Old Irish: Hill

While the term sídhe is sometimes used to refer to what we call "fairies," the word originally meant "hill."

Sídhe refers both to fairies in general, as well as to the Tuatha Dé Danann, "The Tribe of Danu"1, the hero-gods of Ireland, who came from the four cities of Murias, Finias, Gorias, and Falias. When the Milesians arrived after the Tuatha Dé Dannan, they drove the gods under the hollow hills, which were called sídhe. They were then refered to as daoine sídhe or aes sídhe--people of the hill.

Now, what is interesting to note is that these mounds or hollow hills are often thought to also be burial mounds--barrows. This belief in the gods who live in the Hollow Hills may be the remnants of ancestor worship of an early Celtic race.

It is also worth noting that the term sídhe later passed into Welsh poetry, namely that which is attributed to Taliesin. In two poems he references a Caer Siddi--in "Prieddu Annwn" ("The Spoiling of Annwn"), and in "Kerdd Veib am Llyr" ("Song Before the Sons of Llyr"). Of the first,

bu kyweir karchar gweir yg kaer sidi. trwy ebostol pwyll a phryderi. Complete was the prison of Gweir in Caer Sidi, Through the spite of Pwyll and Pryderi. nam seith ny dyrreith o gaer sidi

Save only seven none returned from Caer Siddi

listed along with other otherworldly cities in Annwn.

The second:

bu kyweir karchar gweir yg kaer sidi.
trwy ebostol pwyll a phryderi.

Perfect is my seat in Caer Siddi
Manawyd and Pryderi know it Ys kyweir vyg kadeir ygkaer sidi. Nys plawd neb heint a heneint a uo yndi. Ys gwyr manawyt aphryderi. Complete is my chair in Caer Siddi, No one will be afflicted with disease or old age that may be in it. Manawyddan and Pryderi know it.

refering to the Mabinogion adventures of Manawyddan and his stepson Pryderi through the otherworld. It is more than likely that "Caer Siddi" refers not to a real place, but to an otherworldly place.

1 While it means "Tribe of Danu," it is likely related to the figures called the tri de dana, the Three Gods of Art, variously defined as Brian, Iucharba, Iuchar, the sons of the goddess Danann, or Lugh, Ogma, and the Dagda, three of the chief gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

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Mary Jones © 2014