In Irish mythology, the aos sí (Irish pronunciation: [iːs ˈʃiː], older form aes sídhe [eːs ˈʃiːə]) are a supernatural race comparable to the fairies or elves. They are said to live underground in the fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans. This world is described in "The Book of Invasions" (recorded in the Book of Leinster) as a parallel universe in which the aos sí walk amongst the living.
In the Irish language, aos sí means "people of the mounds" (the mounds are known in Irish as "the sídhe"). In Irish literature the people of the mounds are also referred to as the daoine sídhe ("deena shee"), and in Scottish Gaelic literature as the daoine sìth or daoine sìdh. They are said to be the ancestors, spirits of nature, or goddesses and gods.
Some later English texts have referred to the aos sí as "the sídhe". While this is incorrect it has become a widespread usage in English.
In Gaelic mythology
In many Gaelic tales the aos sí are later, literary versions of the Tuatha Dé Danann ("People of the Goddess Danu" – the deities and deified ancestors of Irish mythology). Some sources describe them as the survivors of the Tuatha Dé Danann who retreated into the Otherworld after they were defeated by the Milesians – the mortal Sons of Míl Espáine who, like many other early invaders of Ireland, came from Spain. Geoffrey Keating, an Irish historian of the late 17th century, equates Spain with the Land of the Dead.
In Gaelic folklore
In folk belief and practice, the aos sí are often propitiated with offerings, and care is taken to avoid angering or insulting them. Often they are not named directly, but rather spoken of as "The Good Neighbors," "The Fair Folk," or simply "The Folk". The most common names for them, aos sí, aes sídhe, daoine sídhe (singular duine sídhe) and daoine sìth mean, literally, "people of peace". The aos sí are generally described as stunningly beautiful, though they can also be terrible and hideous.
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