Friday, March 16, 2012

Walk with me to the dark side of the woods

When you think about the magic of Ireland, what images pop into your mind? Do you imagine green rolling hills, leprechauns, fairies, or rainbows? Any of these would be an interesting focus, but I'm going to take you down a darker path. It's the kind of path that leads through a shadowy, fog-filled forest. A forest where you hear mysterious noises that you can't quite see the source of. I'm leading you to the darkest realm of this forest so I can introduce you to the not-so-nice creatures of Ireland.

As we walk under this somber canopy of trees, we hear a distant shriek. Could this be the sound of a banshee? The banshee's voice is said to resemble something between a woman's scream and the screech of an owl, and that is exactly what we hear.


You've probably all heard of the banshee. Sometimes she appears as a beautiful woman and sometimes she looks horrifying. Either way, she is always a shrieking omen of death.

Someone claiming to be a banshee, foretold the murder of King James I of Scotland in 1437, and there have been banshee reports in Ireland as recently as 1948! So, who knows? One of them might still be here. Let's quickly get away from the shrieking.

Oh, what's this? A little cottage in the middle of the woods! This looks like a safe banshee-free zone, right?

Wait. This is a dark, haunted forest. Maybe we should peek in the window first, to make sure nothing scary is inside. Aww... What a sweet sight. It's a mother leaning over her baby's cradle. The baby shifts back and forth slowly in its bed. Suddenly it lifts its head, and... eww. That's no baby!


It's a lumpy, yellow thing with a bad attitude. It's a fairy changeling! Sometimes the fairies take a baby and leave a changeling in its place. They have many reasons for doing so, but the main reason in Irish stories is envy. Looking at a baby with envy is putting it in danger. If too many people envy the baby, it's more or less like signing it away to the fairies.

There is only one way to change it back into a baby: Throw the changeling into a fireplace. It will then leap up the chimney and the baby will be returned. Yeah... you better be really sure that what you have is a changeling before throwing it into the fire!

Adult humans also run the risk of becoming changelings, if looked upon with enough envy. In fact, in the year 1895, Bridget Cleary was killed by her husband, because he believed she was a changeling. Or so he said.

Let's leave this terrible scene. I can't bear to watch the changeling get thrown into a fireplace!

If these woods weren't haunted, we could be having a relaxing nature walk. There's so much wildlife here to enjoy. I assume those are squirrels rustling in the dead leaves, and birds chirping from the trees overhead. Not to mention that, horse/goat thing with the gold eyes that's been watching us.

This is the form the Pooka (Irish for goblin) has decided to take at this time. The Pooka is a shapeshifter; it can appear as a goat, horse, rabbit, or dog. It most commonly takes the form of a large black horse with golden eyes. It can be either a good or bad creature, depending on its mood. There are stories of the Pooka being kind, and yet it also likes to confuse and scare people. The only day one can be sure the Pooka will be nice is on November 1st. That's Pooka Day. Obviously, it's now March, so it's difficult to know what we're dealing with. Let's just quickly walk past this creature and hope it doesn't bother us...

Even though we walked away from the Pooka, the sound of galloping horse hooves is still around us. Has the Pooka decided to follow us? No, we are being followed by the kind of creature that makes a Pooka seem harmless. It's The Dullahan, who looks very similar to someone you might find in Sleepy Hollow.

The Dullahan may look like the standard headless horseman we are familiar with, but there are some differences. The main difference is that instead of searching for a head, the Dullahan carries his. A strange feature of the head is that it has the color and consistency of moldy cheese. That and he carries a whip that is made from a human spine. So you don't want to get close to him, purely because you'd be grossed out if you did. Of course, there are far more deadly reasons to avoid him. It's said that if the Dullahan stops his horse and calls out a person's name, they will die at that exact moment.

One more disgusting feature! The Dullahan does not like it when people watch him. If you do, he will throw a bucket of blood in your face! Yes, he carries a bucket of blood along with his cheesy head and spine whip. He's a multitasker like that. So, now that we've caught sight of The Dullahan, let's just run the other way and not bother him. As if I even needed to tell you that... 

After running through the tangled trees, we see something more inviting. It is a gorgeous, glittering figure with iridescent wings.  It is the Lianhan Shee.

The Lianhan Shee is a beautiful fairy that is sort of like a siren. She basically puts men under her spell to the point where they give up everything for her. The only way to be free from her spell is to refuse her advances. Very few men do. If they do manage to reject her, the tables are turned and she does their bidding. It's time to go, before any of the men in our group are tempted by her...

Speaking of someone the guys might want to avoid, a Dearg-Due is known to lurk in these woods. The Dearg-Due is an Irish female vampire.  I've seen her referred to as "the red blood sucker". However, some legends say that she isn't so much interested in blood, as she is sucking the souls out of people's bodies.


The only way to hold her at bay is to pile stones on her grave. Evidently, if you pile on enough stones, it's inconvenient for her to dig out of the dirt. Placing something heavy on top of a vampire's coffin is a pretty practical solution! So, let's pile a few stones on her resting place, and make our way out of the woods.

* A quick vampire theory worth sharing:

Some people argue that Bram Stoker's Dracula was based upon the Dearg-due. Dracula was written during Ireland's great "Celtic Revival". Some believe that Stoker took the name "Dracula" from Dreach-Fhoula, pronounced droc'ola. This word happens to mean "bad or tainted blood" in Irish. At the very least it's an interesting coincidence.

As we make our way to a clearing in the forest and look through the trees, we see a large body of water and an approaching ship. Suddenly a fog appears out of nowhere! It's the work of The Grey Man (Far Liath).

He has created this fog in the hopes of causing a ship wreck. The fog grows thicker and we blindly manage to walk through it on our way out of this place. After walking for some time, we hear a sound in the distance. It's hard to be certain, but it sounds an awful lot like a ship crashing against the rocks.

Now that you have survived the haunted forest and scary Irish creatures, you can breathe a sigh of relief and have a happy St. Patrick's Day!


  1. this is a really great post! love the dracula stuff, and a cute idea to walk through the woods. you rock.

  2. Super post! Who knew there were so many wacky Irish monsters? I was expecting corned beef and cabbage to jump out form behind a tree, but that would've been too scary. Have a great St. Paddy's Day!

  3. You always have a neato way of structuring your posts, love it!

    I've heard of the Pooka before but never seen that particular image, it's really cool.

    I'm playing a PC game called Kingdoms of Amular which uses a lot of UK folklore for its creatures: Sidhe, brownies, boggarts to name a few.

  4. The Irish were a very superstitious lot weren't they?! Although if it wasn't for their superstitions we wouldn't have our humble Jack O' Lanterns today so yay for the Irish!

    I really enjoyed this spooky forest tour! I could picture it in my head as we came across each nasty little creature.

    I once wrote a poem about hobgoblins, fairies and banshees and other such creatures when I was about 14 years old. I published it to a website and have tried finding it over the years many times but it's lost :( I did really like that poem!!

    I have a few books on legends and folklore and am actually bidding on one on eBay which my dad used to have when I was a child! It's funny because I remembered looking through it and being creeped out as a kid and when I showed Pyf the book on eBay he said his dad also had one too! If I manage to win it *fingers crossed* then I'll blog it. It's THE best folklore book :D

    Have a great St.Paddy's Day! xxx

  5. Oh yes, I also have a story.. which is kinda silly but it scared me and my friends at the time!

    Me and two of my friends went on a trip with an expedition company when we were about 17. We went to Dartmoor and did some hiking and abseiling and all sorts, we were staying in a type of cabin for most of the duration but on one of the days we had to camp out in the wilderness (if you Google Dartmoor then you'll get a better idea of the landscape)

    We pitched our tents in a random field by a stream and another field with some horses in. By night time we had done the usual telling of spooky stories around the fire and when me and my two friends climbed into our tent for the night we were still telling each other stories. After about midnight when we were just falling to sleep we suddenly heard this god awful scream and then some of the horses neighing in the field next to us, we just laid there in our sleeping bags scared sh*tless and a Banshee scream suddenly sprung to mind!!

    By the morning we asked a few people if they had heard it and they had too but nobody knew where it had come from.

    Anyway, when we got back home to civilisation my friend found a story on the internet about a kid that drowned in the stream we were camping by! Very creeepy! xxx

  6. I really dig this post. Lots of info and great pictures!

  7. Pensive ~ Thank you! Who would have thought of Dracula having a Celtic connection? It seems really possible from that information. I had fun with the walk in the woods idea; it really got my imagination going! I could pretty much picture each of these creatures/scenes as I described them. You rock too! :)

    Scared ~ Hey, nice to see you around! Thanks. :) Well, I knew there were quite a few Irish creatures before researching this, but I had no idea there were this many! Actually, quite a few of the ones I found didn't make the cut.

    Corned beef and cabbage hiding behind a tree! Haha, I have a feeling that the beef and cabbage monster wouldn't last long in this forest. It would probably soon be eaten by one of the other creatures! :)

    Dex ~ Thanks so much! I had fun with the spooky forest tour idea. If only we could all really go to this place! I wasn't familiar with the Pooka, let alone "Pooka Day". From the sounds of things, the Pooka could look like many different creatures. I liked the painting I found, because there's something magical about this beast with the glowing eyes.

    I'm pretty much the last person to be up on computer or video games, so that's all new to me! I looked up the game and found a bunch of YouTube videos. It looks pretty cool. The videos showed lots of flames, and various crazy creatures running around!

    VainGlorySinner ~ Oh yes, quite superstitious! I'm part Irish and am lucky enough to own a family tree book made by an older relative. It traces the Irish side of my family and there are a few stories about various superstitious and beliefs the family had hundreds of years ago. I can definitely get my Irish pride going when I think about how instrumental the Celts were in creating Halloween rituals!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the tour. :) I could picture all of this as well. This is kind of silly, but I think my own story got to me! I wrote this post before going to bed. Before going to sleep, I noticed a light coming from another room. As I got up and walked through the dark to turn it off, I actually felt nervous! It's kind of funny that I managed to get freaked out from my own story. :) I guess that's what concentrating on banshees and headless horsemen for hours will do!

    Aww... Do you remember the name of your poem? Maybe that web site doesn't exist anymore. I hope you manage to find it again!

    What's the name of the folklore book you're bidding on? I hope you win it and then you can share it with us on your blog!

    I googled images of Dartmoor and it's beautiful! I had to laugh because a bunch of horse pictures appeared too. So I'm getting to see the full picture of your story. Except for the banshee or ghost, of course. That really does sound scary. I know that feeling where something creepy happens and then later you find out someone died where you were! There's no describing that feeling... Thanks for sharing your story!

    wicKED ~ Thanks! :) I had fun learning about Irish legends and creatures yesterday. There are a wealth of creature illustrations out there, but these were my favorites. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  8. Damn, there are some mean bitches roaming the woods in Ireland. These myths and stories of these ladies are scary indeed. I will just concentrate on the beauty of the green hills and the fairies.

  9. Adsila ~ HA! Don't let them hear you saying that. Someone might just try to suck out your soul. :) Yes, concentrating on the beauty of the Irish landscape and the fairies sounds a lot more pleasant. Except for that Lianhan Shee, or those faeries who are exchanging changelings for babies...

  10. What a brilliant tour guide you'd be. I loved reading this post, it's a nice way to celebrte irish culture without a single mention of Guinness on St Patrick's day. I hope you took care and made sure none of these creatures followed you home.

  11. Cherry ~ Hey there! I haven't seen you around blog land for a while. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one. I wanted to write something slightly non-traditional for St. Patrick's Day, although in a way this one was very old school.

    I actually love Guinness, but it's not exactly a fit with this story. Unless the group was so scared after that walk through the woods, that we all ran to a pub for some Guinness. :) Haha, no I'm safe and sound. Although, I do feel like a few of these creatures have crawled into my brain. I was just dreaming about wicked fairies last night!

  12. A wonderful adventure! :0)
    I learned about a few creatures on this journey that I had never heard of before. I am SO looking forward to the next adventure.....

  13. Jeanne ~ I'm so glad that you enjoyed this post! :) I learned quite a bit while putting it together. I didn't know there were so many different Irish creatures before doing my research! Out of all of these, I was only familiar with banshees and changelings. Well, who knows ~ We might end up taking another little field trip soon. :)

  14. This is an amazing collection of Irish Folklore. I wish I had read this on St. Patrick's Day. Why am I always so behind? Oh well, I enjoyed it today and I learned a little about the Irish too.

  15. Jessica ~ Thanks! I certainly learned a lot in the process of putting this together. As someone who's Irish, I felt like I should learn a little more Irish folklore. Well, it's only been a few days since St. Patrick's Day. So, you're close enough. :) Plus, it's not like these stories exist for one day of the year. These creatures were thought to be out year round!

    It's easy to get a little behind with reading and responding to blog posts. Just keeping up with my own blog is time consuming! So, it takes a few days for me to catch up on what other people have written too. I'm glad you enjoyed this post and learned something new!

  16. Oh, I obviously missed this post, so I'm a little late to the party.

    First of all, I had to laugh at the fairy changeling story! Especially these parts: "eww. That's no baby ... you better be really sure that what you have is a changeling before throwing it into the fire!" The first thing that popped into my mind was the ugly baby on Seinfeld.


    Lucky he was born in New York and not Ireland! Haha.

    Wow, the Dullahan does look like the Headless Horseman! Again, I'm laughing: "Yes, he carries a bucket of blood along with his cheesy head and spine whip."

    Is the painting of the Banshee one of yours? It looks like your style. Banshees and Ireland always make me think of the movie 'High Spirits'.


    Have you seen it? I haven't seen it in ages, but I'd like to get it on DVD. Lots of ghostie Irish fun!

    A Happy (Belated) St Patrick's Day!

  17. Little Gothic Horrors ~ I'm glad you found this one amusing! I laughed at those exact parts as I wrote them. :) You know what? I don't think I've ever seen that episode of Seinfeld! Unbelievable. I'll have to look it up on YouTube, because the one clip you sent was hilarious. Jerry and Elaine were acting as if they saw the most repulsive thing ever! "Boy, a little too much chlorine in that gene pool." Love it!
    You're right, lucky baby to be born in NY. Otherwise, he could have gotten a quick trip up the chimney. ;)

    The Dullahan was so much like the headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, that he seems a likely inspiration for the story. This makes me wonder if Washington Irving had any Irish heritage or Irish friends he might have heard the Dullahan legend from.

    Nope, the Banshee painting isn't mine, although I can see why you'd say that. Actually, the Dullahan painting reminded me a little of my art. None of these are mine, though. It would have been fun to illustrate each creature, although if I did, I sure wouldn't have had this post done in time for St. Patrick's Day!

    I'd never heard of High Spirits, but it looks really funny. I like that line "I know looks aren't everything, it's just that they could help so much!" Considering he was saying that to a cadaver, the line seemed more than generous! I'll have to find that one.

    Happy (Belated) St. Patrick's Day to you too! :)

  18. Yes, the woods are scary at night. I can barely walk around wooded campgrounds at night for fright! I can see where people's imaginations would run wild. For me, everything turns into a giant spider or a robber.

  19. Matt ~ That's quite a span from a giant spider to a robber. I guess I'm more afraid of scary people in the woods than I am animals. Not that we have much besides deer and squirrels in the woods around here. There is the occasional coyote or bobcat that wanders into town. At least we don't have to worry about any of the creatures I mentioned in this blog post!

  20. I heard how superstitius the Irish were & I always thought that cool!

    I remember my sister used to call me a banshee...I didn't know what it meant til a couple of years ago. I don't know if I should flattered or insulted. -_-

    LOL @ lumpy, yellow thing with a bad attitude! I don't know why but it made me laugh out loud.

  21. Real Queen of Horror ~ Yeah, the superstitions combined with the Irish gift for storytelling leaves us with a lot of myths and legends! I can't remember if I typed this in the comments earlier, but I had an older relative who put together a family history book for our Irish side. There was a part in there about all the superstitions my family members believed in. This is going many generations back. It's fun to think about!

    Haha! Your sister called you a banshee? Hmm... Were you yelling and screaming at her a lot?

    Glad you liked that part! I had fun with the whole "yellow lumpy" line. :) That was one of those things that made me laugh, and I'm the one who wrote it! I like to think that someone else is laughing about that on their end. Seriously, can you imagine seeing something that fit that description? Sounds pretty gross to me!