Born June 13, 1865, W.B. Yeats has been called Ireland's greatest poet. Associating poetry with religious ideas, he was interested in mysticism, spiritualism, occultism, and astrology. In his poetry and other works.Yeats drew heavily on myth and folklore. In our search for gnome and fairy, he stands as one who knew and believed in them. He has called the Celtic's myth a dream wherein, in dreaming, they have conjoured fairies, gnomes and dragons.

The fairy lore of Ireland evolved from the earliest times as independent imaginative creation. It grew out of two periods: one, anciently, by conscious artistry and early Irish manuscripts, and two, by oral folk tales.

In pre-Celtic Ireland, as one legend goes, were the Siddhes, a race of secretive lurkers who withdrew from the Milesians into the mountains and wild places of Ireland where they were transformed into fairies. When the aboriginal stone peoples were introduced to Iron, the Siddhes withdrew into mountain tops and other mysterious places for they greatly feared its magical properties.

After successive waves of invaders, the Phoenicians came to Ireland and mined for gold. From them came the legends of the Tuatha de Danann, an ancient race of mortals, shape shifters and immortal, who lived in a magic land beneath the surface of Ireland. Some thought the fairy world came from them, and others not; that fairies are born of Nature and have no likeness to gods.

Fairies populate the earliest Irish tales from about the fifth century. The fourteenth century saw much in the way of fairy literature, and then, in the seventeenth century, it flourished. These are some of the descriptions coming out of legends and early literature:

Fairyland is a paradoxical world. Nothing that is true there is true on earth. It is a place between Heaven and Earth, a sojourning place for the soul, guarded by fairies. To Yeats, Fairyland was Nature and the realm of the imagination.

Fairies may act as muses to the poet or musician. One may find, in the folk tales and literature of the Celts, many recorded sightings of various elemental beings. A brownie was reported in Scotland as a shaggy aboriginal hanging about the farm. In England they have been called cluricaun. The cluricaun is a prankster of sorts. He plays a pipe, wears a leather apron has a shiny red nose and wrinkled face. He drinks and smokes and rides the sheep and dogs.

Fairies of Irish tradition are not altogether to be trusted. They are capricious, and have the power of glamor. Above all, they are unpredictable They speak but little, according to legend, and when they do it is with a whistle, a sound like the hissing of geese, or the screaming of seagulls. They are capricious, and mock any attempt to reduce them to order. They can live thousands of years, and when at last they die they are reduced to slime or jelly. They are generally small when compared to humans, but one can lose one's sight looking at them. They favor red hair. Fairies may dwell in a variety of places, but they seem to favor bodies of congealed air at the top of mountains where their presence is known by the sound of music or laughter. When it is a good fairy, one will feel a hot blast of air. If it is a bad one, a shiver. Sometimes there is a display of rapidly moving tiny lights along a path or in a meadow.

The leprachaun, popular in Ireland, is usually small, around eighteen inches tall. He is dressed in green, with a red cap and black pointed shoes. He hides in a black pot or under a tree. He mends fairy slippers, making the tapping noise one hears when he is near, and is known to carry a purse of gold. Capture him three times and if he fails to escape the third time he will surrender that gold.

The mermaid, merrow, or mer people of Irish mythology were thought to intermarry with the leprachaun. Legend went that they made signs with their hands for they could not speak. They had a fish tail, or scaly legs, with short fin-like arms, small webs between their fingers, enormous eyes, green hair, long green teeth and a red nose. They wore a green and red feathered hat. A Banshee is the daughter of a mermaid and a man.

Dance of the "Little People," by William Sullivan
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Yeats called the Celts' myth a dream wherein, in dreaming, they conjured gnomes and dragons
"All nature is full of invisible people; some of these are ugly or grotesque, some wicked or foolish, many beautiful beyond anyone we have ever seen..and..the beautiful are not far away when we are walking in pleasant and quirt places."

"Who are they?" asks the poet Yeats, "'Fallen angels who were not good enough to be saved. nor bad enough to be lost,' say the peasantry. "The gods of the earth.' says the Book of Armagh. "The gods of pagan Ireland,' say the antiquarians, 'the Tuatha De Danan, who, when no longer worshiped and fed with offerings, dwindled away in the popular imagination, and now are only a few spans high.'" But, he adds: "Do not think the fairies are always little. Everything is capricious about them, even their size." ... Joseph Campbell's Occidental Mythology

Will you see a fairy if you kneel on your right leg and close your left eye?


An Underwater Adventure with gnomes and fairies

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