Mythology of Samhain:
What it means to be "Away with the fairies"
Talk by Jenny Butler
‘What Does it Mean To Be “Away With the Fairies”? An Slua Sídhe, Death and “Fairy Places”’
In Irish belief and legend, ‘an slua sídhe’ (‘the fairy host’) or na daoine maithe (‘the good people’) are spiritual beings that share the natural landscape with humans, the otherworldy and human realms being somehow intertwined. Samhain has been described as a liminal time when the ‘veil between worlds’ becomes thin and spiritual beings can come to mingle amongst the living. This talk explores connections between fairies and the dead, as well as the places understood as connection points between worlds, such as ringforts (‘fairy forts’) and hawthorn trees (‘the fairy thorn’), along with selected accounts of the consequences of fairy encounters, whether good or ill for the humans involved.
Dr Jenny Butler is a lecturer in the Study of Religions Department at University College Cork and holds a PhD in Folklore and Ethnology. She is currently undertaking a comparative ethnographic research project on ‘Fairy Lore and Landscapes’ of Ireland, Iceland and Newfoundland in Canada, which is supported by the Royal Irish Academy, the Ireland-Canada University Foundation, the Newfoundland-Ireland Partnership/Department of Taoiseach, and University College Cork’s College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences Research Support Fund.