Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fairies and the Old Faith

Walking up to the summit of Loughcrew
This photo taken on the same day as I had the strange experience at Loughcrew in County Meath, at Slieve na Callí, which is the main hill at the site. It is the abode of Béara, who is a Bean Sí (fairy woman) and one of the Tuatha Dé.  There is a passage tomb on top, in which at the equinox sunrise, the rays of the sun shine down and illuminate the inner chamber.  There are the graves of extremely ancient dead kings, queens, and warriors there.  I give a full account of my strange and singular experience at Loughcrew in my book 'Finding the McCains.'  These Celtic fairies are not your wee, cute type, of the Victorian era children's books.  They are tall, fair, powerful beings of light, that are dangerous to be around.  Béara is remembered throughout Ireland and Scotland, in the old Gaelic homelands. She is, or has become in legend, a primordial nature spirit and Queen of Winter.  She can appear as an old woman or as a beautiful young maiden, tall and fair.     

Placing an 'intention' on a Faerie Tree
The practice of leaving 'wishes' or intentions, on Fairy trees goes back to pre Christian times.  A Fairy Tree is often located near a holy well, which was a spiritual place of worship in pre Christian times. They are part of the Old Faith.   Many travel, a pilgrimage of sorts, to the Fairy trees, to leave prayers or intentions, to ask a blessing or a favour, from those mysterious, unseen but felt, aspects of nature and the Old Faith that still manage to survive at these locations. When you visit a Fairy Tree you will see an array of objects left in the branches or at the base of the tree.  You will see ribbons, messages written on paper, colouful pieces of cloth or foil, photographs, toys, small figurines, and even strips of fabric torn from a visitor's clothing. 

A Fairy Tree near a Holy Well

A Fairy Tree is often a Hawthorn tree, but not always.  A lone hawthorn standing in the middle of a field or pasture garners both respect and some suspicion by the local communities.  A Fairy Tree is thought to bring good fortune, but it is also known to belong to the Otherworld and is part of the Sidhe.  For this reason, it was the tradition to never cut nor harm the tree for fear of retribution of the old gods and their allies.  The Fairy Tree was, and to some still is, seen as a gateway into the Fairy realms.     

With my old son, Donovan, on Tara Hill at Lia Fáil. 
This photo taken at Tara.  My older son, Donovan, and I are standing by the Lia Fáil, a stone of power that was a gift to Ireland from the Tuatha Dé.  It is one of the four legendary treasures of Ireland brought to Ireland from the Northern Isles by the Tuatha Dé.   The treasures are the Claíomh Solais (sword of light), the Sleá Bua (victory spear of Lugh), the Coire Dagdae (cauldron of Dagda), and the last, the Lia Fáil (stone of Ireland).  

© 2017 Barry R McCain

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