You’ve heard tell, no doubt, of the big names: the Dagda, Oghma, Nuada, Brighid, the Mórrígan, Airmed, and of course, the bould Lugh who came later. But do you know of the rest of this tribe who landed back in Ireland, and survived the battles that followed? These great and glorious leaders were not alone in their ships that sailed to Ireland’s shores.
What of the unnamed Tuatha?
The stories would have you believe we all went into the Síthe, the ‘fairy mounds’, and became the Aos Sí within, living out our lives side by side to your world, in the place ye call the Otherworld. Aye, and so we did, most of us, for the most part. And so we remain, though there’s fierce few in your world who can see or hear us if we venture forth now. Indeed, there’s even less who Journey between the worlds, to form Coibhneas Cóir (Right Relationship), between our people and yours.
Some of us though, got a true taste for the air and the water and the land of your world. Our own people didn’t like it, this preference we had for being a part of the world that had cast us out, had become hostile with the coming of the sons of Míl. They turned on us in whispered words, changed names... Mac Tíre they called me, son of the land, as I took the form that allowed me flow and hunt and taste and scent and roll in the dirt of your world. They turned their backs on us.
But I was not alone. My mate was with me still, and felt as I did. We’d huddled together for warmth and comfort during the long, long Journey that brought us to this land, and it brought us together as we made our way here. Together we shifted and ran with the wind of your world. At first, we roamed the whole island, exploring and experiencing and falling even deeper into love. After a time though, we settled, in form and in home, on Sliabh an Iarann, where the ships had landed and we had first set foot here. We lived and loved on that mountain, hounded and hunted what we wanted, as is our nature and our way. The Otherworld has nothing to compare to the scent and heady fever of a fresh kill, we felt, and so we took what we found, as we found it. We used to kill everything we used to catch on the mountain, and the people of the district hated and feared us, as is your nature and your way.
Many had tried to kill us through the times we lived there, but sure none had known who or what we truly were, or how to kill us. For no ordinary blade or bullet can take a member of the Aos Sí - there has to be a heart of magic within it in order to do us any harm. And so they failed.
As time went on, we ranged and roamed alone, at times, but if one or the other of us was in need, we would stop where we were and whistle, and find each other. Oh, I did love to hear that whistle on the wind, and know my love had a need I could fulfill. I would race to the place where the whistle was let, and the same for him. Once we heard that sound, there was nothing in this world or the next would stop us from finding each other. They came to know this though, for they would hear us call and see us race, and this became our downfall.
The people of the district sent for a man named Gildea to shoot us dead, for none of them could manage it. Unbeknownst to us, this Gael Gildea spent time watching and waiting, until he was able to get the measure of us. He knew, so he did, that we were not of this world, not truly. This was a problem for him, to be sure, but he seemed like a man who liked to solve problems. And so he did. Knowing enough of the old ways to understand about the heart of the magic, he took a handful of sixpences to the blacksmith above in Arigna, and got them blessed by his magic in the waters of the forge. He named the hounds on the coins for each of us, and though he didn’t know our true names, he knew our nature and named us so. And then he killed the coins: the Blacksmith bent and twisted them to send the spirits they’d been named for on their way… and so it was done, even before it was done.
It was my beautiful mate, Réalt (the name he went by, on account of the pure white star on his forehead), who heard the whistle first that day, and thought it was me who was calling him. Gildea fired at him, waiting til he had crested the ridge and moved down into the valley where the hunter lay in wait. Firing several times from a shotgun with the crooked sixpences loaded in both barrels, Gildea knew he had to hit him on the head between the two eyes on the star of his forehead. At last, Réalt fell dead, in the river which bounds Slievenakilla and Carntulla. The water ran red with his blood from the place where he died, right down to Lough Allen and on down through the River Shannon.
By the time I arrived, Gildea had taken the body back to show the people of the district, and I was left to mourn my love by the banks of the river where he had died. That was enough for me, it marked the end of my time in your world. For the most part. My people took me home, in through the hollow hills and back to the Otherworld, to live a life of loneliness moving across the vast plains of Tír Tairngire.
But that land holds no promise, and I am not their son. Sometimes I still visit Sliabh an Iarann, and whistle with the wind, looking for my lost love. Even though I know he will not come.
This is not the first time the people of the district have interfered with the Fair Folk, wittingly or unwittingly. Nor indeed, is it the first time that the Aos Sí have interfered with us. There are many tales of wonder between the worlds…. But sure, they are all stories for another day.
Story inspired by a piece in the National Schools' Collection:
Once upon a time there were two wolves on the Sliabh an Iarann mountains. The wolves used to kill everything they used to catch on the mountain. The people of the district sent for a man named Gildary (Gildea) to shoot the wolves. When the wolves would hear a whistle they would come to the place where the whistle was let. Gildea went up to the mountain and he started to whistle and one of the wolves came. Gildea fired at him. He had to hit him on the head between the two eyes on the star of his forehead. He had to shoot him with crooked sixpences. He fired several times at the wolf. At last he fell dead in the river which bounds Slievenakilla and Carntulla. The water ran red with his blood from the place where he died down to Lake Allen. After that the other disappeared. The wolf that was shot was much longer than a dog. The people were very glad when the wolf was killed because they could graze their cattle and sheep on the mountain then.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0206, Page 214