Fairies (in Irish, sí) are a spirit community, who inhabit the landscape side by side with humans. The word in modern Irish sí comes from the Old Irish sídh, which represents in fact two different words – one meaning a ‘tumulus’ and the other meaning ‘quiet’ or ‘peace’. From this, it is clear that this otherworld community were thought of in antiquity as inhabiting a quiet and secluded realm. Originally they seem to have been a fusion of different things – such as mythological personages, the cult of the dead, and legends explaining mysterious phenomena and extraordinary happenings. The sí-people of folklore are usually of normal human height, but sometimes they are thought of as being somewhat smaller. They have magical power, and it is dangerous to mention their name (sí, or fairy), and so people used circumlocutions for them – such as na daoine maithe (‘the good people’), na daoine uaisle (‘the noble people’), na daoine beaga (‘the little people’), bunadh na gcnoc (‘the race of the hills’). They engage in the same types of activity as humans, but in their own unseen realm – work on their farms or in their houses, music, singing, courtship, sports, etc. Different groups of fairies inhabit different localities, and they have kings and queens to rule over them. Groups of fairies can be hostile to each other, and sometimes noises at night are heard by people as two fairy armies clash. In the morning white liquid on the ground is understood to be fairy blood spillt in a battle. It is dangerous for a human to be out late at night when fairy armies are abroad. These are called an slua sí, known in English as a ‘fairy cavalcade’ or ‘the trooping fairies’ i.e. a group of fairies in war-like and hostile mood. The main dwelling of a fairy group is in a large old earthenwork fort or ‘rath’. Inside such forts are the ‘palaces’ of the fairies, which serve as assembly-halls for them as well as the scenes of great feasts. In these forts throughout the countryside, music and entertainment can be heard at night by passers-by. Sometimes the fairies can be seen to dance on top of old moats, or to play hurling in a field beside a fort. At the feasts of May and November, each group of fairies move from their fort to another fort, because the fairies tend to have separate living quarters for summer and winter
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