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MAIN Arrow to Home Life - HolidaysHolidays Arrow to St Patrick's DaySt. Patricks Day Arrow to Irish Myth & LegendIrish Myths, Folklore & Superstitions

leprechaunWhile cultures throughout Europe have similar stories of forest-dwelling elves or household mischief makers, Ireland boasts an entire litany of creatures.

Some of them are obscure and some of them - Irish leprechauns, fairies, and screaming banshees -- are as familiar to modern audiences today as any Disney tale.

But dig deeper into Irish folklore and you'll find even more exotic characters and creatures. These include the alluring kelpie who usually appears in the shape of a water pony, (usually depicted with a piece of tangled in his mane) tempting women to ride off with him -- to their doom.

Natural mischief-makers, the pooka often took the form of a
black horse with glowing eyes and a long flowing mane.

Pookas were another race of mischief-causing creatures who wreaked havoc on both land and sea.

If a cattle fence mysteriously fell, or there was tragic news of a shipwreck off the coast, the pooka usually became the prime suspect.

Talented shape-shifters, pookas often took the guise of a black horse, goat or a dog.

Another more familiar tale of the headless horseman, The Dullahan is actually of Irish descent. The story harks back to the Irish monster who was infamous for throwing a bucket of blood on his victims as he passed, a tale that later evolved to include decapitation!

Even more lurid, the Erin isle is also the birthplace of the Dearg-due who was said to have risen from her grave each year to suck the blood of any unsuspecting man. Today, she is also infamous for figuring (with apologies to Transylvania) in history's earliest recorded vampire tale.

For a more lyrical look at Irish myths and superstitions, look no further than the mysterious butterfly. As in many other cultures around the world, butterflies hold deep spiritual meaning in Ireland going back centuries.

Butterflies are thought to be the spirits of the dead, especially if they appear in unexpected places.

It was thought that the souls of the departed miraculously appeared as butterflies in an earthly transition to the next world. And, given the butterfly's 'magic' ability to transform itself from a lowly caterpillar, it's easy to see how the belief came about -- one that is still held in many parts of Ireland today.

More Irish legends & superstitions

The harp, a national symbol
of Ireland for centuries.

• The very first harp was in the possession of Irish King Dagda when evil gods stole it from him. No music was heard from that point on, causing much sadness among the Irish. That is, until the harp was eventually returned, when joy spread throughout the land once more. (Bonus Fun Fact: Today, Ireland is the only country in the world with a musical instrument - the Irish harp - as its national symbol.)

• if you happen to see a BLUE butterfly in your midst, go ahead and buy that lottery ticket or head to the racetrack. It means lots of good luck is on its way!

• Abraham Stoker, better known as Bram Stoker, was born in Dublin in 1847. The Irish author is still best known today for his popular novel, "Dracula", one of the most famous monster tales of all time.

Just up ahead, learn more in our survey of the Web's richest resources for the retelling of Irish tales, legends and superstitions. The Gaelic names may be strange at first, but the mythical stories (or are they?) will capture you in the end ....


You may also like : How to catch a leprechaun

More about Irish myths & legends around the Web:

The Luminarium
- Irish literature, history, folklore, mythology and more are cataloged wide ranging information and lots of related resources... an excellent site!

Mythical Ireland - Weaving myth with archaeology and ancient astronomy, this site provides a good background of what was, along with updates on the latest discoveries.

Irish Mythology Trivia Quiz - This fun trivia site lists some quizzes that will test how well you know your Irish myths and legends.


Celebrate St.Patrick's Day More in St. Patricks Day


How to catch a leprechaun

Irish harp history


Irish American fun facts

The story of the Irish claddagh ring


All about Irish lace

Who was the real St. Patrick?

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