Arcadia Bloodmoon

Lhiannan Shee

 

By Renee Begley      Copyright ©2008

 

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Among the many night creatures of the Isle of Man is the Lhiannan Shee or “Fairy Lover” but in this version also assumed to be a vampire. This particular fairy has many counterparts depending on whether it is Ireland, Scotland, Wales, etc.  Like all fairies of Celtic lore this one is also part of the fairy race of the Tuatha De Danaan.

 

The Manxs (written Manks in this account) fairy creed is again the same. Similar beings are supposed to exist, and are known by the name of Ferish, which a Manxman assured me was a genuine Manx word.  If so, fairy may be old Celtic, and derived from the same root as Fen, instead of being derived from it. The fairies in the Isle of Man are believed to be spirits. They are not supposed to throw arrows as they are said still to do in the Highlands. None of the old peasants seemed to take the least interest in "elf shots," the flint arrows, which generally lead to a story when shown elsewhere. One old man said,. "the ferish have no body, no bones," and scorned the arrow heads. It is stated in Train's History that there are no flint.--arrow heads in the Isle of Man; but as there are numerous barrons, flint weapons may yet be discovered when some one looks for them.  Still these Manx fairies are much the same as their neighbors on the main land. They go into mills at night and grind stolen corn; they steal milk from the cattle; they live in green mounds; in short, they are like little mortals invested with supernatural power." (Isle of Man)

As far as origins, William Cashen states in his book on Manx folklore that the Manx people believed the fairy were fallen angels.  When Satan was expelled from heaven, so were the angels they now refer to as fairy folk who were later called  “Themselves” in English, but in Manx they were called "Cloan ny moyrn".  This translates to mean “The Children of the pride or ambition”.  Here it is reiterated in this discussion about Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.

 

They also believed that when they were driven out of heaven they fell in equal proportions on the earth and the sea and the air, and that they are to remain there until the judgment. They also said that they fell as thick as a shower of hail, and that they continued to fall for the space of three days and three nights. Whether they took their idea from Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' or whether Milton himself took his idea from the Manx people, certain it is that the Manx people believed that before "Paradise Lost" was translated into Manx. The prayer they used when walking in the night-time was "Saue Jee mee voish Cloan ny moyrn," God save me from the Children of the pride. (Isle of Man Chapter II)

 

Very often the term succubus comes to mind but this is a very different creature and the Lhiannan Shee is not a succubus and is probably much older in folklore than the succubus/incubus legends.  The word succubus is derived from Latin; sub and cubare meaning “to lie under” and not from any form of Gaelic.  The succubus comes to seduce males during their dreams.  She is considered a female demon and not a fairy.  It has been inferred that Lilith was Adam’s first wife in Judaic documents. This specifically was  Midrash and in the Talmud to explain two verses that conflict on the origin of Adam’s first wife. So what is Midrash?  It is as follows: “Any of a group of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures compiled between a.d. 400 and 1200 and based on exegesis, parable, and haggadic legend.”(Yahoo Education)  The Rabbi’s chose the Lilith explanation deriving the tale from much older commentaries and cultures and she became known as a demon besides later also being called a succubus.  The idea of a succubus comes from the medieval period and is described very specifically in the Malleus Maleficarum in the late 1400s. 

 

William Michael Mott has stated the following about the Lhiannan Shee:

 

Who or what might come to men and women in the dead of night, for purposes of seduction and genetic exchange? The classical lamia is the same as the succubus, whose male counterpart is the incubus. To the Irish, the female of this species or type was called Leanan-Sidhe (lan-awn-shee), and on the Isle of Man, she was Lhiannon-Shee. Both variants sought the genetic influx of a human male, and in exchange gave him fame, creative inspiration, or other abilities (much like the ancient Greek Muses). Invariably, such a relationship would end with the premature death or 'wasting away–' sometimes attributed to vampirism–of the man. The Manx minx also had a close association with deep wells, from which she would emerge from her underworld home in order to seduce a lover, or enter into an agreement with him  (Demonseed III)

 

 

It is believed that the succubus collects semen from the men she has seduced and gives it to the incubus who then impregnates sleeping women with this semen and creates children prone to demonic direction.  This is nothing remotely connected to Celtic folklore and is separate and unique to another culture.

 

The appearance of succubi varies, but in general they are depicted as alluring women with great beauty, often with demonic batlike wings, and large breasts; they also have other demonic features, such as horns and cloven feet. Occasionally they appear as an attractive woman in dreams that the victim cannot seem to get off his mind. They lure males and in some cases, the male has seemed to fall "in love" with her. Even out of the dream she will not leave his mind. She will remain there slowly draining energy from him until death by exhaustion. Other sources say the demon will steal the male's soul through the act of intercourse. (Wikipedia.org)

 

The “Online Entymological Dictionary” references the first mention of creatures of any type relating to the word succubus to be the male version and that was the following:

 

c.1205, from L.L. (Augustine), from L. incubo "nightmare, one who lies down on (the sleeper)," from incubare "to lie upon" (see incubate). Plural is incubi. In the Middle Ages, their existence was recognized by law.

 

As for the succubus that came a little later:

 

c.1290, "an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with a feeling of suffocation," compounded from night + mare "goblin that causes nightmares, incubus," from O.E. mare "incubus," from mera, mære, from P.Gmc. *maron "goblin," from PIE *mora- "incubus," from base *mer- "to rub away, harm, seize" (cf. first element in O.Ir. Morrigain "demoness of the corpses," lit. "queen of the nightmare," also Bulg., Serb., Pol. mora "incubus;" Fr. cauchemar, with first element is from O.Fr. caucher "to trample"). Meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of "any bad dream" first recorded 1829; that of "very distressing experience" is from 1831.

 

succubus :

1387, alteration (after incubus) of L.L. succuba "strumpet," applied to a fiend in female form having intercourse with men in their sleep, from succubare "to lie under," from sub- "under" + cubare "to lie down"

 

Essentially in the 21st Century this idea of either of these creatures has been now referred to as connected to sleep paralysis and night terrors.

 

As far as a vampire that is a later identification along with demon which was from an era where everything that was not understood became evil and demonic.  The Sidhe or Shee were not any of these things.  They were part of the Tuatha De Danaan and merely went by various names and characteristics depending on where they were known to inhabit.  Sometimes the species varied whether in Ireland, Scotland, or Isle of Man.  Even though the human male found them irresistible there was an exchange, his lifeforce for her tutelage and inspiration.  It wasn’t just taking the person’s life for the sheer purpose of doing so.  It was the nature of this fairy to aid but in so doing for some reason the person receiving their inspiration was more or less “burned out” like a candle.  This may not have been malicious but just what happened to those in close proximity with this type of creature.

 

Like most fairies of the Celts her name has many spellings depending on the locations it can be found and the type of Gaelic. To the Irish she is the Leanan Sidhe (lan-awn-shee), and on the Isle of Man she is Lhiannan Shee (lannan shee) sometimes spelled lhiannon shee, leannan shee, lannan shee, lannanshee, leanan sidhe, leanhaun shee, lianhan shee and in Old Irish lennan side. The Lhiannan Shee is said to reside  under the Irish sea off the eastern coast of Ireland, and roams the Isle of Man at night seeking a lonely young man to bring him inspiration but it is in this capacity she is said to be a vampire because she is considered by most authorities to be a dark fairy, which in Scotland would be termed “unseelie.”

 

Even though the Leanan Sidhe is often quoted as meaning "the Fairy Mistress" or the “Fairy Sweetheart” she is more like a muse in character. Fairies do not like to be noticed.  They stay in the shadows but when a man notices the Lhiannan Shee he is irresistibly bound to her.  If he can resist her allure she is his slave forever. 

 

This Irish counter-part is noted for giving the gift of poetry, art or music to a man, and later living off of his life force.  The longer he is her lover the weaker he gets as his life force dwindles. Upon her paramours death she leaves.  On the other hand when she walks on the Isle of Man she is said to drink the blood of her lover until over time she has nothing but a lifeless body left behind.  This has only been stated in certain writings because no matter what version, the creature is spoken about most often it is quoted as being life force rather than blood. The Lhiannan Shee were enchantresses and after a man had been in their arms no matter how beautiful a mortal woman might seem they had eyes only for this “fairy mistress”. 

 

The Lhiannan Shee is known to haunt springs and wells and even though spoken of in folklore as a concrete being she is said to be irresistible to whomever she has chosen or who happened to notice her and invisible to everyone else.

 

Traveling through towns and villages during the night, she looks for romantic young men on whose door she would knock. When the door was opened she would take the man into her embrace, inspiring him with her poetry and music, and bringing about his fame. (Isle of Man)

 

There are tales of men being heard talking to the Lhiannon Shee but upon being approached they become silent and no one else but the man can be seen. Generally there are conditions to these liaisons and if the man breaks them the Lhiannon Shee may then leave.  A man being abandoned by one of these creatures will pine away and die with no human counter part able to salve their grief.  Taking the life force over time from the man until he finally died was assumed to be what kept the Lhiannan Shee eternally young and beautiful.  Aside from this most of these beautiful women whether spoken of as cloven hoofed, or with long fingernails, they generally have very long blond hair and wear green clothing, a cloak or gown.  Green is the color of the fairy.

 

Supposedly most well known poets out of these areas are said to have had a Leanan Sidhe. W. B. Yeats speaks of them as being dark and sinister but it sounds very like the Daimon spoken of in Greek folklore that gave inspiration and guidance to such notables as Socrates. 

 

"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."

--W.B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland. (Mary Jones)

 

There are other documentations which clearly give the impression that the idea of the Lhiannan Shee being a vampire is a modern day invention. In fact, rather than blood or life force in some sources it is stated she takes the soul.  It depends on who is relating the story it would seem but in most cases all forms of this fairy have been referred to as drawing out the life force rather than anything else.

The Lhiannan-Shee was a Spirit-Friend. It was believed that if she got near enough to a man to breathe his breath or to lay her hand on him he would be in her power until death. I have heard a man relate that he once saw the lhiannan-shee. He was in the mountain pulling ling when he saw coming towards him a beautiful woman clad in golden-yellow silk. The man jumped into his cart, whipped his horse and fled for his life. He turned his head to see if she was following him, but she was standing stock-still in the ling wringing her hands. (Isle of Man)

Another fact that is often forgotten is that most in the more modern accounts of the Lhiannan Shee refer to her as very dark giving the idea of dark in nature but also in coloring. In all actuality, in most cases throughout the Isles most of these predatory female fairies are blond, such as the case of the Baohban Shee.

According to legend King Magnus of Norway also an overlord of the Isle of Man brought a cup from the shrine of St. Olaf to the Isle of Man.  Taking the cup was considered a crime and to satisfy the Church it was given back to the Church. The Fletcher family from Lancashire came into possession of the cup.  The family held official positions on the Isle of Man and soon bought the Kirby estate. The Bishops of Sodor and Man traveled to and from the Isle and it was on the contingency the cup was held for their use and entertainment that the Fletchers were allowed to keep it on their estate.  When the Fletcher’s took over the estate they changed the name of it according to Manx custom to Ballafletcher meaning Fletcher’s farm and this was how the cup later became known as the Ballafletcher cup. The Lhiannon Shee promised to bestow “peace and plenty” to the Fletchers as long as the cup remained unbroken. When the Fletchers died there was an estate sale and one Robert Caear of Ballahick who was a distant relative purchased the cup and subsequently gave it to his niece, Mrs. Bacon who was a Caear prior to marriage.  The cup remained in the possession of the Bacon family for generations and was never touched except at Christmas and Easter when it was filled and they drank to the health of the Lhiannan Shee. The cup is now on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas.

 

There have always been “tales of faery (fairy) sightings reported off the coast of Ireland, they have been heard singing on The Isle of Man even in recent times.” (Fairy Oracle)

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

Albans Mystic Circle, Leanan Sidhe

http://groups.msn.com/AlbanysMysticCircle/fairylore.msnw

 

Fairy Oracle, Leanan sidhe

http://www.freewebs.com/fairyoracle/leanansidhe.htm

 

Demonseed III, Lhiannon shee

http://home.earthlink.net/~mottimorph/Demonseed.html

 

Isle of Man, William Cashen’s Manx Folk-Lore, 1912

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/wc1912/index.htm

 

Mary Jones, Jones Celtic Encyclopedia: Leannan sidhe, 2004

http://www.maryjones.us/jce/leanansidhe.html

 

Gypsy Scholarship, Poetry break: succubus

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2006/03/poetry-break-succubus.html

 

Wikipedia, Succubus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succubus

 

Wild Muse, Leanan Sidhe

http://www.wildmuse.net/faerie/muses/leanan.html

 

Yahoo Education, Definition of Midrash

http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/Midra