“Clothed in Light:” Sidhe Sightings

"Clothed in Light:" Sidhe Sightings: "The room filled with luminous, striped figures." The Sorcery Club, Elliott O'Donnell.

Clothed in Light: “The room filled with luminous, striped figures.” The Sorcery Club, Elliott O’Donnell.

I just can’t seem to escape from spook light stories, which follow me everywhere, bumping gently against the ceiling, daring me to touch them so they can explode in a shower of blue sparks. Today, however, we find the spook lights taking a very different turn–into the creatures of fairyland.

Now we can blame the Victorian era for a charm offensive against the Gentry. Instead of the majestic and terrible Sidhe, the world of fairy diminished into dewdrop-crowned nature spirits, whimsical elves, and pretty little creatures in tutus of rainbow tulle. Quite the reverse of Gentrification. Yet even late in the Celtic Twilight, mortals found themselves confronted by the luminous Tuatha Dé Danann.

In Ireland there are all sorts and conditions of supernatural entities, ghosts, fairies, banshees, pixies, and the Sidhe. The latter are described as a race of majestic mien and marvellous beauty, human in form, but divine in nature. They resemble the “gods” of the ancient Greeks, and the “angels” of the Hebrews. The educated Irish seers say that these highest faery races which still inhabit Erin are the “Immortals ” known to the ancient philosophers of Ireland as the Tuatha De Danann. They are blessed with everlasting youth and beauty. A well- known Irish artist has many drawings and paintings in oil of these Sidhe people as he has seen them in various parts of Ireland.

A Mr. D—–, an Oxford graduate and a native Irishman of County Kerry, who is a natural seer, states that shortly before Christmas, 1911, he and a friend were riding home from Limerick one dark night, when near Listowel they noticed a light some distance ahead. At first they thought it was a light in a window, but as they came nearer they noticed that it was moving up and down, and to and fro, and constantly changing in size. Suddenly another light appeared about twenty yards from the first one, and joined it, the two fights moving along side by side. These fights expanded into luminous flames about six feet high and four feet broad, and in each they saw distinctly appear a radiant being having a human form. Their bodies were formed of a pure brilliant light, white like the radiance of the sun, and much brighter than the yellow aura surrounding them. So dazzling was the “glory” emanating from them, that the seers were unable to distinguish their faces, though their heads were clearly outlined, because the radiance seemed to concentrate chiefly on the head of each.

As they rode along, a house intervened between them and the strange apparitions, and they saw no more of them. They were too astounded to stop and investigate, but rode home as quickly as their horses would go. Mr. D—–‘s brother, a doctor, who was very sceptical about such matters, later saw near his house at Listowel similar lights containing spiritual beings, and was obliged to believe the evidence of his senses….

An Irish mystic, who is a seer, states that the whole west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Kerry is charged with magical power, and he finds it easiest to “see” when he is there, especially while close to ancient monuments like New Grange and Dowth, which he considers are naturally charged with psychic force, and were for that reason made use of in olden times as sacred places. In speaking of the Sidhe, (or “shining beings ” as he calls them) he relates his first experience. It was a warm calm evening in June, and he was alone on a hillside in County Sligo, lying on the grass beneath some firs listening to mysterious strains of music, and what seemed to be the sound of bells, and wondering what could cause it, as there were no human beings within miles, when suddenly the dusky fir copse grew luminous, and looking round to ascertain the cause, he saw several beings of stately appearance, clothed in light, pass through the wood. Their bodies were apparently formed of opalescent air, and throughout each ran a radiant electrical fire to which the heart seemed the centre. Around their heads, and through their waving hair, which was blown about their shoulders like living strands of gold, there appeared shining wing-like auras. They passed further into the wood and were lost to view. The effect of this vision on him was a feeling of extraordinary joyousness.

In the Biblical records we read of spiritual beings appearing in robes of dazzling light; and others very much like human beings of a superior order, who ate and drank and conversed with mortals. Such apparitions were not considered very extraordinary, but were taken as a matter of course. In modern times the appearance of spiritual beings would not be believed by the mass of mankind, and such accounts would be treated generally with extreme scepticism and ridicule. The gates of Fairyland are open to poets, mystics and children, and those whose finer senses and insight have not been dulled by the sophistry of the world. To become as a little child, said the Master, was one of the ways to the kingdom of heaven. Tennyson used to say what a blessing it was that the belief in fairies still existed— at any rate for the sake of the children. It is said that when Christianity came to Ireland the people had no definite idea of heaven. Previously, their doctrines of the other world were vague. But the older ideas of the spirit world remained side by side with the Christian ones, and thus the fairy world was evolved.

The Occult Review, February 1917

There are a fair number of stories of spook lights where faces or luminous figures appear in or emerge from balls of light. In one of my previous posts, the rainbow-colored orbs turned into deceased relatives. In the second of the accounts above, we also find our old friend, fairy music.

In a completely random observation, could stories of these tall and terrible entities have inspired some of the stories of the Angels of Mons? Or did they simply inspire Arthur Machen, who, after all, wrote The White People?

Listowel was also the site of that classic story “The Midwife of Listowel,” in which the midwife is called to deliver a fairy baby and is given a vial of fairy ointment to rub in the child’s eyes. She is warned not to put it in her own eyes, but does and thereafter can see the fairies who are invisible to the rest of the world. Naturally things end badly…

Other late sightings of the Tuatha Dé Danann? And who is the well-known Irish artist who painted them? Dazzle me at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.