Fairy Lore

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  • Teideal (Title): Fairy Lore.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781516.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture/demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A student asks Joe, ‘How many different kinds of spirits are there in Irish tradition?’ Joe explains that there are both good and bad fairies: The púca, somebody with only one eye and one ear – the fairies hate the púca. Then there’s the evil spirit, which comes in the form of the devil, with the cloven hoof. Then there’s the taibhse – someone who dies and comes back from the dead. The síóg can be either male or female, is related to the bean-sí. The bean-sí was the woman who cried over all the people who died that belonged to her when she was on earth, whenever that may be. And there’s only some families that the bean-sí.

Death customs

When somebody died, the keening women would come to the wake and cry over that particular person, maybe not someone of their own, but they were crying over their own as well as the one who had just died. When the corpse was taken to the graveyard the keening women would go to the graveyard and keen over their own graves as well. At one time, the corpse would lie in the house for three days and nights, and no one would do any manual work at that time; nowadays, the corpse is taken to the church on the second night, and money changes hands (is given to the priest), and keening doesn’t happen any longer.


This was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.