Fae, Spirits and Elementals…oh my!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreetings, dear readers, this is my first post of 2014 and what better way than to start the new year than to jot down my thoughts on the Fae, Spirits and Elementals. I think I’ve probably written something about this topic before but for the life of me cannot remember, so bear with me. Of course there are many ideas about these three groups and I’m going to paint a broad picture of how they sit in my own belief system and from my own experiences with them. of course many of you know that I follow a shamanic path so perhaps my thoughts may be a bit different to your own but each person’s experience is individual and I truly believe there are no right or wrong experiences….they are what they are. So let’s kick off with The Fae (or faeries/fairies).

Who are the Fae?

First of all I’d like to clear one thing out of the way first. I do not hold with the idea that the Fae are tiny winged creatures. This is a Victorian notion and actually does the Fae a great injustice. The Fae are actually what is known as the Tuatha de Danann (pronounced Tootha de Danarn), or Children of Danu. Now, Danu is the ancient Celtic great mother goddess and is not tied solely to Ireland. In fact she is a pan-Celtic goddess appearing in many places. For example, she is equated with the Welsh Goddess Don, and in the Rig-Veda she appears with the same name Danu. The River Danube is actually named after her too.  However, in Ireland she appears as Danu, and her progeny were known as the Children of Danu or Tuatha de Danann who were the fifth group of people to settle Ireland having wrested it from the Fir Bolg (According to a theory proposed by O’Rahilly: the Fir Bolg are linked to the historical Belgae tribe, known from Gaul and Britain, and to the historical Builg of Munster). The Tuatha were highly skilled in magic and working silver and had four magical treasures – The Dagda’s cauldron, the spear of Lugh, the stone of Fal and the sword of Light. However, eventually the Tuatha were defeated by the Milesians and unfortunately they were banished underground to the Sidhe (prounounced Shee) mounds, or hollow hills. Here they diminished and over time became what we now refer to as fairies/faeries/The Fae. Nevertheless, it is important to note the word *diminished* here. This word can be used to describe being reduced in size, or in power. If you’ve watched the film Lord of the Rings you might remember the elf Galadriel saying “we will diminish and go into the West”. She did not mean reduce in size but reduce in power – the elves time in Middle Earth was over. So too with the Tuatha, whose time of rule was now over. So the Children of Danu now reside in the Otherworld, and are often referred to as the Sidhe, or the Fae.

Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan

Riders of the Sidhe by John Duncan

All that is…is Alive

Now we come on to Nature Spirits – those spirits/entities that inhabit the natural world. In Greek mythology they are often called dryads, dyads and nymphs. However, in my view this is restrictive. Through following a shamanic path I’ve learnt that nature spirits abound EVERYWHERE and are not necessarily tied to a certain place (although they can be). Every plant, tree, lichen, moss, crystal, rock and pebble is a nature spirit, every river and stream, every volcano and marsh is one and contains many of them. Even that pot of mint or rosemary growing in your kitchen is a nature spirit; and for those of you who collect crystals, just think how many nature spirits you have in your house. Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, some nature spirits are connected with a particular place. In fact it’s impossible to quantify nature spirits because they are literally everywhere – as we shamans are fond of saying…all that is…is alive!

The Forest of Dean Gloucestershire

The Forest of Dean Gloucestershire

It’s all Elemental my dear Watson

Finally we come to the Elementals. Now my view of them is slightly different from that of Wicca, which sees elementals as the guardians of the elements air, fire, water and earth. In Wicca the elementals of air are known as Sylphs, those of fire are Salamanders, those of water are Undines and those of earth are known as Gnomes. Instead I rather see elementals AS elements themselves and closely tied to weather patterns, air streams, ocean currents and so forth. Moreover, elementals never work solitarily but always in connection with other elementals. for example clouds are air and water, water always helps earth, volcanoes are earth and fire, fire always has the help of air, water spouts are air and water. Although some weather patterns such as tornadoes can be pure air, earthquakes are pure earth but you’ll usually find one elemental working closely with another one. I like to see elementals as the great movers and shakers of life and they are extremely powerful as us humans know only too well.

The great elementals

The great elementals



O’Rahilly, T. F. (1946) Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Ellis, Peter Berresford (2002) The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends


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