They go under seas, they go in wolf-shapes, and they go to fools and they go to the powerful. Thence comes it that this is the nature of all of them, to be followers of the devil.¹
And so begins the mystery behind the Túatha Dé Danann, the ‘People of the Gods of Danand’, a supernatural race, some of whom personified the Celtic pantheon in Irish mythology. While in university studying graphic design I had an idea to flex my illustration muscles and come up with a concept for a short story which I could illustrate. Growing up in Ireland, I read and heard stories about Irish mythology but couldn’t quite recall the key figures, was fuzzy on the legends they created, unsure of the mythological cycles they belonged to.
A wander into a second-hand book shop led me to an interesting find hidden deep in the children’s books section. For €5 I bought The Leprechaun’s Kingdom² edited by Peter Haining. First printed in 1979, this children’s fairy-tale hardback was crammed full of black and white illustrations from various folklore printed in the 19th and 20th century.
A closer look revealed the artists of these illustrations; George Maclise, J.B. Yeats, James Torrance, John D. Batten, Arthur Rackham and Gustave Doré to name but a few. These beautifully detailed illustrations that accompanied short stories from Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland³ (1828), Ancient Legends of Ireland⁴ (1888), Irish Folk and Fairy Tales⁵ (1893), More Celtic Fairy Tales⁶ (1894) and Irish Fairy Tales⁷ (1920).
The usual species of Sídh folk were there; the ‘Leprechaun‘, the ‘Banshee‘, the ‘Pouka‘. The more unusual one’s that I’d never heard of, included ‘Changelings’, the ‘Far Darrig‘, the ‘Gruagach‘, the ‘Dullahan‘ and the ‘Cluricaune‘. The introduction stated boldly:
Beyond all doubt, surely, Ireland is a place of the fantastic, and indeed its storytellers have celebrated the fact for two thousand years and more in oral traditions and folk stories which have been handed down lovingly with hardly a line changed.
I felt a little ashamed that my knowledge of these folk stories didn’t quite hold with Peter Haining’s enthusiasm of a widely adopted Irish oral tradition. I felt pretty sure that neither my friends (nor their children) would know a ‘Cluricaun’ from a ‘Leprechaun’ or a ‘Gruagach’ from a ‘Dullahan’. I wanted to know more. What resulted were magical stepping stones that led me from this charming children’s book to the Túatha Dé Danann.
The ‘magical stepping stones’ were mere clues and insights which propelled me to start this blog. I wish to provide a ‘one stop shop’ not only for enthusiasts of Irish folklore but for those modern day story-tellers, music-makers, artists and believers who weave their own magic in their re-imaginings of a Celtic world.
I want to finally flex those illustration muscles and show you my own creative imaginings of these mythical figures from my cultural heritage, and in doing so, encourage a new generation of Celtic Revivalists.
— Marianne Tierney