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Irish Folklore, Cures, Superstitions & Fairies

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Irish Folklore, Cures, Superstitions & Fairies

Compiled and Transcribed
by Teena
From Various Sources, Noted At Bottom

Irish Folklore, Cures, Superstitions & Fairies

In illness the old people say any improvement taking place on Friday or Sunday is unlucky; Not likely to last.

Cure for Erysipelas - (a bacterial infection in the upper layer of the skin) to arrest erysipelas, the name of the patient must be written round the part affected in the blood of a black cat. (a cat that has not a single white hair)

Irish Tree Dance Cure for Erysipelas - Rub the part affected with butter made from the milk of the cows belonging to a married couple, who both had the same name before their marriage.

Cure for Erysipelas - Send the son or daughter of a couple, who each had the same name before their marriage, to the bog for bog water and bathe the part affected with it or Apply the blood of anyone of the name of McCaul to the affected part.

The first egg laid by a little black hen, eaten the very 1st thing in the morning, will keep you from fever for the year.

For Ulcerated Sore throat - Take the patient by the two ears and shake the devil out of him or her.

Dried fox's tongue has many virtues, example - it will draw thorns however deep.

Cure for the Evil - A robin's breast rubbed on the place.

Cure for a Sick Cow - Cut off the piece of turf on which the cow first treads when getting up, and hang it on the wall and the cow will recover.

Cure for Whooping Cough - Some milk to be poured into a saucer, a ferret to drink some of it and the rest to be given to the patient.

Cure for heartburn The sufferer on consulting an 'herb doctor' is given an egg, with instructions to boil it, chip the shell, and throw the 1st spoonful on the ground and eat the remainder. This process must be gone through on 3 successive days when the charm is complete.

Cures for Warts - Cut a potato and cut it into 10 slices, count out 9 and throw away the 10th. Rub the warts with the 9, then bury them, and as they rot the warts will go away.

Cures for Warts - Look at the new moon - As you keep your eye on her, stoop down and lift some dust from under your right foot, rub the wart with it and as the moon wanes the wart dies.

If you were goin along the road and happen on a drap of water in the hollow of a stone, where you would not expect to find it, take and wash the wart with it 3 times and the wart will wear away. Cure for Sty on the Eye - Take 10 gooseberry jags, throw the 10th away, point the 9 at the sty and throw them away. this will cure it.

Cures for Whooping Cough or Chin Cough - Take the child to a donkey and pass it under a jackass 3 times. Then give the donkey a bit of oaten bread, then give what the donkey doesn't eat, to the child. If the child is too young to eat it, soften it and feed the child and this will cure the chin cough.

Woman before childbirth occasionally wears the coat of father of expected child, with the idea that he should share in the pains of childbirth.
A women in childbirth often wear the trousers of the father of child round the neck, the effect of which is supposed to be the lightening of the pains of labour.
A pregnant woman will not take an oath in a Court of Justice.
A pregnant woman considers it unlucky to meet a hare for fear of the child being born with a hare lip.
A pregnant woman will not take an oath in a Court of Justice.
A pregnant woman considers it unlucky to meet a hare for fear of the child being born with a hare lip.

There is a witch of great repute and when consulted by a rich person, she goes into the fields, collects certain herbs, not known to anyone but herself, performs secret rites, and incantations, and when these are over, the 1st living thing she sees is affected by the malady of the sick rich person, who immediately recovers.

Two sisters tried to cure a sick brother by walking 3 times round 3 houses adjacent to one another the tenants of which all had the same name.

Cuts - Plantain a broad narrow leaf cut grass bleeding grass &c - Apply bruised leaves while wet with the juice Diminishes pain stops profuse bleeding and prevents festering.

'Water' dropsy, jaundice - Broom plant - Drink decoction of leaves and plant tops.

King's Evil - watercress - Bruised leaves applied as poultice and juice taken as drink in warm milk.

Child very generally given a piece of sugar after birth for health.

There are 7 herbs of great value and power they are ground ivy, vervain, eyebright, groundsel, foxglove (fairy-fingers), the bark of the elder tree, and the young shoots of the hawthorn.

The 'Mead Cailleath' or wood anemone is used as a plaister for wounds

All herbs pulled on May Day Eve have a sacred healing power; if pulled in the name of the Holy Trinity but if in the name of Satan they work evil. Some herbs are malific if broken by the hand, so the plant is tied to a dog's foot and when he runs, it breaks without a hand touching it and may be used with safety.

There are 7 herbs that nothing natural or supernatural can injure they are vervain, John's wort, speedwell, eye bright, mallow, yarrow and self-help. But they must be pulled at noon on a bright day near the full of the moon to have full power.

A sick person's bed must be placed north and south not cross ways.

A bunch of mint tied round the wrist is a sure remedy for disorders of the stomach

An iron ring worn on the 4th finger was considered effective against rheumatism by the Irish peasantry from ancient times

Take a piece of bride cake and pass it three times through a wedding ring then sleep on it and you will see in a dream the face of your future spouse.

St John's Eve, Fires - Fires were and are still, in a less degree, lighted all over the country on St John's Eve, especially little fires across the road, if you drove through them, it brought you luck for the year. Cattle were also driven through the fires.

When anyone is lying dead in a room, the walls must be hung with sheets, and the door left open, because the spirit hovers in the room after it has left the body and must have free egress. Five candles must be round the coffin, one of which is not to be lighted. As the coffin is being taken out of the door, the sheets are to be taken down.

Immediately after birth, the child is sometimes spat on by the father.

On May 1st, Shrove Tuesday, and certain Mondays in the year, the country people will not give food or fire or any commodity out of their houses.

On Handsel Monday (1st Monday in the year) the country people will not pay any money, for anything, if possible. Doctor not allowed to take lymph from arm of child, until he gives it some present, however trifling.

If a child falls accidentally, an old women makes him take 3 tastes of salt, the idea being that the fairies caused the fall in trying to run away with the child and salt is an antidote against fairies.

A piece of the ash from the remains of the peat fire is tied up in a red rag and attached to the cow's tail to prevent the fairies milking her during night.

Part of the ashes from the bonfire on the 24th June is thrown into sown fields to make their produce abundant.

After marriage the bride and bridegroom go out of the church door, simultaneously, if one went in front of the other, the former would be the first to die.

Child, after birth, sometimes given salt for luck. Salt is considered very lucky and no poor person ever refuses salt to a neighbour, even though it may be the last in the house, which it is unlucky to give away, as it brings want to the house, but it would bring worse luck, to refuse as giving is a charitable act.

Country people object to giving away anything on a Monday, or going into a new situation on that day.

A 7th son is supposed to have the power of curing St Anthony's fire by touch, also to be able to cure tubercular affections by bleeding his gums and rubbing the blood on the part affected.
the 7th son of a 7th son is supposed to have the power of healing many affections by touch or in case of cross birth, to be able to bring about a happy result by lifting the woman in his arms 3 times and shaking her gently. It is especially lucky if he has red hair or is left handed.

When getting vaccinated, if the arm became inflamed, it was because the doctor did not put silver in your hand.

The 1st Sunday in Lent is called Chalk Sunday, and men and boys chalk a cross on the back of any unmarried person who may pass.

On Hallows Eve - Girls go out to the garden blindfolded and each pull up a cabbage. If the cabbage was well grown, the girl was to have a handsome husband, but woe betide the unlucky damsel who got one with a crooked stalk, her husband would be a stingy old man.

You must always bow when you meet a sweep, or even see one in the distance. If you don't you will never have any luck.

People born in the morning cannot see spirits or the fairy world, but those born at night have power over ghosts and can see the spirits of the dead.

If you want a person to win at cards stick a crooked pin in his coat.

The cuttings of your hair should not be thrown where birds can find them, for they will take them to build their nests and then you will have headaches all the year after.

If the palm of the hand itches you will be getting money, if the elbow you will be changing beds, if the ear itches and is red and hot some one is speaking ill of you.

To know the name of the person you are destined to marry, put a snail on a plate of flour, cover it over ,and leave it all night; in the morning the initial letter of the name will be found traced on the flour by the snail.

When taking possession of a new house, every one should bring in some present however trifling, but nothing should be taken away and a prayer should be said in each corner of your bedroom and some article of your clothing be deposited there at the same time.

You must bow when you see a magpie, if it flies off, turn and bow in that direction and say 'How do you do'. This will avert all ill-luck.
Magpie Rhyme -
One for sorrow 
Two for joy 
Three for a girl 
Four for a boy 
Five for heaven 
Six for hell 
Sevens the de'il's own sel  

The ill luck of meeting a single magpie can be averted by nodding 9 times over the left shoulder.

It is very unlucky to meet a red-haired person first thing in the morning.

If you find a little spider on any article of dress or in the china closet etc don't brush it off. If you leave it alone someone may give you a new one of whatever the spider was on.

Pins and Needles - To stop the pricking in the foot wet the popliteal space (sometimes referred to as the kneepit) with saliva.

Fingers - If a person habitually and without intent, clasp the hands interlacing the fingers so that the right thumb is over the left, it shows that he or she has a strong will. If the left is over the right, a weak will.

Pigeons - It is considered unlucky to keep pigeons in the dwelling house.

Crickets - It is unlucky to kill a cricket or to talk of killing them, because they tell one another and come and eat your clothes.

Cause of The Evil eye or Ill eye - If a child has been weaned, and again given the breast, the people say it will have an ill-eye.

The galragorbh (gaulragorroo) is a sort of colic which attacks young heifers. It can be cured if the 1st person who sees the beast, after it is seized, takes his coat off and strikes it therewith 9 times.

Before going to church the bride had 2 ribbons pinned in a cross on her dress behind her, and if she returned without them, good luck would attend her.
The groom had the besom thrown at him as he went to church and if it fastened on to any part of his clothing, it was considered lucky.

New Year's Day - if a male is the 1st to go into a house, he brings good luck, but a female brings bad luck.
New Year's Day - The 1st thing you eat in the morning, will cure you throughout the year if you fall sick.

1st, 2nd,, and 3rd April - the Borrowing Days - When the 1st of April came the old cow kicked up her heels and said 'Be hanged to March' So March borrowed 3 days from April, and turning on a bitterly cold wind, shrivelled the old cow up.

On May morning, the children scatter May flowers (marsh-mallow) gathered on May eve, before the door of their house.

The days on which rent falls due are known as Gale Days. There are 2 in each year, usually 1st May and 1st November, but sometimes 25th March and 29th September.

Curing heart fever - strip patient and measure her 3 times round her body over the heart with a green tape; the first measurement she should begin to feel better.

According to an ancient legend, quoted by Professor O'Curry, the River Shannon originated from the profanation of a sacred pagan well, by a woman

Women were not permitted to wash their feet in holy wells, though men were allowed to do so, for the Irish held a great many superstitions relative to water in which feet had been dipped.

In many localities it was forbidden to bury men and women in the same cemetery. The custom of the separate burial of the sexes is derived from very ancient times, for the old pagans had, in some instances, separate burying places for the two sexes.

The Rev. Edward Chichester A.M. writing in 1815 on ancient customs in the Parish of Culdaff, Co. Donegal, says that there were many superstitions which appeared extraordinary, though not confined to any one district of Ireland, the most singular he mentions being elopement previous to matrimony. The symbol of capture occurs whenever, after a contract of marriage, it is necessary for the constitution of the relation of husband and wife, that the bridegroom, or his friends, should go through the form of feigning to steal the bride, or carry her off from her friends by superior force. The marriage is agreed upon by bargain and the theft, or abduction, follows as a concerted matter of form to make valid the marriage. The test, then, of the presence of the symbol in any case, is that the capture is concerted and preceded by a contract of marriage. If there is no preceding contract the case is one of actual abduction.

Weddings were made the occasion of great festivities, usually followed by a dance, kept up, until the greater number of the guests were stretched upon the floor, through the combined effects of fatigue and other causes.

At the commencement of the 1800's, it was customary in the parish of Culdaff Co. Donegal for an infant, at its birth, to be forced to swallow spirits, and it was immediately afterwards suspended by the upper jaw, upon the midwife's fore finger. This ceremony was performed for the purpose of preventing a disease which the people styled 'headfall'.

It is very certain that the ancient Irish regarded the echo as a supernatural or incorporeal being. Ovid states that the echo formerly possessed a body, not a mere voice, and again describes it as one who has neither 'learned to hold her tongue after another has spoken nor to speak first herself'. There is a legend regarding the echo told relative to the death of one of Firm MacCool's warriors.
Sorely wounded he shouted, so loudly, that the surrounding hills rang again and conveyed his cries to his sister, on the opposite side of the lake. Recognising her brother's voice, she sprang into the lough to his assistance, but the echo deceived her as to the direction she ought to take, she swam round and round and finally sank exhausted beneath the waters. Ever afterwards the echo was called in Ireland 'The Deceiver'.

There were numerous authenticated examples of the widespread custom adopted by Christians of devoting to Christian uses monuments such as temples or tombs, that had been anciently pagan, and this system was in primitive times extensively followed in Ireland. Thus pillar stones were consecrated to the new faith by engraving on them the sign of the Greek Cross. If we are to believe the later written lives of St Patrick, he found the people worshipping pillars, some of which he caused to be overthrown, but the majority appear to have been re-consecrated to the new worship.

A writer describing the Island of Devenish in the year 1815 says that a few paces to the north of St. Molaise's house is his 'bed' which is a stone trough coffin sunk level with the surface of the ground, 6 feet in length and 15 inches wide, in which people lie down and repeat some prayers in hope of relief from any pains with which they may be affected.

About 100 paces north of St Mary's Abbey is St Nicholas's Well to which many resort for relief, repeat some prayers, and leave a rag suspended on a bush near it.

About the year 1873, the Rev. James PAGE, thus describes a scene at the station called St Patrick's Bed, on Croagh Patrick. All the devotees do not go there, none, but those that are barren and the abominable practices committed there ought to make human nature in its most degraded state blush. This station course is 40 yards in circumference. Round this they go 7 times, then enter the bed, turn round 7 times, take up some small pebbles and bring them home in order to prevent barrenness, and to banish rats and mice. The greater part of those who go through this station, stop upon the hill all night, that they may sleep in the bed.


The fairies are thought to partake of a mixed human and spirit nature. The peasantry have apparently tried to reconcile heathen and Christian imagination and hold an ill-defined belief that fairies are fallen spirits, driven from heaven and condemned to dwell on earth, until the day of judgment.
Fairie StarsThe legend runs that at the time of Satan's rebellion, some angels remained true to their allegiance, others sided with Lucifer, whilst a 3rd party remained neutral. At the termination of the struggle those who sided with the Almighty remained in heaven, those who fought against Him were cast into the nether regions, but the neutral party unfitted for either heaven or hell, were compelled to dwell in rocks and hills, seas and lakes, bushes and thickets, where they must remain until the day of judgment, and it is a moot point amongst rural theologians as to whether, even then, they have a remote chance of salvation.

The fairies are said to doubt, regarding their own future state, although they have hopes of being restored to happiness. An intermixture of good and evil, balances their actions, and motives, and their passions are often vindictive, as their inclinations are frequently humane and generous. They wage desperate battles with opposing bands, and they meet like knights of old armed 'cap ti pie', for such encounters. The air bristles with their spears, and flashing swords, and their helmets and red coats gleam in the bright sunshine, during the progress of these engagements. No opinion was more prevalent among the peasantry, than that, of fairy abduction, practised by the elfin tribe.

They are animated with feelings of benevolence, or resentment, according to circumstances. Although invisible to men, particularly during day, they hear, and see, all that takes place among mortals, in which they have any especial concern. Hence, the peasantry are always anxious to secure their good opinion, and kind offices, and to propitiate, or avert, their anger, by civil conversation and practices.

Fairies are always mentioned with respect and reserve.

It is considered inhuman, to strain potatoes, or spill hot water, on, or over, the threshold of a door, as thousands of spirits are supposed to congregate, invisibly, at such a spot, and to suffer from that infliction. A libation of some of the thick new milk, given by a cow after calving, if poured on the ground, more especially, in the interior of a rath or fort, is supposed to appease the anger of the offended fairies. Before drinking, a peasant will, in many cases, spill a small portion of the draught on the earth as a complimentary libation to the good people.

In the south of Ireland, especially, every parish has its grassy green and fairy thorn where it is supposed these elves hold their meetings and dance their rounds. In Ulster also, the hawthorn seems associated with fairy revels, as may be gleaned from a beautiful northern ballad of Samuel Ferguson 'The Fairy Thorn', there a fairy host is introduced as issuing from every side around an enchanted hawthorn.

The Fairy Thorn - An Ulster Ballad

"Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning wheel;
For your father's on the hill, and your mother is asleep;
Come up above the crags, and we'll dance a highland reel,
Around the fairy thorn on the steep"

At Anna Grace's door t'was thus the maidens cried;
Three merry maidens fair in kirtles of the green,
And Anna laid the rock and the weary wheel aside;
The fairest of the four, I ween.

They're glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve;
Away in milky wavings of neck and ankle bare,
The heavy sliding stream in its sleepy song they leave;
And the crags in the ghostly air,

And linking hand in hand and singing as they go,
The maids along the hill side have ta'en their fearless way,
Till they come to where the rowan trees in lonely beauty grow
Beside the Fairy Hawthorn grey.

The Hawthorn stands between the ashes tall and slim,
Like matron with her twin grand-daughters at her knee;
The rowan berries cluster o'er her low head grey and dim
In ruddy kisses sweet to see

The merry maidens four have ranged them in a row,
Between each lovely couple a stately rowan stem,
And away in mazes wavy, like skimming birds they go
Oh, never caroll'd bird like them!

But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze,
That drinks away their voices in echoless repose;
And dreamily the evening has still'd the haunted braes,
And dreamier the gloaming grows

And sinking one by one, like lark notes from the sky,
When the falcon's shadow saileth across the open shaw;
Are hush'd the maiden's voices, as cowering down they lie,
In the flutter of their sudden awe.

For from the air above, and the grassy ground beneath.
And from the mountain ashes, and the old Whitethorn between;
A Power of faint enchantmen,t doth through their beings breathe,
And they sink down together on the green.

They sink together silent and stealing side by side.
They fling their lovely arms o'er their drooping necks so fair
Then vainly strive again their naked arms to hide
For their shrinking necks again are bare

Thus clasp'd and prostrate all, with their heads together bow'd,
Soft o'er their bosom's beating the only human sound;
They hear the silky footsteps of the silent fairy crowd,
Like a river in the air gliding round.
No scream can any raise, no prayer can any say,
But wild, wild the terror of the speechless three
For they feel fair Anna Grace drawn silently away,
By whom they dare not look to see.

They feel their tresses twine with her parting locks of gold;
And the curls elastic falling as her head withdraws;
They feel her sliding arms from their tranced arms unfold,
But they may not look to see the cause.

For heavy on their senses the faint enchantment lies
Through all that night of anguish and perilous amaze;
And neither fear nor wonder can ope their quivering eyes,
Or their limbs from the cold ground raise,

Till out of night the earth has roll'd her dewy side
With every haunted mountain and streamy vale below;
When as the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide,
The maidens trance dissolveth so.

Then fly the ghastly three as swiftly as they may
And tell their tale of sorrow to anxious friends in vain
They pined away and died within the year and day
And ne'er was Anna Grace seen again.
        by Sir Samuel Ferguson

Travelling through the air upon rushes, instead of upon borrowed horses, is of common occurrence in fairy history, but a blade of grass, a straw, a fern root, or a cabbage stalk, are equally adapted for aerial steeds; these latter articles must, however, be cut into a rude similitude of a real horse and persons afilicted with falling sickness are supposed to be merely suffering from fatigue attendant on the lengthened journeys which they are constrained to take night after night, with the fairies and mounted on cabbage stumps. The fairies are objects of a strange unreasoning, childlike fear, and the amount of mischief ascribed to them, in the imagination of the peasantry, is wonderful considering the very diminutive stature assigned to them.

Evening is the time usually selected for fairy migrations from raths and dells; it is also the favourite juncture for indulging in their peculiar pastimes and revels.

The summer, or autumn, nights were selected by our Irish fairies as most appropriate occasions for congregating their dancing parties, in secluded vales, near runnel banks, whilst the gurgling water trickles along its sheltered course. Sometimes they sport beside a lake or river, near old ivied castles, or oftentimes, within the gloomy precincts of some graveyard, under the walls of its ruined church, or over lonely tombs of the dead.

Harvest time is remarkable for affording frequent glimpses of our Irish fairies. They are, however, very jealous of mortal intrusion, and commonly proceed to wreak vengeance on all unbidden interlopers at their revels. The wild harmonies of zephyr breezes are supposed to be the murmuring, musical, voices of fairies on their travels. Although elfin sports may continue during night, the first glow of morning is a signal for instant departure to their raths, deep caverns, rocky crevices, or old cairns, where their fabled dwellings, are carefully concealed from the eye of mortal. On alighting at, or departing from, a particular spot, their rapid motion through air, creates a noise somewhat resembling the loud humming of bees, when swarming from a hive. Sometimes what is called 'shee gaoithe 'Anglice 'a whirlwind' is supposed to have been raised by the passing fairy host.

Those strange sounds caused by crackling, furze blossoms, are attributed to fairy presence. They shelter beneath clumps of gorse thickets, love the scent of their flowers, and mark out beaten tracks, through the wiry grass growing round their roots, they sip ambrosial dew, from out the yellow cup leafed blossoms, they also suck dew drops from other leaves and flowers.

A Legend of Tyrone

Crouched round a bare hearth in hard frosty weather, Three lonely helpless weans cling close together. Tangled those gold locks once bonnie and bright. There's no one to fondle the baby to'night.

"My mammie I want, oh my mammie I want" The big tears stream down with the low wailing chant. Sweet Eily's slight arms enfold the gold head; Poor weeny Willie sure mammie is dead.

And daddie is crazy from drinking all day- Come down holy angels and take us away. Eily and Eddie keep kissing and crying; Outside, the weird winds are sobbing and sighing.

All in a moment, the children are still; Only a quick coo' of gladness from Will. The sheeling no longer seems empty or bare, For clothed in soft raiment, the mother stands there.

They gather around her, they cling to her dress; She rains down soft kisses, for each shy caress. Her light loving touches, smooth out tangled locks; And pressed to her bosom, the baby she rocks.

He lies in his cot, there's a fire on the hearth; To Eily and Eddy, 'tis heaven on earth. For mother's deft fingers have been everywhere, She lulls them to rest, in the low suggaun* chair.

They gaze open eyed, then the eyes gently close; As petals fold into the heart of a rose; But ope soon again in awe, love, but no fear. And fondly they murmur "Our mammie is here".

She lays them down softly, she wraps them around, They lie in sweet slumbers, she starts at a sound; The cock loudly crows, and the spirit's away; The drunkard steals in at the dawning of day.

Again and again, 'tween the dark and the dawn; Glides in the dead mother to nurse Willie Bawn Or is it an angel who sits by the hearth An angel in heaven a mother on earth
        by Ellen O'Leary
*Chair made of twisted straw ropes

Sometimes, supposed changelings, were removed from the peasants cabin, on a clean shovel and were placed on the centre of a dunghill; parents, meantime believing that their true children would be restored to them, after a long absence. Certain prayers were muttered by the fairy-man or fairy-woman directing this strange operation.

Some Irish verses were usually chanted during this process, of which the following may be deemed a correct translation;
Fairy men and women all.
List' ! it is your baby's call;
For on the dunghill's top he lies,
Beneath the wide, inclement skies.

Then come with coach, and sumptuous train
And take him to your mote again;
For if ye' stay, till cocks shall crow,
You ll find him like a thing of snow;

A pallid lump, a child of scorn,
A monstrous brat, of fairies born,
But ere you bear the boy away,
Restore the child you took instead;
When like a thief, the other day,
You robbed my infant's cradle bed
Then give me back, my only son,
And I'll forgive the harm you've done;
And nightly for your sportive crew
I'll sweep the hearth, and kitchen too;
And leave you free your tricks to play,
Whene'er you choose to pass this way,
Then, like good people do incline
To take your child, and give back mine!

Young and lovely children were the special objects of desire, and often, when these had been snatched away from the parental home, old, emaciated, decrepit, and ugly fairies, were left in their stead. These latter are called 'changelings'.

Babes are carefully watched and guarded until after their christening is over, lest they should be abducted, or changed for fairy deformities. The Irish peasant mother entertained similar fears for her newly born child, especially when it presented a very attractive appearance. But children alone, were not the only persons subject to such species of forced exile. Mortal women, recently confined, were also abducted, to suckle the children conveyed to fairyland, and in some cases, they were required to nurse fairy born infants. On this subject we have many popular tales and traditions current, whilst our ancient or modern literature abounds with allusions to such incidents.

Water that has been used to bathe the feet, must be put outside the door at night for fear of fairies.

A gentleman remembers being astonished when a cloud of dust was being blown along a road & seeing an old woman rush to the side and drag handfuls of grass out of the fence, which she threw in great haste into the cloud of dust. He inquired and learned that this was in order to give something to the fairies that were flying along in the dust.

Country people in Kerry don't eat hares; the souls of their grand-mothers's are supposed to have entered into them.

Classification of Irish Fairies

Irish Fairies divide themselves into 2 great classes: the sociable and the solitary. The 1st are in the main kindly, and the 2nd full of all uncharitableness.

The Sociable Fairies
These creatures, who go about in troops, and quarrel, and make love, much as men and women do, are divided into land fairies or Sheoques (Ir. Sidheog, - a little fairy) and water fairies or Merrows (Ir. Moruadh - a sea maid); the masculine is unknown).
At the same time I am inclined to think that the term 'Sheoque' may be applied to both upon occasion, for I have heard of a whole village turning out to hear two red -capped water fairies, who were very little fairies indeed, play upon the bagpipes.

I. The Sheoques proper, however, are the spirits that haunt the sacred thorn bushes and the green raths. All over Ireland are little fields, circled by ditches, and supposed to be ancient fortifications, and sheepfolds. These are the raths, or forts, or 'royalties', as they are variously called. Here, marrying and giving in marriage, live the land fairies. Many a mortal, they are said, to have enticed down into their dim world. Many more have listened to their fairy music, till all human cares and joys drifted from their hearts and they became great peasant seers or 'Fairy Doctors,' or great peasant musicians or poets like Carolan, who gathered his tunes while sleeping on a fairy rath;
else they died in a year and a day, to live ever after among the fairies. These Sheoques are on the whole good; but one most malicious habit have they - a habit worthy of a witch. They steal children and leave a withered fairy, a thousand or maybe two thousand years old, instead. Three or 4 years ago a man wrote to one of the Irish papers, telling of a case in his own village, and how the parish priest made the fairies deliver the stolen child up again. At times, full-grown men and women have been taken. Near the village of Coloney, Sligo, I have been told, lives an old woman who was taken in her youth. When she came home at the end of 7 years she had no toes, for she had danced them off. Now and then one hears of some real injury being done a person by the land fairies, but then it is nearly always deserved. They are said to have killed 2 people in the last 6 months in the County Down district where I am now staying. But then these persons had torn up thorn bushes belonging to the Sheoques.

2. The Merrows. These water fairies are said to be common. I asked a peasant woman once whether the fisher men of her village had ever seen one. "Indeed, they don't like to see them at all" she answered, "for they always bring bad weather." Sometimes the Merrows come out of the sea in the shape of little hornless cows. When in their own shape, they have fishes' tails and wear a red cap called in Irish 'cohuleen driuth'. The men among them, have, according to Croker, green teeth, green hair, pigs' eyes, and red noses; but their women are beautiful, and sometimes prefer handsome fishermen to their green-haired lovers. Near Bantry, in the last century, lived a woman covered with scales like a fish, who was descended, as the story goes, from such a marriage. I have myself never heard tell of this grotesque appearance of the male Merrows, and think it probably a merely local Munster tradition.

The Solitary Fairies
These are nearly all gloomy and terrible in some way. There are, how ever, some among them who have light hearts and brave attire.

The Lepricaun (Ir. Leith bhrogan i,e, the one shoe maker) He is said to be the child of an evil spirit and a debased fairy, and wears, a red coat with seven buttons in each row, and a cocked-hat, on the point of which he sometimes spins like a top. In Donegal he goes clad in a great frieze coat. (more below)

2. The Cluricaun (Ir. Clobhair-cean in O' Kearney) - Some writers consider this to be another name for the Lepricaun, given him when he has laid aside his shoe -making at night and goes on the spree. The Cluricauns' occupations are robbing wine-cellars and riding sheep and shepherds' dogs for a livelong night, until the morning finds them panting and mud-covered.

3. The Gonconer or Ganconagh (Ir Gean-canogh i.e. love-talker) This is a creature of the Lepricaun type, but, unlike him, is a great idler. He appears in lonely valleys, always with a pipe in his mouth, and spends his time in making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids.

4. The Far Darrig (Ir. Fear Dearg, i.e. red man) This is the practical joker of the other world. Of these solitary and mainly evil fairies there is no more lubberly wretch than this same Far Darrig. Like the next phantom, he presides over evil dreams.

5. The Pooka (Ir. Puca a word derived by some from poc, a he-goat). The Pooka seems of the family of the nightmare. He has most likely never appeared in human form, the 1 or 2 recorded instances being probably mistakes, he being mixed up with the Far Darrig. His shape is usually that of a horse, a bull, a goat, eagle, or ass. His delight is to get a rider, whom he rushes with through ditches and rivers and over mountains, and shakes off in the gray of the morning. Especially does he love to plague a drunkard: a drunkard's sleep is his kingdom. At times he takes more unexpected forms than those of beast or bird. The one that haunts the Dun of Coch-na-Phuca in Kilkenny takes the form of a fleece of wool, and at night rolls out into the surrounding fields, making a buzzing noise that so terrifies the cattle that unbroken colts will run to the nearest man and lay their heads upon his shoulder for protection.

6. The Dullahan.This is a most gruesome thing. He has no head, or carries it under his arm. Often he is seen driving a black coach called coacha-bower (Ir. Coite-bodhar) drawn by headless horses. It rumbles to your door, and if you open it a basin of blood is thrown in your face. It is an omen of death to the houses where it pauses. Such a coach not very long ago went through Sligo in the gray of the morning, as was told me by a sailor who believed he saw it. In one village I know its rumbling is said to be heard many times in the year.

7. The Leanhaun Shee (Ir. Leanhaun sidhe i.e. fairy mistress) This spirit seeks the love of men. If they refuse, she is their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding one to take their place. Her lovers waste away, for she lives on their life. Most of the Gaelic poets, down to quite recent times, have had a Leanhaun Shee, for she gives inspiration to her slaves and is indeed the Gaelic muse - this malignant fairy. Her lovers, the Gaelic poets, died young. She grew restless, and carried them away to other worlds, for death does not destroy her power.

8. The Far Gorta (man of hunger) - This is an emaciated fairy that goes through the land in famine time, begging and bringing good luck to the giver.

9. The Banshee (Ir. Bean-sidhe fairy woman) - This fairy, like the Far Gorta, differs from the general run of solitary fairies by its generally good disposition. She is perhaps not really one of them at all, but a sociable fairy grown solitary through much sorrow. The name corresponds to the less common Far Shee (Ir. Fear Sidhe), a man fairy. She wails, as most people know, over the death of a member of some old Irish family. Sometimes she is an enemy of the house and screams with triumph, but more often a friend. When more than one Banshee comes to cry, the man or woman who is dying must have been very holy or very brave. (more below)

The Leprechaun

Irish fairy lore is unlike the fairy lore of the rest of Europe in this respect: the fairy powers in Ireland have been endowed with names and personalities-they are not a nameless commonalty.
Leprechaun And this endowment has left the fairies of Ireland more tangible and with more of a history than the fairy beings of other countries. How has it come that they have names and personalities? Alfred Nutt supposed that it was because each locality in Ireland had its special form of argicultural rites, its special name for the powers worshipped, its special version of their fortunes. He says, "Whether derived from the common Gaelic storehouse of mythic romance, or from local saga, the presence of names, of personalities, of distinctive groups of narrative connected with those personalities, gives a body, a reality, to the fairy world of Ireland lacking elsewhere."

There are two preternatural beings who have distinct existences: the Leprechaun and the Banshee: they are both solitary. It is wrong to speak of a company of Leprechauns or a company of Banshees.

However, it seems that the Leprechaun began his career as a member of a community: Lu-chorpan, "The Wee Bodies." The name of his nation became corrupted, and the corruption gave rise to the idea that "brog" or shoe made part of the name. The Leprechauns then became shoemakers, and like all shoemakers they became irascible and solitary. The solitary Leprechaun is now shoemaker to the fairies. His haunts are by old castles. A very little fellow, he is always engaged in his trade of shoemaking. If you are lucky enough to come upon him, draw close to him without making a sound. Take him in your grasp. Then ask him where the crocks of gold are hidden. Insist upon his telling; do not let your mind be dissipated by his talk. In the end he will cheat you; he will say or do something that will distract your attention, and when you look again, the Leprechaun will have disappeared.

The Way of the Leprecaun

The Leprecauns had ceased work and were looking at the children. Seumas turned to them.

"God bless the work," said he politely.

One of the Leprecauns, who had a grey, puckered face and a thin fringe of grey whisker very far under his chin, then spoke. "Come over here, Seumas Beg," said he, "and I'll measure you for a pair of shoes. Put your foot up on that root."

The boy did so, and the Leprecaun took the measure of his foot with a wooden rule.

"Now, Brigid Beg, show me your foot," and he measured her also. "They'll be ready for you in the morning."

"Do you never do anything else but make shoes, sir?" said Seumas.

"We do not," replied the Leprecaun, "except when we want new clothes, and then we have to make them, but we grudge every minute spent making anything else except shoes, because that is the proper work for a Leprecaun. In the night time we go about the country into people's houses and we clip little pieces off their money, and so, bit by bit, we get a crock of gold together, because, do you see, a Leprecaun has to have a crock of gold so that if he's captured by men folk he may be able to ransom himself. But that seldom happens, because it's a great disgrace altogether to be captured by a man, and we've practised so long dodging among the roots here that we can easily get away from them.

Of course, now and again we are caught; but men are fools, and we always escape without having to pay the ransom at all. We wear green clothes because it is the color of the grass and the leaves, and when we sit down under a bush or lie in the grass they just walk by without noticing us."

The Banshee

The Banshee, literally the Fairy Woman (Bean Sidhe) has no abode. She comes near a house to wail for one who is about to die. Those who know how piercing is the caoine, the people's lament for the dead, will realize what a dread visitant the Banshee would be.
In all respects this mysterious creature is like the "keener" or mourner for the dead; those who have looked upon her describe her as drawing a comb through her hair; she is probably tearing her hair out in the manner of the ancient mourners.
The Banshee haunts only the families of the "high Milesian race," that is, the families whose names are Gaelic by the "O" or "Mac" or any of the other prefixes. However, the Gaelic poets have granted a Banshee to some of the Norman-Irish families, the Fitzgeralds have been given one. She is a respecter of persons and haunts only those who are authentically of noble stock.

The Irish word pronounced 'shee' is the usual generic name applied to that denomination of supernatural creatures, known in the Sister Kingdoms, as fairies, elves, or pixies. The 'farr-shee', is known as the man fairy, the 'ban-shee', is recognised as the woman fairy, sometimes we have the term 'mna-shee', (women fairies) used with peculiar diminutions, known in the Irish language. 'The Fear sighes' are chiefly alluded to in ancient legendary lore; and the 'Bean-sighes' are usually known as a distinctive class of imaginary beings, when wailing for anticipated deaths. In the fairy soldier troops, only men appear; among the moonlight, or fairy palace revellers, fine dressed lords and ladies are indiscriminately mingled in social enjoyments. Within their luxurious halls, songs and strains of ravishing music, and rhythm, are heard, which transport with a delicious enthusiasm, the souls of mortals, and tingle on the ear with melodious cadenzas, that long haunt the memory and imagination.


I am come. I am come from the land unknown.
For the earth I have quitted my airy throne,
I have left the heights of yon starry sphere.
To sing his dirge in a mortal's ear.
'UliIu, Ullilu' morn comes fast,
A soul will have sped ere the moonlight's past.

I am come, I am come, as I came before
To the sires of thy house in the days of yore;
Many a chieftain has heard my cry -
Many a dame of thy ancestry.
Ullilu, Ullilu! thou must go
To join them either in joy or woe.

Hast thou call'd up tears to the widow's eye.'
Hast thou listen'd in vain to the orphan's cry.'
Hast thou driven the hungry' from thy door?
Or taken the roof from the starving poor.'
Ullilu, Ullilu .' take the cost!
Ye mourners weep, for a soul is lost!

Hast t'hou seen thy country sunk in woe,
And taken the side of the tyrant foe?
Or a traitorous part has thy bosom played.
Hast thou risen on the wreck of friends
Ullilu, Ullilu'' then weep on, (betrayed).-
Ye mourners, weep, for a soul is gone!

Or hast thou striven for the good of all? -
Did danger daunt not-nor death appal?
Didst thou urge thy way in virtue's path.
Fearing no vials of human wrath?
Ullilu, Ullilu ' earth must wail.
But heaven's bright angels record the tale.

Tremble not then, as thou hear'st my cry;
Why should a good man fear to die?
Mourners, let your mourning cease.
Such a death is the soul's release.
Away on the morn's first beam I soar,
A sleeper will waken on earth no more.
        by Anonymous

Other Fairies and Spirits
Besides the foregoing, we have other solitary fairies, of which too little definite is known to give them each a separate mention.
They are the House Spirits, of whom 'Teigue of the Lee' is probably an instance; the Water Sherie, a kind of will-o'-the-wisp; the Sowlth, a formless luminous creatur ; the Pastha (Piast-bestia) the lake dragon, a guardian of hidden treasure; and the Bo men fairies, who live in the marshes of County Down and destroy the unwary. They may be driven away by a blow from a particular kind of sea -weed. I suspect them of being Scotch fairies imported by Scotch settlers. Then there is the great tribe of ghosts called Thivishes in some parts. These are all the fairies and spirits I have come across in Irish folklore. There are probably many others undiscovered.
        by W. B. Yeats.
Co. Down, June 1891

As many of the above were told me by my ancestors, for fun I've compiled and transcibed this page~ Teena.

From various resources including the:
Vol. of Irish Folklore, Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, By William Butler Yeats
A Treasury of Irish Folklore by Padraic Colum and Irish Popular Superstitions, By William Robert Wilde

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