Leanan Sidhe, or Dearg-due, or leanashe, often considered the Irish version of the Manx Lhiannan Shee, is a source of inspiration for young artists.
Often considered the Irish version of Scottish version of female vampires and succubi (as they lure men through sexual attraction), Leanan Sidhe is an opposite of her Manx counterpart Lhiannan Sidhe, a life-giving spirit inspiring artists, mostly poets and musicians.
Corporeal to the beloved artist she chose as her mate, sometimes the Leanan Sidhe took the form of a woman, who gave men valour and strength in battle thanks to her songs. It is said that those inspired by it live brilliant, though short, lives.
Dearg-due translates as red blood sucker. A Celtic legend tells that a famous female called Dearg-due is buried next to Strongbow's Tree in Waterford.
Leanan Sidhe instead means both fairy mistress or fairy sweetheart for she used to take an artist as lover.
The Fairy Mistress seems to be fond of poets and musicians, inspiring them with her muse like power. It is said that her lover gives her the vital depth of emotion that she craves and she in turn gives inspiration to his genius.
Leanan Sidhe is intelligence, creativity, art and magic. She was the embodiment of all that as well as so beautiful and sensual to cause fear and be considered dangerous as well as evil for she didn’t conceal her power, beauty and mystery.
Her purpose is revealed through the creative works she inspired in poets, painters, and musicians. Her beauty gave so many emotions that she taught her lovers love and despair, longing and desire.
According to Irish lore, the way to prevent the undead, such as Leanan Sidhe, to rise it’s to put a cairn of stones over their grave. Like most fairy creatures, iron is lethal to the Leanan Sidhe.
Leanan Sidhe is the famous Celtic muse with such a dark and incomparable beauty that her lover was often distraught with longing and suffering for her absence. Because Gaelic poets died at a very young age, this spirit is considered an evil fairy. As W.B. Yeats states in his book Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland she grew restless and carried them away to other worlds, for death does not destroy her power.
On the other hand W.Y. Evens-Wents, in his book The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, reports of a similar tale about a fairy woman mistaken for a succubi, suggesting that at the time (Middle Age) fairies where often mistaken for succubi. He clearly states
Leanan was believed to have taken human form, such was the poetess Eodain by whom Eugene, king of Munster, gained complete victory over his foes. Afterwards he gave himself up to luxury and pleasure, and moved to Spain, where he stayed for nine years, got married and had children. After that long period he returned to find his Irish kingdom ruined, while a few people were feasting in his banquet hall and most of his people were starving to death. The country despised Eugene and would not listen to him when he was supposed to give just judgement for iniquity. Eugene looked for Eodain to come and give him advice. So she came and upheld him with her strong spirit, for she had the power within her of the poet and the prophet. Following her suggestions and guided by her, he was eventually successful and brought order back to his land.
- Briggs, Katherine An Encyclopedia of Fairies (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976)
- Ann Martha and Myers Dorothy Goddesses In World Mythology the book considers the fairy as a source of intelligence, creativity, arts, magic, love, sexuality, and unhappiness. The latter statement is due to her unearthly beauty that caused a depression induced death in her partner, for he couldn’t bear to stay far from her. Because of that, belief spread that she was destructive.
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, An Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves and other Monsters (Checkmark Books) ISBN 0-816-04685-9
- Matthews, Caitlin and John British and Irish Mythology she is often depicted in Irish artistic tradition as a point of reference of the vision, the aisling, in which the artist meets his muse on a hillside. The music or poetry she inspires is usually indicative of an otherworldly sadness and regret for the past glories of Ireland.