The birth of the Elizabethan era saw the death of the romantic warriors of the Daoine Sidhe. Even the gentle kindness of the Diminutive Fairy had begun to disappear. The fair became mischievous, pesky, and even bothersome, at least among the general populace. Appearing in the 16th century, this new fairy eventually came to be known as the Elizabethan Fairy.
The Nature of the Elizabethan Fairy
The physical appearance of the standard modern fairy has its roots in Elizabethan times. Elizabethan Fairies were tiny little things, often no bigger than a thumbnail, though sometimes as large as a clutched first. They occasionally had gossamer wings, and were usually described as being female. Often lovelier than any human woman, these fairies tended to wear little in the way of clothing.
The Elizabethan Fairy were not seen as evil. However, they were considered pests and most regular citizens went to great lengths to avoid contact with these beings of myth and legend. It was said that these fairies would torment humans for simple entertainment, though they did not typically seek to harm. Harm would instead happen by accident.
The Elizabethan Fairy in Literature
The fairy ladies of eras past were no longer in style by the 16th century. Nymphs, brownies, hobgoblins, and the classic fairy with gossamer wings become popular in tales and stories. Common literature of the time was suddenly flooded with references to these mythological creatures.
The writers of the age supplied the very first look into the social structure of the tiny fairy. Individual writers chose different traits to emphasize, but on the whole, they managed to give a literary version of the fairy and its social life. The Elizabethan Faeries were seen as living in a monarchy, almost a parody of the monarchies present throughout the British Isles and various other areas of Western Europe.
By this point in time, Ireland was not at all isolated from the rest of Europe. English influences had become a part of Irish life. This was true of literature as well. The social structure of the fairies of the 16th century was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This had a major impact on how the populace of Europe as a whole viewed the fairy, including the Irish, who had traditionally worshipped the Tuatha De Danann.
Shakespeare crafted a story where the interactions of various fairies and their leaders, King Oberon and Queen Titania, shows them to be somewhat organized, passionate, and rather bothersome to the humans they encounter. This version of what fairies could and might be persisted for many years, and is still a part of modern folk tales. When these types of tales were immortalized in literature, the very fabric of belief, myth, and legend in Ireland was altered forever.
Following the Elizabethan era, a time of repression hit most of Europe. The fairy evolved with the changing morals and values of the people. England grew more puritan, as did much of Western Europe, and the fairy came to be regarded as a more evil being. The Jacobean Fairy was born as the Faery Lineage continued to develop.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.