“Are you a witch, or are you a fairy?
Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?” – Irish children’s rhyme
Poor Bridget Cleary, in 1895 she was burned alive by her husband in front of witnesses because they believed she was a ‘changeling’ a fairy substitute for the real Bridget, abducted by the fairies.
Changelings, puca’s, the banshee, the Tuatha de Danann (Irelands mythical race), the fae, right now I’m up to my eyes in all these and more, post-editing for my book. (It’s a tough life but someone has to live it)
My novel, it has no name yet, is about a family of women with special abilities or powers, such as healing, second sight, and communication with the other world. In Ireland they would be known traditionally as Bean Feasa meaning Wise Women. The story, a quest narrative, is contemporary fiction and magic realism, inspired by Irish folklore, mythology, and the landscape I grew up in, in particular that of the Sliabh an Iarainn mountain.
Magic realism as a genre is traditionally associated with south America and writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Isabelle Allende but is one I think should also find a natural home in Ireland.
The premise of magic realism is that magical events occur alongside daily life without much notice being taken. Sound familiar?
You only have to look at Irish attitudes and laws around fairy trees and forts as well as the still prominent role of healers to see Ireland is like that. For those who don’t know, fairy trees and forts (any ring of trees) are protected by law in Ireland and there’s not many people would feel comfortable with damaging as much as a twig in one in case it would bring them bad luck. We think we don’t believe these things but superstitions run deep.
But much of this reality, of our rootedness in superstition and folklore, is so woven in our collective experience it is largely unconscious. For example, in my case I did minimal research before writing the book and was pleasantly surprised, at times shocked, to find support for almost every idea I’ve included. Even with artistic license of fantasy it would make you wonder. The latent knowledge that lies inside us and might never be brought forth? Where did it come from?
Among the characters in my novel are otherworld creatures but also humans with close ties to the otherworld. The ties vary but I’ve often been struck in real life by people who have what you might call ‘the look.‘ Much like some people remind me of birds there are some I would call fairy people, a look, oh yes, but also a way of going on, which is a definition of culture in itself is it not? Where did they come from these people? My idea of what they are? Is almost certainly not mine at all.
Stories, imagination, popular culture, and our subconscious all play a part. Most would agree that ‘Legolas’ in Lord of the Rings has the look, he fits our idea of a fairy man but an Irish fairy man or woman is a little different, at least to me. They are almost human, almost, but not quite and they live among us. Are you one? Check my list below, I’ve adapted it from some of my characters, and see if you are or you know a fairy woman or a man.
‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’ – W.B. Yeats
13 Signs You’re One of the Fae…
- You’re tall and slim of build
- You most likely have dark hair though other colours are possible
- You have small, bright, usually green or blue eyes and generally small features.
- You’re strange
- You’re quiet but intense
- Your favourite mode of transport is mist.
- You feel more affinity with landscape and elements than people
- You’re from another world and so don’t quite fit
- Lover of art, music, dance, and beauty
- Free spirit
- Both youthful and ancient
- Lover of trees
- Shy, kind, with a cold streak, playful and wise…