The Cat Fairy, Cait Sidhe
The Cat Sìth or Cait Sidhe is a fairy creature from Celtic mythology, said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its breast. Legend has it that the spectral cat haunts the Scottish Highlands. The legends surrounding this creature are more common in Scottish folklore, but a few occur in Irish. Some common folklore suggested that the Cait Sìth was not a fairy, but a witch that could transform into a cat nine times
Many many, many, many writers are in love with the Celtic myths. I’ve delved into them, too. However, I’m not a big fan of the flitty little cute faeries (or fae or fairies). In Celtic mythology, there’s a fairy (or fae or faerie) for just about any purpose. The “serious” fantasies love the idea of the fairy troupe. More than a few equate fairies to Arthurian legends, many specifically to Merlin.
The third book in the Witches of Galdorheim series, Scotch Broom, is set in the Scottish Highlands, or, rather, the Otherworld which is another dimension that exists within the Flow Country. Of course, I had to include at least one fairy in the mix or I’d be violating some unwritten fantasy rule.
If you write Celtic fantasy, then you know that Sidhe is pronounced Shee in Ireland and Sith in Scotland. I wonder where George Lucas got Sith lords? Hmm.
The Augur, Seonaidh
The Seonaidh (anglicised Shony or Shoney) was a Celtic water spirit in Lewis (an island in the Outer Hebrides), according to Martin Martin. Dwelly defines seonadh (without the "i", a related form in Scottish Gaelic) as "1. augury, sorcery. 2. Druidism" and quotes Martin further.
Martin says that the inhabitants of Lewis used to propitiate Seonaidh by a cup of ale in the following manner. They came to the church of St. Mulway (Mael rubha), each man carrying his own provisions. Every family gave a pock (bag) of malt, and the whole was brewed into ale. One of their number was chosen to wade into the sea up to his waist, carrying in his hand the cup full of ale.
Kat needs information about her brother's whereabouts. Cait Sidhe brings Kat to a pool where a Seonaidh lives and they bribe the slimy fellow with ale as suggested above.
Cait Sidhe stood up on her hind legs and marched left and right with her nose held high. It surprised Kat that Cait seemed quite comfortable walking on two legs.
“What—?” Kat gasped as Cait Sidhe grew taller, her body wavering and twisting as she morphed from black cat into what appeared to be a human girl the size of a ten-year old. The child-like Sidhe was as black as her cat form with a spot of white running from her neck to her collarbones. Her translucent wings formed a shimmering rainbow growing out of her shoulder blades. Never at rest, the wings flashed pale flickers of rainbow colors around the fairy’s back.
“Oh! Self-transformation. I should have guessed. Sidhe does mean fairy, and fairies are master transformers.”
“Catch on fast, don’t you, witchy.”
“I see your, um, personality didn’t change.” Kat moved to slide off Diamond’s back, but he told her to wait until they got to a dry place. She settled back as well as she could behind Diamond’s withers. “Are there any dry spots in this swamp?”
Cait answered. “Yes, which is why I switched to the less efficient, bipedal mode. I must take this inconvenient form to get Seonaidh’s attention.”
“Who is Show Me?” Kat asked.
“SHOW NEE,” Cait snarled. “Can’t you get any of our names right?”
“Well, don’t get your tail in a twist. They are unusual names, you know.”
“Ha. Your jokes stink, too.” Cait said no more, but flew upward, then flitted away across the bogs.
“Why are we stopping to see this Seonaidh? I don’t want to waste time on another roadside attraction.”
“Seonaidh can see the future. Cait Sidhe believes we can find out what happens to your brother.”
“That’d be great! I want to know if Rune will be okay.”
They soon came to another pool, much like the others dotting the bogs, except the water was clear. Kat could see to the bottom of the pond, where underwater plants swayed to and fro.
“It’s beautiful,” she said and then yelped when Diamond bent his front legs. She pitched forward and planted her face in his mane. Sitting up, she threw one leg over his back and rolled off. She put her hands on the small of her back and leaned backward then forward to take the kinks out.
Cait Sidhe stood by the edge of the pool, looking down. Kat walked over to the pond. It was only then Kat noticed the fairy was naked.
“Seonaidh,” Cait yelled. “Get your ugly butt up here.”
Kat turned her attention away from Cait and looked into the pool. She inhaled and thought the sweet smell of fresh water a nice change from the constant dank smell of swamp. A dark form lay at the bottom among the wavering water plants. Cait pointed to the form. “That’s Seonaidh. If I can get him up here, he’ll want a cup of ale. You’re a witch. Can you produce that?”
“Sure, but how long is this going to take?”
“Not long if you whomp up that ale,” Cait replied.
Kat glanced at her charm bracelet and touched the pig, which gave out a tiny squeal. A pop of air to Kat’s right drew her attention. A checkered, red and white cloth lay on the dry bank of the pool. On it, a picnic basket sat. She knelt, opened the wicker basket, and took out its contents: a covered dish, smelling of rich cheese; two jugs and two cups; a container of grain; and a raw fish.
She picked up one jug and popped off the cork. Sniffing, she recognized the musky-sweet scent of ale. “How’s this?” Kat asked, holding up the jug. “But why do I want to give him ale? I can’t imagine you’d just want to be friendly, Cait.”
“Hssst. Of course not, silly human. Seonaidh is an augur; he can tell the future. Not very well, mind you, but we might get a hint at what is to come.”
“I’ll take anything I can get. It’s hard not knowing what’s happened to Rune. Or will happen, I guess.” Kat’s breath hitched. She could only hope the augur showed them something good. She cleared her throat. “Some witches have the talent too, but it’s rare.” Kat looked at her charm bracelet again. “I’m glad I can use these charms more than once. I think I’ll use the alarm goose to keep an eye out in case Sianach and Cusith follow us.” She touched the goose charm, and a large white goose appeared at Kat’s feet. It raised one wing in a salute and stood waiting.
“Oh, right. Keep watch for the deer and dog. Let me know if you see them.” The goose saluted again and took wing. Kat watched while the goose posted itself flying in a wide circle overhead.
Cait heaved a deep sigh. “I hate water.” She dove into the pool. Kat peered into the depths and watched Cait Sidhe swim to the dark form. After a short time, Cait rose to the surface and climbed out of the pool. She shook herself, throwing water on Kat. “He’ll be up soon.”
“Well, then, let’s eat while we wait.”
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