The House of Llŷr

The Celtic Interpretation is a school of thought that applies Irish and Welsh mythology to the study of the Otherworld geography. It also examines heroic and god-like figures that appear in the literature in order to reveal the more social aspects of interaction with the creatures in or from the other reality. Academics who follow this school have divided the god-like peoples into three groups and this article will discuss the second of these, the House of Lir or Llŷr.

The Irish version is Lir, which basically means “sea”. There is little interaction with this god but he has a son, Manannán mac Lir who has a large number of interactions in the literature. There is a tragedy, Oidheadh Chlainne Lir, about further children of Lir who were turned into swans, but some consider this another Lir or simply an appropriation of a recognisable character to tell a fairy tale. However, Irish tradition count Lir and his children among the Tuatha de Danaan rather than at odds with them.

The Welsh version is Llŷr and sometimes additionally called Llediaith (Half-language) or Llediarth (Half-tongue), which indicates he may have been borrowed from the Irish concept. Again, Llŷr rarely appears in the literature with the focus being on his offspring, who are typically associated with the Dyfed region of Wales. Given that the Dyfed region had a number of Irish settlements before and following Roman occupation, the borrowing of Irish traditions is given some credence. This may also explain the rivalry applied between the House of Danu deities and the House of Llŷr deities in the later Welsh literature.

In both versions, with allowance for rivalries, Lir / Llŷr’s offspring are considered no less fair and heroic figures than the children of Danu.

The Celtic Interpretation is that Lir / Llŷr is a conjectured ancestor for a number of individual characters that have been seeded by positive interaction with Otherworld animals or their spirit forms. It is unlikely that Lir / Llŷr reflects an individual but is a conceptual parentage for a number of someones or somethings from the Otherworld. The use of a word meaning “sea” is simply an extension of the Celtic tendency to describe Otherworld places as being beyond or under the waves.

“The House of Llŷr” is used to describe god-like figures that have been developed to explain positive Otherworld personalities or origins. While these characters may be elevated to have some element of god belief, as with Lir / Llŷr himself, this is not their origin.


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