The Inescapable Nature of Faery Fate

Dun Osdale

One sobering aspect of the faeries is their inexorable sense of vengeance. If a human offends them in some way, they will never forget this insult and will never fail to extract amends or punishment, however long it may take (in human terms).

One example comes from Dun Osdale on Skye. A man saw the faery mound there open and the inhabitants outside dancing. He spied on the festivities for a while, but then sneezed- and was exposed and caught by the sith folk. They dragged him inside the mound, but rather than chastising him for spying, he was (apparently) welcomed and rewarded with a sumptuous banquet. The man, though, was too canny to consume faery food and drink, knowing that he would have become trapped in the knoll. When offered a goblet of wine, he poured out the contents- and made off with the cup. The thief managed to get across the Osdale River ahead of his pursuers and, having crossed running water, was apparently safe.

When the man got home with the faery cup, his mother decided that it was wise to put a charm on him to protect him from any future attempts by the faeries to take revenge. She did not, however, enchant the stolen cup. It retained its faery mystique, or glamour, and the fatal quality that whoever saw it had to take possession of it. As a result, her son was murdered by another human who wanted to have the precious cup for himself, thereby acting as an instrument of faery judgment. Once your fate has been decreed by the fae, it cannot be escaped.

Dun Gharsainn

Another case from Skye indicates how faery vengeance can be cumulative and inexorable. A man took stones from the faery knoll of Dun Gharsainn, removing them at night because he knew that his neighbours would complain if they realised that he was behaving so selfishly as to do something that could bring down the faery wrath on the whole community, rather than just him alone. As it happened, the faeries were absent from their home when the damage was inflicted. This encouraged the man to take more building materials, but on his third visit a light shone out of the mound and a voice warned him that revenge would be taken. The faeries abandoned their ruined dwelling in great distress, but their departure didn’t spare the stone thief. First his horse died, then his cows, then his crops failed. After his fishing boat sank as well, he emigrated. We might assume this saved him, but we shouldn’t count on it. A Jersey man who vandalised a dolmen in a similar way was progressively deprived of all his wealth, possessions and family before being drowned as he tried to sail away to a new life on the British mainland.

Finally, I have told previously the story of the curse of Pantannas in North Wales. A man who had outraged the tylwyth teg by ploughing up the place where they danced was harassed by them as a result. He tried replacing the sward to appease them, but this merely postponed rather than averted their sanction, which fell upon descendants in his family generations later. Faery wrath is implacable and- it would seem- indiscriminate, in that the sins of the parents can be visited upon their distant offspring.

The Curse of Pantannas

2 thoughts on “The Inescapable Nature of Faery Fate

  1. An excellent and intriguing post as always. Your phrase ‘Once your fate has been decreed by the Fae, it cannot be escaped’ struck several chords with me.

    Our term ‘Fairies’ is thought to have originated via Old French from the Latin fata meaning The Fates. So, who better to determine your fate …?

    The other chord that these words rang in me is the more general sense of inexorability in everything pertaining to the Fae. Any pact or obligation is sacrosanct and no matter what the individual Fae’s feelings might be on the subject, they feel duty-bound to observe it. Of course, it might turn out better than the human involved thinks, but if the Fae are truly connected to the Fata, they would know this, wouldn’t they?

    Then there is the inexorability of their relentless pursuit of what they want (or what is destined to be …). You can spend a large part of your life holding out against them, but if it is an obligation that must be fulfilled or Fate has determined that it will be so, you will be bent to do their bidding eventually. That doesn’t mean that they will turn down the opportunity along the way … but their purpose won’t be deflected, and maybe, it is as set for them as it is for us … Deep waters indeed!

    So, talking of ‘deep water’, let’s finish with a tale which, for once, only involves me superficially, but is very much to do with ‘crime and punishment’.

    My brother was getting over a knee injury which resulted from a skiing injury. He had just replaced his old watch with a shiny new one – relatively inexpensive. In our favoured fishing spot of the time on our local pit, he had already cut away a number of the lower branches to make the swim accessible to fish – seemingly without repercussions. I complained that there was still an upper branch I was catching from time to time with the tip of my rod.

    He was supposed to be resting his knee at home by not doing anything too vigorous. He knew that if he mentioned what he was about to do to his wife, she would not countenance it. Accordingly, he snuck out of the house with the tools appropriate to dealing with the offending branch.

    He duly climbed the tree and sawed through the troublesome branch. This time, however, he got his ‘just desserts’ … for he fell into the waters below losing his brand new watch in the process. Vengeance exacted, he returned home wet and bedraggled to face a further ‘reckoning’ from his missus for not telling her where he was going and what he was going to do.

    Who can say which was worse, the wrath of the Fae or the anger of his wife?



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