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The heART of Ritual


The Amadán - The Most Dangerous Fairy of All?

The Amadán is a denizen of fairy said to be most active during the month of June and a fairy being sometimes linked to the solstice itself. This fairy is also considered to be a companion to those born in this month, (of which I am one!), and often whether they like it or not! A trickster-like being, the Amadán is unpredictable, and accounts of their work and deeds leave no real explanation regarding motives in many cases.

The Amadán can appear as either the Amadán na Bruidhne or the Amadán Mór and is also sometimes known as either The Fairy Fool or King of the Fairies. This ambiguity is difficult to decipher. Various researchers fall between taking these seemingly different descriptions as meaning either separate beings or different aspects of the same being. Personally, I have not encountered a definitive argument either way that convinces me one way or the other but would offer this as my own interpretation: often the interaction seems influenced by the mindset of the observer. Much like the famous particle/ wave experiment, perhaps it is us defining the manifestation in some respect.

Further thoughts outside of my own interpretation can be found by reading Professor James McKillop's, The Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, for example. There is also a connection between the Amadán's 'fool' aspect and legends of the Holy Grail and the character of Perceval, although this lies outside the scope of this article.

The Amadán, it seems to me, has an almost quantum aspect; it is sometimes said that the Amadán views time and history as poems still being written or a tapestry whose weave can be influenced. It seems that fate, in this respect, is something the Amadán is always one step ahead of. This might explain their association with borders and confusing nature of sometimes being a hero and other times a fairy who brings curses and even death. Perhaps, even, the Amadán is much more powerful than most realise and with their actions they decide the trajectory that a persons life will take.

But, back to the traditional folklore. Sometimes the Amadán is likened to Pan or even Loki because of their double nature and the dread sometimes associated with their appearance. A person may well argue, though, that all fairies themselves demonstrate this characteristic.

As the Amadán can transform their outward appearance, they can often take the form of a beautiful maiden or queen. Who can say, though, whether this might in fact be their authentic form as the trickster-like nature of the Amadán may well be something outside of our comprehension. In this context, from a magical and occult perspective, the androgyne is often the highest manifestation of a form so maybe there is some connection to the Amadán in this respect, especially when we hear stories of how they lead The Wild Hunt and command the fairy troupe.

Although the majority of encounters with the Amadán seem malevolent, this is not always the case.

As I have mentioned before, a person can sometimes break a taboo or cause offence to the good people without even knowing that they have done so. In this respect, it is always worth reserving judgment regarding how we interpret the stories we hear until we know the full details.

Dusk is the time of the Amadán, and encounters often begin with a person hearing haunting music which they have no choice but to follow to its source. In this simple trait you can notice the comparisons to Pan and how he is often depicted as being hypnotic when appearing to human beings.

Fairy forts, raths and mounds are where the Amadán most often appears but a person may well encounter this being in a wooded area or field and just as easily be led astray. In this account from 'Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland' by W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory we see both the frightening aspect of the Amadán as well as, perhaps, a more ambivalent characteristic.

"It is about the forts they are, not about the churchyards. The Amadán is the worst of them all. They say people are brought away by them. I knew a girl one time near Ballyvaughan was said to be with them for nine months. She never ate anything all that time, but the food used to go all the same.

There was a man called Hession died at that time and after the funeral she began to laugh, and they asked her what she was laughing at, and she said, "You would all be laughing yourselves if you could open the coffin and see what it is you are carrying in it."

The priest heard of her saying that and was vexed. Did they open the coffin? They did not, where would be the use, for whatever was in it would be in the shape of some person, young or old. They would see nothing by looking at that.

There was a woman near Feakle, Mrs Colman, brought away for seven years; she was the priest's sister. But she came back to her husband after, and she cured till the day of her death came every kind of sores, just putting her hand on them and saying, "In the name of the father, son and holy ghost". There was a man in Gort was brought for a time to Tir-ran-og (Tir na Nog), that is a part of heaven."

So, in this example we can observe the malicious side of the Amadán as well as bestowing the fairy gift of healing which the abducted woman demonstrates having returned from the Otherworld.

However, the fairy stroke or fairy blast of the Amadán was said to be one of the worst afflictions that might befall a person encountering the good people. It was even said that Biddy Early, arguably Ireland's most renowned fairy doctor and healer, could not cure the blast of the Amadán.

Sometimes this fairy blast caused paralysis and a stroke whereas in other instances it seems that a person might be driven mad or unable to fully participate in the earthly world again, with part of themselves seemingly outside their body and cursed to dwell in the fairy realms.

There is, I feel, a connection to some of the initiations and trances associated with indigenous healers and cunning folk who are often said go through a mysterious illness before returning to consciousness with new, magical abilities.

In this second example, we see how the fear and madness brought about by encountering the Amadán eventually results in death.

"There was a boy, one Rivers, got the touch last June, from the Amadan-na-Briona, the Fool of the Forth, and for that touch there is no cure. It came to the house in the night-time and knocked at the door, and he was in bed and he did not rise to let it in. And it knocked the second time, and even then, if he had answered it, he might have escaped. But when it knocked the third time he fell back on the bed, and one side of him as if dead, and his jaw fell on the pillow.

He knew it was the Amadan-na-Briona did it, but he did not see him--he only felt him. And he used to be running in every place after that and trying to drown himself, and he was in great dread his father would say he was mad, and bring him away to Ballinasloe. He used to be asking me could his father do that to him. He was brought to Ballinasloe after and he died there, and his body was brought back and buried at Drumacoo."

The double nature of the Amadán may also be why it is most associated with the month of June as this is the axial point of the year; the midpoint border between the strength of light and it's first slip towards darkness and shorter days. The Amadán appearing at dusk on this day demonstrates a liminal window of time on both the microscopic and macroscopic level; the twilight of a day and, indeed, a twilight cause by the moment of balance in the yearly battle between darkness and light.

Many tales of the Amadán are associated with the solstice which makes sense in this context. Up until June 21st the days continue to grow longer until the moment of solstice (Sun standing still) after which we begin our descent towards winter.

In astrology, June is symbolised by Gemini, the twins. This constellation connection to the Amadán has not been explored as far as I am aware but considering the age of astrological motifs it may not be so far-fetched to draw a line of sight between the Amadán's double nature and the astrological twin aspect of June.

Stellar links to fairies and the old gods and goddesses is an area once little considered here in Ireland but I feel this is beginning to change. Archaeoastronomy and astrotheological interpretation of myths and folklore may offer further insights into the gods, goddesses and beings associated with particular times of the year. I find the Amadán's ability to transport a person to Tir na Nog as being potentially associated here but further research is needed to qualify this theory. (C.) Written by David Halpin

Image: Dark Temptation


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