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Gathered by the renowned Irish poet, playwright, and essayist William Butler Yeats, the sixty-five tales and poems in this delightful collection uniquely capture the rich heritage of the Celtic imagination. Filled with legends of village ghosts, fairies, demons, witches, priests, and saints, these stories evoke both tender pathos and lighthearted mirth and embody what Yeats describes as “the very voice of the people, the very pulse of life.”
“The impact of these tales doesn’t stop with Yeats, or Joyce, or Oscar Wilde,” writes Paul Muldoon in his Foreword, “for generations of readers in Ireland and throughout the world have found them flourishing like those persistent fairy thorns.”read more
From Yeats' end notes [love Paracelsus' opinion of scientists]:"It has been held by many that somewhere out of the void there is a perpetual dribble of souls; that these souls pass through many shapes before they incarnate as men - hence the nature spirits. They are invisible - except at rare moments and times; they inhabit the interior elements, while we live upon the outer and the gross. Some float perpetually through space, and the motion of the planets drives them hither and thither in currents. Hence some Rosicrucians have thought astrology may foretell many things; for a tide of them flowing around the earth arouses there, emotions and changes, according to its nature."Besides those of human appearance are many animal and bird-like shapes.... Though all at times are friendly to men - to some men - 'They have,' says Paracelsus, 'an aversion to self-conceited and opinionated persons, such as dogmatists, scientists, drunkards, and gluttons, and against vulgar and quarrelsome people of all kinds; but they love natural men, who are simple-minded and childlike, innocent and sincere, and the less there is of vanity and hypocrisy in a man, the easier will it be to approach them; but otherwise they are as shy as wild animals.'"Kindle location 4889-4899From Yeats' introduction:"Many poets, and all mystic and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are not of heaven but of the earth, who have no inherent form but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them. You cannot lift your hand without influencing and being influenced by hoards. The visible world is merely their skin. In dreams we go amongst them, and play with them, and combat with them. They are, perhaps, human souls in the crucible - these creatures of whim."Kindle location 235-244Yeats' collection includes one of the most frightening ghost stories I have read, "Teig O'Kane and the Corpse." Teig, a spoiled only son of a rich man, has compromised a good & decent girl but will not marry her. So at midnight, on a lonely road:"... the fairies caught him, some by the hands and some by the feet, and they held him tight, in a way that he could not stir, with his face against the ground. Six or seven of them raised the body [of a dead man] then, and pulled it over to him, and left it down on his back. The breast of the corpse was squeezed against Teig's back and shoulders, and the arms of the corpse were thrown around Teig's neck. Then they stood back from him a couple of yards, and let him get up. He rose, foaming at the mouth and cursing, and he shook himself, thinking to throw the corpse off his back. But his fear and his wonder were great when he found that the two arms had a tight hold round his own neck, and that the two legs were squeezing his hips firmly, and that, however strongly he tried, he could not throw it off, any more than a horse can throw off its saddle."Kindle location 513-523read more
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