The Mythology of Fairies: An Irish Legend

Flying fairy

by John Hill

Many years ago in ancient times, as children played on the dew kissed emerald hills of Ireland, a great dark shadow fell upon the earth. As the villagers ceased in their daily labours to peer up into the sky their very hearts also ceased to beat in their chests. There, in the once crystal sky, a great black cloud was descending and upon it stood a terrifying glimmering army of soldiers too many to number. As the great cloud molested the earth, the very ground shook as the glimmering army set foot upon the land.

Thus begins the Irish legend about the Tuatha De' Daanan.

The Tuatha De' Daanan are widely believed to be the historical precursors of the Fey, or Fairy Folk. Far from the dainty winged folk of modern stories, the Tuatha De' Daanan were believed to be great warriors that brought immense magic and wonder to the land. According to ancient Irish legend, when the Tuatha De' Daanan descended on the black cloud, they were ruled over by King Nuada. Subsequent kings and queens were successful in taking the land from the Fir Bolg in the 5th conquering.

The Tuatha De' Daanan, a warrior race, dealt with many battles against invading armies and in one such battle were tricked into living underground. These underground "cities" are known as Sidhe mounds (pronounced shee) or Fairy mounds and can still be seen today in many parts of Ireland and Scotland.

Many of the Tuatha De' Daanan are well known in popular literature. The "woman of the mounds", also known as the Bean Sidhe (pronounced ban shee) was believed to search endlessly through the night for those who were dying; heralding their deaths with an unearthly wail.

The Four Treasures of Ireland: A Gift from the Tuatha De' Daanan

Not only were the people of the Fey made popular in the folklore, so were their powerful otherworldly goods. The Four Treasures of Ireland were said to be great treasures that the Tuatha De' Daanan brought to earth from four of their great cities.

  • The Spear of Lugh was a great spear that always dripped blood. Whoever wielded it in battle would emerge victorious. It is sometimes associated with the Spear of Destiny.

  • Dagda's Cauldron was a large cooking pot that never emptied. When not giving food, it was used to store the ever dripping Spear of Lugh.

  • The Stone of Fal was a great stone that was said to shout in joy when the rightful king of Ireland set his foot upon it. This is believed to be the precursor for The Sword in the Stone.

  • The final treasure is the Sword of Light. This sword belonged to the King of the Tuatha De' Daanan and was said to be a glowing sword that could cut anyone in half. This sword is sometimes associated with the legend of Excalibur.

What once started out as a legend of great and powerful otherworldly beings has culminated into stories of dainty, ethereal people with insect wings and a penchant for trouble-making. The fairy folk were far more than just that. With interesting beginnings and extraordinary tales of triumphs and transformations, the fairies that we hear of today can truly be called legendary.

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