- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
The Wee Little Leprechaun Folk
Leprechauns and Fairies
Leprechauns are the most recognized mythological creatures of Ireland. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danannof Irish mythology.
The Tuatha Dé Danann, "peoples of the goddess Danu”, were a race of people in Irish mythology thought to have originated from pre-Christian deities of Ireland. The Tuatha Dé were characterized as mortal kings, queens and heroes of Irish past which were a race of human beings immortalized by their legends.
A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore usually taking the form of an old man, about 2 to 3 feet tall, dressed in a red or green coat. A fairy is a mythical being often depicted as diminutive winged humans with magical powers. However, this description varies widely around the world as can be seen from the fact leprechauns don’t have any.
The leprechaun is a little creature with pointed ears who avoids contact with humans. They are said to carry two coins with them. One is a magic coin always returning to the owners’ purse after it's spent. The other is a fake which will turn into a rock once the leprechaun has given it away. They are known to be extremely mischievous and are very quick, making it almost impossible to capture one. And because they are a kind of fairy,leprechauns can become invisible.
The earliest reference to leprechauns is in a tale called 'The Death of Fergus Mac Leite' written about 1100 A.D. The story refers to diminutive sea-beings called water sprites. A "Water sprite" is a fictional being with magical powers, often a spirit or fairy, who lives in or near water. They were called nymphs by the early Greeks and typically resemble a beautiful young woman. Supposedly the inspiration for the novel 'Gulliver's Travels' came from this reference.
The name leprechaun is thought to have derived from the Irish, leath bhrogan, meaning shoemaker. However, other believe it’s’ origins may lie in the term luacharma'n, or Irish for pygmy. They are sometimes found drinking an alcoholic home-brew called poteen.
Leprechauns are known as guardians of ancient treasure left by the Danes. Legend has it they bury it in crocks or pots. One popular belief is some bury it at the end of the rainbow. However, other stories have the treasure being buried in various other places…but it’s frequently moved from one place to another.
If caught by a human, leprechauns will promise their captor great wealth or grant 3 wishes if allowed to go free. The “great wealth”, however, always seemed to disappear.
The leprechaun is also often called the “fairy shoe-maker.” In traditional images, he’s often shown as holding or working on a little shoe. Oddly enough, female leprechauns are never mentioned in any traditional Irish legends, so the subject of propagating the species is left to ones’ imagination.
As part of Irish mythology and folklore leprechauns are called by some as the “wee folk”. Many believe they are cousins of a similar being called the clurichaun. The clurichaun is a night time spirit, closely resembling a leprechaun. However, they are more prone to mischief and are perpetual drunkards. They will steal or borrow about anything and create mayhem during the night. It’s not uncommon for them to harness sheep, goats, dogs and even domestic animals and ride them wildly around the countryside in the darkness.
Leprechauns have been known to move in with people. The first sign a leprechaun has moved in is property begins disappearing or turning up again in different places. They are not evil, just mischievous. To appease them a household would leave out a little bowl of milk, fresh water or food at night. In return, with any luck, the leprechaun would instead do good deeds for their benefactor such as cleaning up around the barn and house or completing unfinished tasks.
Leprechauns are also accomplished musicians and known to have wild music sessions at night known as Ceili’s with hundreds of leprechauns gathering to dance, sing and drink. William Butler Yeats once wrote of them, “Because of their love of dancing they will constantly need shoes.”
As long as there have been mythological creatures, there will be people who claim to have seen them. Recently, a number of people claimed to have seen a leprechaun in a tree in Mobile, Alabama.
Many videos, and photos of the event were taken, however, the view of the tree couldn’t be clearly seen due to flashing lights, car headlights, camera phones and a big crowd people milling about.
Several people had comments about the leprechaun. Some said he only appeared at night. One woman thought the leprechaun was a crackhead who’d finally lost it and climbed into a tree.
Topping off the event was another man who claimed to have a special leprechaun “pipe” that belonged to his great grandfather in Ireland. This fellow was dressed in camouflage and claimed to be “waiting” for the leprechaun.