Faeries, Elves, & Other Kin

November 1st, 2008

Faeries, Elves, & Other Kin: The Fae and their Origin

The name fairy comes from the Old French word faerie. The word faerie as we commonly know it has been hackneyed by using it to describe paranormal beings and the like. Never the less, there is an enormous amount of differentiation in categorizing a faerie from today’s modern literature and those of literature from the middle ages, particularly those of the Celtic tradition as well as from other faerie traditions such as those from  Germany, England and many Slavic countries.

Oftentimes when one thinks about the Fae, they envision them as tiny winged creatures flittering around a glittering unearthly light in some children’s fairy tale or a Disney movie (Tinkerbelle and Thumbelina). These modern Fearies found their origins in the oral traditions, which began to be written down throughout the 18th and 20th centuries.

Faeries can be best described as spirits. They are not divine being because they are not goddess or gods (as some of them would like us to believe,) nonetheless, they are not corporeal (mortal); and for this reason, the Fae are oftentimes, classified as minor divinities or lesser gods.

Nevertheless, if one would for a moment consider the idea of faeries, then they would find that faery folk have been around far longer than most would have expected. According to Joe (1999),

Perhaps the earliest form of faeries can be found loosely in the mythical beings in Greek mythology, such as the nymphs, satyrs and sileni. The nymphs from ancient Greek myths can be considered as fairies and they existed as early as the time of Homer writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even the river gods in Greek myths can be classified as fairies. These are spirits or minor deities of nature or of the natural phenomena. (p.1)

Moreover, the Norse adaptations of the Fae can be seen in a vast array of dísir (“lesser female deities in the Norse religion”) (Joe, 1999) and elves that belong to the Teutonic traditions. Valkyries were also classified as faeries.

Who are the Fae? Where do they come from?

Many civilizations and cultures have their own adaptations of faeries. But for the sake of starting somewhere, we will begin with the Celtic tradition. In the Celtic belief there were deities in Britannia, Gaul (Belgium and France), and Hispania (Spain) throughout the time the Romans occupied these regions. However, once Christianity over took the region the situation changed. The deities that were once worshipped before the widespread adoption of Christian beliefs were condensed to the standing of faeries in Celtic folklore and mythology; The same stands true in Ireland and the gods of the Tuatha De Danann who were stripped of their titles as gods and goddess and given instead the roles of fairies or lesser gods (e.g. Lugh and Dagda).

The early Celtic tradition of fairies, the earlier Welsh or Irish deities were not fairies in the customary sense. Their appearance was much like that of mortal man, both in shape and size, with the exception that they have magical and mysterious powers and they appeared to be forever young, save for they do not  have wings contrary to popular belief. Conversely, the Dananns were typically seen as a “race of fair people. They can die just as mortals can, but their lives could last hundreds or even thousands of years” (Joe, 1999).

The major quandary with the way that these earlier Celtic traditions had their status lowered is in how the Christians have twisted them into beings in the service of the Devil; furthermore, Christian authors have written that faeries were in reality demons. Fortunately, this outlook is no longer shared, in our day.

Ending on a Poetic Note

Faery Queen of the Rainbow Realm

Cerulean skies and raindrops form her realm.

On her throne she sits her rainbow hued wings outspread.

Dressed grandly in deep sky draperies, iris blossom crown her head.

From her hand Faery archer’s dip their arrows into her shimmering light,

Taking aim fiery arrows soar high into the stormy night, illuminating the murky sky with polychromatic rays of hope to darkened hearts.

Promising joy and healing to come.

~ Michele Burke (Burke, 2008)

Coming In November:

The Woman of Peace and the Spirit of the Air (Bean sidhe (Banshee.)

Bibliography and Works Cited:

Joe, J. (1999). Dísir. Retrieved October 14, 2008, from


Joe, J. (1999). Timeless Myths. Retrieved October 14, 2008, from


Spiritfae.com, (1999). Types of Faeries, Retrieved October 14, 2008. From

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