Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leanan Sidh

Leanan Sidh (pronounced "lee-an-an-she"), also spelled Leanhaun Shee, Liannan Shith and Lhiannan She, is a vampiric fairy-muse in the folklore of many Celtic countries. Leanan Sidhe means fairy sweetheart or fairy lover, and as such she is the female equivalent of the Glanconer (love talker).

Appearance: To her chosen mortal lover and victim, Leanan Sidhe appears as a beautiful and seductive otherworldly woman. Only the victims of Leanan Sidhe can see her as she uses her powers to appear invisible to everyone else.

Lore: Leanan Sidhe is a powerful muse, seeking out young passionate men with gifts in the arts. She uses her fairy magic called glamour to seduce and inspire the poor lad to achieve greatness and fame in the mortal word, but alas, her gifts come at such great cost. In exchange for fame and artistic inspiration, Leanan Sidhe drains the lifeforce of the unfortunate young man. Leanan Sidhe is often suggested as the reason behind why so many of "the greats" die young.

Powers: As a fairy, Leanan Sidhe possess the power of glamour, which is an ability to alter human perception to make something appear more desirable that it actually is. Leanan Sidhe can also use her abilities to travel invisibly among humans.

Defense Against Leanan Sidhe: Leanan Sidhe, like all fairies, fear iron objects and salt. There are herbs, such as daisies and forget-me-nots, and even woods, such as ash, that repel fairies which can be placed on the victim, above the victim's door and around the house to protect the victim from the vampiric embrace of the Leanan Sidhe.

Leanan Sidhe In Culture: William Butler Yeats documented the Leanan Sidhe in his work, Fairy And Folktales Of Ireland;

"Most of the Gaelic poets, down to quite recent times, have had a Leanhaun Shee, for she gives inspiration to her slaves and is indeed the Gaelic muse -- this malignant fairy. Her lovers, the Gaelic poets, died young. She grew restless and carried them away to other worlds, for death does not destroy her power."

The poem, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, best sums up the dangers of Leanan Sidhe and of the fairy-folk in general.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats, 1819.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
'I love thee true'.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!'

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.



Painter, John William Waterhouse was inspired by the poem to create this masterpiece which you can view HERE.

Painter Frank Cadogan Cowper also produced a painting inspired from the poem which you can view HERE.

Sir Frank Dicksee painted his version, and my favorite rendition, which you can view HERE.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Perhaps the Leanan Sidhe is, in fact, real. But rather than being a vampiric parasite, she may be instead a personification of the pain and suffering poets have endured down the centuries. To think of it, if you were neglected, you would be left in a cycle of negative thoughts, and if you have a vivid imagination, and if you were living in a time whereas monsters and demons were believed to exist, you would, indeed think you were cursed in some way.

Of course, this is only theory, I'm open to other people's interpretation.

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