Sí houses

In traditional Irish folklore, there are countless tales of encounters with the Sí, or the fairy folk. The story my informant told me is a very common one. It generally involves a person who is walking home late at night and decides to take a shortcut. They find themselves in an area they are unfamiliar with and come across a house or some sort of game or activity. In most tales it’s a large house with the light on. The traveler sees the house and thinks to themselves “great, I’ll stop in and say hello”. Upon entering the house they are greeted warmly and encouraged to eat and drink with the inhabitants. However, once you start eating and drinking with them, you can’t escape. What they have stumbled upon is what is called a fairy house or a Sí house.

In some cases the traveler is able to figure out what is happening before they eat or drink anything given to them. This is either because they know the stories, or as is sometimes the case, they see someone who has already died at the party. Those who know enough to escape come back the next day to find nothing left but a pile of old rocks.

My informant explained that in the old days, it was the common belief that when you died, you went to the otherworld which is inhabited by the Sí. So perhaps, going to a Sí house is where you go when you die. For those who escape the Sí house it could be seen as a choice between living or dying–whether or not you want to stay with them. It is a tempting decision because it is presented as a great and wonderful party filled with merriment–in that sense death doesn’t really look all that bad.