Journey Into the Otherworld…
Music, fairies, folklore and food
The mystical otherworld of magical fairies and heroes has not been forgotten by the Irish. Enchanting fairy legends of lore and valor were the highlight of a hard day’s work on the land, often around a fire with music and fare. These legends served as a source of reason to the things our ancient peoples could not explain. So, it seemed logical to me, that if I was going to learn about Irish fairy legends, I had better find a knowledgeable Irish fairy storyteller, authentic Irish food, and live Irish folk music in an intimate setting. That’s when I discovered Irish Folk Tours at the Brazen Head in Dublin hosting evenings of food, folklore, and fairies. It was just what I was looking for.
The Fairytale Traveler’s Tale:
It was raining in Dublin that afternoon which, is typical of an October in Ireland. “Yup, have a good one now, watch out for the Trinners!” Said the cabby, as I dashed across the street to the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub. The walls were thick, adorned with antiquated Irish trinkets and things. For the most part, I couldn’t see much of the actual walls at all. They gave off that ‘come on in, get cozy, and have a pint’ feel. The Brazen Head is the poster pub for “pub-feel”.
I made my way through its cultured halls and up the stairs to the Irish Folk Tours dining room. Several tables glimmered with candlelight and illuminated the vintage Irish decor that welcomed me to a room of about 30 people. It was intimate and warm and whispered the thousand welcomes the Irish are so famous for.
I looked over the offerings and chose the Guinness Stew. Seemed fitting, as I had been drinking the ‘black stuff’ for a few days at that point. Just then our storyteller, Philip Byrne began his introduction of how Irish people lived their lives hundreds of years ago. We were fascinated as he told us about the food, the famine, and why the Irish emigrated all over the world. This really gave me a sense of how important Irish legends were to these people and an appreciation for their preservation. They believed wholeheartedly in the otherworld, enchanted by it, and fearful of it at the same time. I also began to understand why the Irish are so hospitable, perhaps more than any other culture I have ever experienced.
Just as the sun had set in Ireland, Philip began his storytelling of Irish Fairy Tales, I was immediately spellbound by his delivery.
Celts worshiped the sun – in this country you needed a lot of faith to do that! When it set, it went to another world – ‘The Underworld’ – night here was day there. Gods, deities and ancestors of the dead lived here. Pretty cool place to live – nobody got old, nobody got sick. It was their version of heaven.”
-Philip Byrne, Irish Folk Tours Storyteller
This fairy world existed in tales all over Europe for hundreds of years until the Roman Empire stepped in to replace these divine beliefs with Christian ones. It was difficult to reach places like Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia, so the belief of fairy tales and the otherworld existed much longer.
Philip told us all about the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann and their magical powers, how the Church transcribed these legends, and tailored them to their own new teachings. This is where the ‘fairy’ came from. It was taught by the Church that they were banished into the Underworld where they had less power. Eventually, the fairies were made into ‘fallen angels’ and an all-out fight between God and Satan unveiled.
The evening continued as we learned about the Trooping Fairies (who live in fairy forts and kept to themselves, partying away in the underworld), and the Solitary Fairies (the Leprechaun, Banshee and the Pooka). Stories of ancient civilizations and their tales of good versus evil filled the room as we enjoyed our meals. I was enchanted, captivated by these Irish fairy legends. Hopeful that these magical tales that have inspired so many would continue to find their way into the world beyond the land of luck.
Ireland is one of the greatest places to explore the stories of our ancient peoples. It was these fairy legends that helped these people sort the unexplained. It gave them hope, boundaries for respect, and a bit of social order. As the music played I sat back, charmed, fascinated, and a bit more cautious than I was when I arrived. I had a whole new understanding of the fairy world. With a belly full of Guinness stew it was time for me to trek on to my next adventure. As I walked down the street to hail a cab I thought to myself,
Don’t piss off the fairies!”
Christa Thompson is the creator of The Fairytale Traveler, a destination leading travel resource of all places related to folklore, legend, and mythology. She’s exploring everything from castles to headstones, from the forests to the seas, and places where legends of monsters and princesses hundreds of years past are still told. You can follow her adventures on
www.thefairytaletraveler.com and like her fan page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thefairytaletraveler