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JAN 7, 2016

5 Irish myths and legends you probably don’t know about

We all know about the Irish legend of leprechauns, don’t we – but how much do you really know about the mythical beliefs in Ireland? We’ve put some of our favourites together to teach you a thing or two!

Faeries

Existing in some form in mythology from all over the world, faeries are particularly important to the Irish. When you think of a fairy, you might think of a tiny winged woman similar to Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, but it is believed that an Irish fairy can take any form that she wishes with her usual choice being human. Whilst you may think that fairies can make all your wishes comes true, it is Irish belief that fairies are notorious for misfortune and mischief, bringing bad luck to any person that comes near them.

Changelings

A changeling is a creature found in Irish folklore and describes a fairy child that has been put in the place of a more visually-pleasing human child stolen by the fairies. The long-lasting legend is that while the changeling looks like a human baby, they lack the same emotional characteristics – they would only be happy when misfortune or grief surrounded them. The belief behind it formed from concerns of how susceptible young children are to demonic possession.

St Patrick

He’s not actually the St Paddy that you think you know so well. You know, the one that brought a day dedicated to wearing green and going to the pub? In reality, St Patrick wasn’t even Irish; he was born in Britain to a wealthy family but came to Ireland when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. This is when he converted to Christianity. Once he was freed, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Irish about the religion, however, this isn’t what made him known today. It wasn’t until years later when monks began to tell the tale of St Patrick forcing all of the snakes out of Ireland (a place where snakes never existed!).

The Shamrock

Unlike what many believe, the shamrock is not the official emblem of Ireland. However, it is very much associated with Irish culture and become universally recognized as a symbol of the country. The Shamrock has held meaning to Irish cultures for a long, long time, with the Druids believing that the plant could ward off evil and the Celtics considering its three heart-shaped leaves to be where the magic comes from.

Banshees

You’ve probably heard of the infamous legend of banshees, but did you know it came from Irish mythology? Usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from another world, a banshee meant bad news. Sometimes seen as an old woman in rags and sometimes seen as a young, beautiful woman – whatever form she was in, she would let out a cry; a cry believed to bring death to any family that heard it. Banshees are often depicted with a comb in her hair which brought forward the Irish superstition of it being bad luck to find a comb on the floor.

Created on 7th January 2016
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