La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Frank Cowper (1926)
Leanan Sidhe (spelled a multitude of other ways) pronounced Lee-ah-naan Shee, is known as an Irish dark fairy who materializes in mortal form as a breathtakingly beautiful woman. Called the "beautiful woman without mercy," she's been branded a witch, a vampire, and worse by those who have survived her affections. (Humans have such a need to blame others for their misfortunes.)
He who accepts her as a lover receives, in return, divine inspiration that gives them power to create works of immense emotion and importance. But this is a blessing and a curse--the knowledge of both unbridled joy and the sinister abyss of human existence provides the seeds of artistic brilliance and dark despair. As payment for her creative stimulus, this so-called succubus feeds from their emotional depth then takes the very essence of life from her lovers to preserve her eternal beauty, leaving her prey void of life force. Her lovers then die or spend the rest of their days inconsolably distraught by her departure.
She is both moon in the darkest night and the dark itself.
She is an empath who inspires love and despair, longing and desire. She shows man the power and of these emotions that are essential to the creation of timeless works of art. To understand the sorrow of her story means countless dark nights of soul searching. Some humans are not prepared for the consequences of such self-reflection and lose their minds in the process.
She is intelligence and creativity, art and magic. In this earthly realm, so embraced with fear of the erotic and sensual, it is no wonder she who is the embodiment of these very qualities has been considered dangerous and evil, as many women who revel in their mystery, power, and dark exotic beauty. ~Lost in Life
The sidhe are of an ancient aristocratic lineage, closely related to The Fates. Generations of men have loved and scorned her. Father and son poets, John and William Yeats, wrote of her:
La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy)
...I met a lady on the meads
Full beauty, and faery child
Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild...
The Leanhaun Sidhe seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes The Gaelic powets die young, for she is restless and will ot let them remain long on earth--this malignant phantom."
My Lagan Love, Irish Traditional sung by John McCormack (1910)
Well, I left there running like a thousand Devils were on my trail. Leanan sidhe let me be. Ain't got time to listen Ain't got eyes to see. Leanan sidhe let me be. Watch the storm clouds, they're telling me to run I hear the wind say to hide. A thousand accusations of all the things I've done Are after me demanding I be tried. ~Boiled in Lead, Paroles de Leanan Sidhe
Now, Dear Reader, let me tell you the truth of our fair Dark Muse. It is true that she helps men see dark and light and whispers to them the secrets of love, life, and inspiration. With her, they create masterful works of art for the ages. They fall in love with her voluntarily. She does not manipulate to gain affection. It is true that she will move on when no longer sated by her lover. Love is a quid pro quo, is it not? Is it so sinister to abandon an affair that is no longer mutually beneficial? I think it unfair to blame the Muse for the downfall of a man who was not strong enough to hold her interest. This I promise, the Muse will never leave a lover who honors, cherishes, and fulfills her deepest desires. Is this so much to ask in return for eternal life as an exalted artist?
I am a creature of the Fey Prepare to give your soul away My spell is passion and it is art My song can bind a human heart And if you chance to know my face My hold shall be your last embrace. I shall be thy lover... I am unlike a mortal lass From dreams of longing I have passed I came upon your lonely cries Revealed beauty to your eyes So shun the world that you have known And spend your nights within my own. I shall be thy lover... You shall be known by other men For your great works of voice and pen Yet inspiration has a cost For with me know your soul is lost I'll take your passion and your skill I'll take your young life quicker still. I shall be thy lover... Through the kisses that I give I draw from you that I will live And though you think this weakness grand The touch of death your lover's hand Your will to live has come too late Come to my arms and love this fate I shall be thy lover... I am a creature of the Fey Prepare to give your soul away My spell is passion and it is art My song can bind a human heart And if you chance to know my face My hold shall be your last embrace. ― Heather Alexander