I’ve always had a big interest in the Sidhe legends, long, long before i ever discovered i was Irish (long story, let’s not worry about it now) and I’ve incorporated the Sidhe into several works. While they don’t really come into play in the Steampunk Opera, they do get a shout out.
This subculture song that i’m working on, one which depicts a subculture during my third generation which has appropriated Voodoo much like 60s british youth appropriated the blues, depicts the youth of New Albion getting together for parties that are more like Voudon ceremonies. These kids are not african, nor african descended, and since they’re pulling a cultural appropriation, it would make sense that they are not trying to call up african spirits, but their own ancestral spirits… the Sidhe.
The Celts believed in Faeries and before the late 19th and 20th centuries pussified them into pretty little tinkerbell things, they were actually creepy as hell. Pronounced Shee, they incorporate a pantheon of creatures. The lordly, more human like creatures and the more monsterous, malevolent beings like the Leprechaun, the Phooka, the Merrow and the Banshee (bean-sidhe, get it?).
The lordly race, the Sidhe proper, live underground in enchanted mounds and in the Otherworld. In the stories, encountering them can be potentially hazardous, or quite fun. They are charming, but quick to anger if insulted or disgusted. They love beautiful things and will steal human babies, taking them to forever reside in their underground otherworlds, putting fatally flawed replacements in their place.
As lovely as it might seem to run off and play with the Faeries, it is actually extremely dangerous. Basically, you risk becoming an acid casualty. You know, one of the guys that has done way too much LSD and is just… not really there. Spaced the fuck out. If you’re a child, this is less likely to happen but more likely they will simply take you and let your parents die of a broken heart. Sometimes people can visit them and come back all right or even with a gift. Other times they come back deformed, messed up in the head, or kill themselves in order to return.
The Sidhe are often said to derive from the ancient worship of the dead, and originally were the ancestors of the Celts, who over time grew into numerous legends and mythologies. This works best for my purposes.
As far as more fanciful and historical legend goes, the Sidhe are said to be a race called the Tuatha Dé Danann, People of the Goddess Danu. In the early Irish writings ‘The Book of the Dun Cow’ and the ‘Book of Leinster’ they are described as a race that is “gods and not gods”, pointing to the fact that they are ‘something in between’.
They were the 5th people to come to ireland, and they conquered the island from the far more barbaric Fir Bolg. Numerous stories of the battles and various kings and killings and betrayals abound, but eventually the Tuatha De Dunann ruled all of Ireland un til the coming of the Sons of Mil, the Milesians, who became the Celts. They eventually conquered the Sidhe and either drove them underground, or according to some legends, in dividing up Ireland with them after the wars, tricked them. They divided Ireland in half, but the Milesians got all the area above ground, and the Tuatha Dé Danann all the area underground.
The Sidhe were said to have come from four mythical cities: Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias. It was their that they learned all of their magic and skills from the druids, and were given four great treasures or talismans that showed these skills. The first treasure was the Stone of Fal, which would scream whenever a true king of Ireland would place his foot on it. The next was the Magic Sword of Nuada, a weapon that only inflicted mortal blows when drawn. The third was the Sling-shot of the Sun God Lugh, that never missed its target. The last was the Cauldron of Dagda from which a constant supply of food came forth.
Nowadays there are numerous books which incorporate Sidhe mythology. However, one of the best, in terms of pure awesomeness as fantastical fiction is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Seriously, this is one of the most enjoyable fantasy books of the past decade and does the faery mythos proud.