The Various Types of Fairies Around the World

Updated on June 15, 2018
kittythedreamer profile image

Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.

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For Those Who Believe...

For those who believe in the wee folk, the good folk, or the fairies, we get to see a very magical side of the Earth that most do not. To believe is to see. Our ancestors in Europe were so familiar with the fairies that they left offerings out on a daily basis. When the Catholic Church began to spread its faith throughout Europe, our ancestors were told to not feed the fairies, that in fact it was unlawful to engage with the fairies. If this was an actual law, someone must have believed in the fairies.

Now there are a few of us who are bringing back the fairy faith that our ancestors began centuries ago. But there are so many different types of fairies, how do we identify one from another? Let's learn how to categorize the types of fairies according to the Scottish/English way first introduced on paper by W.B. Yeats.

Source

The Seelie Court and Unseelie Court

First, we can break down the various types of fairies into two groups: the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court.

The Seelie Court can be considered the "good" fairies, and the Unseelie Court the "bad" fairies. The word Seelie is actually translated to mean something close to silly. The Seelie Court fairies were thought to be good as they did not usually interfere in a negative way with the local humans (our ancestors in Scotland/England/Ireland and elsewhere). These were the fairies who liked to help the Earth and its plants and trees grow and remain strong. They also enjoyed dancing and partying in their own fairy way.

The Unseelie Court were considered the trouble-making and sometimes downright vicious fairies. These were the types of fairies who would lead an unsuspecting and curious human to a cliff and to their deaths in legend. These are the types of fairies who would steal a human child and replace it with one of their own...a changeling. They are embittered towards humans and want nothing more than to be left alone or to rid the Earth of humans who do not appreciate it.

Some of the Seelie Court fairies include:

  • elves
  • gnomes
  • brownies
  • ballybogs
  • pixies
  • irish sea water guardians
  • merrows/merpeople
  • the grant
  • robin goodfellow
  • willow wisps (will o' the wisp)
  • lady of the lake

Some of the Unseelie Court fairies include:

  • leanan-sidhe
  • banshee (though some consider the banshee to actually be good)
  • ogres
  • trolls
  • giants
  • pooka
  • kelpies
  • sprites

These are just a few of each category, as there are actually hundreds of types of fairies worldwide.

Dream fairies are illustrated here...they would be considered Seelie Court fairies.
Dream fairies are illustrated here...they would be considered Seelie Court fairies. | Source
This type of fairy would be a trooping fairy because they are traveling in a group.
This type of fairy would be a trooping fairy because they are traveling in a group. | Source

Further Categorized by Solitary and Trooping

In addition to classifying types of fairies by their nature of "good" or "bad", there is another way to further identify types of fairies. This is by identifying whether they are solitary fairies or trooping fairies.

Solitary fairies are simply fairies that live or travel mostly alone. For some reason in Scottish and English folklore, many of the Unseelie Court fairies were also solitary fairies...so there is more of a negative connotation around solitary fairies because of this. However, solitary fairies can sometimes be "good" or be a part of the Seelie Court. An example of this overlapping of categories is the Scottish brownie. The Scottish brownie is a well-known house fairy that will take up residence in a well-deserving family's home and help the family with un-done chores and tasks around the house. As one can see, this would make the Scottish brownie a "good" fairy and so is typical of the Seelie Court. But the brownie also lives and works by himself and not with any other fairies, so he is considered a solitary fairy.

Trooping fairies are fairies that live or travel mostly in groups. Typically, the Seelie Court fairies travel in groups and therefore are usually sub-typed as trooping fairies. Trooping fairies used to be seen all over Scotland, England, and Ireland in the old days. They would ride their tiny horses over the hills and into the woods, and the peasantry knew their "fairy raides" (rides) very well. This is how they got to be classified as trooping fairies...because they moved in troops. Examples of trooping fairies include: pixies, ballybogs, selkies, merrows, elves, gnomes, and more. Sometimes Unseelie Court fairies would travel in groups, though this was rare to see as usually the "bad" fairies were so rotten they couldn't stand the presence of anyone other than themselves.

Elemental Fairies

An even easier way to classify types of fairies is to assign them to one of the four elements—earth, air, fire, or water. There is a theory that fairies are indeed elemental beings, that they are the ancient spirits of nature and therefore could easily be categorized as such.

Earth Fairies might include: dwarves, ballybogs, gnomes, the oakmen, sand fairies, Robin Goodfellow, Donas de Fuera.

Water Fairies might include: merrows, selkies, kelpies, menehuna, Lady of the Lake, the pooka, undines.

Air Fairies might include: pixies, sprites, will o' the wisps, spriggans, sylphs.

Fire Fairies might include: salamanders, drakes, djinn, akamu, spunkies.

Faun and his fairies. These would be classified as Seelie Court fairies and also trooping fairies.
Faun and his fairies. These would be classified as Seelie Court fairies and also trooping fairies. | Source

No Matter the Classification...Fairies Are Here

No matter how you decide it is easiest to classify the fairies, you will never truly capture their essence by putting them into a group. I believe that is a part of the beauty of the fairies in that you can never truly understand them...not with typical human logic, anyway.

Fairies are beings who have been around as long as humans have been on this Earth, and perhaps even longer. Their legends permeate almost every culture in the world, and they still live on to this day.

So are they the spirits of nature? Are they gods of old? Or are they beings who live on a different dimension...a different plane of existence altogether?

Tell me what you think about fairies...and about the different types of fairies.

Take the Fairy Types Quiz:

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Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Kitty Fields

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    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      4 years ago from Summerland

      Trinity May - The types of fairies out in the winter are different than the Spring or Summer fairies, they are a bit darker in nature because this is the darker half of the year. I do not often work with the Winter fairies so much as I do the summer and spring fae. That being said, try attracting them just as you do the Spring garden type...with offerings, houses, crystals, things of that nature. Just be sure to shield yourself as some of the winter kind can be quite mischievous. :)

    • Trinity May profile image

      Trinity May 

      4 years ago

      Hi Kitty,

      I am a huge believer in fairies. I am 12 years old and very psychic. Today my mom bought me mermaid oracle cards and I have been doing lots of mediation. My mom said we can go back to the store and get the healing with fairies one by Doreen Virtue. I was wondering if you could tell me how to attract fae during winter. Today, when I did my meditation with the oracle cards, I later made dozens of fairy hats with the left over melted wax... Thanks so much :)

    • profile image

      meagen 

      4 years ago

      sorry about my last mesege it had 2 spelling mistakes the first one is ghost and the secend one is i meant to say three ghost and that was it but instead i said three ghost and that was. again sorry. p.s im ten.

    • profile image

      meagen 

      4 years ago

      you are my hero. i love you. me and my bff both beilieve in ghot and faries and i saw one farie +three ghost and that was. my question is what do winter faries like?

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      5 years ago from Summerland

      OH yes! I've had this happen many many times.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      The most common thing with me and my daughter is putting something away, going back to fetch it and find it's not where we put it. Then, after pulling the house apart trying to find the item, we look again in the place the item should have been and there it is; right where it was supposed to be. I'm sure many people can relate to this. lol

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      5 years ago from Summerland

      phoenix - Glad you liked it! It could be you, but it could also be them!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Lovely hub, Ms. Kitty. I didn't realise sprites were not-so-nice fairies. This certainly explains a lot of what goes on in my house. I thought it was me just being forgetful.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 

      5 years ago from Colorado United States

      Kitty that's a nice tour that you took me along with Fairies.... Fairytales are children's delight.. and am glad that you are reviving it in your own WAY...

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      5 years ago from Summerland

      Nell - You're a sweetheart. Why were those wee folk messin' with ya? Forgot to leave 'em some milk? LOL

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi kitty, love this! being a collector of this fairies I do see what you mean, I have some terrible ones that cause all sorts of mischief in my bedroom, the other day....well, never mind long story, but lets suffice to say one of them stole my watch, still looking! haha! seriously, loved this, and the pictures were lovely, voted up and shared, nell

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      5 years ago from Summerland

      heidi - They're around...trust me! :)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Wow, a field guide to fairies! I'll be looking for 'em. :)

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