Irish faeries

The fairies of Ireland can hardly be said to differ in any respect from those of England and Scotland. Like them they are of diminutive size, rarely exceeding two feet in height; they live also in society, their ordinary abode being the interior of the mounds, called in Irish, Raths (Rahs).

Their usual attire is green with red caps. They are fond of music, but we do not in general hear much of their dancing, perhaps because on account of the infrequency of thunder, the fairy-rings are less numerous in Ireland than elsewhere.

In Ireland, the first drops of milk from a cow are allowed to fall on the ground for the Faeries. The Faerie blast originated in Ireland. People seeking to dig up Faerie treasure are often stopped by a terrific gale of wind.

Dullahan: Varients: dullaghan, far dorocha, Crom Dubh
The dullahan is one of the most spectacular creatures in the Irish fairy realm and one which is particularly active in the more remote parts of counties Sligo and Down.  Around midnight on certain Irish festivals or feast days, this wild and black-robed horseman may be observed riding a dark and snorting steed across the countryside.

It is advisable to stay home with the curtains drawn; particularly around the end of August or early September when the feast of Crom Dubh reputedly took place. The dullahan’s call is the summoning of the soul o f a dying person rather than a death warning. There is no real defense against a dullahan because he is death’s herald. However, an artifact mad eof gold might frighten him away, for dullahan’s appear to have an irrational fear of this metal. Even a small amount of gold shall do.

Pooka: Variants: phouka, puca
No fairy is more feared in Ireland than the pooka. This may be because it is always out and about after nightfall, creating harm and mischief, and because it can assume a variety of terrifying forms.

The guise in which it most often appears, however, is that of a sleek, dark horse with sulphurous yellow eyes and a long wild mane. In this form, it roams large areas of countryside at night, tearing down fences and gates, scattering livestock in terror, trampling crops and generally doing damage around remote farms.

In remote areas of County Down, the pooka becomes a small, deformed goblin who demands a share of the crop at the end of the harvest: for this reason several strands, known as the ‘pooka’s share’, are left behind by the reapers. In parts of County Laois, the pooka becomes a huge, hairy bogeyman who terrifies those abroad at night; in Waterford and Wexford, it appears as an eagle with a massive wingspan; and in Roscommon, as a black goat with curling horns.

Pooka by Tony DiTerlizzi for The Spiderwick Chronicles.

The mere sight of it may prevent hens laying their eggs or cows giving milk, and it is the curse of all late night travellers as it is known to swoop them up on to its back and then throw them into muddy ditches or bogholes. The pooka has the power of human speech, and it has been known to stop in front of certain houses and call out the names of those it wants to take upon its midnight dashes. If that person refuses, the pooka will vandalise their property because it is a very vindictive fairy.

The origins of the pooka are to some extent speculative. The name may come from the Scandinavian pook or puke, meaning ‘nature spirit’. Such beings were very capricious and had to be continually placated or they would create havoc in the countryside, destroying crops and causing illness among livestock. Alternatively, the horse cults prevalent throughout the early Celtic world may have provided the underlying motif for the nightmare steed.

Another account of the Phookas: Originated in Ireland, Wales, and Scandinavia. It is possible that is was a Nordic faery who was brought to Ireland. They are known as Kornbockes, Bookahs, or Bwcas. Their element is air and they are active from Samhain to Bealtaine, especially at night. Pronounced Pook-ahs, they are the Hobgoblins of Ireland. They have heads resembling human males, but the bodies of horses. They can fly for limited distances, but have no wings. They are trooping faeries who run in destructive packs. They are said to be very ugly and ill-tempered and to quarrel amongst themselves often. Their favorites pastime is wreaking havoc and will go out of their way to harm children and crops. They lay claim to any crop not harvested by Samhain night. They love human babies and are always on the lookout for a newborn to steal, and are jealous of airplanes and will do them harm whenever they can. Their favorite food is potatoes.

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.

Originated in Ireland and is also called Our Housekeeper. Their element is earth and they are found at hearthsides, especially between Samhain to Bealtaine. Pronounced Ban-tee or Ban-Teeg; no one has ever fully described them. They are thought to appear as small elderly women in old-fashioned peasant clothing with kindly, dimpled faces. They are very friendly to humans and wish to have a friendly human house to watch over. They are faery housekeepers who can be found watching over children, hearths, and pets. It is also believed they would finish up chores left undone by the tired mother of the house. They love fresh strawberries and cream.

The Banshee:

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 select list.

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. 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 Beansidhe is also known as Washer of the Shrouds, Banshee (the Anglicized spelling), Cointeach (literally “one who keens”), Cyoerraeth, Gwrach y Rhibyn, and Cunnere Noe. Her element is water and she appears at night before a death. She is a well known and much feared faery, and sometimes classified as a ghost. She is female and appears in a filmy, full-sized human form with long stringy hair partially covered with a hood, and a whit gown or shroud, and has a wet ghost like appearance. Her keening (mourning wail) is heard at night prior to death.

Clurichaun Family:

Originated in Ireland, but similar fairies are found in Italy by the name of Monciello. It is also known as His Nibs in some parts of Ireland. His element is earth and he is found in wine cellars. He is a solitary faery who resembles the Leprechaun. Pronounced Kloo-ree-kahn, no females have ever been sighted. He guards wine cellars, which he chooses in his own time, then he moves in and makes himself at home. He is impeccably well-groomed and well-dressed, and is almost always drunk. He generally has a cheery disposition, but is a bit aloof, even while intoxicated. He wears a red hat that may be made of plants. If he is ignored or mistreated it is said he well wreak havoc on you cellars and on your home, and most defiantly will spoil your wine stock.

The Merrows
: Varients: Silkie
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 children behind.

Many coastal dwellers have taken merrows as lovers and a number of famous 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”.

They originated in Ireland, Germany, and England; and is also known as Water Woman, Weisse Frau, Jenny Greentooth, or the Greentooth Woman. Her element is water and she is found in dark lakes where drownings have repeatedly occurred. Pronounced Ban-Shoan, literally “white woman”, is a water, female faery in a white gown who lives beneath lakes and steams and reaches up to drag under and drown children who play or work near the water.

Will ‘O’ Wisp:

The Will-O’-The-Wisps, or fairy lights, are quiet and helpful. They appear in the misty Irish mountains to help searchers locate someone lost in a ravine or drowned in a rocky pool. Those who can see the lights have the gift of knowing; they know that their closest of kin are in danger.


Originated in Ireland, but similar faeiries are found in Welsh and Cornish faery lore known as Bogles. Also know as Boggans, Peat Faeries, Bog-a-Boos, and Boggies. Their element is earth and they are found at peat bogs or mud holes. They are small mud covered creatures. Their bodies are almost completely round and they don’t have necks. They seem harmless, if unpleasant.


Originated in Ireland and Scotland and another name for them is The Herding Boys. Their element is earth and they can be found in pastures in the summer. Pronounced Boo-al-een, and literally means “little boys”. They look like young men and wear red hats, which may really be inverted flower caps, and are fantastic shapeshifters. Their mischievous nature borders on mean and they have been known to torment animals for fun.


Originated in Ireland. Their element is fire and they are found in pastures or at shrines to Aine which are found in her home county Kilkenny. Pronounced Din-sheen-k’has, they are dwarf fairies in the service of the Irish Goddess Aine, who is a cattle goddess and a protector of women. They can shapeshift and guard cattle and avenge women harmed by men.

Fir Darrigs:
Originated in Ireland, with Scotland being a possible first home and also known as Rat Boys. Their element is water and they can be found along polluted coastlines, swamps, marshes, and in costal ruins and are most active in winter. Pronounced Fear Durgs, they are fat, ugly faeries with dark, hairy skin and long snouts and tails which give them a rat-like appearance. They wear shabby, torn costumes which seem to date to the Middle Ages. They are morbidly dangerous who feeds on carrion, and his shillelagh (Irish walking stick) is topped with a skull of unknown origin. They live near the sea, in damp raths or marshes, rather than in the sea, and like the heat near human fireplaces.

They originated in Ireland and are also called The Formors. Their element is water and they are found at sea shores at night. They are sea monsters, the survivors of a banished faery race that was driven out of Ireland by the Tuatha De Danann. They have bizarrely misshapen bodies. They do have arms and legs and have been occasionally seen on land. They are very stupid and ill-tempered.


Originated in Ireland and is called the Gaconer is Scotland and Cornwall. His element is air and he is a lonely male faery that materializes in lonely places and attempts to seduce females who will eventually die of love for him. Pronounces Gon-cawn-ah, and his trademark is an Irish clay pipe which her is always either holding in his hand or has clenched in his teeth.


Originated in Ireland and the Hebrides Islands of Scotland. Their element is fire and they are most active at night, and can be found around a blazing fire at your hearthside. Pronounced Gan-cahn-ock, they are always depicted as being very small, and having playful, mischievous smiles. They are pixie-like in appearance and have huge eyes that curve upward on the ends and large pointed ears. They have small wings, but they do not seem to be functional, and appear to dematerlize and reappear quickly to move from place to place. They are often mistaken for flickering lights or lighting bugs. They are guardians of the home and hearth and crave the warmth of the fireside and are harmless. They do have a tendency to play pranks though. Any kindness from them can be repaid with the warmth of your fire and fresh milk.

Originated in Ireland and India. They are known as Leshes in Slavic lands and Suibotschniks in Russia, and Leshiye in Germany. Their element is air and they can be found in wild woods. Pronounced Lay-shee, they are guardians of forests who is always disguised as foliages. They are usually found in groups, and seems to be androgynous. They are classified as solitaries rather than trooping faeries, because they seem to have little to do with each other. They are active in the spring and summer, especially at dawn and dusk, but seem to prefer being nocturnal. It is believed they have come to dislike human for their careless treatment of the environment. Though they have never harmed anyone, their nasty pranks usually involve trying to lose people in deep woods.


Originated in Ireland and possibly ancient Rome. Their element is air and they are active at night and found in blackthorn trees. Pronounced Loo-nan-tee-shee, they are thin and wizened in appearance and look like small, bald, old men. They have pointed ears and long teeth, and long arms and fingers. They are found in groups, but are neither trooping and solitary. They are believed to hate humans with a passion. Their purpose seems to be to protect the blackthorn trees from human encroachment.

Originated in Ireland and also known as Walrus People and Sea Cows. Their element is water and they can be found at seasides, especially near rocky shores around dawn and dusk. Pronounced Mer-oo-khas, they are a race of Irish sea faeries, often mistaken for Merpeople. They have similar fish-like lower bodies, but have the upper bodies and heads of other mammals. They have an ambivalent temperament.

The Tuatha de Danann:

Originated in Ireland, they are one of the five myth cycles of the island is then Invasion Cycle in which the Tuatha de Danann take a leading role. They can be any element and are also known as the Irish Faeries, the Royalty, and the Gentry; and can travel anywhere, but make their homes in the burghs of Ireland. Pronouced the Too-ah day Thay-nan, and in mythology were among the earliest conquerors of the island, and their goddess Dana is one of the earliest Great Mother Goddesses of western Europe. Dana was later renamed Brigid. The Tuatha are trooping faeries, who are warrior-like temperament, but fair and just. They are male, female, and children and look just like humans only somewhat smaller. It is said the Milesians drove the Tuatha underground into the faery burghs which they still inhabit. Hurling is a popular sport among them; and it is said much of the folk music of Ireland was composed by them. The current royal family of Britain is believed to be descended from the Melesain kings. The Tuatha also posses the invincible sword of the Sun God Lugh and the cauldron of the God Dagda.

Well Spirits:

Originated in Ireland, England, and Norway and are also known as Well Guardians. Their element is water and they are found at the side of scared wells or wishing wells, or at hot springs. They are superb shapeshifters who usually take the human beings whose bodies they envy, and are dangerously beautiful. They are water sprites and well guardians who are very sympathetic to human needs, but asking for their help often carries a huge price