Have a Celtic Halloween: Celtic Characters for Costumes
There’s a chill in the air. Trees are ablaze with red, orange, and golden leaves. It’s Autumn! That means Halloween is coming. Soon vampires, werewolves, and Frankensteins will roam the streets and dance at parties. If you are considering either costuming your child or wearing a costume yourself to a party (or just for fun), there are alternatives to the cliché same old same old characters. Halloween has Celtic roots so why not dress as a Celtic character? Does that mean dressing like a leprechaun and looking like you’re confused which holiday you’re celebrating? Not at all. There are so many characters from Celtic mythology, folklore, and legend (not to mention history) to choose from. Below is a list of just a few.
Balor of the Evil Eye: He is the Celtic God of Death and king of the Formorians (a mythical Irish race). His most remarkable feature was his eye. He just had one and it was big. But he kept it closed most of the time since anyone or any living thing he looked at would die. He also had just one gigantic leg. Poor guy! With one eye, usually closed, and one leg, he must have had difficulty getting around!
Lugh: The Celtic Sun god is Lugh of the Long Arm. Balor’s grandson and king of the Tuatha de Danann. Adept at all skills, he is a warrior, an athlete, and is said to be the inventor of all the arts. The two tools most associated with him are a spear and a sling shot. The spear became known as The Slaughterer and it acted like a boomerang. After killing the target, it returned to Lugh. Also, it was believed to be undefeatable. With the sling shot, Lugh killed his grandfather, Balor.
Dagda: He is the Celtic god of earth, life, and death. He is called the Shining and is the protector of all. Dagda carries a harp and a big club. He uses the harp to call each season of the year. With the club, he can either kill humans or restore them to life. He is the Morrigan's husband. (Read about the Morrigan in the Female Characters section below).
Clurichaun: A cousin of the leprechaun, the Clurichaun is a short, mischievous man. He wears a red jacket with gold buttons and often has mud on his clothes. The Clurichaun hangs out in human houses in the basement or wine cellar and is always drunk.
Fear Daerg: This character is a short, wrinkle-faced old man with tangled gray hair. His name translates into “Red Man” because he dresses entirely in red, including his hat and cloak. Like leprechauns and clurichauns, he is a prankster. Unlike them, however, his jokes are mean-spirited and often harmful to humans. He is quick, as well, to curse humans who don’t give him what he wants. The Fear Daerg also is involved in stealing human babies and replacing them with changelings (bad-tempered, often ill, faeries).
Dullahan: The Dullahan is the Irish Grim Reaper and headless horseman rolled into one. Caped and dressed all in black, he carries his glowing head like a lantern. He rides a dark horse which snorts flames, and he spurs the horse on with a whip made of a human spine. Really terrifying guy!
Stingy Jack: His story is the origin of the Jack O’Lantern. He managed to get himself denied entrance both to heaven ad to hell and is doomed to roam the earth in the twilight world of the undead. He carries with him a turnip lit with an ember from hell fire and uses it to light his way.
Cyroraeth: The Welsh version of the Irish banshee, she is a woman with long, tangled hair, withered arms and long black teeth. Her face is wrinkled and ghastly. She wails at crossroads and rivers and is a portent of death. The Banshee often, in popular U. S. culture, is portrayed as an old hag, but in Irish folklore, she is described alternatively as a beautiful young woman. She wears flowing clothes, either a shroud or a long gray or green dress. Her hair is long, unbound, and usually dark (although the hag’s hair is gray). Her eyes are quite red from crying so much over dying humans. Often, she carries a silver comb.
Ceasg: She is a Scottish mermaid with a tail that is specifically like salmon's . The children of a ceasg and a human will be great sailors. Ceasgs, if captured, will grant three wishes.
Daerg Due: Her name means “red blood-sucker” so if you really want to dress up as a vampire, she’s the Celtic character for you. A legendary character who was a beautiful human woman forced into an arranged marriage by her father. Her husband was horrible to her. After her dead, she came back and killed both father and husband by draining them of their blood. Then she made an annual event of rising from the grave and killing men. Surprised to find a vampire in Celtic tradition? Well, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was Irish, after all.
Leanan Sidhe: She is another vampire of sorts. She does not suck blood, but instead drains men of their life energy. The leanan sidhe is a beautiful and seductive faerie who inspires poets and takes them as lovers. W. B. Yeats described her as a “malignant faerie” who gave great inspiration to her poet-lovers but, in exchange, they became her slaves and died young.
Glastig: The glastig is a Scottish ghost who is sometimes called The Green Lady. She is described as a beautiful blonde-haired woman in a long, flowing green dress. Her skin is gray. There are many versions of the glastig story. Sometimes she is portrayed as a guardian or protector, especially of cattle or unattended farm children whose parents are off working in the fields. Other stories speak of her throwing stones onto the path in front of travelers, causing them to get lost. Many castles across Scotland claim the Green Lady as their own ghost.
Rhiannon: Stevie Nicks did not create her (nor does Ms. Nicks claim to). The Welsh did. Rhiannon is a Welsh goddess / enchantress. She is dressed in white and rides a white horse which cannot be caught up with unless Rhiannon decides to allow someone to approach her.
The Morrigan: An important figure in Irish mythology, the Morrigan is the triple goddess and the goddess of war, death, and destiny. She is depicted both as a single entity and as three sisters. She is beautiful and young with long, dark hair. Usually, she is dressed in black. Sometimes, her face is cloaked or hooded. A shape-shifter, her frequent animal form is that of a crow. Seeing her is considered a bad omen for those going into battle. The Morrigan is strong but vindictive. She is thought to be the inspiration for Morgan le Fey of Arthurian legend. She is strongly associated with Samhain, the Celtic origin of Halloween.
If you like horses, the Celts offer several possibilities. The Irish Each-Uisge and the Scottish Kelpie are shape-shifters who frequently appear as horses. They have dark hair and dripping wet manes. Kelpies sometimes appear as young men with seaweed in their hair. The Puca is another shape-shifter who appears as a dark horse with glowing golden eyes. He has many other forms though. He appears as a small, ugly goblin demanding his share of the harvest, a black goat with curly horns, or a huge, terrifying bogeyman. Then there is the Unicorn. Don’t associate Unicorns with the Celts? The Scottish national animal is the Unicorn and it’s been a part of its royal arms since the 12th century A. D.
Selkies: The Selkies are a gentle faerie people who look like seals. They can transform, however, into human form if they come ashore. They shed their seal skins and dance in the moonlight. If a female Selkie’s skin is stolen and hidden by a human man, she will become his wife, but will always be restless. She will never give up searching for her seal skin. Once she finds it, she will put it on, resuming her seal form, and take to the sea, never to return even if she has had children with the man. Male Selkies also can shed their skin and appear human. They, however, will simply make love to a human woman then return to the sea or, at times, bring her with him to his home under the water to live there forever..
Dewi: He is a Welsh god who appears as a dragon. The national symbol of Wales s a red dragon, who is Dewi, a representation of Dewi.
Sluagh: A terrifying collective of Faeries and lost souls, the Sluagh’s main occupation is to hunt and steal human souls. They are gruesome , resembling humans but skeletal in appearance with only a bit of flesh still clinging to their bones. A few strands of dark hair hang from their skulls. They have beak-like mouths from which protrude sharp, pointed teeth. Their hands and feet are bony claws. They have large, leathery, bat-like wings. In the closed position, these wings are held close to the body and resemble a cloak. Picture them. Is there a spookier, creepier character for Halloween?
Whether you want scary, ugly, attractive, or just different, for this year’s Halloween, honor its roots and go Celtic! Slan!
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Next week: Have a Celtic Halloween: Decorations
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