Creatures in Irish Culture
Written By: Karen Ross
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Irish folklore is part of our heritage and the tradition and is an important part of Irish culture still today. As someone who was born and raised in Ireland, I have a fascination with myth and fantasy as it relates to our culture and the things that we experience in our life. There are two particular Folklore creatures that not only reflect these experiences but also create an eerie vibe because of how accurate their message sends. Today we focus on two mythological creatures, the Banshee and the Pooka in Irish Culture.
Banshees are closely related to the people of Aes Sídhe (Irish term describing spirits or faeries). The word fairy and faerie, although used interchangeably, describe different mythical spirits. The word faerie is derived from the Gaelic language. This literally means “man of the shee.” Bean-Sídhe, which is derived from the Old Irish language means ‘fairy woman’. To hear the cry of the Banshee strikes fear into the heart of mortal men and women as it is an omen of certain death. Her cry implies that someone in your family has died or is about to.
There are many variations on the description of the Banshee. Sometimes they are described as old and haggard, and other times they are described as young and beautiful. Sometimes, these faeries are described as disembodied spirits with chilling cries. But what all witnesses of the Banshee agree on is her most terrifying wailing. Her ghostly screams are almost always heard at night and are said to sound like a mix between a woman’s scream and a night creature’s wail.
Usually the Banshee is said to travel alone, however, it has been said that when a person of particular greatness dies, they travel in a group. Regardless of appearance or numbers, Banshees are known as harbingers of death. There is little or no evidence to suggest that Banshees have ever killed anyone, but that does not mean it has never happened.
Stories have been passed down through generations of Irish families of their own personal experiences of the Banshee.
Púca is Irish for goblin and like the Banshee is also related to the people of Aes Sídhe. The Banshee takes many forms. One form is a changeling. A child is thought to be substituted with a faery child in its place. The most common form may be a sleek horse or the shape of a deformed goblin. The Púca may also take the form of a bogeyman, an eagle or a black goat.
In some areas of Ireland, the Púca is seen as more mysterious than dangerous. He may even issue prophecies, warnings and has also been known to help farmers. But mostly, he is known as a troublemaker, mischievous and one of the most feared faeries in Ireland. His powers are tremendous as he, for example, can stop chickens from laying eggs and stop cows from producing milk.
The day after Halloween (November 1st) is known as Púca’s Day. This coincides with the harvest and it is said that a few stalks must be left behind to appease the Púca, otherwise the farmer would incur the Púca’s wrath. Known for his cunning as well as his deception, the Púca is just one creature that can be compared to the devil.
As someone who appreciates the myths and folklore tales, it is difficult to ignore these creatures as they are not only reflective of society and how we treat each other, but also how we cope with certain situations. There are many more creatures like the ones I listed, but it is up to you to decide who you believe in.