Spiritual beings, whether those that haunt us as ghosts or blessed beings such as angels, permeate our existence, surrounding us at critical times. Such spiritual beings will make themselves known as soon as they see a need to make contact with living persons and not until, unless you already a psychic medium who is gifted at peering into other dimensions.But not all spirits are spirits of deceased relatives or resident ghosts. Not all spirits involve hauntings or possessed places and people. In fact, only a part of them do.
There is a realm parallel to the earth’s atmosphere that teems with spirits we have learned to refer to as fairies, elementals, angels and divas. There are also darker aspects to these spirit realms, such as vampires in folklore, 20th century Mothman or even a frightening psychological experience called the “Night Hag,” or “Old Hag.”
Although spirits such as fairies are often portrayed as miniature or winged human beings they are not exactly human. They are beyond all that. It does seem, however, they have a consciousness and an intelligence that wishes communication with other life forms. In fact, such beings are our helpers, even though we may not realize it.
“Fairy” or “faerie” comes from the Latin word fata or fate. The name was earliest associated with enchantment and also the witches powers of glamoury or bewitchment. The Celtic peoples and their descendants in the British Isles have the most dramatic and developed fairy lore or fairy faith of any other people on earth. But there are places, such as Japan, China, India and the Middle East that have their own supernatural beings similar to fairies.Many of the fairy faiths and belief in fairies belong to the small island country off the coast of Great Britain. It is impossible to delve into European fairy lore and beliefs without looking into Ireland. It is also difficult to understand the complexity of fairy lore without considering that green, misty place with the brogue.
But fairies weren’t always called fairies. At least not in Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Fairy is relatively recent term, which at first enjoyed popularity in France as faerie. In the ancient Celtic tongue, fairies were referred to as the Sidhe, which is pronounced as Shee.In modem day, our understanding of fairies is far from accurate. It is only very recently that fairies are portrayed as tiny dolls that are identical to young girls only with diaphanous wings. In earlier times, not all fairies were small, and like angels in the Middle East, were not thought to have wings. In fact, some fairies were giants and could be menacing, and many were feared. After all, fairy luck could be bad luck just as it could be good luck. It depended upon the mind-set of the fairies.
Irish legend taught that fairies were originally the “Tuatha de Danann,” or rather the “People of the Goddess Danu.” At one time, the Tuatha de Dannan, or the sidhe, were considered actual human beings who pre-dated the Celts in the British Isles by centuries. Excavations revealed gravesites with remains of people who were not the Celts, the Saxons or Nordic types. Many of the skeletons were beneath five feet tall. It was thought that the ghosts of the Tuatha de Danann could visit curses or blessings on people in the countryside. Also, some isolated people in the British Isles claimed these small people as their ancestors.
Fairies as a race of people
When the Celtic population of the British Isles spoke of the “Little People,” “the Little Darlings,” or the “Wee FoIk,” or sometimes just as “Themselves” in prayers or blessings they may have meant just that: little people, or rather a race of humans that were diminutive, a group who no longer existed, except in the tales that were told about them, in the stone art or cairns they left behind, and like the fairies the race became mythical, and to this day, still largely unknown.
In her book the “God of Witches,” anthropologist Margaret Murray pointed out links between British fairy lore and a strong fairy connection to a more ancient hereditary witchcraft, a connection now very slim in the mists of time, with a people who had almost entirely vanished and a magic that was inspired by an earlier race who probably did not speak an Indo-European language. Unlike the Celts and the Saxons who came later, they were a group that was mostly matrilineal or mother-based.
Such mysterious people tended to be small in stature and their skin may have been dark or dusky compared the Germanic or Norwegian types who came into the British Isles later. They are thought to have used their own skin as a canvas for their art since it was reported they were covered from head to toe with tattoos. This group was said to have painted their faces blue and their name holds the very essence of the word “picture” as it relates to their art of tattooing. The race is known as the Picts.The Picts were one of the earlier groups in what is now modem Scotland, known then as Caledonia and Pictiand, although they inhabited other areas of the British Isles, especially Ireland. The Picts were in mainly Scotland as long as 1500 years ago but became converted to Christianity between the years 300 to 800 A.D. and then seemed to vanish entirely.
A 12th Century Icelander described the native Picts as “pygmies who did wonders in the morning and evenings as workers but who lost all strength in the midday sun.”
The Romans called the Picts as “picti” which meant painted although many believe pict was probably a Celtic word originally and perhaps, could be translated better as tattooed.
The Picts were referred to later by the Celts as the Pict Sidhe. Translated, this simply means “painted fairy.” It is quite easy to see the evolution of the words Pict Sidhe into Pict-shee and later as “pixie.”
Later, other fairies in Scotland were called Pechs, which, of course, sounds a great deal like Picts. Like the Picts it was said the Pech fairies could not bear the sunlight and so had to do their work at night or very early morning. They were said to live in earthen mounds and fairy hills and only came out after dusk. Yet fairies seemed very much a composite of the ancestors, and such is written by later Scots that as a people and as a race the “Pechs were uncoo wee bodies, but terrible strang.”
Whenever one group moves into an area where there is evidence of some former culture dominated such as in stonework or stone art, the earlier race remains mysterious, and begin to have a divine status as select children of the Gods. Such seems to be the case with the Picts in the British Isles.
Since the Picts were matrilineal they were encouraged to take Irish brides, the Pictish influence faded in the British Isles around 800 AD. And yet, the history of these painted and tattooed people are firmly rooted in the fairy lore of Ireland, Scotland and other parts of the British Isles. There is little doubt the Tuatha de Danann once existed as people. So, in a sense, our memories of fairies may be remnants of a race of people, such as the Picts and earlier the Tuatha de Dannan, mostly mysterious and almost forgotten.