Ah, the Irish! The original storytellers, they have a rich tradition of myths and legends to share with the rest of the world. In honor of St. Patrick's Day (and because I am married to an Irishman!) I dedicate this article to Ireland's wonderful legends.
The Banshee, or bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy), is one of the best known horror legends. Poets and storytellers refer to the screaming of the banshee as a portent of doom. The original banshee is an ancestral spirit sentenced to forever warn certain ancient Irish families of a pending death in the family. Families such as the O'Neills, the O'Briens, or the O'Gradys have their very own banshee, who will appear often at night, right before someone is about to die.
The banshee can appear in three forms: a young woman, a mother, or an old crone. She wears a grey cloak with a hood, or a winding sheet. If the family doesn't see her, they will certainly HEAR her keening cry across their lands. Her keening has been described as "the cross between an owl and the wail of a woman" or "so piercing, it shatters glass."
Thank goodness my family isn't on the list of 'haunted' Irish families. No banshees for me!
I wonder where Washington Irving got his inspiration for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?
In Ireland, the Dullahan is an undead black-robed horseman sans head. The ghoul rides furiously around the Irish countryside upon a coal- black steed, carrying his head in his hand, or on his saddle. His head glows and lights his way. The Dullahan can see with supernatural sight and pick out mortal victims sleeping in their beds. He uses a human spine as a whip, and when he pulls his fire-snorting horse to a stop, a mortal dies.
The Pooka is another dark horse of a different color. This undead equine likes to gallop around after midnight, damaging farms, tearing down fences and scattering the livestock. It is a black horse, with sulphurous yellow eyes and a long untamed mane. The Pooka can change forms to a goblin that demands a share of the harvest crop. Some country folks will leave a small portion or tribute of their crop for the Pooka to take, and hopefully leave them alone.
If you travel to Ireland you will find every bed and breakfast and every castle has its own ghostly tale. Some are tales of ancient ghosts, some are more modern spirits. The stories probably grew out of a rich mixture of Celtic, Roman and Christian mythology, along with a certain dash of Irish humor. I found a vast selection of compilations of Irish ghost stories on Amazon and at the library. Dig in!
Famous Irish Authors in the Horror/Scary Genre:
Next time you are in the library, check out these Irish authors. No one can tell a spooky ghost story like an Irishman.
George Bernard Shaw,
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