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Sídhe also known as “Síth”, “Sí”, “Síd”, “Sídh” Hicks, Ronald


The sídhe (pronounced "shee") are the hollow hills said to have been the homes of the ancient Irish gods, in other words, they are the Irish Otherworld. To most readers the term will be familiar from its appearance in banshee (ban-sídhe), referring to a woman of the sídhe. We cannot really determine when the concept of the sídhe first arose. However, the first surviving references appear in early Irish manuscript literature, dating to two or three centuries after Saint Patrick. Medieval and later manuscripts mention over 170 sídhe, and in local folk tradition there are many more. Often they are said to be artificial mounds, but the majority are isolated natural hills, sometimes with a manmade mound on the top. However, the term can also refer to lakes, rivers, springs, or islands. Those who live in the sídhe are referred to as the áes sídhe (modern Irish aos sí) or perhaps more often as "the good people." In earlier times they were known as the Tuatha Dé, or "tribe of the gods." According to the ancient Irish annals, the Tuatha Dé came to Ireland in ships, sailing through the sky, in 1897 BCE, a time that would be toward the end of the early Bronze Age. In translating the Irish tales into English, sídhe are often referred to as elf-mounds and their inhabitants as fairies. Both of these translations seriously distort the Irish understanding of the terms. A síd is associated with each of the major Iron Age ritual complexes referred to as "royal sites," located in the five ancient provinces, at Tara in Meath, Rathcroghan in Connacht, Emain Macha in Ulster, Dún Ailinne in Leinster, and Cashel in Munster. However, best known of the sídhe is Síd in Broga or Brugh na Bóinne ("mansion of the Boyne"), today known as the passage tumulus of Newgrange. Although at various times Newgrange is said to have been the home of the Dagda (the "good god"), of Elcmar, or of the Dagda's son Oengus, one important question, probably unanswerable, is whether the stories of the áes sídhe were created by people of a much later time to explain these monuments or the monuments were seen from the beginning as dwelling places of the gods, i.e., were they temples rather than primarily tombs, as they are usually interpreted by modern archaeologists. Since we are dealing with a class of places, many of the answers to the questions that follow should be modified by "sometimes" or "often."

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