Fairies & Their Origins

A host of supernatural beings and spirits who exist between earth and heaven.

Both good and evil, fairies have been associated with witches.
During the witch hunts in Europe and the British Isles, accused witches often sought to save their lives by claiming they were taught their witch arts by fairies.

For some, this all seemed less malevolent than if they had been taught by the Devil.
For the most part, fairies have remained in a category of their own, though when convenient, the clergy allied them with the Devil.

Belief in fairies is universal and ancient and is especially strong in Europe and the British Isles.
Fairies come in all shapes and sizes and are known by scores of names.

Among these names in Western lore are brownie, elf, dwarf, troll, gnome, pooka, kobold, leprechaun, and banshee.

In the colonization of America, fairy beliefs were transported across the Atlantic.

Here they survived in the Appalachians, the Ozarks, and other remote mountainous areas.

The word fairy comes from the Latin term, fata, or “fate.”
The Fates were supernatural women who liked to visit newborn children.

The archaic English term for fairy is fay, which means enchanted or bewitched.
The state of enchantment is faerie, which gradually became faerie and fairy.

There are four principal proposed origins of fairies:

  1. Fairies are the souls of the pagan dead.
    Being unbaptized, the shades, or souls, are caught in a netherworld.
    These shades are not bad enough to descend into hell nor good enough to rise into heaven.
  2. Fairies are fallen, angels.
    When God supposedly cast Lucifer from heaven, the angels were loyal to Lucifer.
    This meant they were supposedly plunged down toward hell with him.
    It is said that God raised his hand and stopped them in midflight, condemning them to remain where they were.
    Some were in the air.
    Some in the earth and some in the seas and rivers.
    This belief is widespread in the lore of Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia.
  3. Fairies are nature spirits.
    Fairies are among the many spirits that populate all things and places on the planet.
  4. Fairies are diminutive human beings.
    Evidence exists that small-statured races populated parts of Europe and the British Isles in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, before the spread of the Celts.
    In Ireland, a mythical race called the Tuatha de Danaan lived in barrows and in shelters burrowed under hills and mounds.
    They were shy and hard-working, and, as stronger races invaded and conquered with their iron weapons, they retreated into the woodlands to live secretive lives.
    They were pagan and continued to worship pagan deities.
    They were close to nature and had keen psychic senses.
    Some were skilled in metals and mining, and some were herdsmen, keeping stocks of diminutive cattle and horses.
    Some maintained guerilla warfare against invaders.
    The legends of Robin Hood and Rob Roy may be related to fairy lore.