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  • The Scholar Who Went with the Fairies October 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    Peter Alderson Smith is an English scholar who in 1987 wrote a really very good book on Irish fairies: W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu. In the middle of the book there is one of these passages where you think: what?!? Beach to help inattentive readers has italicized the relevant clause. Note that the very serious Smith is writing about the fascinating overlap between earth lights and fairies.

    At night, particularly in November, lights often travel along these paths and hover over the sidhe [fairy mounds]. They sometimes move in formation. They may be all white, or they may be of different colours – ‘red, green, blue, yellow.’ A very old gentleman from Collrai, Co. Sligo…. tells me that the lights move rapidly, and I have myself seen white lights moving at high speed up the side of Ben Bulben, a mountain renowned for this phenomenon. These lights have been known in Ireland since antiquity. In ‘The Colloquy with the Ancients’ Bodh Derg refers to Brugh na Boinne as ‘yonder brugh chequered with the many lights hard by you here.’ Such lights are not confined to marshy ground and so cannot be will o’ the wisps. They are genuine phenomena, but no scientific explanation has been found for them.’

    Do you see how Peter tried to slip that fairy sighting unobtrusively into his five star academic book? Ben Bulben is the fabulous mountain at the head of the post: Beach would dearly like, one day, to see fairy lights there. Can anyone help: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    PS W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu might sound to the casual outsider (Beach three weeks ago) like a bit of esotericism about one of the better English-speaking poets of the last two centuries. But the book is rather more than this. The third part is about Yeats, but the first and second parts have wider applications. Part one looks at medieval sources for Irish fairies: part two is concerned with modern Irish fairylore. If you can get it…