The ancient Pretani monuments, particularly the stone circles, were viewed well into modern times as the domain of the ‘fairy-folk’. Indeed, such beliefs persist today and one such example occurred in 1998 near Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland when building workers unknowingly disturbed a ‘fairy ring’. Three of them suffered separate accidents which were serious enough to require hospitalization. The other labourers could not be persuaded to continue with the work, and the object they had unintentionally erected in ‘fairy territory’ – an electricity kiosk – was eventually dismantled and the ground restored as best as possible to its former state. A Fairy Thorn has also been preserved on Blythe Street, off the Sandy Row in Belfast.
Whatever beliefs the Pretani held have obviously long disappeared, yet perhaps it is possible to detect faint echoes of them in long-established rural superstitions and folk memories, such as not damaging or removing a Fairy Thorn. Such beliefs often referred to as ‘quaint’ or ‘superstitions’ in modern times potentially had their origins from the same questioning uncertainty which lies at the root of many beliefs today. Tales invented to teach a moral story have always existed and perhaps have merely evolved into new explanations. The Elder Faiths of the Pretani of pre-Christian times will have influenced what we are today.
The continuity between old and new beliefs can be seen through the highly sophisticated designs on the earliest stone crosses, manuscripts and metalwork which were in the same style as those on the gold and bronze ornaments of pre-Christian Ireland. Ancient Pretanic beliefs will have interacted and been absorbed into early Christianity. Holy wells, streams and pools associated with sacred rivers, stones and trees will have been incorporated into the Christian tradition.