Monday, November 30, 2009

Bonus Blog: Close Encounters of the Sidhe Kind

While officially my blog should be over, I can 'unofficially' drag this material out for another two to three months, but never fear, I promise not to bombard your inboxes with countless clover cliches and travel diatribes any longer. Though I will encourage you to check back occasionally, as I will likely pop up from time to time with another misty-eyed rant about my twisted need for a regular Irish fix. Until then, here's one more little ditty from our travels that Nathan and I'd thought previously to keep between ourselves. Yet it seems you people just can't get enough and since we've had the question put to us more than once, I thought I'd better post the answer here.

The question is: Did we run into any faeries or leprechauns during our visit to Ireland?

The answer is: But of course. Before I continue, let me set a few of you straight about the difference between American and Irish faeries.

The concept of faeries comes to us from ancient Ireland, Britain and parts of Europe. These residents of the Otherworld have long been the subject of countless folk and "fairy" tales. Now, I'm no expert on faeries, but I can say I've encountered one or two in my lifetime and therefore am at least acquainted with the species (if you can call it that) in general. Before you look up the exact area code for calling the mental health division of the Department of State Health Services, I should mention that I don't see the faeries, nor do I physically hear them. However, I do sense them and on occasion communicate with them. So, while that should rule out visual or auditory hallucinations, there's really very little I can say at this point to exclude the possibility of grandiose delusions, fantastical thinking and overall mentally unsound behavior. In that case, please feel free to continue dialing while I expound.

In America, the notion of faeries has unfortunately devolved into the benign, gnat-sized, winged, magical beings we often think of today. I'd like to take this moment to point the finger of blame at Walt Disney. Mr. Disney has warped all our imaginations beyond repair with his sugar-coated, sexist versions of the once dark and complex tales that served the ever useful purpose of keeping children in their beds at night where they were less likely to be eaten alive by any number of unknown, hellish beasts from the other side. If you don't believe me, I give you Tinker Bell, the popular American stereotypical 'fairy' who prances around in an Esther Williams costume and speaks by making a tinkling sound when she shakes her ass. But once upon a time, faeries were highly regarded nature spirits who worked vigilantly behind the scenes, maintaining a primarily peaceful connection between this world and the next. Notice I said "primarily", because faeries weren't all good, neither were they all bad. Whatever they were, they were to be respected, admired and even feared. Anything less might invite the wrath of the Sidhe (Irish term for faeries, pronounced 'shee') and invoke their trickster like -or worse- response.

While we hold to the idea, here in the states, that these beings are purely fictional figments of overactive medieval imaginations, the Irish are far more stringent in their views on the fae. It is very much a part of their culture still to recognize and respect the reality of faeries and they are careful to uphold the traditions that were passed down to them by their ancestors to keep the interference of these nature spirits at bay.

My own run-in with the wee folk of Ireland happened in county Wicklow, at the Glendalough monastic settlement. Having left the initial ruins and cemetery behind to stroll through the enchanted nearby forest, I crossed a little wooden bridge over a bubbling stream. It was freezing wet, a misty rain was falling and we'd been warned not to stray from the paved path for our own safety, but I couldn't resist the faeries' call when it reached me just on the other side of that bridge. Carefully I picked my way down a game trail that ran alongside the stream, almost loosing my footing more than once on the sheet of slick moss that covered everything in sight. Nathan attempted to scold me, but I was already too far ahead by the time he realized I'd left the trail. I clambered over a log or two, ever aware of the leading of my invisible guides. They had something they wanted to show me, just ahead, if I would only continue to follow them. Once or twice I considered turning around, but I couldn't shake the curiosity they'd instilled. All of a sudden I felt the command to stop. I was completely out of sight of the original trail by now but I knew I could get back easy enough. I looked to my right where the stream ran by, sensing their urging to 'look to the water', and I nearly doubled over with laughter when I saw it. There, folded as neatly as if in a closet at Buckingham Palace, was a pair of men's trousers hanging on an out flung branch over the water.

Now, I can't say how those slacks made it there exactly, but I can say that it is damn cold in Ireland in November and nobody is more aware of that than the Irish. It is highly unlikely they were left there when a well meaning Irishman dunked in the stream for an icy swim. They were too far out over the water to be reached or hung from the bank, not without sliding in and getting hypothermia. They were dark and unfaded, so they couldn't have been out there since the summer. However they came to be there, they'd not been there long. But the best part was how they were folded, creased down the middle of each leg, just like my mother taught me. The humor was unmistakable and I, for one, am dead certain that my Irish faery friends were delighted to share this rather jovial prank with someone new. The fae are tricksters after all, even if you believe they are little else.

So there you have it, my encounter with Irish faeries. Of course, I made my way quickly back to find Nate and drag him to see the pants. He cracked up and I dare say he might be willing to believe me from now on when I tell him the faeries are near. Thanks to those pants, I might even manage to avoid the padded cell and straight jacket he's been threatening all these years. Consider yourselves warned though, whoever the three of you may be, there are no Tinker Bell's in Ireland, but there is a gang of invisible nature sprites ready and willing to steal the trousers right off your shanks if you cross 'em! And somewhere, maybe a few meters down the Wicklow Way, is a pantsless man, probably American, wandering in aimless search of his $200 Calvin Klein dress slacks, praying he finds them before the goats do.

1 comment:

  1. I always wanted to visit Ireland and your story above is adding fuel to that fire.
    Following you.
    I am new to blogging and your encouragement would help me a lot.