Ireland has a unique way of doing most things. There’s something distinct about everything from our beer to our ancient ruins to our sense of humor. Even the spooky spirits we might encounter on Samhain/ Halloween are distinctly Irish. Many people around the world with Irish heritage have researched their family roots, but what about their other worldly heritage? You might not want to encounter these creepy Celtic creatures, but you should know about them, so here’s a quick guide to help you know your Irish spirits. (We don’t mean the spirits in a bottle! You might be more willing to research those yourself.)
The Banshee: This female spirit can appear as a beautiful young woman or a crazed crone, but she always has long silver hair. Her wordless, screeching wail echoes through the night to herald a pending death. But just to mess with your head, she doesn’t specify exactly who is near the end of their mortal life. Long ago, the banshee was known to wail for only a handful of specific families, but today it is very hard to know if you are or are not descended from one of those families. The banshee’s wail is linked to the practice of keening, or wailing a lament over the dead. An Irish funeral is a big event even today, and in times gone by, some families would arrange for a bean chaointe (keening woman) to attend the wake. Bean is Irish for woman, and bean sidhe is faerie woman.
- The Púca: This creature’s name can be spelled púka, púca, pooka and many other ways, which is fitting because he can appear in many different forms. They seem to prefer being horses, elves, bulls, goats and rabbits and primarily torment rural areas. While they occasionally do good, as noted by Lady Wilde (Oscar’s mom), they are mostly feared because of the mischief and mayhem they cause. Should you encounter a púca, your best hope is to offer him something. Púcas are very helpful to their friends.
- The Faeries: Faerie is an umbrella term for supernatural spirits of various sizes. It includes the moody but industrious leprechaun, mermaids and mermen, and more disturbing beings such as the dullahan. The dullahan is a friend of the banshee and also announces coming deaths, but he is more specific. He rides his black horse across the countryside shouting the name of the one whose time is nigh. You can easily distinguish him from other horse riders because he carries his glowing head in his hand as his black eyes roll around. He works shorter hours than most faeries and is only on the job briefly at midnight. If you aren’t home by then, you might want to dunk into the nearest pub and wait it out – unless you have some gold on you. The dullahan is terrified of gold.