While we don’t know when the belief in fairies or faeries originally started. There are legends from indigenous peoples whose traditions survived for thousands of years. Originally they were done in song and story, over the years these legends have changed. Each culture has a different take on fairies and a different belief system.
One theory states that fairies are former gods and spirits of wise pagans such as the Druids.
There is a belief that fairies are the descendants of the small, dark Neolithic people who retreated to remote areas away from other people. This was popular in Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and Scandinavia.
One wiccan belief is hierarchy, at the top level are the gods/goddesses, next are angels, fairies and then humans. There is the idea that fairies are jealous of the angels, they are either pranksters or mischief makers because they did not become angels, or they were before and that is why they are not angels.
A lot of fairy tradition and legend has been changed due to religious battles and control. Many goddesses were pulled into the Catholic religion and recreated as Saints, so as to pull in more followers.
As with people becoming saints there are stories of Druidesses or healers who have become known as fairies over the course of time. Or that some of these women were changed into fairies for their life of good deeds.
Some believe that fairies are the spirits of the dead.
Some cultures believe fairies to be spirits of the world around us. They are the spirits of the trees, water, animals, etc. Many people make elemental connections which they believe to be a connection with the fairy realm.
As shown in art fairies take on many different forms throughout history. Some fairies are believed to be shape shifters, using glamour or other magic to change their form. Through art we have seen fairies as human size, similar to humans. They have been tiny beings that we cannot see, or slightly larger so we can see them.
Fairies have taken on animal resemblance, as they are part of the animal world, or spiritual representatives of the animal realm.
Through the elements they take on natural forms that we take for granted. There are those who see them in trees, water, rocks, flowers, fire, ice, etc.
Fairies can take completely different forms, in that of a mermaid, a fairy of the sea.
It is often believed that fairies do not have souls. Whether they live hundreds of years or only days, when they die it is thought they simply cease to exist. They are no longer there and nothing of them remains.
Different Kinds of Fairies
Click here for Fairy Names and their meanings There are many different fairy forms, as shown above, all based on a cultural belief. Here are some of the different kinds of fairies.
Sidhe or Sith
This is the fairy originating in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. The fairies are portrayed as beautiful and noble, either as tall as humans or even more statuesque and resemble humans. They are believed to the of the fallen angel or diminished deity genre, they are unable to return to heaven. The sidhe live in subterranean palaces of gold and crystal. They are bestowed with gifts of the Celtic Otherworld, joy, beauty, youth and music abilities.
The Daoine Sidhe
The people of the Mother Goddess Dana of Ireland was the most famous fairy court. They were credited with building the megalith’s of Ireland which are seen as gateways to the world of fairy. They were famous for their music.
The Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court
In Scotland the Seelie or Blessed Court represented air spirits who would ride the winds and oversee mortal affairs, they would offer help when needed. They also lived in underground palaces of gold and crystal. The Unseelie Court were the unblessed dead for those who were cast out of the Seelie Court. They were often blamed for disasters in the mortal world, they would often kidnap less desirable humans to increase their numbers.
This is usually the name given to tribes of fairy beings in the Celtic lands who fall under their own rule. During fairy festivals they come together with other tribes to celebrate. In non-Celtic lands they are any fairies who live in groups, often associated with fairy rings, green hillsides, woodland, meadows and fairy paths. They are described as elf-like and trickster behavior.
The Elven Kingdom
The Elven kings and queens of Viking and Germanic tradition possessed magical and prophetic ability. They are made up of light and dark elves.
Pixies are the most famous of the trooping fairies. They are no larger then the human hand, but are shape-shifters and can increase or decrease their size. They have pointed noses, pointed ears, translucent wings, and large heads. They were tricksters and would often cause humans to get lost or lead them around in circles. They also had midwifery skills and herbal knowledge, they were famed for their work in gold, silver and bronze. Where ever the pixies go they leave a trail of dust and sparkles.
They dwell in mountains in Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia. They are legendary for their mining and metalwork skills. They could be turned to stone by any sunlight, so they only came out at night. They worked underground to avoid exposure to the sun.
Some fairies live alone, they may be avoiding human contact or they may have been banished from the fairy court.
Household fairies are attached to a certain family, not the dwelling. They are usually solitary fairies, they will gaurd the children, pets and hearth. They will also help with household chores.
Brownies are the most famous of the household fairies in Scotland and England. While they prefer to work outdoors they will complete unfinished tasks by mortals. They are good at building with wood, baking bread, and repairing broken tools. They also bring good fortune when they adopt a home.