Faery folklore is woven into the social fabric of rural west Donegal with wondrous tales of magic handed down from generation to generation.
For many Donegal people, superstition harking back to Pagan days and their more modern Catholic upbringing often fuse together. They may be reluctant to admit their beliefs but as one native Donegal friend said to me when asked if she believed in faeries, “I can’t say I don’t.”
As these beliefs are so ingrained in everyday life, including children and adult literature, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ is proud to announce an intriguing element of this summer’s week-long event will focus on this enchanting aspect of Irish folklore, with authors in the genre speaking about the phenomenon and their own experiences.
The term ‘faery’ applies to specific magical creatures with human appearance, small stature, magical powers, and a penchant for trickery and mischief. A faery is a type of mythical being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural.
The Celtic Revival in the 19th and 20th centuries, which sparked renewed interest in Irish culture, established faeries as an important part of Ireland’s cultural heritage. Leading writers including Nobel Prize winning poet, William Butler Yeats, even highlighted them in verse -
‘Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, For I would ride with you upon the wind, Run on the top of the dishevelled tide, And dance upon the mountains like a flame.’
Faery has at times been used as an adjective, with a meaning equivalent to ‘enchanted’ and was a common feature of Renaissance literature and Romantic art.
As to where these elusive ‘little people’ live, that is a question that has tantalised academic and social investigators for many years.
Some say 'faery forts' or ‘ring-forts,' earthen dwellings that date back to ancient times, with circular markings on the land all that is left of the original sites. Hundreds of such sites exist around Ireland. People believe the locations contain the magic of ancient druids, and that even to interfere with whatever grows there could result in bad luck, even death.
Some of the forts are distinct, with raised ditches, their ancient markings still remarkably clear.
One intriguing spot associated with the faeries of west Donegal lies in the legendary Poisoned Glen, a place closely associated with a momentous battle between Lugh, the ancient Celtic Sun God, and Balor of the Evil Eye. Here, beside a quietly flowing stream, stands a faery tree, a hawthorn, often draped with mementoes from people either offering thanks, or asking for favors of the faeries.
Participants at the June writing retreat are set to learn more about these mystical, mysterious creatures and their enduring influence on Irish writing.
Inspired by folklore in her local area of Donegal, former social worker, Margaret Gordon, will speak to participants at this summer’s writing retreat about her book entitled ‘The Fairies of Drumboe Woods,’ a precious tale of mystery and magic. Her main character, Grace, an inquisitive child, sets out to investigate the strange appearance of fairy doors in her local woodland of Drumboe, a place that actually exists. Her book is primarily a mystery to be solved.
Award-winning journalist, dramatist and illustrator, Colm Ferriter, will talk about his book, simply entitled ‘ö,’ filled with fantasy and fun to fire the imagination. It’s a heady mix of comedy and horror. Participants at this summer’s writing retreat will have the opportunity to meet Colm in person and ask how he came up with a whacky idea about three witches and a vampire leaving Transylvania and moving to Donegal.
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