Updated: Apr 26, 2020
When you imagine faeries, what do you see? Tiny beings with butterfly wings? If so, you’re normal. Most of us were raised seeing that image in animated movies and coloring books. Few Celtic faeries, however, have wings. The faerie collective, the Sluagh Sidhe, do but their wings are far from gossamer. Celtic folklore describes them as leathery and bat-like. The truth is, most Celtic faeries look--and act—nothing like the way we’ve been conditioned to think of them. There are many types and, despite being called “the Little People,” not all of them are small. Not all of them resemble humans either. Some look like cats, dogs, horses, even goats. Others are shape-shifters who can appear any way they want. If you would like to find out more about the different types, click to read my posts on Irish Faeries, Irish Faeries, part 2, and Scottish and Welsh Faeries. My point is Celtic enchanted forests are a bit different than those of standard Western culture and they are magical places worth exploring.
As I started exploring Celtic folklore, I got so excited by it that it inspired me to write a novel about a Celtic-based Otherworld called Cu Tailte. This world is inhabited by many different magical races from sprites to trolls to tree spirits. But faeries are the ruling race. As I worked on creating the world of Cu Tailte, I realized that I needed to know how a faerie becomes a queen. Is it by primogeniture, like in the human world, or is there another system? Today’s post is about how a faerie becomes a queen in Cu Tailte.
First, the monarch of Cu Tailte does not have to be a queen. The ruler can be male. This, however, happens very rarely. The ruling monarch is called the Si an Cadhar which, in the High Faerie language, means “Faerie of the Chair.” Each generation, a faeryling (child) is chosen by Gaela, the moon goddess, to succeed the current Si an Cadhar. The sacred ritual to discover Gaela’s chosen is part of an eleven day festival, the Ro-ha n’Feilae Gaela. This festival occurs in the seventh age of each generation.
On the first full moon of Am n’ Solsae Airgid or the Time of the Silver Lights, the Ro-ha n’Feilae Gaela begins. When the Moon is a half-step from her full height (just before midnight by human time), the residents of Cu Taile climb to the pinnacle of Noc nae Ofa, the sacred hill, and arrange the eligible candidates in a circle around a willow tree. These candidates consist solely of the faerylings of the current Si an Cadhar and those of her siblings.
When Gaela reaches her high point in the sky, she shines her light on the face of one of the faerylings. Then a circlet of seven stars appears around that faeryling’s head and she is proclaimed the An n’Dan (the Chosen). The name of the An n’Dan is recorded in The Book of Wisdom and Knowledge. This book is kept in the care of the Unicorns, a race considered sacred in Cu Tailte. They also preside over the ritual and act as witnesses so, when the current Si an Cadhar moves on to the Higher Realm, no one can question the An n’Dan’s right to ascend to the Chair. Once Gaela has revealed her Chosen, the Cu Tailtans celebrate for eleven nights, singing, dancing, and feasting in honor of the new An n’Dan.
Unfortunately, since The Great Dragon War, which took place sixty ages ago, Cu Tailte has lost its monarchy. Annalain, the invading Dragon King, murdered the An n’Dan. Queen Eithne, the reigning Si an Cadhar, when she received the news, went to confront Annalain and defend her people. She shot him with a poisoned arrow which so sickened him that he had to return to his kingdom, taking his army with him. Before he fled, however, he tore Queen Eithne to pieces. She died a hero but suddenly Cu Tailte had no ruler. As Cu Tailtans began to panic, Eithne’s counsel proclaimed that she had turned the government over to them before she went out to face the Dragon King.
Incensed, the Royal Faeries balked at this, demanding that a High Faerie related to Eithne rule until the sacred choosing ritual could be performed. The Council insisted that they were the rightful new government by order of the late Queen. Eithne, they said, had realized that investing all power in just two faeries had made Cu Tailte vulnerable to attack. Nevertheless, the Cu Tailtans held another Ro-ha n’Feilae Gaela and Gaela shone her light on a four-ages old faeryling. Her mother declared her not only the An n’Dan but the Si an Cadhar, since the Chair was empty. The faeryling’s mother also declared herself regent until the faeryling came of age (seventeen in Cu Tailte).
A power struggle ensued between the Faerie Council, which refused to relinquish its power, and the faeryling’s mother. Some Cu Tailtans sided with the Council while others supported re-instating the monarchy. This led to near civil war. After several ages of conflict, and the deaths of hundreds of Cu Tailtans, the An n’Dan’s mother publicly acquiesced. But she continued to plot to return Cu Tailte to a monarchy and place her daughter in the Chair. Aware of her machinations, the Council finally exiled her daughter, the An n’Dan, to the human world just before she came of age. Her mother now has passed on to the Higher Realm but, in secret, the Royal Faeries with the help of the Unicorns, have held another sacred choosing ritual.
A new An n’Dan has been chosen by Gaela. For fourteen ages, the Royal Faeries have managed to keep the Council from discovering her identity. But they are aware of her existence and are desperate to find out who she is since they have learned that she is just about to turn seventeen. Will she become Cu Tailte’s new Faerie Queen? Or will the Council find her and condemn her to something worse than to exile?
Hope you enjoyed reading about Cu Tailte. If you'd like to read more about it, please let me know in the comments. Also, please LIKE and SHARE the post. Thanks! SUBSCRIBE to the post (click “sign up" in the upper right of this page) to get the blog delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s FREE! Next week's post is about Beltaine!
Slan go foil!
FINAL WEEK!: If you subscribe and comment during the month of April, you will receive the free pdf “Seven Short Story Starters.” Don’t miss out on this opportunity. As of May 1st, the story starters will be available only by purchasing my four-week writing course.