It has been said that Halloween was invented in Ireland, and can be traced back 2,000 years ago to the pagan Celtic Samhain festival which celebrated the end of summer.
In recent times, Hollywood may have used some creative licence with some Irish mythological characters (the less said about a pre-friends fame Jennifer Aniston’s early movie, Leprechaun, the better!), but as the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire.
For this spooky season, we wanted to line up some of the ghouls, goblins and mystical creatures that are either native to or have connections with Ancient Ireland.
- Dracula. The centuries-old bloodsucking Vampire resides in Transylvania, but The Count was created by Dublin writer, Bram Stoker.
- Banshee. A female spirit typically resembling a pale, white haired old woman. The banshee is famous for her distinctive wail, usually foretelling the death of a family member.
- Leprechaun. Usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat – dressed in green. This practical joker has become better known in recent times as shoe-makers who have a hidden pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
- Dullahan. A legendary creature in Irish folklore – also called Gan Ceann (‘without a head’ in Irish) – who carried his own head often atop a horse.
- Wolf Men of Tipperary. Ancient Irish texts speak of a band of warriors that would fight for Kings and Chieftains willing to pay their steep price. These shapeshifting men – fáelad, i.e. wolf-shapes, were often vicious in battle, drenching the land in their victim’s blood.
- The Hag of Beara. Known as the ‘Winter Witch’, her appearance is marked as that of a ‘divine hag’ that brings the cold season to Ireland every year. The locals were said to have feared and respected her in equal measure, especially those in harsher climates where the weather could wreak havoc on their livestock and farms. You can visit the ‘Hag’s Head’ through our Cliffs of Moher tour.
- Lady of the Lake. An abandoned manor in Curraghchase Forest Park, Limerick is the setting for this ghostly apparition. Lord Tennyson’s poem – Lady Clara Vere de Vere – was inspired by the apparition. Local legend claims that the ghost of the Lady appears each Christmas Eve as a burning figure on the waters of the lake near the ruined house.
Whatever you decide to get up to this Halloween season, we hope you don’t bump into any of the characters above!