The famous Lake Maidens of Wales, their name means ‘Otherwordly women’. While many fairies who make their homes in bodies of water are at best mercurial and at worst murderous, the Gwragedd Annwn have a good reputation for kindness and gentle ways. They appear as beautiful young women and are known to make good wives when they marry human men, although like many fairy wives they usually leave if the man violates a taboo relating to them.
In many stories of these Lake Maidens this taboo has to do with the husband striking the wife three times. Even if they are forced to leave their family such fairy women stay involved with their children, and one Welsh family renowned for their medical knowledge claimed it had come from a long-distant Gwragedd Annwn ancestor. The Gwragedd Annwn are strongly associated with cattle, both Earthly cows and Otherworldy ones, which may be seen as symbols of abundance and blessing.
A term found in the Shetland and Orkney Islands of Scotland, likely imported to there from Norse areas during occupation periods. Possibly a variant of the word trolls. Trow is considered roughly synonymous to other Scottish terms for fairies including sighean.
In some folklore Trows are described as very human in appearance, although they may appear old, shrivelled, or physically deformed. In other stories, however, they are described as clearly inhuman, unattractive, and twisted, even in sometimes appearing as a mix of human and horse. They are often described in unflattering terms as having oversized feet, large noses, flat faces, and short limbs. They can range in height from three to six feet depending on the story. They are often said to dress in grey, although sometimes they appear in green, red, white, or black.
It was claimed that the witches in these areas dealt with the trows, much as we see the witches in other areas dealing with fairies, and as in other areas the trows were known for shooting magical arrows that caused illness and death and for swapping changelings for beings they wanted. In Shetland the Trows prefer night time and fear the sun which traps them on earth until it sets. Like some other kinds of fairies Trows will make themselves welcome in human homes at night while the inhabitants are sleeping, coming in to sit by the fireside; they are known to dislike people who lock their doors for this reason. Trows live in mounds that are often called knowes and like other fairies they will steal humans, most often brides, and enjoy music and causing mischief.
The seelie and unseelie courts of Scottish fairies are a particular feature of the folklore of that country; the clear separation of the faes into good and bad groupings that’s entailed is almost unique in folklore. Moreover, the notion of the two courts has, in recent years, attracted considerable attention and popularity- notwithstanding the fact that they are not mentioned in the majority of the Scottish faery-lore texts and collections. Probably the majority of recorded Scottish folklore relates to the Highlands and Islands, the Gaelic (and Norse) speaking regions, which may explain why we have relatively little material documenting the two courts.
The Scots word ‘seelie’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon (ge)sælig/ sællic meaning ‘happy’ or ‘prosperous.’ The evolution of the word in Middle English and Scots seems to have been in two directions. One sense was ‘pious,’ ‘worthy,’ ‘auspicious’ or ‘blessed.’ The second development extended the meaning incrementally through ‘lucky,’ ‘cheerful,’ ‘innocent,’ and ‘simple,’ from whence it was a short final step to ‘simple-minded,’ as the modern English ‘silly’ denotes. Because of this evolution, as well as because of the dialectical differences between English and Scots, it is preferable to use ‘seelie’ rather than to try to translate it. In passing, we might observe that Scots is in many cases far nearer to original Anglo-Saxon than modern English, which has imported so many French and Latin words.
By late medieval and early modern times, ‘seelie’ or ‘seely’ in Scots meant happy or peaceable, as in ‘seely wights,’ and the ‘seely court,’ which was the ‘happy or pleasant court.’ It followed from this that ‘unseelie’ or ‘unsilly’ described something that was unhappy or wretched. The poet Dunbar referred to Satan’s “unsall meyne” (his “wretched troop of followers”), a phrase which could be a very appropriate term for the fairies.
The Scots word with a variety of spellings, particularly sely, and meanings including “lucky, happy, blessed”; the adjective is applied euphemistically to fairies in Scotland. This term is used in relation to the Scottish fairies, calling them both ‘Seelie court’ and ‘gude wichts’. Court in this sense meaning a group or company, and wichts meaning beings. Seelie fairies are those who are benevolently inclined towards humans and likely to help around homes and farms. It should be remembered though that they are as able and likely to cause harm as any fairy. The use of the term Seelie in relation to fairies dates back to at least the 15th century in Scotland and can be found in a book from 1801; in the ‘Legend of the Bishop of St Androis’ it says:
A Fairy Path or Fairy Road is the route by which the fairies regularly travel between any two locations. These paths can be found in many places and are invisible to anyone without the Second Sight, unless they happen to catch the Fairy folk unaware. Fairy Paths are often said to stretch between known fairy hills or locations but may also be found in more obscure locations.
It is considered very bad luck to build on a fairy path and those who do so always suffer for it one way or another. In the most benign cases the building will suffer from disturbances, often at night, as the fairies pass through the building following their accustomed route. As one source says:
When the house happens to have been built in a fairy track, the doors on the front and back, or the windows if they are in the line of the track, cannot be kept closed at night, for the fairies must march through.
In other instances attempts at building would be destroyed as soon as they were begun by being knocked down and a noted method of testing for a fairy path by those who “could not see them was to put up posts where the building was meant to go and see if they remained standing the next day. In extreme cases the person attempting to build might be killed or suffer extreme misfortune.
The Welsh Tylwyth Teg (“Fair Family”) have fairy paths as the Irish and Scottish fairies do, although their reputation is more dangerous. As one anecdotal source says:
“…the Tylwyth Teg have paths (precisely like those reserved for the Irish good people or for the Breton dead), and that it is death to a mortal while walking in one of these paths to meet the Tylwyth Teg.”
The fairies were known to move their homes at certain times of year, notably on the quarter days, and when they did so they would travel along these fairy paths to get from one hill to another. At any time of year, however, a Fairy Path could be perilous.
The Dagda was chief of the Tuatha dé Danann, the foremost of the Irish ancestral gods or faeries. Highly skilled and wise beyond measure, he was not only the god of life and death, but of seasons, agriculture, fertility, magic, and druidry as well. He wielded three sacred treasures: a cauldron of plenty, a club of life and death, and a harp that controlled men and seasons alike.
His children were plentiful, as were his lovers. His dwelling place was Brú na Bóinne.
The Dagda often carried three sacred relics with him that defined several of his many talents:
The coire ansic, a cauldron that could produce a bountiful feast; one could never be found wanting in the company of the Dagda. This particular relic was one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha dé Danann, which were crafted in Murias.
The lorg mór, a mighty club (or staff) that possessed two distinct powers; its head had the power to slay nine men in a single swing while its handle could revive the slain with but a touch.
The uaithne, an ornate harp carved of oak. This harp could place the seasons in the proper order and command the wills and emotions of men. With these potent abilities, the Dagda was often seen as a god of order putting everything in its place, every time in its season, and every man to their rightful action.
In additions to these items, the Dagda owned two pigs—one always growing, the other always roasting—and an orchard that bore perennial sweet fruit.
The Dagda’s primary dwelling was at Brú na Bóinne, a series of Neolithic mounds on the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath. These ancient mounds were constructed around 3200 BCE, and as such are older than famous landmarks such as Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. A mound called Newgrange aligned with the rising sun during winter solstice, representing the Dagda’s significance as lord of seasons and his mastery over day and night.
The Lebor Gabála Érenn laid out the coming of the Tuatha dé Danann, the fifth group of settlers to arrive in mythical Ireland. This group hailed from four cities north of the Emerald Isle, where they had learned the arts and sciences of their time, including magic. At this time, the Dagda was their chief. Though he did not hold the title of king, he was consulted and respected by many as if he was one.
The Dagda was also compared to the Germanic Odin and the Roman Dis Pater, as they bore certain similarities to him.
Banshee – actually should be spelled Bean Sidhe. She’s an Irish death spirit. Their keening fortells a death. They have very long, flowing hair and wear green dresses with grey cloaks. Their eyes are bright red because of their continuous weeping; or Benshee – an Irish faery attached to a house. Common name for the Irish Bean Sidhe. In Scotland the banshee is known as caoineag (wailing woman) also Bean-Nighe and, although seldom seen, she often heard in the hills and glens, by lakes or running water.
Bean Sidhe – In Irish folklore, the Bean Sidhe (woman of the hills) is a spirit or fairy who presage a death by wailing. She is popularly known as the Banshee. She visits a household and by wailing she warns them that a member of their family is about to die. When a Banshee is caught, she is obliged to tell the name of the doomed. The antiquity of this concept is vouched for by the fact that the Morrigan, in a poem from the 8th century, is described as washing spoils and entrails. It was believed in County Clare that Richard the Clare, the Norman leader of the 12th century, had met a horrible beldame, washing armor and rich robes “until the red gore churned in her hands”, who warned him of the destruction of his host. The Bean Sidhe has long streaming hair and is dressed in a gray cloak over a green dress. Her eyes are fiery red from the constant weeping. When multiple Banshees wail together, it will herald the death of someone very great or holy. The Scottish version of the Banshee is the Bean Nighe. Aiobhill is the banshee of the Dalcassians of North Munster, and Cliodna is the banshee of the MacCarthys and other families of South Munster.
Bean-Nighe – pronounced “ben-neeyah”; type of Banshee around streams in Scotland and Ireland. She washed bloodstained clothing of people who will soon die. They are rumored to be the ghosts of women who died in childbirth and will continue to wash until the day they should have died. The Washer at the Ford.
Aeval was a Celtic faerie queen of northern Munster. She was part of the Tuatha Dé Danann tribe and associated with the O’ Brien Clan. She Became the Banshee of the O’Brien Family and began her lament whenever one of the family members died. Her name means beautiful. She made Craig Liath her home which mean Gray Rock. She held a midnight court to determine if Husbands were satisfying their wives sexual needs. When found to be remiss the husband would to ordered to over come there prudishness and give their wives what they need.
Aeval had a lover once who was a servant of Murchadh named Dudhlaing Ua Artigan. Murchadh was the eldest son of Brian Boru. Aeval placed a druid mist around her lover to ensure that he would not go into battle in the Battle of Clontarf and be killed. Aeval went to Brian Boru’s tent to tell him that he would be victorious in battle but that he would loose his own life and the first son to visit him in his tent would become king. Brian sent for his eldest son Murcahd, but Murchadh decided to delay to change clothing. So instead his other son Donnchadh was the first to enter the tent. Murchadh went into battle with Dudhlaing, and they struck their enemies a mighty blow on either side. Murchadh said they he heard the sound of Dudhlaing’s blows but could not see him. It seems that Dudhlaing did not want to keep the magick mist about him when Muchadh could not see him, so he withdrew from the druid cloack. They went to the plain where Aeval was because they thought she could give them news of the battle. Aeval pleaded with the two men to stop and stay away from the battle. Murchadh refused and said that fear of his mortality would not keep him from going into battle, and that if he fell, he would bring the enemy down with him. She pleaded with Dudhlaing that if he stayed with her he would know 200 years of happiness to which he replied that he will not soil his good name for gold or silver. Aeval told the two men that they would fall in battle and that by tomorrow your blood will be spilt on the plains.
Aeval had a harp whose music was sweet and beautiful, but deadly to mortals. It is said that whoever heard the music of the harp would die shortly afterwards. The harp did not have to be strummed or plucked by her. It would play whatever it was told to play by her. The victims of her harp were usually young men. It is said that she gifted her harp to the son of Meardha when he was learning at the school of the Sidhe at Connacht. He learned that his father had been killed by the King of Lochlann. The son of Meardha went to where the three sons of the King of Lochlann were, and played his harp. The three sons died shortly afterward.
Fand – In Celtic myth Fand is a faery queen, who was once married to the sea god Manannan. After he left her she was preyed upon by three Fomorian warriors in a battle for control of the Irish Sea. Her only hope in winning the battle was to send for the hero Cuchulainn who would only agree to come, if she would marry him. She reluctantly acquiesced to his wishes, though when she met him, she fell as deeply in love with him as he was with her. Manannan knew that the relationship between the human world and the world of the faery could not continue without in eventually destroying the faeries. He erased the memory of one from the other by drawing his magical mantle between the two lovers.
Fand was also a minor sea goddess who made her home both in the Otherworld and on the Islands of Man. With her sister, Liban, she was one of the twin goddesses of health and earthly pleasures. She was also known as “Pearl of Beauty”. Some scholars believe she was a native Manx deity who was absorbed in the Irish mythology.
Colcannon is an Irish dish of boiled potatoes and cabbage or kale mashed together and flavored with onion, shallots, or leeks and cream or butter. Colcannon is strongly associated with Samhain, in which it was used for various forms of divination.
Linguistic evidence suggests that cabbages were known to the Iron Age Celts. The Romans believed cabbages to have several medicinal qualities. While cabbage was a food of the working classes in Medieval Europe, the other principal ingredient of colcannon, potatoes, were a New World food that arrived in the sixteenth century.
The word “colcannon” comes from the Gaelic “cal ceannann” (‘white headed cabbage’). Some hold that the ‘cannon’ part of the name might be derived from the old Irish ‘cainnenn’ (‘garlic, onion, or leek’, depending on the translation). This suggests that early forms of colcannon were simple mixtures of brassica and allium. The earliest Irish reference to colcannon is found in the Diary of Wiliam Bulkely, of Bryndda, near Amlwch in Anglesey, in 1735. Colcannon appeared in England in 1774. In England, colcannon became a favorite of the upper classes.
1 lb shredded white cabbage
1 lb potatoes peeled and quartered
2 leeks finely chopped (white part only)
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
pinch of ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter
Boil the cabbage in water until cooked; drain and keep warm. Place the potatoes and leeks together in a pot of water and boil until tender, about 15 to 20 min. Drain the potatoes and leeks and mash in a large pot with the milk and butter. Stir in the cabbage. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Apparently oats were originally a weed found in wheat and barley crops that eventually became a crop on its own. The Greeks and Romans of classical times regarded oats as coarse and used them mostly as animal fodder. The Romans called it avena, and considered them only fit to feed barbarians.
Their neighbors, the Celtic and Germanic peoples, took an entirely different view and used oats extensively. In the northern and upland regions of Europe, oats are the only cereal which will ripen in the cold wet climate. Oats were first cultivated around 1000 B.C.E. in Central Europe. The first record of the cultivation of oats in England is a location called athyll (“on oat hill”) in Anglo Saxon records from 779 CE. There is a record of the bishop of Worcester’s oat lands mentioned in a boundary charter dated 984 CE. Ground oats mixed with milk, cream or water was a very common meal for working people. It was not until the fifteenth century that flour made from oats was first referred to as oatmeal.
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup golden syrup
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or lard
1 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
Soak the oats in the milk in a small bowl for a half hour.
Whisk together the rest of the dry ingredients in a larger bowl. Stir the brown sugar and the egg together in another large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and stir in the molasses and golden syrup. Mix the butter/syrup mixture to the brown sugar mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients until just blended. Place in a greased 9 X 11 inch pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake starts to come away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean and the cake should spring back when touched.
Alternatively you can roll the batter into small balls, roll them in oatmeal, and bake them on a cookie sheet until brown.