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Creatures in Irish Mythology: Fairies, Banshees & Monsters

Instructor: Margaret Moran
The folklore behind mythical creatures like fairies, banshees, and monsters have been cherished and passed along for many generations. Several of these stories have roots within Irish history and survive as an important addition to Irish culture. This lesson will examine several magical stories within Irish mythology.

The Fairies

The Gaelic term aos si is used to refer to the supernatural race featured in Irish mythology that is akin to the race of fairies or elves. They are rumored to be exceptionally beautiful and live in fairy mounds under the ground; an invisible world that exists within the human world. These beings, generally referred to as the sidhe in the Irish language, are alternately said to be ancestors, gods and goddesses, or spirits of the natural world. One of the most prevalent tales says that the sidhe are the Tuatha De Danann, deified ancestors within Irish mythology. They were the survivors driven underground by Spanish invaders.

Depiction of the Sidhe
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These supernatural beings are treated with great reverence, often being appeased by offerings. Rather than being addressed directly, they are referred to respectfully as 'the good neighbors' or 'The Folk'. Many traditional Irish festivals are even held in honor of the fairy folk, including Samhain and Midsummer.

Banshees

There are several versions of fairies. One that gets particular notice, especially in modern literature and cinema, is the fairy known as a banshee. This female fairy is notorious for heralding the imminent death of a person by wailing and crying. This scary imagery has helped cement the image of the banshee in many modern minds.

Depiction of a Banshee
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Mythical Monsters

While exploring the otherworldly creatures that have transitioned from Irish folklore to modern times, many people are only familiar with the iconic leprechaun. This clever little man who alternately grants wishes and hides his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has long enchanted minds and imaginations, however there are far darker creatures hiding in the pages of Irish lore.

Another dwarf featured prominently is called the abhartach. This creature, while small in stature, is not to be trusted. This creature's powers include rising from his grave, causing havoc as the undead, as well as drinking blood. The good news is that he can be killed, but only if you also bury him upside down. Interestingly, he is believed to have been part of the inspiration behind Dracula, the legend penned by Bram Stoker.

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