IRISH FAERY SHEOQUES
The sheoques are a type of faerie indigenous
to Ireland. They are the spirits that
haunt the sacred thorn bushes and the green Irish raths which
are little fields circled by ditches prevalent throughout
Ireland. The rath, or forts, or "royalties", were purported to be ancient fortifications and sheepfolds.
Sheoque comes from the Gaelic word sidheog
which means 'little fairy'.
The sheoques are on the whole good, but
sometimes they make it a practice of stealing Irish children
and leaving changelings in their place.
Unfortunately, the changeling they left in place of a child
would usually shrivel up and die within the first two or three
years of their human existence. The changeling is mourned and
buried, but if its grave is ever disturbed all that will be
found is a blackened twig or a piece of bog oak where the body
of the infant should be. Some live longer but rarely into
Sheoques are not
overall malevolent, however, and
occasionally take grown-ups into faerieland as well. Most faeries are thought to operate with a
different set of social rules and moral codes than humans, and
they do not understand why taking a child is wrong or why it
would upset a baby's parents to do so, especially if they
leave a changeling in its place. Sheoques are thought to like
to keep humans as pets, but if they can be sought out and
asked to return a missing child, they will do so, no questions
asked, for they really mean no harm; they just want to keep
humans as pets because they find them amusing.
Many a mortal they are said to have enticed
down into their dim world. Their music purportedly led many humans astray.
Many more have listened to their fairy music, till all human
cares and joys drifted from their hearts and they became great
peasant seers or "Fairy Doctors", or great peasant musicians
or poets like Carolan, who gathered his tunes while sleeping
on a fairy rath; or else they died in a year and a day, to
live ever after among the fairies.
Some years ago a man wrote to one of the Irish
papers, telling of a case in his own village, and how the
parish priest made the fairies deliver the stolen child up
again. At times full-grown men and women have been taken. Near
the village of Coloney, Sligo, lives an old woman who was
taken in her youth. When she came home at the end of seven
years she had no toes, for she had danced them off. Now and
then one hears of some real injury being done a person by the
land fairies, but then it is nearly always deserved. They are
said to have killed two people in the last six months in the
County Down district but then these persons had evidently torn
up thorn bushes belonging to the sheoques!
Come away, o
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand.
William Butler Yeats, The