Mythical Creatures Of The Emerald IsleThe Banshee - The bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy) is a spirit sent to warn a person of their death. She has a number of forms but my favourite would be the washer woman guise, where she is seen washing the bloodstained clothes of the person who is about to die or I like the one where she is brushing her hair over and over, and is screeching and moaning. The Banshee is not always seen, but her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die. The Banshee may also appear in a variety of other forms, such as that of a hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel - animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft.
The Leprechaun - The Leprechaun is Ireland's national fairy. They have become self-appointed guardians of ancient treasure (left by the Danes when they marauded through Ireland), burying it in crocks or pots. They tend to avoid contact with humans whom they see as foolish, greedy, flighty creatures. If caught by a human, he will promise great wealth and three wishes if allowed to go free. He carries two leather pouches. In one there is a silver shilling, a magical coin that returns to the purse each time it is paid out. In the other he carries a gold coin which he uses to try and bribe his way out of difficult situations. This coin usually turns to leaves or ashes once the leprechaun has parted with it. You can never take your eyes off a leprechaun as it can vanish in a second.
The Changeling - Many fairy children die before birth and those that do survive are often stunted or deformed creatures. The adult fairies are repulsed by these creatures and will try and switch it with a human baby. Any child who is not baptised or who is overly admired is especially at risk of being exchanged. In appearance they will have wizened and puckered skin and deformities. They also have very dark eyes. No luck will come to a family in which there is a changeling because the creature drains away all the good fortune which would normally attend the household. Thus, those who are cursed with it tend to be very poor and struggle desperately to maintain the ravenous monster in their midst. Changelings do not live long in the mortal world. They usually shrivel up and die within the first two or three years of their human existence. The Changeling is mourned and buried, but if its grave is ever disturbed all that will be found is a blackened twig or a piece of bog oak where the body of the infant should be. Changelings may be driven from a house. When this is achieved, the human child will invariably be returned unharmed. The least severe method of expulsion is to trick the fairy into revealing its true age.
The Merrow - The word Merrow or Moruadh comes from the Irish "muir" (meaning sea) and "oigh" (meaning maid) and refers specifically to the female of the species. Merrows are extremely beautiful and are promiscuous in their relations with mortals. As members of the sidhe, or Irish fairy world, the inhabitants of Tir fo Thoinn (the Land beneath the Waves) have a natural antipathy towards humans. In some parts of Ireland, they are regarded as messengers of doom & death. Merrows have special clothing to enable them to travel through ocean currents. In order to come ashore, she must abandon her cap or cloak, so any mortal who finds these has power over her, as she cannot return to the sea until they are retrieved. Hiding the cloak in the thatches of his house, a fisherman may persuade the Merrow to marry them. Such brides are often extremely wealthy, with fortunes of gold plundered from shipwrecks. Eventually the she will recover the cloak, and find her urge to return to the sea so strong that she leaves her human husband and children behind. Many families in Ireland claim to have descended from these unions.
There are a few more that I will put in my next story.
Let me know what you think!