View Full Version : The Sidhe

April 28th, 2004, 01:10 AM
Ok - I'm not too sure if there have been previous posts on this, but I thought some of you may find this interesting, as I always have. Somewhat, the history of the Celtic Faerie-folk themselves. If you're curious about any information pertaining to this, feel free to ask :smile:

The Sidhe of Celtic Mythology and Folklore

There is a belief among the Celtic people of an invisible realm inhabited by Otherworldly beings known collectively as the Sidhe, or the Good People. This belief was once common throughout all the Celtic countries, in localized forms. The Sidhe (pronounced: “shee”) are considered to be a distinct race, quite separate from human beings yet who have had much contact with mortals over the centuries; many documented testimonies to this can still yet be found. Belief in this race of beings who have powers beyond those of men once played a huge part in the lives of people living in rural Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

In Irish mythology, the Sidhe are a supernatural race, quite distinct from humankind. There are a number of different types of Sidhe: the Sluagh Sidhe; the fairy host or Wild Hunt, who can fly through the air and shift shape at will; the Sidhe who walk the earth at dusk; the guardian Sidhe of the lakes of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They are the remnants of the Tuatha de Danaan. According to The Book of Invasions or Lebor Gabala Érren, the Túatha Dé Danaan, the “People of the Goddess Dana” were defeated in battle by the mortal Sons of Mil. As part of the surrender terms the Tuatha Dé Danaan agreed to dwell underground in the hills or mounds that dot the Irish landscape. Eventually both the mounds and the people became known as the modern Irish Sidhe.

It is important to note that the Tuatha de Danaan were not viewed so much as gods, but as the shape-shifting magical population of an earlier Golden Age Ireland. In the early Irish manuscripts (which were recorded from an earlier oral tradition), references can be found to the Tuatha De Danaan. This race of beings is described as "gods and not gods", pointing to the fact that they are 'something in-between'. Although the Irish revered the fairy folk, there is little evidence to support the assertion that they ever actually worshiped them as gods. The hold that the Tuatha De Danaan had on the Irish mind was so strong that the new religion of Christianity could not shake it, even to this day. With the arrival of the Celts, though, the Tuatha de Danaan retired underground to become the fairy people of later myth and legend.

The Tuatha de Danaan did not originate in Ireland, though the folklore did; rather, they came from another place, possibly another plane of existence. It is difficult to pin-point an exact historical era of the time when fairy lore began. Clearly the belief in the Sidhe is part of the pre-Christian paganism which survived for thousands of years, and which has never completely been wiped out from the minds of the people. When the first Gaels, the sons of Mil, arrived in Ireland, they found that the Tuatha De Danaan (whose name means the “People of Dana”, also known as the White Goddess) already had control of the land. The sons of Mil fought them in battle and defeated them, driving them 'underground' where it is said they remain to this day in hollow hills or mounds.

The Sidhe of these mounds are also seen by the Irish as the descendants of the old agricultural gods of the Earth. These gods controlled the ripening of the crops and the milk yields of the cattle, therefore offerings had to be given to them regularly. In the Book of Leinster we discover that after their conquest the Tuatha De Danaan took revenge on the sons of Mil by destroying their wheat and the goodness of the milk (the Sidhe are notorious for this even today). The sons of Mil were thus forced to make a treaty with them, and ever since that time the people of Ireland have honored this treaty by leaving offerings of milk and butter to the Good People.

A notable feature of the Sidhe is that they have distinct tribes, ruled over by fairy kings and queens in each territory. It would seem that the social order of the Sidhe corresponds to the old aristocracy of ancient Irish families, which is in itself a reflection of the ancient Celtic system of rank. It is interesting to note that many of the Irish refer to the Sidhe as simply "the gentry", on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech. In their faerie realms they have their own palaces where they feast and play music, but also have regular battles with neighboring tribes.

Faeries and Elves

Elves (or faeries; this includes leanan-sidhe, Beann-sidhe or bean-nighes) are all creatures of magick. They can have varying nature, from kind and benevolent, shading through helpful, if shy, right down to mean, cruel and malevolent. Most are very beautiful and intelligent creatures, and innately magickal; it seems to come naturally to them. Tapered ears and slanted eyes of an unusual color are common, as are slender bodies. Most elves/fey have a wicked sense of humor, and play the greatest pranks.

Particular types of fae: Leanan-sidhe are fae that feed on the dreams of men, and give inspiration; they are the original Celtic vampire. Beannsidhe are better known as bansidhe or banshees, and have a precognitive gift that can sometimes bring great sorrow to them. Phooka are yet another type of fae – they are trickster fey from the British Isles and Ireland; legend has it that they took the form of large birds, rabbits and small black ponies, though I believe they could take other forms as well. Clever, quick, and never totally honest, the phooka is always out for amusement and pranks – sometimes with a rather twisted sense of humor.

A faery is a whimsical creature from stories and mythologies, often portrayed in art and literature as a minuscule humanoid being with wings. They have many names and can appear in many forms. The Celtic peoples have many references to fairies in their myths and legends; their nature is described in widely different ways. They are often known as 'the little folk', or ‘the good people’. In Wales and in Ireland, the faeries were simply known as the Sidhe, and in Scotland, the Daoine Sith, or a great many variant names. The height of fairies was not always as consistent as is held to be the case today. Traditionally, faeries were often of human height or taller.

Most think that the term "faerie" (or in common use, "fairy") applies to only the small winged creature usually in the form of a woman. In reality, there are all sorts of Faerie types out there – Beannsidhe, dryads, elves, felines, greys, gryphons, leanan-sidhe, nymphs, phoenix, phooka, polymorphs, satyrs, selkies, unicorns, vampires, warriors, and hundreds of other species. All faerie types are unpredictable and can either be malicious or benign at any given time. Certain types have a mostly benign nature; however, there are others that are the true sources of danger, and behold the threat of death or possible torture. Faeries of all kinds love to play practical jokes on humans. However, some being of the more malicious Fae – these can become dangerous. So be careful when tramping where the faeries roam, and dabbling in their magicks. There are all sorts of them out there… and I think for every kind of legendary fae out there, there is someone somewhere who's been reborn with that soul and its magick.

April 30th, 2004, 01:48 PM
Good info, and presented WAY better than any other place. Where'd you get it? Or was it your own compiliation? Who are the "sons of mil?" I like the last comment, it borders on otherkin stuff (there's threads on otherkin discussion here I believe). Hmm. I'm fond of the fairie thing and I do think quite a few came to America with immigrants, in addition to the stuff that was already here. I don't know what I feel about it now but a lot of people I know call me a satyr. (Which is funny cuz I worship/revere/emulate Dionysos.)

Anyway. There's me questions, yarr. :D

April 30th, 2004, 02:31 PM
Oh, beautifully presented! If that's from a book, tell me, so I can go buy it!
I've spent a good amount of my time researching the Fey ones in the past year, both out of a strong--truthfully, a familial--sense of connection to them, as well as pure curiosity and a love of beauty. That was an excellent portrayal of everything I've learned myself thus far.
Hamelyn, there is an excellent book by Morgan Llewellyn, called "Bard." It's about the famous Milesian bard Amergin, who is credited with a great deal of the ancient Irish bardic music and poetry. It also portrays the Tuatha de Danaan in an interesting light--and above all, it's a wonderful read. :)

April 30th, 2004, 02:55 PM
Hehe, awesome - and curiosity is always welcome! This has always been a special interest of mine; Being Irish, I've always had a passion for the myths behind my own heritage. And to tell the truth, I don't think I could really pinpoint as to where I got this - this is a rather compiled version, lots reformed to my own writing. This was actually a recent English paper! :lol: Indeed it was compiled, bits and pieces from different sources of information; sometimes one must delve deep into research to learn of their passion. I just felt compelled to share it..

The Sons of Mil - ok, here we go with Irish geneology, but I'll put this as simply as possible :hrmm: Mil, or Milesios as he was known, was the Clan Chief over a very large people - the Gaelicians - the original Celtic people, so to speak, but before they inhabited the land of Ireland. As the clan was taking the thought of migration to Ierne (Ireland, now), Milesios grew old and weary, and left his 6 sons in charge. So, in other words... The sons of Mil were merely the first line of settlers into this mystical land of Ierne.

My last comment, well.. you're right, it does hint towards Otherkin. This is my paper as it was turned in, but I left out the last section - Otherkin :p I figured there was no need to repeat information where it wasn't really needed, but yep :D

The very history of it all is just so very intricate. As I said, it's a passion of mine :hehehehe: Hope that explains it

April 30th, 2004, 02:58 PM
And Yes! My next suggestion was to pick up a copy of Bard, by Morgan Llewellyn :lol: It's very interesting, even if from the history perspective. If you look at his bibliography, you can see that this guy did his homework! He was very informed of his Celtic history, and his work is spectacular.

April 30th, 2004, 03:18 PM
But the history aspect is WHAT I want. It's fine and good to do magic but so much of this field is pure opinion. Any well-done research I can do on it is perfect. Thanks... *makes note*

May 1st, 2004, 06:08 AM
I know very little bout the Celtic myths,since I am not celtic I never really payed much attention to there myths.But after reading what you wrote it sounds Like something I would like to look into and read.For a minute there I thought I was reading another J.R.R.Tolkien book.

May 1st, 2004, 06:22 PM
Hehe, yes.. Might I add that none of this has to do with any of Tolkien's Elves of Middle-Earth. Through his many years of studies, Tolkien drew from many Norse and Celtic myths, names, and legends to contribute to his writings. Nonetheless, the Tuatha De Danaan had a very large part in the original Celtic history. It's all a good read :p

Cinnamon Girl
May 1st, 2004, 09:36 PM
One little piece of trivia I read recently: the word banshee comes from bain sidhe meaning woman of the sidhe.

May 4th, 2004, 12:36 AM
thank you for that wonderful information...many blessings.

May 4th, 2004, 12:51 AM
Glad I can help :smile: Fair Winds

May 4th, 2004, 07:40 PM
Very interesting, thanks for the post. i'm reading a book called The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries at the moment, so this slots in nicely :)

October 7th, 2004, 04:29 PM
Gonna be incorporating this paper into a newer college paper. Woo! It'll be titled something like "I Believe in Magic"...

October 7th, 2004, 05:25 PM
If you are looking to expand on it, then I'd definitely recommend looking into the Dindshenchas.

October 7th, 2004, 05:56 PM
hehehe :D I might look into expanding it one day. Finished writing my paper though, and just kinda tied Sidhe history into its making.

October 8th, 2004, 11:43 AM
Very interesting Eldawen!!!Thanks for the information.Can you post some more things about the Tuatha de Danaan?I've read somewhere that they passed by and lived for a while in Greece,is this correct?


October 8th, 2004, 06:40 PM
Very interesting Eldawen!!!Thanks for the information.Can you post some more things about the Tuatha de Danaan?I've read somewhere that they passed by and lived for a while in Greece,is this correct?


Well that's not one I've heard before, I don't think...but I'd be interested to know more if you have any info to hand?

I know the Sons of Mil, who replaced the Tuatha De Danaan as the inhabitants of Ireland are supposed to have come from Egypt, stopping off in Spain on the way. This is usually interpreted as providing a more Biblical gloss on their origin though, giving them a link to Moses of the the Old Testament, for example. There are certainly plenty of Christian glosses in the Lebor Gabala Erenn (http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/irish/lebor.html)

October 8th, 2004, 09:45 PM
Very interesting Eldawen!!!Thanks for the information.Can you post some more things about the Tuatha de Danaan?I've read somewhere that they passed by and lived for a while in Greece,is this correct?

When I get the time and the right resources, I'll most likely post more about the Tuatha de Danaan and their origin. I've always been fascinated by this as well. :p But I will tell ya what I know, at least what I can remember. :lol: Ok.. You're correct on this Greece bit, as I believe they had done some traveling (though we don't know their origin, we do know where they've been); They had indeed passed through most of mythical Europe before settling into the rich land of Ireland/Ierne. The Sidhe weren't the first inhabitants of the land, though - closer to being the Fourth or Fifth inhabitants of Ireland. The Fomorians and a few other races that I currently recall their names..they inhabited the lands and apparently had battles and disputes over the land very much in the Celtic style. I can't completely recall how that history went off the top of my head, but I'll fill you in on that when I come across the material that I had read. Anyhow, yes.. The Tuatha de Danaan did apparently pass through Europe, making temporary dwellings and learning from the Greeks and other ancient Europeans. Since they didn't much like the City-lifestyle, they traveled on in search for land, and found Ierne, Alba and Albion (Ireland, Scotland and Britain - the British Isles, basically) and dominated in Ierne. The Fir Bolg were already there too, I believe - remnants of the previous inhabitants, I gather.


October 8th, 2004, 09:55 PM
Well that's not one I've heard before, I don't think...but I'd be interested to know more if you have any info to hand?

I know the Sons of Mil, who replaced the Tuatha De Danaan as the inhabitants of Ireland are supposed to have come from Egypt, stopping off in Spain on the way. This is usually interpreted as providing a more Biblical gloss on their origin though, giving them a link to Moses of the the Old Testament, for example. There are certainly plenty of Christian glosses in the Lebor Gabala Erenn (http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/irish/lebor.html)
I'm not completely sure about the Celts having come from Egypt, though I suppose I wouldn't be suprised if they did come from there some time before they moved into Gaul. I know that the Celts lived in Gaul for hundreds (if not some thousand) of years. Gaul, being the stretch all the way from Iberia/Spain up towards and past France, through and along the western coast. I don't have a map, but trying to remember my European geography :lol:
And I've read stories before, as well, that were very similar to that of Noah, that apparently the people on the ship had survived a 'great flood' and finally found a wonderful land - Ireland. That's just a tale though, not sure of its origins or its truth.
And usually, stories concluding the Celtic people and their mythology, were very much at times Christianity-manipulated as the tales finally became written word in around the 8th and 9th centuries, as the Celts passed on their history and such through word of mouth, never in need of a written language. The Christian monks writing down the stories no doubt had their part in glossing of the truth of Irish history, for they didn't much like the Celtic people and their ways, thus manipulating it and glossing it with that Christian touch.

October 11th, 2004, 03:03 PM
Well that's not one I've heard before, I don't think...but I'd be interested to know more if you have any info to hand?

I know the Sons of Mil, who replaced the Tuatha De Danaan as the inhabitants of Ireland are supposed to have come from Egypt, stopping off in Spain on the way. This is usually interpreted as providing a more Biblical gloss on their origin though, giving them a link to Moses of the the Old Testament, for example. There are certainly plenty of Christian glosses in the Lebor Gabala Erenn (http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/irish/lebor.html)

Yes I do have information.My recent trip to Athens bought me a wonderful book called "Ancient Celtic Traditions and Ancient Greece" and it actually has loooooots of info about the connections between the Greeks and the Celts.It also mentions Artemis the Goddess.I knew that somehow these two nations were connected.Anyway I will certainly post bits of the book when I have time.It's really interesting!


October 13th, 2004, 12:12 PM
Here is some additional info from my Fairy Realms Class :)

The word “fairy” is derived from the Latin “fata” or fate, referring to the mythical Fates, 3 women who spin and control the threads of life. The archaic English term for fairies is fays, which means, “enchanted or bewitched”. While the term fairy goes back to the Middle Ages in Europe, analogues to these beings in varying forms appear in both written and oral literature, from Sanskrit gandharva (semidivine celestial musicians) to nymphs of Greek mythology and Homer, the jinni of Arabic mythology, and similar folk characters of the Samoans, of the Arctic peoples and of other indigenous Americans The fairies of the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings who were sometimes friendly to humans but could also be cruel and mischievous. Fairies are diminutive human beings. There is evidence that small-structured races populated parts of Europe and the British Isles in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, before the spread of the Celts. In Ireland, they were known as the Thuathe de Danaan. They were in union with nature and possessed keen psychic senses. There is much evidence of fairy lore in relation to witchcraft. The “little people” gradually became identified with witches. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when belief in fairies was at its peak, the activities of fairies and witches were frequently combined. King James I of England, in “Daemonologie”, his book about witches, called Diana, the goddess of witches, and the Queen of the Fairies. Oberon, the name of the King of the Fairies, also was the name of a demon summoned by magicians. Fairies were also claimed to be familiars of witches. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why fairies figured into the witch trials.

Some scholars of Irish legends and myths would have it that the Faery were/are remnants of the Tuatha de Danaan (children of the Goddess Danu) who, when having been beaten in battle by the invading Milesians, fled to the hills and burrows (the Underworld) of Ireland. Being endowed with magical powers, for which they were well renowned, they were able to survive (supposedly) to this very day.

The Tuatha de Danaan actually came to Ireland from Scotland and that, before that, they had been in Scandinavia as 'teachers'. If this were to be so, then the belief in Faery in Scotland has been around much longer than I had previously thought. For the Tuatha de Danaan were in Ireland way before the arrival of the Celts.
"They were recorded as having landed in Northern Ireland from Scotland on a day which was later to be termed Beltaine, better known as May Day - 1st of May. It was stated that, after burning their ships, they surrounded themselves with a mist of draoideacht, which means 'magic' or 'sorcery' and marched inland for three days. By this means they hid themselves from the local inhabitants - the Firbolg - until they reached Sliabh-an-lerainn, the Mountain of Iron in Co. Leitrim, where they were first seen. "

"The Tuatha appeared as tall, fair haired, 'shining-faced' sages with a highly organized small group of highly skilled leaders, artisans and craftsmen. They were remembered for teaching the Irish people agricultural skills and animal husbandry.

It's interesting to note that according to the traditions of the Tuatha de Danaan, they had spent seven years in the north of Scotland before reaching Ireland, at places named Dobhar and Iardahar. Before Scotland, they had spent some years in Lochlonn, which has been equated with Scandinavia. In modern Gaelic, Lochlainn refers to the state of Denmark, and it seems a rather interesting coincidence that the Danes call their country Danmark; the land of the Dan people.

Apparently the Tuatha De Danaan were welcomed to Scandinavia where they settled in four cities where they taught to the young. Sages, resident in the cities were there to 'teach the sciences and the varied arts'. Prior to their teachings there, they apparently came from a place called Achaia.

A region called Achaiyah, north of Mount Hermon, Syria is sited as being a possible site for Kharsag, the homeland of The Annage the so called 'Shining Ones' - great teacher gods of Sumerian tradition. These were the gods of the Sumerians who began the cradle of Western civilization in the Mesopotamian Valley.

The Sumerians ruled the region from at least 4000 B.C. and there is still a certain degree of mystery as to the sudden rise of culture of the indigenous population - which they, themselves, attributed to the influence of their teacher gods. It's possible that a small band of these elusive 'teachers' who could have been, themselves the last vestiges of an elder culture in decline, deciding to pass on their skills to the indigenous peoples, working their way through from the Mesopotamian basin through southern Europe, possibly teaching the Greeks in the same manner as the Tuatha De Danaan taught the old Irish... leaving memories of gods... who came from the Mount Olympus.... could they have then moved up northwards, spreading their knowledge via France, Germany, up to Scandinavia - again with their own pantheon of gods - and thence across to Britain and then Ireland.

October 13th, 2004, 10:20 PM
Here is some additional info from my Fairy Realms Class http://mysticwicks.com/images/smilies/smile.gif
....Beautiful information. I've read that history before, no tellin' where.. but well put, anyhow. http://mysticwicks.com/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

October 23rd, 2004, 10:48 PM
For those of you seeking more information on the Tuatha de Danaan, I've come across what seems a pretty darned good information site.


or http://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/sidhe.html, which covers more than just the sidhe, for those of you that are interested.

Enjoy! :D