tales of the Sídhe (fairies, from old Irish) from Irish lore were rather different from those of other cultures within the Celtic world (e.g. the Bretons, Welsh, Manx, English, Cornish)) and outside of it (e.g. from nearby cultures such as the Norse, French, Germans and those from other cultures around the world).
What many of us think of as fairies may have also been strongly influenced by the French medieval tales. These fairies are the bright and sparkling ones such as Tinkerbell and Shakespeare’s Titania (the Queen of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”)… not the fierce tricksters, powerful beings, shapeshifters and Tuatha dé Danann of Irish lore!
Fairly recently, during the British Victorian and Edwardian ages, many Brits (and others!) were rather obsessed with fairies, many claiming a strong belief in them, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, noted physician, novelist and investigator of the paranormal. Many were delighted by the “real” photos of fairies such as the one’s below, known as the Cottingley Fairies.
I suppose these are early examples of “photoshop”! But at the time, many were absolutely convinced of the photos’ authenticity.
I most certainly grew up believing in fairies, and that they lived at the bottom of my garden. Folks looked for fairy rings in the grass, and some left out treats for the fairies. As a five year old, I decided to make them some clothes, trying to fashion little dresses from petals and leaves. The garments mysteriously disappeared overnight, likely removed by our mother but also possibly squirrels or other creatures . . . and maybe even the fairies themselves!
For me, International Fairy Day is a day to celebrate our culture and heritage and the stories of the fairy spirits by all their names. For me, that would be the Wee Folk, Little People, the Fae, Faeries, Sidhe (Sí) and all the various types of faeries: the Banshees (Bean Sidhe, ancestral spirits and harbingers of death), Dullahans (headless faeries), elementals, elves, Grogoch (half-human, half-faerie), Leprechauns & Cluricauns, Merrows (sea faeries) & Selkies (shapeshifters who transform from human form to seal when in the sea), nymphs, Pookas (shape-shifting nature spirits), Sprites, and Tree Spirits (dryads).
Origins of The Good Folk
In Irish myth and lore, the the Good Folk were originally the Tuatha Dé Danann (the people of Danu) who retreated to the Sídhe (Irish for the mounds eventually known as fairy mounds) and the Otherworld realms after being conquered by the Milesians (from whom the current Irish people are said to have originated). The Tuatha Dé Danann were said to have been skilled in magic, and in some lore, they were banished from heaven because of their knowledge, and descended on Ireland in a cloud of mist. But in Irish cosmology, that place of the underworld — to where they retreated — is very much akin to how heaven is perceived in other cultural cosmologies, the place of the gods, the departed/the ancestors but also fairies and other mythical creatures.
The Good Folk were known to be tricksters, and the lore had many rules about how to behave around fairies . . . especially when the veils were thin between the worlds such as at Bealtaine and Samhain.
Tales of the Fae
Tales of the Fae were originally shared by the seanachies (storytellers) in pre-Christian Ireland, such as myths and stories of great warriors and their battles with shapeshifters and other supernatural creatures from the Land of the Fae. And many were stories of how the Good Folk played tricks on unsuspecting humans, giving rise to all sorts of superstitions and rules for how to interact with these otherworld creatures. For instance, a lone tree in the middle of the field (especially a hawthorn) was considered a Faerie Tree. Cutting it down would bring very bad luck and a curse from the Faerie realms. And do not sleep outside at MidSummer or you may be kidnapped by the Fae!
Later these tales were transformed by influences from other cultures within the Celtic world (e.g. the Bretons) and outside of it (e.g. Norse, German), as well as the strong influence of the French medieval tales.
Faerie Protocols and Rules
My Celtic ancestors didn’t always trust the Fey folks so had a few rules of engagement, such as:
- Do not thank the Fey in words, but do express your gratitude with a gift (real or imaginary)
- Do not accept a gift of food or drink from them
- Do not enter into an agreement with them
- Do not ask their true name and do not offer your own true name.
- And most of all, do not trust the Fae!
On International Fairy Day, celebrate the fairies and the Sídhe in any way that resonates with you!
Perhaps you can celebrate as part of your MidSummer celebrations, by building a Faerie Garden in a container, by crafting a Faerie Door and affixing to a tree (in an environmentally sound way of course), reading a favourite faerie tale, nibbling on Faerie cakes or drinking Faerie Tea.
And just for fun (and a little mischief!), consider creating a secret (or not so secret!) Faerie name for yourself! And your secret Faerie magical power! If you are stuck, try this Fairy Name Generator for some inspiration (and you might like its suggestions!). For instance, today I am:
Ember Flamewand Ember is a messenger of the moon goddess. She lives where fireflies mate and breed. She can only be seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup. She wears black and white like a badger and has icy blue butterfly wings.
If you are interested in delving more into Fairy lore, consider joining our online Bean Gealach Circle. In the month of July (2022), we explore the world of Faerie in Celtic traditions, journey to meet a Faerie ally, make some Faerie tea, and connect to the energies of the Fae.
And as an accredited Moon Mná Women’s Circle Facilitator, I will offer you the Moon Mná Fairy Rites which awaken us to the mischief, magic and gifts the Sídhe bring to us.
Special Offer: Join us as a founding member of the Bean Gealach Circle by June 30, 2022, for the special rate of $20 USD per month.