Lineage of the Dark Fae

LDeniseineage of the Dark Fae

                                                                 By Denise Dumars, M.A.

Rev. Denise D.Dumars, M. A., teaches college English at a variety of Southern California community colleges and universities. She has taught composition, creative writing. poetry, science fiction, ethnic fiction, and basic skills. She is a widely published author of two short fiction collections, two nonfiction books, several poetry chapbooks, and numerous critiques, articles, short stories, and poems. She currently writes a bimonthly column for the Science Fiction Poetry Association entitled "Stealth SF" and her most recent work is published in the 2011 Witches' Calendar and the 2011 Magical Almanac. In addition, she is an author's representative for the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and an ordained minister in two traditions. Denise is also a member of Coreopsis Editorial Board.


Anne Rices Interview with the Vampire incorporated theatre as a motif, in the scenes in which protagonist Louis discovers Le Theatre des Vampires. However, this was not the first time that vampires and the stage had met; after all, Bela Lugosi himself portrayed Dracula on the stage in his native Hungary before he starred in the film, and the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker had married an actress, was a theatre critic, and eventually became the manager for actor Sir Henry Irving (Classic Literature Library). Modern theatre, dance, and performance has made much of the vampire mythology from the legacy of Bram Stokers novel, Dracula, a tale inspired in part by Eastern European vampire lore as well as by the historical Prince Vlad Tepes III (1431-1476), called Vlad Dracul, a warlord of Wallachia, a province in what is now Romania (Porter). Though Dracul was, obviously, not a vampire, his bloodthirsty methods of dealing with his enemies overshadow his historical importance in the popular imagination. In Romania and neighboring countries, however, he is still seen as a hero who prevented the Turkish conquest of Eastern Europe.

Theatre of the Dark Fae:

Vampirism in European Faery Lore

It seems it was ages ago
I last saw the shining sky
how many souls I may devour
to become a dragonfly?

From The Call of the Nymph by Spanish recording artist Priscilla Hernandez

Though modern pop culture vampires including those of Stephanie Meyers Twilight derive primarily from the myths of Dracula and his native land, European folklore is rich in tales of vampiric Fae, as I will refer to Faery or Fairy folk in this essay. Bringing to light some of the dark myths of the Fae will demonstrate that it was not just the Eastern European countries that lent their lore to modern fiction, theatre, films, and music. Indeed, myths of vampiric Fae were nearly ubiquitous throughout Western Europe, including Ireland, the homeland of Draculas author.

Interestingly enough, an earlier vampire novel, Varney the Vampire or the Feast of Blood (1847) contains in its preface the notion that the first belief in vampires took its rise in Norway and Sweden (Prest). Other vampiric tales of the time do not make this same claim, so could it be that the author was basing his assumption on the Norse myths, which included the Fae and their king, the deity Frey, who were of the Light Elves and lived in Alfheim (literally Elfland, or Fairyland) (Guerber 117). As much as Frey was beloved for his boons and positivity, there was also a dark side to Norse fairyland. Swart-alfar, also known as dark elves, dwarves, trolls, or goblins, had their own home (Guerber 239). These dark elves were seen as responsible for changelings, since they envied the taller humans, and snatched human babies, substituting their own (Guerber 244). The troll women could change themselves into Maras: nightmares, very much like succubi in some cases (Guerber 244). These beings resemble vampires in that they prey upon people at night and will be turned into stone if they are caught outdoors after dawn (Guerber 244-245). These stories lead to the belief throughout Scandinavia and even Britain of a supernatural race that lived underground in a place called Svart-alfa-heim, the home of the dark fae (Guerber 245).

Varney the Vampire has been adapted to the theatre many times, most recently by the Put-In-Bay Dramatic Society in Ohio, in April 2010 (Put-In-Bay Arts Council). Though it received less than rave reviews, the Ohio Arts Council helped to fund the production, lending legitimacy to a theatrical production of a novel that was once considered one of the most lurid pulp or dime novels of the 19th century, and continuing the tradition of taking the popularity of vampires seriously (Put-In-Bay Arts Council.)

Legends of vampiric Fae such as those of the sometimes succubus-like Leanan Sidhe are being utilized by contemporary authors, such as Yasmine Galenornherself a theatre major in college--in her new novel Night Myst. Protagonist Sookies status as newly revealed fae in the immensely popular True Blood series by Charlaine Harris brings us another current pop cultural connection between vampires and the fae.

The Leanan Sidhe are the fae that most resemble what we think of as vampires. Known throughout the Celtic lands but most often associated with Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man, these members of the Unseelie Court of the fae (Jones). Unseelie is the opposite of Seelie, the other court of the fae; the term can connote the Courts unseemly or suspect aspects.

The great Irish poet, member of the Golden Dawn and proponent of the Celtic Revival, William Butler Yeats, claimed that the Leanan Sidhe could act as muses to poets, artists, and other creative people (Jones). However, this creative boon was not without a price; the vampiric fae, depending on whos telling the story, either took blood, life force, or both, and gradually drained the artists of their lives even as they gave them great creative abilities (Jones). Jones quotes Yeats as stating, in his Folk and Fairy Tales of Ireland that Most of the Gaelic poets, down to quite recent times, have had a Leanhaun Shee, for she gives inspiration to her slaves and is indeed the Gaelic muse -- this malignant fairy. Her lovers, the Gaelic poets, died young. (qtd. in Jones).

Dark FaeryEdain McCoy, who has written many books on the fae and other Celtic myths, states that the Leanansidhe is only one fairy, an immortal vampire who collects the blood of those for whom she is a muse in a great cauldron where she uses it to stay young and beautiful, presumable bathing in it (McCoy 260.) This aspect of the myth bears a striking resemblance to the practices of Erzebet Bathory, the Hungarian Countess who is believed to have bathed in the blood of as many as 612 women and girls, believing it would keep her young and beautiful always (Bathory-Kitsz). It is not surprising that legend such as those of the Leanan Sidhe and the Blood Countess as Bathory was eventually known would come to be related in the popular imagination, just as Bathory and Dracula are often mentioned in the same fictional context. Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, who claims to have descended either directly from Bathory or a cousin of hers, has composed an opera called Erzsebet: the Opera, which is in its final stages of fundraising and will be staged in Vermont in 2011 (Bathory-Kitsz).

McCoy goes on to say, The Leanansidhe may be the remnants of a demonized Goddess (McCoy 260). Many contemporary mythologists do, indeed, say that the same may be true for many figures in fairy tales and legends; for example, the Arthurian legends Morgan le Fay (Taylor) or Russian follktales Baba Yaga (qtd in Dumars et al 23). If this is the case, then there is no better candidate for this role in Celtic mythology than the goddess Ceriddwen, a dark goddess known for her cauldron of creation, which held the secrets to wisdom and creativity (Wigington). Indeed, the myth of Cerridwen from the medieval text of Welsh myth called the Mabinogion also credits her with the birth of the greatest mythical Celtic poet, Taliesin (Wigington). This links back directly to W. B. Yeats assertion about the connection between the dark fae and creativity.

McCoy goes on to say that the Unseelie Court as well as its lighter counterpart, the Seelie Court, are never seen clearly by humans. According to McCoy, the Unseelie Court is only glimpsed at night as a dark cloud, and is active during the half of the year which, in pagan Celtic beliefs, was overseen by the dark Goddess: Samhain to Ostara (McCoy 329). She also states that the word Unseelie may also mean unblessed or even damned (McCoy 329). This is because in Christian times, the fae, especially the darker ones, were thought to have either been part of the fallen angels or trapped in some sort of purgatory (McCoy 329). Indeed, it was customary in the Christian era to demonize the faeif they were believed to be real at allas part of Satans fallen angels or as unbaptized souls.

According to role-playing gamer Chris OToole, the Leanan Sidhe are technically fae, but must present themselves as vampires, for if they stop drinking blood they will waste away and disappear. In fact, he refers to them as a missing link between more conventional fae and vampires (OToole). Very popular with young people in the roleplaying gaming and Gothic subcultures, the dark fae present a Gothic Lolita look that makes the sexy-but-dangerous attributes of the Leanan Sidhe very attractive to those given to dressing the part and playing both live-action and online roleplaying games. Numerous songs and performers of Gothic music call themselves, their bands, or their music Leanan Sidhe.

Spanish singer and musician Priscilla Hernandez, whose lyrics are sampled above, says that she likes both the dark and light sides of the fae. Her first album, The Ghost and the Fairy, made good use of this mythology (Hernandez). Like many who feel drawn to them and inspired by them, Srta. Hernandez states that she sees the dark fae as bitter, but not evil. In analyzing her own fae-based work, she said, In fact, most of my fae references are dark fae. (Hernandez). Like many who find the dark fae inspiring, Hernandez identifies with both the Gothic and the New Age subcultures and approaches her topics in a multimedia way. Her performances are easily found on YouTube and the images of her art and songs from her albums are widely available throughout the World Wide Web and on her own website.

Dark fae/vampiric crossovers in myth range not only throughout Europe, but also in diverse cultures. The duppy of the West Indies is a ghostly creature that can be seen at night (Urban Dictionary). The duppy originates as part of the two-part soul as persons are believed to have in the magico-religious system known as Obeah. When a person dies in this tradition, half the soul goes directly to the afterlife, and the other stays earthbound for three days. During this dangerous time, this part of the spirit can become a duppy. Duppies are similar in some ways to poltergeists or mischievous spirits, but they have their vampiric ways. As one duppy says in Duppy Stories: "Me dead one time, me dead one time, me can't dead two time!" So, clearly, the duppy is one of the undead. Interestingly enough, in Europe, one of the means by which a vampire came to exist was if the spirit became earthbound if the dead person had not been religious enough or if certain protocols were not followed during the funeral.

Duppies have found their way into numerous blues songs throughout the Caribbean and the U.S (Duppy). Bob Marley allegedly spoke of the many hangers-on that plague celebrities as duppies or what we might call psychic vampires. The lyrics to his song Duppy Conqueror can certainly be interpreted this way (Marley). Duppies have been popular villains in several videogames and were referred to in Neil Gaimans novel Anansi Boys, which referenced the West African folklore that originally provided the background for the Jamaican duppy (Duppy). Duppy in the House, a play by Marvin Trini Ishmael, is set in Jamaica and is based on the theme of Molieres The Doctor in Spite of Himself (We Are One Theatre and Marvin Trini Ishmael). The play is considered important to the Black Canadian culture and has been performed all over Canada (Black Canada). Ashton Cookes Country Duppy is a humorous play that takes its cues from typical Jamaican folk tales. It was staged in Jamaica in 2000 by Marcia Brown Productions (The Jamaica Gleaner). Duppies are often corporeal beings, sometimes resembling small dogs or more fanciful, imaginative creatures, such as the duppy called a rolling calf, who has fire coming from his eyes and nostrils and drags a long chain (Duppy Stories). Like many stories of interactions between the fae and humans, there is often a trickster aspect to duppy tales.

The dybbuk, which originates from the most ancient of Israeli myths, is one of few pre-Old Testament Hebrew myths that have persisted into the modern age. The dybbuk is an evil spirit, or sometimes, depending upon what version of the myth is read, just the spirit of a dead person who can possess a living persons body (McCoy 214.) According to Rabbi Gershon Winkler, these spirits are similar to demons, but sheydim as they are called in Hebrew are, unlike demons, not always considered evil ( Belanger). Sometimes they are wandering spirits that want a corporeal home; they have, like many fae, one foot in the other realm and one foot in ours (Winkler). The Dybbuk: Or, Between Two Worlds by S. Ansky, is considered very important in the history of Jewish theatre. It has been performed globally as a stage play, an opera, a ballet, and has been adapted to the silver screen (YIVO Institute).

The dybbuk was widely believed in throughout Eastern Europe amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish people, and so geographically we come back to where we started: the land of Dracula, the forests of the vampire, as Charles Phillips calls the Slavic lands in his book on Slavic myths. Whether we call them vampires, dark fae, or any other name, these walkers-between-the-worlds who are both dead and alive or sometimes neither, make for compelling myths. Anyone wanting to pen a play, a song, a poem, an opera, a novel, a ballet, or an illustration can find a willing muse amongst these creatures as well as a ready-made motif, sprung from the sometimes-dark side of the folklore, and some would say, of the collective unconscious of many nations.

Note: In deference to the difficulties of formatting fonts on the Internet, I have mostly left off the diacritical markings on names and words in this text. Variants in the spelling of names and terminology reflect those of the works cited, and in most cases I have chosen to spell the word or name as the specific source has spelled it. All information not cited is from my own extensive background in the study of Celtic, Norse, and Slavic mythology and Caribbean syncretic magico-religious traditions.

Works Cited

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Belanger, Jeff. Dybbuk: Spiritual Possession and Jewish Folklore. 29 November 2003. Web. 12 November 2010.
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Duppy Stories. Internet Sacred Text Archive.
Guerber, H. A. Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas. New York: Dover, 1942. Print.
Hernandez, Priscilla. Email interview. 12 November 2010.
Hernandez, Priscilla. Priscilla Hernandez: Ethereal Gothic Singer-Songwriter and Fantasy Illustrator. Official site.
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Lindsay, Laura. Country DuppyBellyful of Laughs. The Jamaica Gleaner. 29 July 2000. Web. 12 November 2010.
McCoy, Edain. A Witchs Guide to Faery Folk. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.
Marley, Bob. Duppy Conqueror Lyrics. 2010. Web. 23 November 2010.
    Bob Marley video rehearsals in Capitol Record Studios LA, California

OToole, Chris. Leannan Sidhe. Web. 12 November 2010.
Phillips, Charles, and Kerrigan, Michael. Forests of the Vampire: Slavic Myth. New York: Time-Life, 1999. Print.
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Prest, Thomas Preskett (attrib.) Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood. 1847. Styron, Elizabeth, Ed. 2000. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. E-book. Web. 8 October 2010.
Put-In-Bay Arts Council, Currrent Calendar. Varney the Vampire. South Bass Island, Ohio. April 2010. Web. 11 November 2010.
Urban Dictionary. Duppy. Web. 12 November 2010.
We are One Theatre and Marvin Trini Ishmael. Duppy in the House. Black 2007. Web. 12 November 2010.
Wiggington, Patty. Cerridwen: Keeper of the Cauldron, Paganism/Wicca. 2010. Web. 12 November 2010.
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