Family Names and Faerie Evidence

Path in forest, courtesy elidawn14Many people contact me about faerie roots and their family names. Often, they’re looking for something that says, “… and John Smith’s mother was a faerie.”  (With “John Smith” being replaced by the name of someone in the family tree.)

Few records are that straightforward.

Wonderful books like The Door Home and the Borrowers series help us remember that the faeries (or at least the “little people”) aren’t very far away. I grew up with those traditions, myself, and I think they’re important… but you’re not likely to find clear confirmation that you have faerie roots.

Looking for faeries in your family tree, you may have to “read between the lines.” Many — perhaps most — cultures avoided mentioning the faeries. In Ireland, they were referred to as “the little people” (though, in many cases, faeries are/were larger than typical humans), “the good folk,” and so on.

If there was a way to avoid a faerie reference altogether, people did.

  • Some feared the wrath of angry faeries.Until Shakespeare’s time, most people thought faeries were malicious.
  • Other people were simply wary of faeries, or thought it was bad luck to mention faeries at all.

So, if  your family tree includes an ancient name in a country with lore that seems to lead back to faeries or gods, that may be as good as it gets.

(Due to faeries’ powers, some cultures felt that faeries were gods or godlike. For example: In Ireland, the Tuatha Danann — said like “TOO-uhh day DAH-nunn” — were described “gods and not-gods.” To me, that suggests unusual — perhaps “god-like” — powers, but apparently mortal characteristics, as well. In many stories, the Tuatha Danann are clearly connected to the faeries. )

Tracing your faerie roots is far easier in some countries than in others.

For example, if any of your ancestors came from Iceland — where more than 50% of the population still believe in elves and other faeries — everyone there is related within seven or eight generations. So, if your roots trace back to Iceland, you can be fairly assured that you have a faerie connection there.

That’s just one example. In fact, every culture with faerie lore has family names that trace back to ancient times. That subject is huge, and I’m not an authority. My expertise is limited to Irish surnames, since most of my own roots are Irish, and I’ve studied faeries in the British Isles, in general.

Tracing Your Own Faerie Heritage

Some people just want to know their geographic connection to faeries… where their ancestors came from, indicating which faeries they’re probably descended from. Ask your family. They probably have stories about your ancestral roots.

That may be all you need.

Others want more evidence, including their ancient roots and faerie connections. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but here’s how to get started:

Ask your family about the oldest family names they recall among their ancestors. Those names usually — but not always — suggest geographic roots.

If you can, check census and vital records (birth, marriage, death) as well as church records for the surnames of your ancestors. The list will fan out, quickly.

Your grandparents represent four surnames:

  • Your mother’s father
  • Your mother’s mother
  • Your father’s father
  • Your father’s mother

Your great-grandparents represent eight surnames:

  • Your mother’s paternal grandfather
  • Your mother’s paternal grandmother
  • Your mother’s maternal grandfather
  • Your mother’s maternal grandfather
  • Your father’s paternal grandfather
  • Your father’s paternal grandmother
  • Your father’s maternal grandfather
  • Your father’s maternal grandmother

In most families, that’s as far back as people remember. Even your parents may not be sure about the maiden names of their grandmothers, unless they have records — like a family Bible or old photos — to check.

You can research your own family tree. (and their free RootsWeb) and may have helpful resources. Or, you can enter your ancestor’s full name plus “genealogy” or “family tree” into Google or any search engine, and see if a relative has already done the research.

Odds are good that your family names contain some faerie ancestry. Finding out the geographic roots of your faerie ancestry can give you a greater sense of connection. (Faeries are usually associated with the land. They may have traveled with “their” families to other countries, but — to understand the habits and personalities of those faeries — their original geographic roots are important.)


For many people, it’s enough to know the countries their ancestors came from, and — therefore — the kinds of faeries they’re connected to.  Most families have a general sense of where their roots are, and that may be all you need.

But, some lucky people already feel a deep connection with a particular kind of faerie.

If you feel that way, there’s no reason to trace your ancestry to confirm the connection. It’s already there. Enjoy it!

Remember, scientists say we’re all related within 30 generations, anyway. So, if you feel a connection to one kind of faeries, you’d probably find it in your family tree… if you went back far enough.

The sense of connection is more important than the paperwork. It’s fun to document a real connection to a particular kind of faerie, but it’s not essential.

You can trace your family to find your geographic roots, but you’re unlikely to find anything that clearly states your ancestors were faeries.



Ancient Irish Families

If your ancestry — like more than 36 million Americans — includes Irish immigrants, RootsWeb has a list of the very oldest Irish surnames, but it’s not a complete list. Often, you’re looking for surnames that — now or in the past — started with O’ or Mac.

Expanding that further, RootsWeb’s Surnames and Irish Counties list says, “Although not always the case, names beginning with O’, Mac, Mc, De, Le, and others, may usually indicate a name of historical significance.”

However, some of those surnames — especially those starting with De or Le — are likely to lead back to Norman families, and their faerie history may be a little different than those tracing back to the Irish era of the Tuatha  Danann.

My own ancient Irish roots include:

  • Ó Baoghill (O’Boyle or Boyle)
  • Ó Braoin or Mac Braoin (Breen… mine emigrated through Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Ó Croinin (Cronin)
  • Ó Donnghaile (Donnelly)
  • Mac Gearailt (FitzGerald, not on the RootsWeb list, but several traditional stories — including the one at Lough Gur — give a clear faerie connection)
  • Mag Uidhir (Maguire, MacGuire, etc.)
  • Ó Neill (O’Neill, O’Neil, etc.)
  • Ó Tuama (Toomey, Tormey, Twomey, etc.)

… and many other early Irish surnames.

Some Irish Resources

Lists of ancient Irish family surnames

To better understand the meaning of Irish surnames, see Do Chara’s Irish Surnames of Gaelic Origin. You’ll find another view of this subject at the Irish Times’ Irish Ancestors/Origins of surname. And, if you want to understand how Irish surnames changed, Wikipedia’s article about Irish names may be helpful… or even more confusing.

Daisy Heart – Messages in Nature

In the past, I’ve talked about faerie rings and the importance of Nature in faerie work.

This video, produced by Susan Jones (Redhead Business Films), features Shamanic healer Annie Day.

“Daisy Heart” is a remarkably deep and meaningful exploration — and explanation — of another faerie-style flower arrangement, a daisy heart.

To understand how deeply you can study and learn from faerie messages shared by Nature, I recommend watching this film several times. I took notes as I watched. This video is lovely and provides wonderful insights!

Fairy Rings – Fact, fiction or fungus?

Fairy rings can be a nightmare for landscapers, if they’re trying to achieve a perfect lawn.

Fairy rings (or faerie rings) are circles of mushrooms and/or flowers, that — in faerie lore — indicate a portal or passageway between our world and the faerie realms.

Generally, if you cut down or dig up the ring, it’ll simply return… over and over again.  The faeries are persistent.  After all, it’s their passageway, no matter where it manifests in our world.

However, some landscapers and homeowners are horrified by their “fairy rings.”  Those humans try to banish the rings completely.

I think it’s a very bad idea to oppose the faeries.

Despite how mean-spirited it is to block the faeries, I wasn’t surprised when I recently this article — at a lawn-related website — it was still very chilling:

how to control fairy ring fungus in lawn


I have what I believe is a fairy ring fungus. Will the methods and products you descibe work on that type of fungus?

…We recommend LIQUID FERTILIZER as quick way to get grass to grow and during the warm season, this is usually the best way to proceed when trying to overcome a fairy ring…

As you can see, the article suggests pouring chemicals — a liquid fertilizer — onto the lawn, as that seems to work if it’s repeated often and frequently enough.

From a pro-faerie viewpoint, that makes sense, even if I oppose the concept for faerie and green reasons.

Many faeries, including the Green Man (and perhaps the Green Lady or Green Woman), protect the environment.  What drives the faeries away from their ring is not the apparent destruction; it’s the chemicals used by humans.

The insult of those chemicals must be intense.  Otherwise, the faeries would return again and again.  Sooner or later, landscapers would decide that liquid fertilizers aren’t effective against faerie rings.  Instead, after several attempts by landscapers, the faerie rings stop growing.  The fertilized lawn and the thoughtless humans win the battle.

In broader terms, humans are missing an important point when they try to destroy a faerie ring:

The faeries own the ring.  It’s their gateway, and most of it is in their world, not ours.

Every time I read about travelling between our world and the faerie world, the journey takes the visitor far beneath the surface of our world, or across a considerable distance.

So, though I’m not sure how quickly one leaves our dimension or realm after entering a faerie ring, I’m fairly sure that the ring in our world is a very small part of the passageway.

Trying to seal it off here… Well, it’s like covering over an ant hill or a gopher hole:  There’s far more that you don’t see, and surface efforts generally aren’t very effective.

Faerie rings in fact and folklore

As I said earlier, faerie rings are supposed passageways to the fae world.

In The Vanishing People – Fairy Lore and Legends, author Katharine Briggs says about faeries living in the “Middle Earth”:

“They build fairy houses which are occasionally entered by men, and live in stone circles and fairy rings, where they are invisible unless a mortal accidentally puts a foot across the ring, when he is drawn into the circle, and sometimes disappears for a twelve-month and a day.” (p. 82, emphasis added)

Stone circles as faerie rings

In that quotation above, it’s important to note faerie rings and stone circles.  I believe that some of the most obvious entries to the faerie world are all around us.  However, they may be — as Katharine Briggs also says in her book, The Vanishing People — “fairy houses or castles above ground, generally invisible to mortal eyes.”

Though tiny faeries may comfortably pass through smaller gateways such as tiny faerie rings, larger faeries — such as Merlin and the Tuatha De Danann of Ireland — may need larger rings.

Perhaps that’s why Merlin replaced the original. decaying (wooden) Stonehenge ring with massive, megalithic bluestones: To reinforce that large stone circle as a permanent faerie portal.

(According to legend, Merlin brought the bluestones from Ireland.  He transported them with magick, overnight.)

Ley line expert Paul Devereux has pointed out that the modern Gaelic (or Gaeigle) phrase, Am bheil thu dol don clachan? may ask if you’re going to church, but the word clachan actually indicates a stone circle.

Wells as faerie portals

One study in Wales discovered that a large number of sacred wells are also marked by megaliths, or standing stones.

Well photo, courtesy of
A well in Ireland. Photo courtesy

I speculate that wells may be portals through which faeries can emerge, though humans cannot access the faerie world through them. The water is the faeries’ defense and protection.

Sacred wells are often the starting (or ending) point of energy lines (ley lines) in Britain.  In Paul Devereux’s book, The New Ley Hunter’s Guide, he says, “Our own work in the field suggests that wells usually are at ends (or beginnings) of leys…” (p. 18)

As noted in Ley Lines and Earth Energies, by David Cowan & Chris Arnold, ley lines were believed to be faerie paths.  In some cultures, it’s believed that faeries can only travel on straight lines in our world.  Ley lines across planet Earth mark the most important faerie paths.

If you enter a faerie ring

For centuries, through modern day, many people avoid faerie rings.  They do not want to be taken to the faerie realm for twelve-months and a day.

If you do step into a faerie ring and find yourself in another world, there is one very important rule to follow.  No matter how hungry or thirsty you become, you must not drink or eat anything — not a drop or a crumb — in the faerie world, or you won’t be able to return to the world of humans.

(This may be supported by the Greek legend of Persephone, who must return to the Underworld for four or six months of each year because she ate four or six pomegranate seeds during her first visit there.)

Cultivating a faerie ring

Faerie ring in Katy, TX
Faerie ring between Houston and Katy, Texas

Generally, faeries choose where to create faerie rings.  Usually, they prefer moist or damp locations, perhaps due to the fae connection to water.

Faerie rings are generally mushrooms, toadstools, or flowers, or a mix of them.

To cultivate your own faerie ring, you could try to transfer some of the spores from a mushroom or toadstool, to a location where you’d like a faerie ring.

However, be aware of the risks:  The first is — of course — that some mushrooms and toadstools are poisonous.  Don’t try to start a faerie ring where toddlers or pets might accidentally ingest the mushrooms.

Then, consider the chances you take by tampering with a faerie ring in any way, even with the best of intentions.  You could cause more mischief or havoc than you had in mind.

In addition, remember that not all faeries are nice, kind, or even pleasant.  Some can be mean, vicious, and hurtful.  So, you might be inviting the wrong kinds of faeries to the faerie ring you create.

My advice is to respect faerie rings and leave them alone.  Fence them off if the mushrooms or toadstools present a danger to children or pets.

Never try to destroy a faerie ring or banish the faeries with liquid fertilizers or other chemicals.

More faerie rings around the web:

This article includes some delightful photos of mushrooms in a faerie ring.  I’m sure faeries would be comfortable, nestling in those mushrooms.

Zen Cat Art : Fairy Ring


We have fairies in our yard. At least the folklore says fairies live there and will draw you into the ring to dance with them. I can’t say as I have been approached by one of the wee folk yet…

White Wisp is an intriguing story that includes fae elements.  Author David A. Ludwig captures the characters nicely in his writing.

White Wisp «


White Wisp snorted bemusedly as she padded silently away from the heart of the fairy ring. Silly fey creatures, flocking to the man Edmund like he was some sort of savior. White Wisp had never known a more noble or

If you like crafts, here are some instructions for making a Waldorf-style fairy ring math board.

Moonbeams and Applesauce: Fairy Ring Math Board


Fairy Ring Math Board. Follow, follow me to the ring of the fairies,. Follow, follow me where the fairies dance and sing. Gather with me here all the magic you can carry. As we circle and circle round the dancing fairy ring.

For the magic of a faerie ring without actually having one in your yard, create a spore print.  First, visit your grocery store.  Often, you can buy “day old” packages of mushrooms (the larger, the better) and use them to make a spore print.  If you use a large sheet of paper or poster board, and lots of mushrooms, you could create your own faerie ring art.

If you like faerie ring art, see faerie rings in all four seasons in the Fairy Ring Oracle card set.  Though it’s intended as a divinatory tool (like a Tarot deck), the set includes a 240-page booklet with faerie lore as well as the meanings behind each of the cards.

Lockheart - fairy ring book coverOr, if you’re a fan of faerie poems, here’s a charming book  with magic windows and the wonderful art of Susanna Lockheart…

If You See a Fairy Ring