Soon, hordes of small creatures will descend on neighborhoods around the world demanding treats and threatening tricks. Most of them will be adorable and their threats quite hollow. Whether they know it or not, those costumed visitors are participating in a tradition with roots in ancient Ireland. And back then, the creatures who roamed around on the night of October 31st were not at all adorable and their threats were genuinely terrifying!
Many of the children out trick or treating will be dressed as lovely fairies or gruesome goblins, which is very appropriate. Those are exactly the sorts of creatures our ancestors anticipated encountering at Samhain, the end of the Celtic year. It was a night of magic and mischief as the veil between the ordinary world and the realm of the supernatural was at its thinnest, having slowly been worn down over the year. By October 31, the spirits had a good chance of popping into our world. But some of the most magical creatures – the fairies and leprechauns – spent a good deal of their time among us year ‘round. Of the two, fairies are by far the more mysterious. Leprechauns appear on a great many Irish gifts, but while Ireland is full of evidence of the fairies, it is very rare to see one.
Facts about Fairies
Irish fairies, also known by their Irish name Sidhe, were here long before people arrived. When ordinary mortals took over the island, the fairies were angry and embarrassed at being defeated. Instead of fleeing, they used their supernatural powers to shrink themselves very, very small. Now they live underground, and they use tiny doors in trees to come above ground.
If you spend time in the Irish countryside, you’ll see fairy forts. These large, round earthen structures are defensive, clearly designed to protect those inside from attack. Resist the urge to explore them too much. Irish folklore is full of stories of those who trespassed on fairy forts and immediately suffered terrible, inexplicable bad luck. Also, some fairy forts serve as a portal to the spirit world, which is known to be a very dangerous place full of ghouls, pukas and other terrifying creatures. In other words, they are very like the bedrooms of some trick or treaters.
Despite their notorious ill temper, fairies have a soft spot for children. While they enjoy taking and hiding things belonging to adults, the only thing they take from children are worries. Should adults disturb the fairies, they will seek revenge, but forests and homes all over Ireland have tiny doors that fairies can use to visit our world and grant wishes for children.
Add a Fairy Home to your Christmas Tree
The best way to encounter a fairy is to find a tree with a wee door and sit very quietly, although fairies will rarely appear when children are awake. Like some adults, they feel children are at their most appealing while soundly asleep.