Friday, February 4, 2011

Faery Winds

"Dirt devils," my Grandmother used to say. Whenever we'd see a little dust kick up from the ground and swirl around like miniature tornadoes. Though they lacked the destructive force of storm tornadoes, she'd warn, "Be mindful. Faeries are afoot. You don't want them catching you."

What Granny called "dirt devils" are known in Irish folklore as sidhe gaoithe, faery winds. A sudden gust of wind or a whirlwind thought to be caused by the Faery Host rushing past.

W.B. Yeats remarked that Irish peasantry were careful not to offend the traveling faeries and at the sight of a faery wind they would remove their hats, saying "God bless them."

An Irish legend tells of an unfortunate man who built his house in the middle of a faery path despite the townsfolk warning. It wasn't long before a sidhe gaoithe whipped up, destroying the man's new home.

Modern Science pooh-pooh's superstitions and would have us believe that this phenomenon isn't supernatural.

"Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low- pressure air above it. If conditions are just right, the air may begin to rotate. The spinning effect, along with surface friction usually will produce a forward momentum. The dust devil is able to sustain itself longer by moving over nearby sources of hot surface air."  Wikipedia

 Most of the dirt devils that I've encountered were about ankle-to-knee high. An unnatural stillness would fall. Not a wisp of wind stirred. I didn't dare breathe the thickened air. The faint buzzing of voices and galloping hooves tickled my mind, if not my ears. The presence of one, or many, brushing past. There and gone in a blink of the eye. Too quick for them to hear the jack-hammering of my heart as I stood frozen waiting for them to pass. Who knows what would've happened if they'd noticed me noticing them.

Have you experienced a faery wind, or other faery encounter?

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Nicole North said...

Wonderful, charming post! I have seen these little swirls of wind. They always make me stop and stare in fascination. I didn't know they might be caused by fairies. Neat!!

Pat McDermott said...

I loved reading this, Kristal. My current WIP features the Sí-Gaoith (different spelling, same mischief) and I plan to blog about it at some point. The fairies work in strange ways!

Maeve said...

I say pooh pooh on science! I believe all things are possible and we don't always know as much as we think we do. Too many times, the wind nudges or whispers through the trees in a chilling way for me to believe in some scientific explanation. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I like that.

Don't really see many dirt devils around here - I've seen a few little trash whirlwinds, but they aren't quite so impressive.

It made me remember the bit in Piers Anthony's 'Roc and a Hard Place', though, where the demoness venturing out into the cruel, mundane real world finds out that demons are magically permanent versions of dust devils, and that if she remains for too many seconds beyond the safe aisle of borrowed magic, she'll revert to a dust devil, blow away, dissipate, and be lost.

Good luck with the A to Z challenge! I'm giving it a try too.

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