Fairies feast, fight, make love,
steal mortals and play the most soul-cleaving music the world has ever
heard. In fact, they do most things humans do, but with a carefree flair
and an effortless perfection. No one has ever recorded wheather fairies
sweat, defecate or have unreachable itches in the middle of the back; but
if it is true that they are composed of an ethereal substance rather than
flesh and bones they would not suffer from such debilities.
moonlit nights the sea fairies ride upon their white horses up onto the
land to hold revels with their mountain cousins. All night round the grassy
fort or in a woodland clearing they dance to the wild harp, singing their
songs in Irish. Occasionally they pass the evening with card games, while
some of the more industrious sídhe keep the forge bright
all night, hammering iron swords.
Ever since the days when they were called by the proud name of Tuatha
Dé Dannan, they have delighted in fine horsemanship. Fairy steeds
are strong and lean, fleet as the wind, their necks arched, nostrils aquiver.
Fire smoulders in their eyes. From rushes or straw, a blade of grass, a
fern or a cabbage stalk, the fairies fashion their steeds and with them
travel the moon beams and half the world over before day breaks. To Australia
and back in an hour is no feat. And a French princess can be swept off
to Ireland and never once think but she went in a dream.
The fairies can do anything; they can raise the wind and draw the
storm, blight the crops or make them abundant, make a healthy man wither
and a lame one walk. Some say they are the great agents of all accidents,
diseases and deaths in men and their beasts. Sneezing and tripping are
attributed to them. When the potatoes are bad, sure the fairies have blackened
them. They can strike a man dead on the spot or change him into a horse
or a spider or a gilt unicorn.
call the faeries the devil's agents, because they dry the cow's milk and
make her kick the pail, spoil the butter in the churn, steal the eggs,
set fire to the thatch, lead the sheep into the bog, blight crops, make
children fall sick and bring rain when sun is needed. But fairies intent
no evil; they are completely indifferent to mortals' property and act solely
from a delight in exercising their wills.
They are as liable to do good as ill. Overnight a castle might be
erected to house a poor man or crops might be harvested and laid in the
barn, the turf cut and stacked, the rain given when needed, and the enemy
repelled without the lifting of a mortal hand.
But the most favored fairy occupation of all is the fight. With
alacrity they divide into warring factions. But over what they contend
no one is quite sure. Sometimes a fairy of one clan puts a spell on another
or a fairy king steals his neighbor's children to serve as his heirs and
thus cause is given. But all in all a good fight is loved for its own sake
and a stout blackthorn stick is best where there are foes to be cudgelled.
For centuries the fairy clans of Ulster and Munster have indulged in the
sport; and many a potato field has suffered from mid-night attacks. A hurling
match adequately arouses the fairy blood, but there is nothing as exhilerating
as the attack of the clan. Fortunately, immortality enables them ever to
continue the sport.
Wanly a mortal man may lie in sick bed, while his fairy friends
fight for his health by beleaguering his fairy foes. This action is appropriately
called 'the fighting of the friends'. Shouts echo throughout the house
in the night; blood besplattered floors attest to the battle in the morning.
The man may die but the fairies never forfeit the sport and so the fight
continues to and about the graveyard. Small wonder it is that a fairy never
misses a mortal funeral.
Source: Carolyn White "A History of Irish Fairies"