Leanan sídhe

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The Leanan sídhe is a 19th century English myth that the fatalistic 'Irish fairy lover' was part of a Celtic folklore. [1] According to the tragic romance of the period, the leannán sí ("Fairy-Lover"; [2] Scottish Gaelic : leannan sìth, Manx : lhiannan shee; [lʲan̴̪-an ˈʃiː]) is a beautiful woman of the Aos Sí ("people of the barrows") who takes a human lover. Lovers of the leannán sídhe are said to live brief, though highly inspired, lives. The name comes from the Gaelic words for a sweetheart, lover, or concubine and the term for inhabitants of fairy mounds (fairy). [3]

Celtic mythology collective term for all the fabulous profane and religious narratives of the Celts

Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. For Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman Empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity and the loss of their Celtic languages. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved. The Celtic peoples who maintained either political or linguistic identities left vestigial remnants of their ancestral mythologies that were put into written form during the Middle Ages.

Manx language Goidelic (Gaelic) Celtic language of the Isle of Man

Manx, also known as Manx Gaelic, and also historically spelled Manks, is a member of the Goidelic (Gaelic) language branch of the Celtic languages of the Indo-European language family; it was spoken as a first language by some of the Manx people on the Isle of Man until the death of the last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, in 1974. Despite this, the language has never fallen completely out of use, with a minority having some knowledge of it; in addition, Manx still has a role as an important part of the island's culture and heritage. Manx has been the subject of language revival efforts; in 2015, around 1,800 people had varying levels of second language conversational ability. Since the late 20th century, Manx has become more visible on the island, with increased signage, radio broadcasts and a Manx-medium primary school. The revival of Manx has been made easier because the language was well recorded: for example, the Bible had been translated into Manx, and audio recordings had been made of native speakers.

Aos Sí

The aos sí is the Irish term for a supernatural race in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology, comparable to the fairies or elves. They are said to live underground in fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans. This world is described in the Lebor Gabála Érenn as a parallel universe in which the aos sí walk amongst the living. In the Irish language, aos sí means "people of the mounds". In modern Irish the people of the mounds are also called daoine sídhe[ˈdʲiːnʲə ˈʃiːə]; in Scottish mythology they are daoine sìth. They are variously said to be the ancestors, the spirits of nature, or goddesses and gods.


Originally, W. B. Yeats created and popularized this 'newly-ancient' folklore, emphasizing the spirit's almost vampiric tendencies. As he imagined it, the leannán sídhe is depicted as a beautiful muse who offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for their love and devotion; although the supernatural affair leads to madness and eventual death for the artist: [4]

W. B. Yeats Irish poet and playwright, Nobel prize winner

William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of the Irish literary establishment, he helped to found the Abbey Theatre, and in his later years served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and others.

Vampire Mythological or folkloric creature

A vampire is a creature from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital essence of the living. In European folklore, vampires are undead creatures that often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they inhabited while they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today's gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 19th century.

The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress) seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth—this malignant phantom.

Fairy mythical being or legendary creature

A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural.

In literature and pop culture

A number of traditional Irish tales feature characters that appear to draw from the leannán sídhe legend for inspiration. These include Katharine Mary Briggs's "The Fairy Follower" in Folktales of England, the story "Oisin in the Land of Youth" in Ancient Irish Tales, "The Dream of Angus" in Augusta, Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne.

Katharine Mary Briggs was a British folklorist and writer, who wrote The Anatomy of Puck, the four-volume A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, and various other books on fairies and folklore. From 1969 to 1972, she was president of the Folklore Society, which established an award in her name to commemorate her life and work.

Oisín is an Irish male given name; from oisín (“fawn”), from os (“deer”) + -ín. It is sometimes anglicized as Osheen or spelt without the diacritic (fada), as Oisin.

Augusta, Lady Gregory Irish playwright, poet, folklorist

Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory was an Irish dramatist, folklorist and theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, and wrote numerous short works for both companies. Lady Gregory produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Born into a class that identified closely with British rule, she turned against it. Her conversion to cultural nationalism, as evidenced by her writings, was emblematic of many of the political struggles to occur in Ireland during her lifetime.

In 2005 game Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening , one of the bosses called Nevan was based on Leanan sídhe. Leanan sidhe is also a recurring recruitable creature in the popular Megami Tensei series of games.

<i>Devil May Cry 3: Dantes Awakening</i> video game

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, known in Japan as simply Devil May Cry 3, is a hack and slash video game developed and published by Capcom, released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and ported to Microsoft Windows in 2006. The game is a prequel to the original Devil May Cry, featuring a younger Dante. Set a decade before the events of the first Devil May Cry in an enchanted tower, Temen-ni-gru, the story centers on the dysfunctional relationship between Dante and his brother Vergil. The game introduces new combat mechanics with an emphasis on combos and fast-paced action. The story is told primarily in cutscenes using the game's engine, with several pre-rendered full motion videos.

Megami Tensei, marketed internationally as Shin Megami Tensei, is a Japanese media franchise created by Kouji "Cozy" Okada, Kazuma Kaneko, Ginichiro Suzuki, and Kazunari Suzuki. Primarily developed by Atlus and currently owned by Sega, the franchise consists of multiple subseries and covers multiple role-playing genres including tactical role-playing, action role-playing, and massively multiplayer online role-playing. The first two titles in the series were published by Bandai Namco, but have been almost always published by Atlus in Japan and North America since the release of Shin Megami Tensei. For Europe, Atlus publishes the games through third-party companies.

The old Irish song "My Lagan Love" uses her as a metaphor for consuming love: "And like a love-sick lennan-shee/She has my heart in thrall,/Nor life I owe nor liberty/For love is lord of all." The Irish band Unkindness Of Ravens released the song "Leanan Sídhe" in 2015 alongside an accompanying video further exploring the ancient myth. [5] The video was filmed in The Burren in County Clare and the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Offaly, Ireland, as well as the Pollnagollum caves.

"My Lagan Love" is a song to a traditional Irish air collected in 1903 in northern Donegal.

Unkindness Of Ravens

Unkindness Of Ravens is an Irish gothic rock/metal band formed in 2014 in Tipperary, Ireland. Their debut album Under Stolen Skies was released in November 2015 on now defunct label Dura Gesta Records based in Michigan in the United States. The band's first single Leanan Sídhe was released simultaneously with an accompanying video which explored themes around ancient Irish mythological characters and was filmed in The Burren and Slieve Bloom Mountains. The band is fronted by Darren Keegan and the band's style has been described as "melancholic and dramatic." The band was created by Keegan with drummer Daryl Hogan and keyboardist Danielle Egan. In early 2016 the band lineup grew to include Shane Fitzgerald on guitar and Philly Brett on bass guitar. All the members of the band come from County Tipperary in the Irish midlands.

The Burren Glaciated karst landscape region in northwest County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is a region of environmental interest primarily located in northwestern County Clare, Ireland, dominated by glaciated karst landscape. It measures, depending on the definition, between 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi) and 560 square kilometres (220 sq mi). The name is most often applied to the area within the circle made by the villages of Tubber, Corofin, Kilfenora, Lisdoonvarna, and Ballyvaughan, and Kinvara in extreme south-western Galway, including the adjacent coastline.

Modern fantasy novels often include characters based on Irish mythology. Examples include The Dresden Files , by Jim Butcher, with a recurring character named Leanansidhe (or Lea for short) and The Iron Fey Series , by Julie Kagawa. Also the book Ink Exchange (April 2008), a part of the Wicked Lovely series, by Melissa Marr.

Starring in the Japanese manga "Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride)" volume 3, by Kore Yamazaki a leannan sidhe lives with Joel Garland where Chise meets in his rose garden.

The 2017 horror movie MUSE , written and directed by John Burr, features her as the mythical and deadly spirit who becomes the muse and lover of a painter. [6]

See also

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Lexicography evolved in order to serve one of two needs i.e. in order to explain in a simple way difficult words and expressions or in order to explain the words and expressions of one language in another. In this case we can trace the tradition of lexicography in Irish back to the 8th century.


  1. Ó’Súileabháin, Brian. "The Truth about Leannán Sidhe". Irish Imbas. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  2. Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla
  3. Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla
  4. Yeats, W.B (1888). Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. London: The Walter Scott Publishing Co. Ltd. p. 81.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUHvLzhBaVE
  6. Miska, Brad (2018-08-07). "DarkCoast Finds Their 'Muse' in John Burr's Twisted Fairy Tale". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved 13 April 2019.

Further reading