Ninth Edition - Irish Folklore

February 15, 2022
HLAS Newsletter

My dearest pixie troublemakers:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What a time to think about how much we miss being in bars!! I love our American St. Patrick’s Day ridiculousness. First of all there are parades - did you know they  actually started here in the US? In Chicago it's a huge fucking deal and they dye the river green, which is gross but also maybe an improvement.

Then there’s the binge drinking, which I think about 80% of this list remembers from their twenties. This consisted mostly of making out with randos in “kiss me I’m Irish” gear and trying not to get your green beads dirty while puking in the garage behind McGovern’s. Also we used to call Guinness with a shot of Jameson dropped in it an Irish Car Bomb - which, look, a lot of us did not pay attention in school and had no idea how wrong that was. We should cancel that drink.

Speaking of delicious St, Patrick's Day drinks, there was also the time my HUSBAND fed my INFANT daughter a Shamrock Shake when she was like, 8 months old. I almost made him into a fucking ghost for that. I am still literally that uptight so don't @ me on this.

Like A LOT OF YOU, I am part Irish. At least 10% of the American population is! My Irish ancestors came over during the Famine, like so many others. Irish folklore migrated along with them, which is why it's the centerpiece of a lot of American culture. We have two big holidays (Halloween and St. Patrick's Day) that are explicitly taken from Ireland. For better or worse, this country has absorbed and commodified a lot of ancestral traditions from all of the world. It's kind of what we do, and when it’s not gross or appropriative, I kind of love it.

TO WIT: Let’s learn about the BEST/SCARIEST Irish folk creatures and ghosts today AND how they migrated to America along with our ancestors.

PS. If you are at that one pick-me asshole who runs around trying to pinch people because they’re not wearing green, you need to stop.  You’re offensive. Get some help.

Xoxo
Court


Bean Sí

(Banshee)

Look, everyone already knows about these but I want to point out a component of the legend that I just learned. Irish America Magazine tells us that “Perhaps the most unsettling trait of these spirits is that they can appear in the guise of a lovely lass, a maternal Machree (mother) figure, or an aged woman. Thus, you are well advised to be courteous to all women regardless of their age.” You hear that?!! SHOW WOMEN SOME RESPECT and MAYBE THEY WON’T HAUNT YOU OR WAIL IN YOUR YARD AT NIGHT TO PORTEND YOUR DEATH.

The Bean Sí traveled to America with the Irish - there are tales of banshees in North Carolina, West Virginia, and South Dakota. This blog has a great write-up of those stories.

Watch: Monstrum: The Banshee


Cóiste Bodhar and The Dullahan

(the Silent Coach and the Dark Man)

YOU GUYS THIS IS MY FAVORITE. It’s poetic and terrifying also *definitely* makes an appearance in America. It’s a canonical type of haunting - many, many places have a version of the ghost coach it’s possibly descended from the Irish stories.

Cóiste bodha translates to “silent” or “deaf” coach, and it’s also known as the Death Coach, and it’s not as silent as its name implies: it can be heard driving along country roads and clattering on cobblestone streets. The Coach is driven by the Dullahan, or “dark man." He's, uh, HEADLESS. The Dullahan drives the coach to collect the souls and take them to the afterlife - if you hear one coming, it means someone is going to die. The Coach is able to open gates and doors automatically - there is no hiding from it. WHAT A METAPHOR, RIGHT?!

One of our most famous American ghost stories, Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, features a Headless Horseman, which is thought to have been inspired by the Dullahan. There are stories all over the US about phantom carriages. I found a whole bunch in and around Chicago, which has a large Irish American population.

Watch: Monstrum: The Dullahan


(Image: The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897)

The Dearg Due

(Red Blood Sucker)

YEAH THAT’S RIGHT, A RED BLOOD SUCKER!! The Dearg Due is an excellent morality tale. It’s got everything: greed, love, revenge. The woman at the center of the story was young, beautiful, and in love with a peasant boy. Her selfish family told the peasant to fuck off and married her to a cruel Cheiftan. The Chieftain locked her up to keep her to himself, abused and mistreated her. She wasted away and died of a broken heart.

When the villagers buried her, they forewent the tradition of piling stones on her grave. This custom was important because it kept the dead from rising (!!!!!). They didn’t want to add insult to injury, which was a mistake. That bitch came back full of spite and vengeance, and she killed everyone who had wronged her by sucking the life blood out of them. Some say she still haunts Waterford, singing a siren call that lures young men to her grave site, where she drains their blood.

Sounds like a vampire, right?? A vampire with a little bit of succubus thrown in. Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was likely influenced by the story of the Dearg Due. As a child in Ireland, he listened to his mother’s folks stories, but also stories of the Famine and cholera outbreaks, where starving people wandered the countryside like the living dead, and reports of cannibalism were abound.

Our modern day understanding on the Vampire is based on very, very old myths that were popularized by Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker’s novel was part of a renaissance in gothic literature, and I think our current pop culture iteration owes a lot to this story. One day we’ll have a whole newsletter on vampires bc THERE IS SO MUCH THERE. In the meantime, thank the Irish!

Watch: Ghost Guide: The Dearg Due

Court

Ghostess with the Mostess

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