The Irish peasants left to fend for themselves in a world dominated by
a corrupted church, oppressive landlords and an absence of local
government and medicine turned to their own imaginations to understand
and order the world around them- to make their peasant culture work.
Stories like Nera and the Dead Man helped children to remember rules
for staying healthy and safe and to maintain sanitation. Images from
the ancient tales combined with observations -the wind in the winter
forest- the Banshee- helped them to explain natural occurrences. You
too should know them when you meet them!!
The Sociable Fairies
1. The Sheoques: Lived in sacred thorn bushes. Thief fairy music lead
humans astray. Sometimes they switched a child with a fairy child to
create a changeling which they caused to die in one year.
2. The Merrows: Seen as little hornless cows but really they have
fishes tails and wear a red cap (cohuleen driuth). The men have green
teeth, green hair, pig's eyes and red noses- women are beautiful and
prefer human mates.
The Solitary Fairies
1. The Leprechaun: The one shoemaker seen mending shoes. Catch him and
get crocks of gold. A thrifty professional. Take your eyes off of him
and he vanishes. Red Coat seven buttons in each row and he spins
sometimes on the point of an upright hat.
2. The Cluricaun: Robbing wine cellars and riding sheep and
shepherds-dogs, the live long night-found panting and mud covered in
3. The Gonconer(Ganconagh)- Love talker, Idler, appears making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids -smokes a pipe.
4. The Fear Darrig- Red man, Joker, gives evil dreams
5. The Pooka- A horse, ass, etc... takes rider on a wild ride and
shakes him off in the grey of morning especially drunkards- a drunkards
sleep is his kingdom. When it rains with sun shining that means he will
be out that night. When berries are killed by frost it is the Pooka's
spit which is upon them and they should not be eaten.
6. The Dullahan- Headless or carrying his head. Black coach, a bower
with headless horses it goes to your door and if you open it a basin of
blood is thrown at you- death omen.
7. Leanhaun Shee- Fairy mistresses, seeks love of men- if they refuse
she is their slave- If they consent they are hers- her lovers waste
away- you must find one to go in your place.
8. The Fear Gorta- Man of hunger- brings good luck to those who give him food.
9. Banshee- Fairy woman- morning- wails over dead and calls for them.
10. The Fear Sidhe: Male Fairy (there are also fairies for parts and
aspects of the home, for water(sherie) light Soullh and a host of lake
fairies, dragons and ghosts.)
For the believer no proof is necessary, for the non-believer no proof is
possible(Stewart Chase 1929)