Women all over Ireland find birth a difficult experience.
Many fairy children die before birth and those that
do survive are often stunted or deformed creatures.
he adult fairies, who are aesthetic beings, are
repelled by these infants and have no wish to keep
them. They will try to swap them with healthy
children who they steal from the mortal world. The
wizened, ill tempered creature left in place of the
human child is generally known as a changeling and
possesses the power to work evil in a household. Any
child who is not baptised or who is overly admired is
especially at risk of being exchanged.
It is their temperament, however, which most marks
the changeling. Babies are generally joyful and
pleasant, but the fairy substitute is never happy,
except when some calamity befalls the household. For
the most part, it howls and screeches throughout the
waking hours and the sound and frequency of its yells
often transcend the bounds of mortal endurance.
A changeling can be one of three types: actual fairy
children; senile fairies who are disguised as
children or, inanimate objects, such as pieces of
wood which take on the appearance of a child through
fairy magic. This type is known as a stock.
Puckered and wizened features coupled with yellow,
parchment-like skin are all generic changeling
attributes. This fairy will also have very dark eyes,
which betray a wisdom far older than its apparent
years. Changelings display other characteristics,
usually physical deformities, among which a crooked
back or lame hand are common. About two weeks after
their arrival in the human household, changelings
will also exhibit a full set of teeth, legs as thin
as chicken bones, and hands which are curved and
crooked as a birds talons and covered with a light,
No luck will come to a family in which there is a
changeling because the creature drains away all the
good fortune which would normally attend the
household. Thus, those who are cursed with it tend to
be very poor and struggle desperately to maintain the
ravenous monster in their midst.
One positive feature which this fairy may demonstrate
is an aptitude for music. As it begins to grow, the
changeling may take up an instrument, often the
fiddle or the Irish pipes, and plays with such skill
that all who hear it will be entranced.
Grogochs were originally half human, half-fairy
aborigines who came from Kintyre in Scotland to
settle in Ireland. The grogoch, well-known throughout
north Antrim, Rathlin Island and parts of Donegal,
may also to be found on the Isle of Man, where they
are called 'phynnodderee'. Resembling a very small
elderly man, though covered in coarse, dense reddish
hair or fur, he wears no clothes, but sports a
variety of twigs and dirt from his travels. Grogochs
are not noted for their personal hygiene: there are
no records of any female grogochs.
The grogoch is impervious to searing heat or freezing
cold. His home may be a cave, hollow or cleft in the
landscape. In numerous parts of the northern
countryside are large leaning stones which are known
as 'grogochs' houses'.
He has the power of invisibility and will often only
allow certain trusted people to observe him. A very
sociable being, the grogoch. He may even attach
himself to certain individuals and help them with
their planting and harvesting or with domestic chores
- for no payment other than a jug of cream.
He will scuttle about the kitchen looking for odd
jobs to do and will invariably get under people's
feet. Like many other fairies, the grogoch has a
great fear of the clergy and will not enter a house
if a priest or minister is there. If the grogoch is
becoming a nuisance, it is advisable to get a
clergyman into the house and drive the creature away
to inadvertently torment someone else.
The bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy may be an
ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of
certain ancient Irish families of their time of
death. According to tradition, the banshee can only
cry for five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the
O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Gradys and the
Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this
Whatever her origins, the banshee chiefly appears in
one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron
or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple
aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death,
namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.) [The Banshee]
She usually wears either a grey, hooded cloak or the
winding sheet or grave robe of the unshriven dead.
She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen
apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those
who are about to die. In this guise she is known as
the bean-nighe (washing woman).
Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard,
usually at night when someone is about to die. In
1437, King James I of Scotland was approached by an
Irish seeress or banshee who foretold his murder at
the instigation of the Earl of Atholl. This is an
example of the banshee in human form. There are
records of several human banshees or prophetesses
attending the great houses of Ireland and the courts
of local Irish kings. In some parts of Leinster, she
is referred to as the bean chaointe (keening woman)
whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass.
In Kerry, the keen is experienced as a "low, pleasant
singing"; in Tyrone as "the sound of two boards being
struck together"; and on Rathlin Island as "a thin,
screeching sound somewhere between the wail of a
woman and the moan of an owl".
The banshee may also appear in a variety of other
forms, such as that of a hooded crow, stoat, hare and
weasel - animals associated in Ireland with
The name leprechaun may have derived from the Irish
leath bhrogan (shoemaker), although its origins may
lie in luacharma'n (Irish for pygmy). These
apparently aged, diminutive men are frequently to be
found in an intoxicated state, caused by home-brew
poteen. However they never become so drunk that the
hand which holds the hammer becomes unsteady and
their shoemaker's work affected.
Leprechauns have also become self-appointed guardians
of ancient treasure (left by the Danes when they
marauded through Ireland), burying it in crocks or
pots. This may be one reason why leprechauns tend to
avoid contact with humans whom they regard as
foolish, flighty (and greedy?) creatures. If caught
by a mortal, he will promise great wealth if allowed
to go free. He carries two leather pouches. In one
there is a silver shilling, a magical coin that
returns to the purse each time it is paid out. In the
other he carries a gold coin which he uses to try and
bribe his way out of difficult situations. This coin
usually turns to leaves or ashes once the leprechaun
has parted with it.However, you must never take your
eye off him, for he can vanish in an instant.
The leprechaun 'family' appears split into two
distinct groups - leprechaun and cluricaun.
Cluricauns may steal or borrow almost anything,
creating mayhem in houses during the hours of
darkness, raiding wine cellars and larders. They will
also harness sheep, goats, dogs and even domestic
fowl and ride them throughout the country at night.
[Shoe Repairs] Although the leprechaun has been
described as Ireland's national fairy, this name was
originally only used in the north Leinster area.
Variants include lurachmain, lurican, lurgadhan
The word merrow or moruadh comes from the Irish muir
(meaning sea) and oigh (meaning maid) and refers
specifically to the female of the species. Mermen -
the merrows male counterparts - have been rarely
seen. They have been described as exceptionally ugly
and scaled, with pig-like features and long, pointed
teeth. Merrows themselves are extremely beautiful and
are promiscuous in their relations with mortals.
The Irish merrow differs physically from humans in
that her feet are flatter than those of a mortal and
her hands have a thin webbing between the fingers. It
should not be assumed that merrows are kindly and
well-disposed towards mortals. As members of the
sidhe, or Irish fairy world, the inhabitants of Tir
fo Thoinn (the Land beneath the Waves) have a natural
antipathy towards humans. In some parts of Ireland,
they are regarded as messengers of doom and death.
Merrows have special clothing to enable them to
travel through ocean currents. In Kerry, Cork and
Wexford, they wear a small red cap made from
feathers, called a cohullen druith. However, in more
northerly waters they travel through the sea wrapped
in sealskin cloaks, taking on the appearance and
attributes of seals. In order to come ashore, the
merrow abandons her cap or cloak, so any mortal who
finds these has power over her, as she cannot return
to the sea until they are retrieved. Hiding the cloak
in the thatches of his house, a fisherman may
persuade the merrow to marry them. Such brides are
often extremely wealthy, with fortunes of gold
plundered from shipwrecks. Eventually the merrow will
recover the cloak, and find her urge to return to the
sea so strong that she leaves her human husband and
Many coastal dwellers have taken merrows as lovers
and a number of famous [Look out!] Irish families
claim their descent from such unions, notably the
O'Flaherty and O'Sullivan families of Kerry and the
MacNamaras of Clare. The Irish poet W B Yeats
reported a further case in his Irish Fairy and Folk
Tales : "Near Bantry in the last century, there is
said to have been a woman, covered in scales like a
fish, who was descended from such a marriage".
Despite her wealth and beauty, you should be
particularly wary about encountering this marine