The Leprechaun: An Irish Legend
Not Just a Cereal Box Character
We have all seen him though, Lucky the Leprechaun, on every box of Lucky Charms. From as far back as I can really remember, he was what I pictured in association with the word leprechaun. He has changed a bit over the years, but he is still easily recognizable to most of us. For most people, that is about the extent of their knowledge of what a Leprechaun is. For others, it extends a little further to the horrible Leprechaun horror movies. I think they made like three or four of them. None of them were that good. The first one starred Jennifer Aniston, with her old nose, in case anyone really cares. They were really silly back then, and Jennifer Aniston wasn't that great of an actress back then.
There is so much more to the legend of the Leprechaun than all that, and in truth, so much of what people assume, isn't even accurate to the actual legend of the leprechaun. I hope this entertains you, and sheds a little light on the truth about Leprechauns.
Irish mythology is full of good and evil spirits and characters. But, there is an in-between area of beings that are neither all good, nor all bad; sort of like us humans. They are balanced between the two, sometimes being kind and generous, and sometimes being petty and mean.
One such being is the Leprechaun. The Leprechaun is a well-known mischief-making figure. Traditionally, he is small in size, standing no more than around three feet high. His manner of dress changes a bit, but more often than not, he is dressed in a little, red jacket with red breeches, buckled at the knees, grey or black stockings and a hat perched above a little, old, wrinkled face. And we all thought Leprechauns wore green...In some pictures, he does.
Somewhere along the way, and over the course of history, the figure of the Leprechaun was considered to be wearing green garb instead, which is more often associated with Ireland and St. Patrick's Day. Why this happened is unclear.
In different areas of Ireland, the Leprechaun goes by a different name, and adopts a different manner of dress. I guess that can be confusing.
In the northern counties, he is Logheryman. The Logheryman wears the uniform of some British infantry regiments; a red coat and white breeches, but instead of a cap, he wears a broad-brimmed, high pointed hat.
In Tipperary, he is Lurigadawne. The Lurigadawne wears an antique slashed, red jacket, with peaks all around and a jockey cap. He is also known to sport a sword, which he uses as a magic wand.
In Kerry, he is the Luricawne. The Luricawne is a fat, pursy, little man whose round face rivals the red of his cut-a-way jacket. The jacket has seven rows of seven buttons in each row. The reason for the buttons is unclear, as the jacket is never buttoned, but falls away from his snow white shirt. He often wears a helmet that is several sizes too bit, but sometimes ditches the helmet in favor of a handkerchief that he ties over his ears.
And, in Monaghan, he is called the Cluricawne. The Cluricawne of Monaghan dresses in a swallow-tailed evening coat of red with a green vest (there's a little green,anyway), white breeches, black stockings and highly polished, shiny shoes. His hat is a long, pointed cone without a brim, and it is usually set off on one side of his curly head.
Leprechauns are credited with a great deal of mischief caused around an Irish household, ranging from causing pots to boil over or failing to boil, to tossing furniture about a room. They are known pranksters who will drink all the milk in the house, or empty food all over the floor.
To offset this, Leprechauns are very domestic, and often attach themselves to Irish families; usually families of older stock. A Leprechaun will eat food that has been set aside for him, by the family. But, he may be angered if he is offered food that was not originally intended for him. In other words, don't offer him your left-over table scraps. This anger may bring about more evil behavior from the Leprechaun, and may even cause him to abandon the family he has tied himself to. Just like anyone, he wants to feel appreciated, and not taken for granted.
One of the most peculiar things about the Leprechaun is his fear and hatred of schools and schoolmasters. Maybe it has to do with the disbelief in the existence of the Leprechaun by most intelligent teachers. With the spread of national schools in Ireland, the Leprechaun is a far less often seen creature.
The Leprechaun is an old bachelor, who successfully resists all efforts of fairy mothers who attempt to marry him to their young and beautiful fairy daughters. This may explain why Leprechauns are always seen alone, and why there are never sightings of female Leprechauns.
So, basically, he is just like every other man...he is happy as long as he is fed, gets mad when he isn't, drinks from the milk carton, and doesn't want to get married. (I am just joking on this part...sort of.)
A Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama?
What About the Gold?
Leprechauns are fabled to be the keepers of the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, if you capture said creature, he has to give you his gold. This is actually an accurate part of the legend of the Leprechaun. It is said that if you are able to capture a Leprechaun, you could hold the mischief-maker captive until your demands for wealth are met.
Leprechauns are crafty, though. They are very hard to spot, and are skillful in evading curious eyes. If you do manage to spot one, they are even harder to catch and hold on to. They are very shrewd in escaping from their captors, but sometimes they do fail to escape and are forced to give up their hidden stores.
Leprechauns are not only tricky, but clever and silver-tongued, as well. They must be outwitted, as well as restrained, if there is any hope of obtaining the fortunes that are told of. You must be on guard for the wiles and guile of a crafty Leprechaun. They will find any manner of ways to trick you. They may even promise to give up their treasure, just as long as you let them go, so that they might go get it for you. Do not fall for this!! Sneaky little buggers!
So, keep your eyes peeled, and if you happen to see a rainbow, maybe, just maybe, there is a pot of gold at the rainbow's end...then again, maybe not.
Crank Dat Leprechaun
© 2009 Anna Marie Bowman