Supernatural Legend

Ireland, like all cultures, has a rich and varied cast of supernatural characters. The fairies and the banshee may be in decline, but stories of ghosts and spirits are still with us. Meanwhile, belief in apparitions, extraterrestrial visitors and guardian angels is growing.


According to Irish mythology, the Tuatha Dé Danann (people of the Goddess Danu, a deity known in various forms throughout ancient Europe and with connections to India) were a supernatural race of people who, after battling with the Gaels, retreated to the hills, cairns and tumuli (burial mounds) dotting the countryside. Later tradition says that these places are the abodes of the fairies, suggesting a clear connection between the Tuatha Dé Danann of mythology and the fairies of later legend.


Fairies may originally have been associated with the ancestor dead, before assimilating with beliefs about an otherworld community. In the ancient Fenian Cycle the stories of the hunter -poet Fionn and his roving band of warriors, the Fianna, which developed from pre-Christian times and were refined by monks and storytellers well into the 20th century – the fairies feature prominently.


Today, popular culture often depicts fairies as benevolent, kind, winged creatures; they are particularly popular with little girls. But the fairies of Ireland – who were never referred to by their name, but instead called na daoine maithe (the good people) or na daoine beaga (the little people) – were not winged, did not rest on toadstools, and could destroy people’s lives.


Fairies were also associated with nature, but their mythical and spiritual nature was obvious to the Early Church, and they became demonised. Continental theologians developed a Biblical rationale of the fairies as fallen angels. The idea spread to Ireland and was adopted into fairy lore towards the end of the middle ages. Irish folklore developed the idea further: God let them stay where they fell:


The fall of the angels from Heaven after Lucifer rebelled against God; when St. Michael appealed to the Almighty not to empty Heaven altogether, He relented and allowed the angels (fallen or otherwise) to remain where they were: those who had by that time fallen to earth remained there – these are our fairies – while those who were still falling live in the air. They are worried as to their fate on the last day, and a story explains that if they have enough blood in their bodies (and they do not) with which to write their names, they will be allowed to enter Heaven on the Day of Judgement.[1]

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