Let us now turn to the Rosses Point country, which, as we have already said, is one of the very famous places for seeing the' gentry', or, as educated Irish seers who make pilgrimages thither call them, the Slake. I have been told by more than one such seer that there on the hills and Greenlands (a great stretch of open country, treeless and grass-grown), and on the strand at Lower Rosses Point--called Wren Point by the country-folk--these beings can be seen and their wonderful music heard; and a well-known Irish artist has shown me many drawings, and paintings in oil, of these Sidhe people as he has often beheld them at those places and elsewhere in Ireland.
They are described as a race of majestic appearance and marvellous beauty, in form human, yet in nature divine. The highest order of them seems to be a race of beings evolved to a superhuman plane of existence, such as the ancients called gods; and with this opinion, strange as it may seem in this age, all the educated Irish seers with whom I have been privileged to talk agree, though they go further, and say that these highest Sidhe races still inhabiting Ireland are the ever-young, immortal divine race known to the ancient men of Erin as the Tuatha De Danann.
Of all European lands I venture to say that Ireland is the most mystical, and, in the eyes of true Irishmen, as much the Magic Island of Gods and Initiates now as it was when the Sacred Fires flashed from its purple, heather-covered mountain-tops and mysterious round towers, and the Greater Mysteries drew to its hallowed shrines neophytes from the West as well as from the East, from India and Egypt as well as from Atlantis; and Erin's mystic-seeing sons still watch and wait for the relighting of the Fires and the restoration of the old Druidic Mysteries.
Herein I but imperfectly echo the mystic message Ireland's seers gave me, a pilgrim to their Sacred Isle. And until this mystic message is interpreted, men cannot discover the secret of Gaelic myth and song in olden or in modern times, they cannot drink at the ever-flowing fountain of Gaelic genius, the perennial source of inspiration which lies behind the new revival of literature and art in Ireland, nor understand the seeming reality of the fairy races.
AN IRISH MYSTIC'S TESTIMONY
Through the kindness of an Irish mystic, who is a seer, I am enabled to present here, in the form of a dialogue, very rare and very important evidence, which will serve to illustrate and to confirm what has just been said above about the mysticism of Ireland. To anthropologists this evidence may be of more than ordinary value when they know that it comes from one who is not only a cultured seer but who is also a man conspicuously successful in the practical life of a great city:--
Q.--Are all visions which you have had of the same character?
A.--'I have always made a distinction between pictures seen in the memory of nature and visions of actual beings now existing in the inner world. We can make the same distinction in our world: I may close my eyes and see you as a vivid picture in memory, or I may look at you with my physical eyes and see your actual image. In seeing these beings of which I speak, the physical eyes may be open or closed: mystical beings in their own world and nature are never seen with the physical eyes.'
Q.--By the inner world do you mean the Celtic Otherworld?
A.--'Yes; though there are many Otherworlds. The Tir-na-nog of the ancient Irish, in which the races of the Sidhe exist, may be described as a radiant archetype of this world, though this definition does not at all express its psychic nature. In Tir-na-nog one sees nothing save harmony and beautiful forms. There are other worlds in which we can see horrible shapes.'
Classification of the 'Sidhe'.--
Q.--Do you in any way classify the Sidhe races to which you refer?
A.--'The beings whom I call the Sidhe, I divide, as I have seen them, into two great classes: those which are shining, and those which are opalescent and seem lit up by a light within themselves. The shining beings appear to be lower in the hierarchies; the opalescent beings are more rarely seen, and appear to hold the positions of great chiefs or princes among the tribes of Dana.'
Conditions of Seership.--
Q.--Under what state or condition and where have you seen such beings?
A.--'I have seen them most frequently after being away from a city or town for a few days. The whole west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Kerry seems charged with a magical power, and I find it easiest to see while I am there. I have always found it comparatively easy to see visions while at ancient monuments like New Grange and Dowth, because I think such places are naturally charged with psychical forces, and were for that reason made use of long ago as sacred places. I usually find it possible to throw myself into the mood of seeing; but sometimes visions have forced themselves upon me.'
The Shining Beings.--
Q.--Can you describe the shining beings?
A.--'It is very difficult to give any intelligible description of them. The first time I saw them with great vividness I was lying on a hill-side alone in the west of Ireland, in County Sligo: I had been listening to music in the air, and to what seemed to be the sound of bells, and was trying to understand these aerial clashings in which wind seemed to break upon wind in an ever-changing musical silvery sound. Then the space before me grew luminous, and I began to see one beautiful being after another.'
The Opalescent Beings.--
Q.--Can you describe one of the opalescent beings?
A.--'The first of these I saw I remember very clearly, and the manner of its appearance: there was at first a dazzle of light, and then I saw that this came from the heart of a tall figure with a body apparently shaped out of half-transparent or opalescent air, and throughout the body ran a radiant, electrical fire, to which the heart seemed the centre. Around the head of this being and through its waving luminous hair, which was blown all about the body like living strands of gold, there appeared flaming wing-like auras. From the being itself light seemed to stream outwards in every direction; and the effect left on me after the vision was one of extraordinary lightness, joyousness, or ecstasy.
'At about this same period of my life I saw many of these great beings, and I then thought that I had visions of Aengus, Manannan, Lug, and other famous kings or princes among the Tuatha De Danann; but since then I have seen so many beings of a similar character that I now no longer would attribute to any one of them personal identity with particular beings of legend; though I believe that they correspond in a general way to the Tuatha De Danann or ancient Irish gods.'
Nature of the Sidhe
Stature of the 'Sidhe'.--
Q.--You speak of the opalescent beings as great beings; what stature do you assign to them, and to the shining beings?
A.--'The opalescent beings seem to be about fourteen feet in stature, though I do not know why I attribute to them such definite height, since I had nothing to compare them with; but I have always considered them as much taller than our race. The shining beings seem to be about our own stature or just a little taller. Peasant and other Irish seers do not usually speak of the Sidhe as being little, but as being tall: an old schoolmaster in the West of Ireland described them to me from his own visions as tall beautiful people, and he used some Gaelic words, which I took as meaning that they were shining with every colour.'
The worlds of the 'Sidhe.'--
Q.--Do the two orders of Sidhe beings inhabit the same world?
A.--'The shining beings belong to the mid-world; while the opalescent beings belong to the heaven-world. There are three great worlds which we can see while we are still in the body: the earth-world, mid-world, and heaven-world.'
Nature of the 'Sidhe.'--
Q.--Do you consider the life and state of these Sidhe beings superior to the life and state of men?
A.--'I could never decide. One can say that they themselves are certainly more beautiful than men are, and that their worlds seem more beautiful than our world.
'Among the shining orders there does not seem to be any individualized life: thus if one of them raises his hands all raise their hands, and if one drinks from a fire-fountain all do; they seem to move and to have their real existence in a being higher than themselves, to which they are a kind of body. Theirs is, I think, a collective life, so unindividualized and so calm that I might have more varied thoughts in five hours than they would have in five years; and yet one feels an extraordinary purity and, exaltation about their life. Beauty of form with them has never been broken up by the passions which arise in the developed egotism of human beings. A hive of bees has been described as a single organism with disconnected cells; and some of these tribes of shining beings seem to be little more than one being manifesting itself in many beautiful forms. I speak this with reference to the shining beings only: I think that among the opalescent or Sidhe beings, in the heaven-world, there is an even closer spiritual unity, but also a greater individuality.'
Influence of the 'Sidhe' on Men.--
Q.--Do you consider any of these Sidhe beings inimical to humanity?
A.--'Certain kinds of the shining beings, whom I call wood beings, have never affected me with any evil influences I could recognize. But the water beings, also of the shining tribes, I always dread, because I felt whenever I came into contact with them a great drowsiness of mind and, I often thought, an actual drawing away of vitality.'
Water Beings Described.--
Q.--Can you describe one of these water beings?
A.--'In the world under the waters--under a lake in the West of Ireland in this case--I saw a blue and orange coloured king seated on a throne; and there seemed to be some fountain of mystical fire rising from under his throne, and he breathed this fire into himself as though it were his life. As I looked, I saw groups of pale beings, almost grey in colour, coming down one side of the throne by the fire-fountain. They placed their head and lips near the heart of the elemental king, and, then, as they touched him, they shot upwards, plumed and radiant, and passed on the other side, as though they had received a new life from this chief of their world.'
Wood Beings Described.--
Q.--Can you describe one of the wood beings?
A.--'The wood beings I have seen most often are of a shining silvery colour with a tinge of blue or pale violet, and with dark purple-coloured hair.'
Reproduction and Immortality of the 'Sidhe'.--
Q.--Do you consider the races of the Sidhe able to reproduce their kind; and are they immortal?
A.--'The higher kinds seem capable of breathing forth beings out of themselves, but I do not understand how they do so. I have seen some of them who contain elemental beings within themselves, and these they could send out and receive back within themselves again.
'The immortality ascribed to them by the ancient Irish is only a relative immortality, their space of life being much greater than ours. In time, however, I believe that they grow old and then pass into new bodies just as men do, but whether by birth or by the growth of a new body I cannot say, since I have no certain knowledge about this.'
Sex among the 'Sidhe'--
Q.--Does sexual differentiation seem to prevail among the Sidhe races?
A.--'I have seen forms both male and female, and forms which did not suggest sex at all.'
'Sidhe' and Human Life.--
Q.--(1) is it possible, as the ancient Irish thought, that certain of the higher Sidhe beings have entered or could enter our plane of life by submitting to human birth? (2) On the other hand, do you consider it possible for men in trance or at death to enter the Sidhe world?
A.--(1) 'I cannot say.' (2) 'Yes; both in trance and after death. I think any one who thought much of the Sidhe during his life and who saw them frequently and brooded on them would likely go to their world after death.'
Social Organization of the 'Sidhe'.--
Q.--You refer to chieftain-like or prince-like beings, and to a king among water beings; is there therefore definite social organization among the various Sidhe orders and races, and if so, what is its nature?
A.--'I cannot say about a definite social organization. I have seen beings who seemed to command others, and who were held in reverence. This implies an organization, but whether it is instinctive like that of a hive of bees, or consciously organized like human society, I cannot say.'
Lower 'Sidhe' as Nature Elementals.--
Q.--You speak of the water-being king as an elemental king; do you suggest thereby a resemblance between lower Sidhe orders and what mediaeval mystics called elementals?
A.--'The lower orders of the Sidhe are, I think, the nature elementals of the mediaeval mystics.'
Nourishment of the Higher 'Sidhe'.--
Q.--The water beings as you have described them seem to be nourished and kept alive by something akin to electrical fluids; do the higher orders of the Sidhe seem to be similarly nourished?
A.--'They seemed to me to draw their life out of the Soul of the World.'
Collective Visions of 'Sidhe' Beings.--
Q.--Have you had visions of the various Sidhe beings in company with other persons?
A.--'I have had such visions on several occasions.'
And this statement has been confirmed to me by three participants in such collective visions, who separately at different times have seen in company with our witness the same vision at the same moment. On another occasion, on the Greenlands at Rosses Point, County Sligo, the same Sidhe being was seen by our present witness and a friend with him, also possessing the faculty of seership, at a time when the two percipients were some little distance apart, and they hurried to each other to describe the being, not knowing that the explanation was mutually unnecessary. I have talked with both percipients so much, and know them so intimately that I am fully able to state that as percipients they fulfil all necessary pathological conditions required by psychologists in order to make their evidence acceptable.
W. Y Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911.