Fairies are a species of supernatural beings or nature spirits, one of the most beautiful and important of mythological concepts. Belief in fairies is ancient and widespread, and similar ideas concerning them are found in primitive as well as civilized societies. Fairies have been celebrated in folklore, stories, songs, and poems.
Fairies were often said to be invisible, usually of smaller stature than humans. It was believed they could be helpful to humans, but might be dangerous and evil if offended. They were often considered just mischievous and whimsical in a childlike manner, but were believed to have magical powers.
There are scores of characteristic fairies in the European tradition, but the main types include the trooping fairies, who are the aristocrats of the fairy world, living in palaces or dancing and feasting underground; the hobgoblin fairies of a rougher, workman type; nature spirits of rivers, gardens, and woods; and deformed monsters, like hags and giants.
Fairyland was usually underground or in some magical other dimension. Here time became mystically changed—one night in fairyland might equal a lifetime in the human world. Some of the most romantic and poignant folktales concern mortals who fall in love with a fairy queen and are transported to the magical world of fairyland where all wishes come true, but through breaking some taboo or indulging in homesickness for earthly existence, the mortal is suddenly returned to his world, in which scores of years have passed.
There are many folklore stories of fairies assisting humans, mainly in a bucolic setting. Household fairies were said to assist in everyday tasks like washing dishes, laying the fire, sweeping the floor, making bread bake properly, and so on but asked to be treated respectfully and given a cup of milk for their trouble.
Other fairies played mischievous pranks of a poltergeist nature, pelting mortals with stones, preventing bread from rising, blowing out candles, knocking pans off shelves, sending gusts of smoke, or annoying horses and cattle. Often this was deemed a punishment for lack of respectful treatment. In rural areas, fairies were often referred to in flattering terms as "the good people" to avoid offending them.
According to superstition, the fairies would sometimes steal a human baby and put a changeling fairy child in its place, often ugly and bad-tempered. The changeling might be tricked into a sudden admission of its fairy origin, but there was also a folk superstition that it should be set on fire for this purpose. Undoubtedly some temperamental babies were fatally burned because of this belief, which persisted until some two centuries ago in isolated peasant districts.
"Fairy rings" are small dark green circles in the grass of meadows, fields, or lawns caused by a certain fungus. These rings were once said to be the dancing places of the fairies. In Ireland, mound burials were believed to be the haunts of fairies.
Good place to visit
There is a beautiful and magical place called Fairy Pools of Skye.
I have been here more than once and it was a great inspiration for part of my Erin the Fire Goddess series. On one of these visits I camped out overnight with my family. From where we were we had the perfect view of the entire Fairy Pools that twinkled in the darkness.
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