Leanan sidhe – a Dangerous “Fairy Woman” of the Otherworld in Irish Mythology

The Leanan sidhe was well-known among the people of Ireland as a beautiful, yet dangerous, “Fairy Woman”. The appearance of the Leanan sidhe caused fear in towns and villages because the young men who were chosen as the lovers of the unearthly temptress were doomed to suffer an untimely death.

The young men of Ireland who were gifted poets, artists, musicians and writers became the sole objects of the Leanan sidhe’s love and attention. They were unaware that the beautiful woman in their midst was a powerful shape-shifter of the Otherworld.

Leanan sidhe means “Fairy Lover” in Gaelic as the strange, supernatural spirit always took the form of an alluring woman. The shape-shifter won the heart of her young lover by magically transforming into the most desirable woman he ever laid eyes on.

According to Irish folklore, the Leanan sidhe belonged to a magical race called the Aos si. 

Aos si means the “people of the barrows” and “people of the mounds”. The Aos si lived beneath the mounds which are scattered around Ireland today. 

They were once venerated in Ireland as the pagan gods and goddesses of the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the “Tribe of the Goddess Danu”. 

The Tuatha Dé Danann were a mystical, superhuman race who ruled over Ireland for thousands of years. The druids and Celtic tribes in Ireland paid homage to the gods and goddesses of the Tuatha Dé Danann during the Iron Age. 

The people of Ireland considered the Tuatha as benign deities of the Otherworld who brought the gifts of healing, fertility, ancient wisdom and life. The gods also taught the Irish skills and crafts which allowed them to prosper.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were banished to their enchanted kingdoms beneath the ground after the Milesians invaded Ireland. The Milesians were the ancestors of the Irish people.

The Leanan sidhe was one the powerful deities who became known in folklore as Fairy Queens, kings, banshees, ganconers and the supernatural creatures of the Otherworld.

 The Fairy Woman often visited the mortal world to find a human lover. The Leanan sidhe wished only to love a young poet or artist so she could bestow on them the gifts of inspiration and creativity. 

Some said the Leanan sidhe yearned to bear a child. She was possibly a being of the Otherworld who found procreation with other members of the Aos si difficult. 

The mysterious spirit of the Otherworld only sought the love of a mortal man. The Fairy Woman was faithful to her young admirers. She came to them in secret and engaged in passionate trysts. 

The young poets, musicians and artists became so infatuated by the Leanan sidhe that they could no longer eat or sleep. Their romance with the Fairy Woman was a torturous existence as they were obsessed with the beautiful maiden who inspired them.

The Leanan sidhe gave her young admirers the spark of inspiration so they could create the greatest works of art, music and literature known to mankind

Some accounts claimed the Leanan sidhe left her lovers as she feared for their well-being. The power of the woman from the Otherworld overwhelmed mortal men and soon drained them of their vitality and strength.

Sadly, the young men’s yearning for the Leanan sidhe was so unbearable that they were driven to madness and eventually death.

Other versions of the folk legend said the life-force of the young men was deliberately drained by the evil Fairy Woman during their brief affair. They suffered terribly when the madness overcame them and death followed soon afterwards.

The cruelty of the Leanan sidhe was such that she carried the souls of her lovers to the unknown lands of the Otherworld.

The most famous Leanan sidhe in Ireland was the Fairy Queen Aine. Aine was venerated in West Munster as a sun-goddess of fertility, love and sovereignty during the Iron Age. 

Aine belonged to the Tuatha Dé Danann and made her home on Cnoc Aine, or “Aine’s Hill”. The sacred hill of Cnoc Aine is known today as Knockainy in County Limerick.

The goddess, Aine, was later transformed into a beautiful Fairy Queen in the folklore of Ireland. 

The Fairy Queen, Aine, was known to be particularly fond of young poets and indulged in many brief affairs with the love-struck men. Some were taken away to her kingdom in the Otherworld, never to be seen or heard of again.

Aine remained the respected guardian of the people of West Munster. The pagan mid-summer rituals dedicated to the goddesses continued on the sacred hill of Cnoc Aine.

Legends of the Leanan sidhe were also found in the folklore of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The Ganconer was the male equivalent of the Leanan sidhe and is narrated in Legends of Love Volume 2 (Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Legends-Love-Celtic-Mythology-2-ebook/dp/B07H4S61VM/ref=sr_1_71?crid=Y1PTLBP5D32P&keywords=celtic+mythology&qid=1567963120&s=gateway&sprefix=celtic+mytho%2Caps%2C311&sr=8-71 ).

The goddess Aine is described in Legends of Love (Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Legends-Celtic-Mythology-Claire-Delaney-ebook/dp/B07FPQM6BX/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=legends+in+celtic+mythology&qid=1567963237&s=gateway&sr=8-7 ).

References

Wikipedia –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leanan_s%C3%ADdhe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aos_S%C3%AD

Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland By Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde –

The Truth about Leannán Sidhe (or Leannán Sí) by Brian O’Sullivan –

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