Folklore

The Dark Muse #Folklore

Everyone always talks about having a muse to help them with their artistic endeavours. Yeah, some muses are a little trickier with what they want out of the deal than others.

Today we’re looking at the Leannan Sìth.

Leannan Sìth in Folklore

Survivals in Belief Among the Celts by George Henderson [1911]

The forester was universally believed to have had a Leannan-Sith (a fairy sweetheart), who followed him wherever he went.

Gods and Fighting Men by Lady Gregory [1904]

But those that did cures by herbs said she [Aine] had power over the whole body; and she used to give gifts of poetry and of music, and she often gave her love to men, and they called her the Leanan Sidhe, the Sweetheart of the Sidhe.

Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde [1887]

THE Leanan-Sidhe, or the spirit of life, was supposed to be the inspirer of the poet and singer.

The Leanan-Sidhe somethes took the form of a woman, who gave men valour and strength in the battle by her songs.

The Druid Path by Marah Ellis Ryan [1917]

The suantre of the sleepy winds lulled the lad into slumber before he decided the centuries-old mystery, but it remained with him in a misty dream, and in the dream he saw that the dark rose–the hidden rose–was a Leanan Sidhe, a fair mistress of the Secret People whose magic palaces were hidden under ancient raths of green, and where legendary heroes waited the mystic music of the awakening on Erinn’s day of destiny.

Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick [1894]

Fairy-inspired bards were liable to be spirited away by their muse, the Leannan Sighe. If she helped them in composition, they were bound to follow her throughout eternity.

“Were it not better thou shouldst dwell awhile with a young maiden of golden locks,
Than that the country should be laughing at thy doggrel rhyme?”

Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888]

The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress), seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth–this malignant phantom.

 La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats, 1819.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing. 

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Leanhuam-Shee

Variations: Leanan-Sidhe, Leanhaun-Shee, Leanhaun-Sidhe, Lhiannan Shee

On the Isle of Man, located in the middle of the northern Irish Sea, there is a type of vampire fay appearing to its victims as a beautiful young woman but to everyone else is invisible; it is called leanhaum-shee. It will try to seduce a man, and if it is successful, its magic will cause him to fall in love with it. If he does, the leanhaum-shee will take him as a lover; if he does not, it will strangle him to death and then drain his corpse of blood. Little by little it will drain off its lover’s life-energy during intercourse. The leanhaum-shee also collects his blood and stores it in a red cauldron, which adds to its magical properties.

You can read more about this terrifying creature in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Leanan Sidhe

(Pronounced lan-awn-shee.) The Irish “fairy mistress” or “fairy sweetheart”, the muse of Irish artists, poets, and singers.

Muse

The personification of knowledge and the arts in Greek mythology.

In India, the apsaras have been compared to the muses, while in Celtic tradition the Irish leanan sidhe and the Manx lhiannan shee bestow the gift of artistic genius, but often at the cost of the artist’s sanity, or even life.

You can read more about the various forms of this creature in the book.

Further Reading:

Leannan Sìth in Modern Culture

I found this quote online:

From deep within the old stone well,
The Sidhe came to claim a mate.
For her glamour the poor lad fell,
And unknowingly sealed his fate.
Now he creates great works of art,
While she insures they never part.
This dark Fae inspires her loved one,
But in the end he’ll be undone.
                                            ~ Morrigan Aoife

And then there’s, of course, the way the Leannan Sìth is depicted in the TV series Grimm.

The lips of the Musai secrete a psychotropic substance, making its kiss to be known as euphoric and addictive as any narcotic known to man. Once a relationship has been established and sealed with a kiss, it always ends in madness, destruction, and death.

You can find out more about this fascinating creature here.

Leannan Sìth in My Writing

Of course, I use this beautiful and deadly Faery in my own writing.

Origin of the Fae: Leannan Sìth

This Dark Muse has beautiful red hair to go with her strikingly good looks.
There are only female Leannan Sìth.
She offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for his love and complete devotion. Lovers of the Leannan Sìth live brief, though highly inspired, lives. This union always ends in madness, despair and death.
If her advances are spurned, she’ll take action against the human with unpleasant results. (Better to devote oneself to this Faery and die young than go against her and have her cause a fate worse than death for all you know.)
She drains the sanity and life-force from the men she inspires to greatness.
She drains the blood from those she deems unworthy of her love (which is a gift and a curse of itself). She drinks their blood from a huge cauldron in which she gathers their very essence and vitality along with their blood – this is the source of her power and good looks. (This technically makes her a vampire.)
With one kiss from her, a man is her slave even beyond death (she takes possession of his heart and soul).
She only goes after young, handsome men.

I made a sketch of her, though I think I should keep it to myself… Nah — come and share the nightmare!

And she features in various stories I’ve written, most recently “Dark Desires”.

You can get your copy of “Dark Desires” from your favourite online retailer.

When did you hear of this fae for the first time? Here is a Pinterest board I created for her.

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