Dr. Gwilym Morus-Baird knows a thing or two about conceptions of the Otherworld in Celtic cultures, and he shares it in this video.
I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of a strange, mystical world running parallel to our own. It is the basis of my “Into the Wonder” series and also features in my current work-in-progress, Shadow of the King.
The Faery Folklorist offers numerous tales of the Fair Folk of Exmoor and nearby areas in the West Country of England. The common name for such beings in this part of England is either pixie (in Devonshire) or pisgy/piskey (in Cornwall).
I think it’s about time more attention was paid to the extraordinary fairy folk and pixies of Exmoor! These wonderful little characters are often sadly overlooked and overshadowed by their more famous relatives, the Piskies of Cornwall and Pixies of Dartmoor. Below you will find a beginners guide to the fairies and pixies of Exmoor, including their habits and habitations, and an insight into their curious behaviour.
Sometimes called the “Celtic Tree Alphabet,” Ogham (pronounced, roughly, Oh-um) is made up of straight lines intersecting a staff at various angles. Atlas Obscura has posted an informative article about this unique writing system:
There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail in Children of Pride in which an antagonist writes a line of Ogham script as part of a spell. But there was no way (or reason) to indicate that this was what was happening. I’ll leave it to my readers to see if they can track down the scene. 😉
The word merrow or moruadh comes from the Irish muir (meaning sea) and oigh (meaning maid) and refers specifically to the female of the species. Mermen – the merrows male counterparts – have been rarely seen. They have been described as exceptionally ugly and scaled, with pig-like features and long, pointed teeth. Merrows themselves are extremely beautiful and are promiscuous in their relations with mortals.
The Irish merrow differs physically from humans in that her feet are flatter than those of a mortal and her hands have a thin webbing between the fingers. It should not be assumed that merrows are kindly and well-disposed towards mortals. As members of the sidhe, or Irish fairy world, the inhabitants of Tir fo Thoinn (the Land beneath the Waves) have a natural antipathy towards humans. In some parts of Ireland, they are regarded as messengers of doom and death.
Ruthie goes on to equate merrows with selkies, women who take on the form of seals by wearing a magical seal skin. To my mind, these are separate creatures, though it is certainly true that legends tend to be fluid over time and distance. There are certainly points of overlap between them.
Or, as mental_floss explains it: “Why Seasons Make No Sense.”
In the world of Taylor Smart, the seasonal Courts of Arradherry follow the traditional Celtic calendar(s), in which the solstices and equinoxes are near the middle of their respective seasons, not the beginning.
The mysterious island sometimes called “the Irish Atlantis” is the subject of a new post at the Celtic Myth Podshow by
Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill.
It got its name from the Irish Uí, meaning descendant of Bresal, meaning beauty. Bresal was of the Fir Bolg and it was after one of his daughters, Galvia, that Galway got its name. It was suggested that the country of Brazil was named after the island, but it actually got its name after the red coloured Brazil wood. Other names for the island included Tir fo-Thuin (Land Under the Wave), Mag Mell (Land of Truth), Hy na-Beatha(Isle of Life), and Tir na-m-Buadha (Land of Virtue).
There is a description of the island the 9th century biography of Saint Brendan Navigatio Sancti Brendani which was a medieval bestseller. The island was described as being shrouded in mist, visible for one day only every seven years, circular in shape with a river running across its diameter. Though visible it could not always be reached.
Its exact location has never been clarified. In 1325 the Genoese cartographer Dalorto placed it west of Ireland, later it appeared southwest of Galway Bay. Some said it was off the Kerry Coast. On some 15th century maps, islands of the Azores appear as Isola de Brazil, or Insulla de Brazil. A Catalan map from 1480 labels two islands “Illa de brasil”, one to the south west of Ireland one south of “Illa verde” or Greenland.
Here’s another excellent, concise summary of an aspect of Irish mythology from Ruth at the Celtic Myth Podshow:
The Tuatha de Danann, the people of the Goddess Danu, were one of the great ancient tribes of Ireland. The important manuscript ‘The Annals of the Four Masters’, records that they ruled Ireland from 1897 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
The daoine sídhe or faeries of Ireland are said to be the descendants of this noble lineage.
In the world of TaylorSmart, the sídhe sometimes swear by saying “Danu!” or “By Danu!” I haven’t gone into any detail how contemporary sídhe remember and/or reverence their distinguished ancestors. Perhaps a bit of that will trickle into the third book of the Into the Wonder series, Oak, Ash, and Thorn.
Numbers of fairy hills and sepulchral carns are scattered over the country, each with a bright palace deep underneath, ruled by its own chief, the tutelary deity. They are still regarded as fairy haunts, and are held in much superstitious awe by the peasantry.
The fairies possessed great preternatural powers. They could make themselves invisible to some persons standing by, while visible to others: as Pallas showed herself to Achilles, while remaining invisible to the other Greeks (Iliad, 1.). But their powers were exercised much oftener for evil than for good. They were consequently dreaded rather than loved; and whatever worship or respect was paid to them was mainly intended to avert mischief. It is in this sense that they are now often called ‘Good people.’