“May the hills lie low| May the sloughs fill up | In thy way.
May all evil sleep | May all good awake | In thy way.”
From ‘Road to the Isles’ by Kenneth Macleod
Apparently the Isle of Skye is covered in fairies. Hoaching with them. Positively teeming. In Highland superstition it seems that there are two quite different theories about the origin of fairies, from Celtic and Scandinavian sources, and that these have, over the centuries, become confused.
They may well have been the old inhabitants of the land, the little dark Neolithic people, Iberians or older, that were there long before the Celts, but were conquered and show all the traits you would expect of such a people. Dwelling underground in ‘Picts’ Houses’ or ‘fairy mounds’, using the flint arrow-heads that are now said to be ‘fairy arrows’ instead of the iron that they feared and so never owned, and taking every opportunity to annoy those of their conquerors who had failed to befriend them. They would have lived side by side with the other inhabitants of the land, speaking Gaelic as well as their own ‘fairy’ tongue, showing kindness to those who showed them kindness and seeking revenge on those who offended them.
The more Scandinavian theories suggest that they are fallen angels, some having fallen into the sea when the Devil was driven from heaven, becoming ‘Blue Men’. While others fell to earth and became fairies, hiding from God in woods, caves and fairy mounds, great musicians who wielded supernatural powers. Others became the Merry Dancers, or Northern Lights, coming from the myth that the Northern Lights were the Valkyries, these older myths themselves having been Christianised.
It is easy to see how a very real people may have become cloaked in myth, especially as their culture and appearance may have differed enough to make them seem quite alien to their conquerors. We have seen this happen time and again throughout history. It is also easy to see why these myths have persisted; it is that very thirst for the unknown that has driven mankind to explore and overcome, an emotive force that we have yet to comprehend that has become embodied in mythical imagery such as that of the Little People. Further to this, as someone who has had firsthand experience of what has seemed to me to be supernatural phenomena, I would argue that it is a combination of these, and other things we have yet to, or may never understand, that are the makings of fairy lore.
There are many sites on Skye that are linked to the fae, none more so than the Fairy Bridge. Located just outside of Dunvegan by the turnoff to Waternish. It is a place wrapped in story and myth, but these days it has ceased to be used as a crossing point, this and the nearby bus stop seem to have somewhat muted its once formidable reputation. Still, it was once the entry way to Waternish, a place reputed to be the last stronghold of heathendom on Skye.