THE CELTIC FAIRYLAND
The Rise and Fall of the Tuatha dé Danaan
your heart of its mortal dream.
The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round,
Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound....
As the poet Matthew Arnold wrote in his On the Study
of Celtic Literature, the Celtic people had a particular
gift for expressing the magical and mysterious qualities
of nature. Their lore is especially rich in tales of the
Fairy Folk, who in Ireland were known as the Tuatha
dé Danaan, or Children of Dana (or Danu),
the great Celtic Earth Mother.
The Tuatha dé Danaan were a magical people who overthrew
the original inhabitants of Ireland, and ruled over that
isle for a very long time, though eventually they were overthrown
by a race of invaders from Spain called the Milesians. Many
of the Children of Dana were slain, and the rest were forced
to exercise their magic arts and become invisible, or retreat
to the underworld.
In time, as the ancient gods of the Celts shrank in glory,
so too the children of the goddess Dana shrank in stature,
and became known as the fairy folk or the Sidhe
(pronounced "shee"). They might still be found
inhabiting, and fiercely guarding, lonely woods, bogs, ponds,
streams, mounds in meadows, or hollows in green glens. It
was common practice to propitiate the Sidhe with offerings,
or by referring to them by such euphemisms as the Fair
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