With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, I thought this week would be a great time to delve into some of Ireland’s spirits and folklore. Ireland has an interesting history and even more interesting folklore. This post is a little darker but the post on Thursday will be a bit more cheerier.
One of the most well-known spirits in Ireland is the Banshee. The Banshee is a female spirit that is the foreteller of a family member’s death. She is often described in different ways but most often she is described as a woman with long flowing hair that is dressed in either a grey cloak or a white dress and is wailing, screaming in agony, or keening. People disagree on whether she is an old woman or a young woman and whether if she is abnormally tall or very tiny in height but they all agree that the first signs that a Banshee is close by is the loud wailing that can be heard long before she appears. The Banshee’s wail is a warning that someone in the family is about to be in a situation where they probably won’t survive. If several Banshees are heard at once, it is thought that someone of great importance or holy is about to die. The chances of you coming across a Banshee are quite small. Lore states that only the original Irish families are the ones that the Banshees will show themselves to. The original families are the ones that typically start their family name with O’ or Mac. Banshees typically only visit the family that they are associated with and will follow the family around Ireland until the last descendant is dead. They also don’t typically follow family members that leave Ireland.
The Banshee isn’t the only Irish female you’ll want to avoid if you want to stay alive. The Leanan Sidhe is a fairy who haunts bodies of water and wells looking for new human lovers. With her magic and beauty, she is thought to inspire her lovers until their death. Leanan Sidhe are thought to be the muses of several Irish and Scottish poets and writers. W. B. Yeates even wrote about his encounter with a Leanan Sidhe. Although he compared her to a vampire I doubt her lovers saw her as such until it was too late. While the Leanan Sidhe bless their lovers with literary, music or other artistic skills, the lover is soon met with a quick death. While she means to inspire them, she instead drives them into an obsession with that gift. The lover burns himself out trying to achieve greatness in the next painting or book sending himself into madness and an early grave.
The final spirit I will talk about in this post is one that I found surprising to find in Ireland. The Dullahan is a headless horseman on a black horse. Typically when I think of headless horseman, I think of Sleepy Hollow and not green hills of Ireland but that is exactly where the Dullahan calls home. The horseman is said to carry his head which is suppose to have the texture and color of moldy cheese and have a grin that goes from ear to ear. The head is said to glow and is used as a lantern through the dark countryside. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, the Dullahan use a human spine as a whip. In some parts of Ireland, instead of riding a black horse, the Dullahan drives a funeral wagon made human skin and with wheels made of thigh bones as the spokes. The wagon is pulled by six black horses and said to go so fast that fires are started on either side of the road as the wagon passes. If you see him you will either be struck in the eye for daring to look at him or be doused with a bucket of blood. However, if he stops and speaks your name, you are instantly killed and your soul is added to his collection. But there is a way to protect yourself. The Dullahan is scared of unusually scared of gold. Even a tiny amount such as a gold coin thrown at him is enough to scare him back into the night and keep you safe for another day.
Hopefully, if you travel to Ireland, you don’t one into any of these spirits or fairy. I don’t want any of my readers ending up in an early grave because of one these creatures. But if you do run into one and survive (or knows someone who has dealt with them) please let me know. I would love to hear first-hand experiences with them.