Some versions of Irish mythology have the Daoine Sidhe eventually divide into two groups: the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. Though this separation is more commonly seen in Scottish mythology, Ireland also adopted this division.
The Seelie Court were considered the true aristocrats of the Daoine Sidhe. They were judges, dispensing justice to the other faery when it was required, and served as frequent arbitrators of the many faery quarrels. The Seelie Court was very political, complete with cliques, factions, gossiping, and rivalry.
Sometimes called the ‘Blessed Ones,’ the Seelie were often depicted as a procession of brilliant light riding on the night air. The Seelie Court, as a group, would often use these excursions to find those in need of help. The Seelie were also prone to a great deal of mischief, especially when bored. However, their pranks rarely caused true harm, for the Seelie were really very fond of humans.
The Code of the Seelie Court
Like many human courts, the Seelie Court had its own code of conduct, a code which all of the Seelie had to abide by. This code was:
- Death Before Dishonor: A member of the Seelie Court would protect his or her honor to the death. Honor was the single source of glory for the Seelie, the only way to attain recognition. A true Seelie would rather have died than live with personal dishonor, and would never bring dishonor to another of the Seelie.
- Love Conquers All: For the Seelie, love was the perfect expression of the soul. It transcended all other things. Though romantic love was considered to be the highest and purest form of love, platonic love was also encouraged.
- Beauty is Life: Beauty was one of the first tenants of the Seelie Court. To belong, a faery had to be beautiful, and all beauty was to be protected. The Seelie were known to go to war to protect beauty, whether it was a beautiful person, place, or thing.
- Never Forget a Debt: This tenant worked in two ways. The Seelie were bound by their code of honor to repay any debt owed as soon as was possible. This included both favors and insults. The Seelie would repay a favor in a timely fashion. At the same time, they would exact vengeance almost immediately.
The Unseelie Court or Unblessed Court contains the most malicious, malevolent and evil of the faeries, and a number of monsters of horrible appearance and fearsome abilities as well. They comprise the Slaugh, or The Host, the band of the unsanctified dead who fly above the earth, stealing mortals and take great pleasure in harming humans.
Often called the ‘Unblessed Ones,’ the Unseelie were depicted as a dark cloud riding upon the wind from where their unnerving cackles and howls can be heard. Though not necessarily evil, they were far from kind. These unsavory characters tended towards evil and were often malignant. Some Scottish legends claim that the Unseelie were fallen Seelie, those who could not live up to the strict standards of chivalry of the shining court. They have no method of reproduction, so they enslave mortals whom they think would never be missed and carry them along to become one of them. The Unseelie Court was almost always out to harm, or at least bedevil and trick, humankind.
Some of the members of the Unseelie Court included:
- The sluagh (the Hosts of the Unforgiven dead, akin to the Wild Hunt)
- Shellycoat (a trickster of the coasts)
- Redcap (a vicious fairy who drenched his cap with human blood)
The Code of the Unseelie Court
Like many human courts, the Unseelie Court had its own code of conduct, a code which all of the Unseelie had to abide by. The details of this code were:
- Change is Good: The Unseelie firmly believed that security was an illusion. They considered chaos to be the ruling force in the universe, and accepted that they had to adapt and change to survive.
- Glamour is Free: Glamour was the magick of the Daoine Sidhe. Both the Seelie and Unseelie possessed its power. However, the two Courts had differing opinions over its use. The Unseelie believed that to have power and not to use it was near to sin. They used their power for whatever they saw fit.
- Honor is a Lie: The Unseelie placed no stock in the ideals of honor. Instead, they pursued their own self-interests vigorously. The Unseelie felt as if truth could be only be reach through a devotion to self, not a devotion to others.
- Passion Before Duty: Passion was considered to be the truest state of being. The Unseelie acted without thought on pure instinct and passion.