Let's Read GURPS Celtic Myth

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,373
Reaction score
78,477
This came up in another thread, but figured I'd ask it here since it's an on-topic excuse to bump this thread -

Séadna Séadna , what are your thoughts on the Celtic magc system presented in the Mythras supplement Mythic Britain?
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Funny you bumped the thread, there's a few things I was going to post soon. Just some direct translated examples of Sidhe stories and I wanted to say a few things on Celtic monsters you find in other media. Like Gruagach from Hellboy.

This came up in another thread, but figured I'd ask it here since it's an on-topic excuse to bump this thread -

Séadna Séadna , what are your thoughts on the Celtic magc system presented in the Mythras supplement Mythic Britain?
It's very good I would say. I'd say a few things about history and mythology. Again it's prefect as the world of the Dark Ages as found in Medieval manuscripts and Modern folklore, as opposed to a mythic version of the actual Dark Ages.

In a purely historic campaign Druids should really be presented as quite similar to the least ascetic types of Brahmin since that seems to be what they were historically. That is they had various dietary restrictions, were a sort of magical consultant for their local community and called upon various local spirits/gods at local sacred spaces. For this reason I think the use of Mythras's Animinism is probably the best way to represent mythic Druid abilities, since it is how I would represent common Brahmins in that system.

With the spirits representing local gods the question then would be how appropriate the types of spirits presented are. There are twelve types presented in the book. Their catagorisation obviously reflects modern fantasy (i.e. Curse and Elemental spirits) however all types do correspond to common entities found in Celtic myth, so I'd treat the divisions as mechanical divisions for the GM not in setting divisions. Now when I say "entities found in Celtic Myth" as mentioned above this means Medieval myths. So if you wanted local gods the Druids actually called on historically, then Nature and Curse would probably be enough. The powers the spirits grant reflect the powers of Druids found in medieval Welsh myth. Some are absent in Medieval myth but are attributed to Druids in folklore from the Modern period. I think these kind of powers should be included since their absence from Medieval manuscripts really only reflects that the Bards found the stories containing them too low brow.

Like Bards there was probably some sort of ranks or grades of druids. Probably "Druid" was simply one of the higher ranks and we've lost the generic word for Celtic priests. Since we can't really reconstruct the true hierarchy I think the one in Mythic Britain is fine. The only real invention is the "Head Druid of Britain" like Merlin. Bards in both Ireland and Wales eventually created the office of "Head Bard of Ireland/Wales", they then projected that back onto Druids, but there almost certainly never was a Head Druid. A similar fictional office is going on with the various "High Kings". Obviously a mythic campaign should have one given its place in the myth.

Similarly some of the cosmology is taken from Medieval myth, like Annwn and is accurate to the myths. Again if you wanted a cosmology more accurate to the actual faith of the Druids I'd keep the cosmology to the land of the living and some vague afterlife where everybody is a simple shade. Same as found in early Greek versions of Hades, the older layer of the Norse Hel, etc. This seemed to be the Indo-European cosmology.

The rules around Christian saints and miracles is pitch perfect for Welsh folklore. Both what powers the saints have, how hard it is to cast mircales, the types of miracles, miracles proceeding Sainthood and miracles inspiring those around them. All work in a way very common in untranslated Welsh folklore collections.

I'll add that you couldn't use these rules for Ireland since most beings, especially Saints, a more OTT powerful in Irish myth.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Gruagach:

Well I thought I'd do a little run down on this class of being since I enjoyed the character bearing the name in Hellboy

gruagachcomics1.jpg

As is very common with any Gaelic mythical being the Gruagach appears in both Irish and Scottish myth, however as is also common there are one or two specific differences. To sum it up in the quickest fashion a Gruagach is a Sidhe who functions as sort of a Gaelic version of a Vancian wizard.

They live in a remote castle or tower somewhere, attended by other Sidhe potent with magical powers. Their household contains many magical rings and most of the common household items are animated by a geasa of some form or other. The household is often massive to the extent that it has parade grounds and those who serve the Gruagach are numerous enough to be called a court. They often have a personal wand made from various woods, usually more expensive ones. Their castle often holds a magic well within it, able to heal madness. The castle is often invisible and immaterial to mortals. Locals would just know roughly where the Gruagach's castle is.

In terms of appearance the Gruagach is taller than the typical mortal, for a game I'd go with seven foot tall, and often wears a conical hat and robes.
The main difference between the Scottish and Irish version is the gender. The Irish version is an old man with the grey hair and beard of Gandalf, but the Scottish version is often a beautiful young woman with long golden hair. Due to this the word has a different gender in the two languages. Writings of Scottish bards in earlier periods have the same old man depiction, so the beautiful female version seems like an interesting later innovation. The root "Gruag" is a Gaelic root meaning "hair" so the closest literal translation is "Flowing Haired One" or similar.

A Gruagach is tremendously powerful. They can assumes essentially virtually any form. They are able to summon almost any everyday object into existence. Have physical strength way beyond a human, to the extent that they are probably the most physically powerful entity in Gaelic myth next to certain saints. A typical feat is hurling a boulder. The Irish Gruagach is reclusive and would prefer no mortal intrusion on their domain. The Scottish Gruagach often helps the people of her area by keeping their livestock healthy and accepts gifts from mortals, provided they are not placed within the grounds of her castle.

They are very willing to provide wealth and castles for dwelling to regular humans provided they beat the Gruagach in some game of chance, often poker or one of the various Gaelic card games. The point of these games are really to play with a greedy mortal who will keep playing until they lose, the stories often involve the local bachelor card shark, and then the Gruagach's real plan comes into effect: They will ask the losing mortal to assassinate another Gruagach. The stories often imply that various Gruagach play some sort of political game with each other where they can only kill each other via a mortal. Another very common element is that the Gruagach the character first meets will be in their local area, but the Gruagach they must kill is often from China, Arabia or India and they are sent to their fantastical distant castles with some incredibly inaccurate depictions of the nations involved. You've never met a more Irish Chinese man than the Gruagach of Beijing.

In an interesting convergence with Hellboy, Gruagach guard against their assassination by hiding their soul in an egg somewhat like Koshchei of Russian myth. The egg will be hidden in the nest of a bird of prey, most often a hawk, the nest itself being hidden in some recess in a cliff. In addition to this the Gruagach often possesses powers directly over life itself. Able to transfer the souls of others into objects.
 
Last edited:

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Síodaidhe:
Little addendum.

Roughly pronounced "Shee-dee". This is a higher servant in a Gruagach's household to whom he has given the power of shape-shifting, speaking to animals and beguiling conversation. They are sometimes basically the Gruagach's apprentice. They often enter a story where they are given as a husband or wife to a mortal for beating the Gruagach in a game of cards. A very common motif is that the Gruagach does not want to give them away.

They are inevitably ultra loyal and hopelessly in love with their mortal spouse. Sometimes they die helping them to defeat the Grugach of China/India/Arabia which they are sent to defeat. However the original Gruagach they worked for will often resurrect them at the end of the story for a happily ever after deal.

Sometimes used as slang for a charming person.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Some posts now over the next few days. I'll keep them short with a little bit of info each.

Rust Knife:

This is a regular buttering knife that a hero often leaves with their family before going off on a journey. The knife is mystically bound to the hero and will begin to rust the minute the hero meets with some danger that might kill them so that their family can come to their rescue.
In the stories the rust begins on a microscopic scale, not noticeable to humans and slowly spreads over the knife. For this reason the knife is left at the bottom of a well so that the rust tints the water first allowing the family to rescue the hero as soon as possible.
It's not too uncommon that only a close sibling of the hero is told about this.

The hero must be of noble birth, a royal in Ireland and Scotland's many kingdoms.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Edinburgh/Dublin bird:

Not much to this except it is a gigantic bird, roughly like a massive crow, that carries a cottage on its back from which a ladder can descend. Anybody who climbs the ladder and enters the cottage the bird will carry them to Edinburgh or Dublin.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Red Horse and Blood Crows:

The Red Horse is a small Sidhe pony that is able to speak and walk on water. Aside from being able to give good advice and generally knowing the weaknesses of other Sidhe its blood has an usual ability.

If the horse is slaughtered beside the sea, then three crows will be summoned from across the Atlantic. Two will be man sized and one the size of a typical crow. As they feast upon the horse's blood and meat, capturing the smaller one in a cage or similar will cause the two larger ones to fly to China and return with an ointment that makes you impervious to heat.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,373
Reaction score
78,477
Any interesting info on the Knights of the Red Branch?
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
The Bird Giant:

This is essentially a king of the Sidhe that can be summoned by a tin flageolet. He arises out of the sea when summoned in the form of a giant composed of a flock of birds. What he actually does depends on the story, but commonly just grants a wish or transports the hero somewhere. Depicted nicely on the cover of this folklore collection:

210309-scealtadraiochtamhicisheainneill.jpg
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Out visiting old storytellers and will write about the Red Branch stuff when I get back.

I asked them some questions about the Sidhe in various media, including the Mignolaverse. I'll write a bit about it as I think people might find their responses interesting.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Out visiting old storytellers and will write about the Red Branch stuff when I get back.

I asked them some questions about the Sidhe in various media, including the Mignolaverse. I'll write a bit about it as I think people might find their responses interesting.
So to follow up on this, but there isn't much to it.

Most of the storytellers tend to conceive of the stories as either:
1. Genuine incidents that supposedly occurred
2. Simply a chance to show their talent with the language. Especially the longer stories like "The King of Ireland's son" (most versions are twice the length of the Iliad) are really just about showing the reciters facility with grammar and vocabulary.

So for that reason the main reaction was surprise that Mignola's works for example actually made sense and had developed characters with personalities. It was strange for them to see stories concerning the Sidhe where the characters had internal lives within a structured plot like a modern novel.

Compared to their own imaginings they said the Sidhe in most comics and novels were far more monstrous. Their typical image of one is sort of an Arthurian noble. They especially remarked on how things like Sláine made the myths seem Epic like "Ben Hur" compared to the actual myths where a local Sidhe would show up to rob milk from somebody down the road.

The major element they thought was missing from modern depcitions is that the Sidhe don't seem very religious or devoutly Christian and the absence of Otherworldly mass being held. One guy was quite surprised when I said that the Sidhe are associated with Paganism in the English speaking world since he thought they were "as Christian as angels".

There's a few old recordings where the speaker stopped being an atheist and started going to mass after seeing the Sidhe, so the association between the Sidhe and devout Catholicism is pretty strong.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,373
Reaction score
78,477
The major element they thought was missing from modern depcitions is that the Sidhe don't seem very religious or devoutly Christian and the absence of Otherworldly mass being held. One guy was quite surprised when I said that the Sidhe are associated with Paganism in the English speaking world since he thought they were "as Christian as angels".

There's a few old recordings where the speaker stopped being an atheist and started going to mass after seeing the Sidhe, so the association between the Sidhe and devout Catholicism is pretty strong.

I know that the legends that have survived passed through a long period of Christianization, but it surprises me that there would be so little awareness of the pagan origins among modern storytellers.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
I know that the legends that have survived passed through a long period of Christianization, but it surprises me that there would be so little awareness of the pagan origins among modern storytellers.
Yeah it's quite funny. Like the younger storytellers, where by younger I mean less than sixty, they'd be well aware of the pagan origins, but most of these older storytellers are >80 years old and lived their lives on the Western seaboard with little contact with the rest of the world and yeah they'd be essentially totally unaware of the pagan origins. The closest you'd get is that they think Sidhe were pagans themselves in their time in the surface world and were probably from Troy or were Doric Greeks.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
28,373
Reaction score
78,477
Have you seen the documentary the Fairy Faith? It's probably about 20 years old now, but it deals with the immigrants to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia that have kept alive a storytelling tradition/set of beliefs. It would be interesting to compare that to the living traditions surviving in Ireland.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
No I haven't. I have read folklore collected there and it seems virtually identical to folklore in Ireland and Scotland just with the Sidhe living in Canadian mounds and similar locale changes.

Canadian Gaelic is very conservative to the point where you can't tell the speaker is from Canada, I've been surprised when the person shifts to English. There is some Canada specific vocabulary of course.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
dlí - striapach fir.jpg

Bit of a funny one. This is the exact section of Brehon law setting the standardised price for a young (late teens - early 20s) male prostitute.

Actually it's a financial section of the law and it's defining the worth of one of the Gaelic units of currency the "Screaball" as exactly that of one service from a male prostitute.

Unfortunately we have very little attestation of Screaball elsewhere so we don't know enough to say how much this was. Very little though from what we can tell.

I thought it might be an interesting example of the arcane and unusual way Brehon law was written.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Just going to get some posts in before I head off again. I'll start with the big dude.

The Leprechaun/Laprachán/Lucharachán:

8f3b5ed7dae373782f4701edfb7aac708441f8c3.png

By now the Leprechaun is fairly well established in popular culture. Above is the Irish folkloric depiction of him, an ancient king who goes out and about proudly on his business, usually through fields of heather. Like all Fae there is a "price" for walking out and about in the mortal world which for this king tends to be either being incorporeal or reduced in stature to about four feet.

His hidden treasure which everybody wants to get their hands on is never actually a pot of gold, nor at the end of a rainbow, but is instead a horde of gems and Roman coins taken from defeating his enemies long ago. Funnily enough in no folkloric story does anybody ever gain this treasure because he's simply too powerful both physically and magically to actually defeat. Instead if you approach him bravely and without fear he will give you a purse with a small amount of money that refills itself each morning, a table cloth that gives you a good (not opulent) meal once a day when laid out and finally will make you highly charismatic and sexy to one other individual. The other individual is always a Gaelic prince or princess that the Leprechaun himself selects for you. Note this explicitly* still works in the modern day as he will select somebody that by usual Gaelic rules of inheritance "should be" a prince or princess even if they actually are not.

Pissing him off usually results in him gathering his warriors and laying waste to your house the next time you're out working with he himself always making sure to destroy the fireplace or however you get heating. Again in the modern day he will explicitly* destroy boilers or central heating etc.

In his Lios/Mound he usually holds court and is polite and kind to any who approach him. Usually offering mortal men respite from fieldwork and a decent meal. Depicted nicely in the old Sierra King's Quest game:

24-06-018.jpg

Tends to wear a green cloak with a white shirt or Irish royal blue tunic (like the King's Quest image above).

Leprechauns are also to be found in Canada in Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Nunavut, New Brunswick and Prince Edward island. Either having migrated there from Ireland or being native**.

*Here "explicitly" means traditional storytellers who still believe in him are on record saying this, it's not inference based on how it might be adapted to today

** In the 19th Century many Irish people did not consider themselves to be the same "race" as other Western Europeans, but of one race with the First Nations of Canada. Even into the 20th Century our first President Douglas Hyde/Dubhglas de Híde thought there was some sort of ancient connection especially to the Wolastoqiyik, Ojibwe and Algonquin groups.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Some small little stuff.

Sidhe women:
A small desciption here since it's useful for games.

Both Sidhe men and women can manifest outside the Lios as animals or incorporeal spectres. However when women assume a material human form then unlike the men they are often of larger than life proportions reaching about seven or eight feet with a bright glowing light. The trade off is that although the Sidhe men are diminutive in human form they can go where ever they want, the Sidhe women are anchored to remain near the Sidhe mound or the seashore.

Clothing tends to be fairly uniform. Deep purple gown, a white turban on their head which wraps over a sort of Pickelhaube with the pike of the Pickelhaube emerging from the center of the turban at the top of the head.

Half-Sidhe:
As expected half-Sidhe children show slight evidence of being magical from childhood. Being unusually lucky, the house they live in needing little cleaning and other minor little glamours. They also don't need to sleep. In all stories they start off life with the mortal parent and were conceived during a short lived romance or visit to a mound or the sea. Eventually the call of their Sidhe parent grows stronger and stronger and they become less and less human in their behaviour and demeanour and always leave to return to the mound or sea eventually.

Vampire:
Vampires are always women who gain their vampiric state by drinking the blood of a murdered lover or occasionally male relative. This brings about a transformation that is hard to describe so I'll just take an image from my son's school book:

index.jpg

They typically need to feast on blood about once a week and might also consume the flesh as well. They can be returned to human form once more by slowly getting them to do civilised things, i.e. comb their hair, eat cooked food. Usually this ends romantically with them marrying the one who saved them. While in the Vampiric state they are immortal and can fly.
 

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,820
Reaction score
12,157
In the 19th Century many Irish people did not consider themselves to be the same "race" as other Western Europeans, but of one race with the First Nations of Canada. Even into the 20th Century our first President Douglas Hyde/Dubhglas de Híde thought there was some sort of ancient connection especially to the Wolastoqiyik, Ojibwe and Algonquin groups.
That's unexpected:shade:! Do you happen to know what was the reasoning behind this?

Also...seriously, nobody ever gains a leprechaun's hoard? I guess the guy just told everyone he'd failed, to avoid having to share:grin:!
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
That's unexpected:shade:! Do you happen to know what was the reasoning behind this?
It's a mix of stuff some stretching back to the Middle Ages.

The Bards as the preservers of native lore and the only "academics" never considered Gaelic people to be related to other Europeans but rather Turks or Iranians and stuff like that. This was based on how the languages worked, similarities in music and so forth and daft extrapolations from Eusebian history. It'd still have an effect today where there's no real term expressing "White" racially in Gaelic.

So when the first nations were encountered similar (incorrect) linguistic similarities were spotted as well as similarities in myth, history and custom and thus it was concluded that us and the first nations were really the same people in Antiquity. At points in the 19th Century this stretched to pretty funny ideas of some ancient super-empire spanning from Spain through Ireland and into Canada.
 
Last edited:

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,820
Reaction score
12,157
At points in the 19th Century this stretch to pretty funny ideas of some Ancient super-empire spanning from Spain through Ireland and into Canada.
Amusingly, that part is familiar from local sources, though I don't put much stock into it...:grin:

OTOH, I've always considered Gaelic people to be what is termed "white" (in reality, it's kinda pinkish), so what do I know:shade:?
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Here's a translation of a Sidhe encounter. Taken from a fisherman in November 1939. I thought it'd be useful to have one direct translation in the thread just to see directly how people regarded this stuff with some theorising about it. He also mentions several things I've described above.

[After saying how his grandmother would scare him with the Púca] But as I got older the fear of the Púca left me until eventually it left me entirely - until one day I saw some Fae coming from the Afterlife. I never believed in anything supernatural until that, until I saw the people who had been buried returning. I saw their shadow. I recognised them in every way. And I took off my cap and started saying prayers, starting pleading for their souls and ever since then I am pleading for them. And it wasn't just once that myself and others saw them. But that incident impressed on me that that sort of thing exists, that we have a soul in us and that it will make penance on us before we go into the kingdom of God. It made me believe there is an afterlife and until then I didn't believe that....

Describing the general impression in his village:

....We don't see them [these days] and it's probable that they had some cause to show themselves, that they had done something wrong and they had to make penance in the mortal world...people here used to say to each other that spirits/Fae would kill a lot of people all around and so they would get a priest to [banish the spirit into the air].
Well the souls/Fae who would show themselves, there used to be prayers said for them, alms given for their souls, a lot of things like that, masses being said for them. Probably [the Fae] had their own lives, that there used to be things troubling them that they would have to show themselves in that manner, to express to their descendants to find relief for their souls.

All these things used to happen at night, [always close to midnight] and people would be afraid to be here or there at that time. The place was empty at that time, the corners were empty, the valleys were empty...the locals always took a bottle of consecrated water with them at that hour, in their pocket or hands for fear.

...There's a well on the public road, in a place called "Small Back"....it's very deep and they say long ago a woman drowned there and that long after she could be seen there wearing a cap in the style of women from the past...one day a priest, a curate, came giving last rights and he met her...she suddenly appeared beside him in the carriage he was in...he picked up the Bible, touched his stole on the neck and began to read...he asked her why she had some. I don't know what answer she gave except "You're done here! You will never be seen again!". Shortly after that the priest died.

...There was a farmer living here, on the crag, and he went out one night to tend to his cows. He brought them in for the night to the meadow (which he owned) and feel asleep...later he woke up and saw two tribes of Fae having a ball game in the meadow, trying to get the ball into the goal. One side got the ball into the goal and there was a blast of yelling of such volume as no mortal ever heard before and the sticks were tossed into the air in celebration. The meadow was black with people, people from the afterlife...the farmer [then ran home as fast as he could]

...[close by at a pier some fishermen were resting for the night when] a woman came out of the sea and sat on the opposite side of the fire the fishermen had made...shortly a bunch of other women came out of the sea with deep purple/blue gowns on them, white turbans on their head with hats in the form of a war hat going up into the air with pikes coming out of them, they were so tall! Eventually there were seven of them and they spent an hour there...they spoke in an incomprehensible manner and left [eventually] through the pier gate...the fishermen remained seated until morning near the fire with fear....


He then goes on to describe how when directly confronted the Fae would roar like a pig and wear caps rapped around their jaws, but if asked nicely could cure fevers. Also several stories of them going out and about in animal form or turning people who annoyed them into animals. The female Fae would usually take the form of a dog and how one of his neighbours had been a half sea Fae/merman which explained his disappearance when he was roughly 18.

Nearby there is this stone circle which was said to be where the archbishop of the Fae said mass:

dji_0196-1.jpg
 
Last edited:

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,820
Reaction score
12,157
I'm somehow reminded of this, which turned up in the memes a little while ago.

View attachment 36846
"I'm not being boorish by neither thanking nor apologizing, and I'm not being evasive by not saying my full name, and neither agreeing, nor disagreeing. I'm just suspecting you of being a Fae!"
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Before I proceed I should say a brief note about the naming for people.

"Scots" from here on refers to the culture of Lowland Scotland, which was the Northern most extension of Anglo-Saxon/English culture and "Scots" is also the language (close to English) of those people. There can be an ambiguity when describing a mythical being as "Scottish" or part of Scottish folklore since that could either mean it came from the Gaelic highland culture or the Anglo lowland culture.

So for example the Brownie is "Scots" in that it comes from Germanic folklore and also appears in Northern English myth. The "great wyrms" like the Loch Ness Monster are Highlander Gaelic myths and such great wyrms are common in Irish lakes as well.

Not carefully distinguishing these can lead to wondering why Ireland has no household fairies, or why England has no lake serpent myths. Where as when you separate them it's clear why, household fairies are a Germanic thing not a Celtic thing.

It's doubly important as I start Welsh myth now, because the Welsh are a Celtic people who borrowed a lot of Germanic stuff into their myths but explained them within the Celtic paradigm.
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Tylwyth Teg:

The Tylwyth Teg (Fair Family) are the specifically Welsh take on the Fae. Now there is a huge similarity with the Irish Sidhe to the point where I don't think I'd stat/run them differently at all in a game.

The main differences are:
  1. The Tylwyth Teg establish their palaces in caves, mountains and forests, not just under hills and in the sea. Usually the forest palaces can be accessed only by walking through the forest in some specific manner, such as walking back twenty paces following some turn.

  2. Some, see below, even settle in invisible dwellings within a human village

  3. They tend to wear expensive versions of standard Welsh clothing, i.e. very good quality peasant clothing such as stunningly beautiful green gowns rather than imagined versions of medieval clothing.

  4. They are weak to iron. Touching it removes their magic and can eventually kill them. In addition most of their deals with mortals include conditions about not touching them with iron at any point or they will end the contract or remove the mortals wealth etc.

  5. Half-Fae people tend to be the result of a long term marriage rather than a brief affair.

  6. In Welsh myth the Tylwyth Teg are more clearly explained as the descendants of Druids who sealed themselves away magically with the coming of Christianity. Although the Irish Bards gave a similar explanation of the Sidhe this didn't filter down to the average Irish person who just thought the Sidhe had lived above the surface in some vague "long ago", where as the typical Welsh farmer would often describe a Tylwyth Teg as being dressed like a Druid.

  7. The Welsh borrowed the English concept of Elf as Ellyllon, English Goblin as Coblynau and the Scots Brownie as Bwbachod, rationalising them all as a type of Tylwyth Teg who differed in where they decided to settle. So Ellyllon(Elves) decided to live in forests, Coblynau(Goblin) in mines and Bwbachod(Brownies) to live invisibly near human homes.
    Even Tylwyth Teg is a borrowing of the English term "Fair Folk". Their original titles included things like "Plant Annfyn" meaning "Afterlife/Underworld Children", very similar to the Irish "Aos Sidhe" = "Underworld Race". However these original names went extinct after the English based "Tylwyth Teg" = "Fair Folk/Family" name appeared in popular songs and poems in the 15th century.

  8. Because Welsh folklore directly borrowed all these Germanic little people myths, some Tylwyth Teg simply really are small, the size of a six year old child. This is unlike Irish myth where the Sidhe are always of normal size but might choose to assume a small form when outside their mound.
I will say however that the separation between the original "ancient underground race" Celtic stuff and the later "little people" Germanic borrowings remained fairly strong. Stories that mix the two or their powers are very rare and when they do occur the "ancient race" just command the "little people" to get lost or similar. Half-Fae are always the child of one of the ancient race and never a little person. For that reason in a British Isles or Celtic based game I probably would have the "Ancient Pagans" and "Little Folk" as two separate races.

hugh-evans-fairies-stealing-baby.jpg
 
Last edited:

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
The Second Sight:

In Welsh myth there is a common motif of people who can naturally see the Fae, even when the Fae are invisible to other humans. Although this is mentioned once or twice in Irish myth, it's much more prevalent in Wales where certain families have the second sight in their blood or an individual is remembered as having an unusually powerful form of the second sight, being able to see even the Fae's hidden fortresses.

The Fae themselves have an ointment that can grant mortals second sight if they need to take them into their employ for a long time.

In addition there is a common story of a midwife gaining the second sight while attending a Fae birth. The interesting thing here is that it sometimes shows "two levels" to the second sight. So the mortal being brought to the Fae palace and into bed chambers for the birth will meet the Fae king and others, all of whom are of the "ancient race" type as tall as the average person. However after the birth she is asked to rub lotion on the mother's knees and joints and later accidently touches her own eyes. Suddenly she perceives the Fae world even more clearly, more items in the house but importantly she is finally able to see the "little people" who do all the odd jobs in the palace. Sometimes she is punished for gaining this extra sight and all ability to see the Fae is removed, often with the palace turning back into an ordinary cave.

Siôn ap Siencyn, the hero often said to have strong second sight:

Sion ap Siencyn by Ifor Owen web.jpg
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Phantom Funeral:

The Welsh Fae possessed a strong ability with premonition and a strong attachment to the mortals of their local area. So much so that they would often hold funerals for mortals up to a month before that mortals actual death. Typically a funeral procession would start at the Fae's cave or mound or arise out of the sea from their underwater dwelling, pass along the roads through the town and hold a formal service in the local church graveyard complete with mock up body of the soon to be deceased.

Those with the second sight would not only be able to see the phantom procession but if their sight was strong enough physically touch the Fae involved, who seem not to react to mortals on this sombre occasion. Sometimes the throng of Fae is so thick the mortal gets swept up in the current of mourners and in several tales is carted across country to another town. Those of exceptionally strong second sight (it's often specifically pointed out they must be very gifted) might even be able to perceive the features of the mock up corpse and tell who is going to die. Since old women of certain families possess the best second sight, they often see themselves at the funeral.

Cyhyraeth

The Fae are very intense mourners so their incredibly loud sobbing and keening can often be heard for miles by those of even weak second sight. Sometimes this is all one perceives of the phantom funeral: the wailers called Cyhyraeth. These are exactly the same as the "banshee" of Irish myth, although in Ireland the full phantom funeral is very rare and died out as a myth on most of the island with only the banshee remaining.

Note: "Bean sidhe" from which English gets "Banshee" is not actually the name for this kind of crying fae woman in Irish who has different names depending on the exact details of her mortal life. "Bean sidhe" just means "Fae Woman" and can be applied to literally any female Fae regardless of whether they wail for mortals.

Phantom Funeral in Welsh art:

D1uTOp0X4AAgt2L.jpg
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
6,304
Reaction score
13,745
Steampunk Fae:

The great thing about Welsh myth is that Wales was industrialised unlike Ireland and thus you have a long enough period of native storytellers being surrounded by technology. This has consequences such as the Fae train that runs from Carmarthen to Llandilo. In some cases the train is part of a Fae phantom funeral, with some important local person dying shortly after the train is spotted.

As TristramEvans TristramEvans had above the Fae in Wales often ride Corgis into battle, but there are accounts of them not only riding the Corgis but doing so while firing rifles and pistols at mortals.The bullets don't kill but induce a six month fever. These corgi or terrier mounted Fae even occur in the Isle of Man where fishermen on the East coast have given being shot by Fae as the reason for a long sick leave from work and gotten supported by the community during it!

I'll have some more Fae and technology to come in later posts.

IRyaYpq.jpg
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top