• Christine Dorman

Irish Vampires and Other Lesser Known Celtic Folk Characters

Daerg Dhu, according to Irish folklore, became a vengeful bloodsucker because of the cruelty of her father and husband.

Celtic folklore is rich with characters. Some are well-known superstars, such as leprechauns, banshees, and brownies. But there are many other folklore beings from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man who’ve gotten less publicity, but are just as intriguing. Here a few of them.

While the Leprechaun is not quite as cheerful and friendly as cartoons and cereal ads suggest, he is a sweetheart compared to his nasty cousin, the Fear Daerg. Fear Daerg, aka, the Red Man, is a type of Irish faerie. He gets his name from the red cap and clothes he wears. Generally, he appears as a wrinkled old man and likes to play pranks on humans. These tend to be mean-spirited and, at times, gruesome. He also often kidnaps human infants, replacing them with Changelings, sickly, bad-tempered faeries. And he is said to play a part in nightmares, although the lore doesn’t specify how.

The Manx Fenodyree, on the other hand, is a helpful faerie. He, like the Scottish Brownie and Irish Grogach, will help humans with domestic chores. The Fenodyree does the heavy lifting. Literally. The faerie is known for moving heavy rocks from one place to another for farmers. He also is an excellent mower, cutting the grass in fields with amazing speed. Fenodryees are small in stature, have hairy bodies, and prefer to be naked. Like Brownies and Grogachs, if a Fenodyree is given a gift of clothing, he will be insulted and leave the farm. It’s never wise to upset a faerie. One story tells of a Fenodyree who mowed a field for a farmer. The farmer then complained that the mowing hadn’t been done well enough. The angry faerie went after him with the grass cutters. The farmer just barely escaped with his legs intact.

Fenodyrees don’t confine themselves to farms though. They also help fishermen by mending their nets.

The Fear Daerg is a wrinkled old man dressed in red but he is no Santa! He's a mean-spirited prankster.

Faeries are a well-known part of Celtic folklore, but the same can’t be said about vampires. Because Dracula is set in Transylvania, many people assume the inspiration of blood suckers stems from from Romania and the surrounding countries. Bram Stoker, however, was Irish. Vlad the Impaler, the murderous Romanian ruler, is often cited as the model for Count Dracula. This is reasonable since his father was known as Vlad Dracul. But Stoker might also have been influenced by Irish folklore, which already had its own bloodthirsty characters.

The first is Abhartach, an Irish chieftain. He was an evil man, feared even by his own clan. One night, he fell from his castle window and died. People were relieved by his death. They buried him upright, which was the customary funeral rite for a person of his social status at the time. Abhartach rose from his grave and, the next day, demanded bowls of fresh blood from his people. The terrified people complied but secretly called in the help of a neighboring chieftain, Cáthan. The chieftain somehow managed to slay Abhartach, who was buried again. This second time, they buried him lying face down. This did the trick. He stayed in his grave.

Daerg Dhu, a female Irish vampire, was harder to subdue. She is a beautiful young women who fell in love with a peasant. Her father refused to let her marry her beloved. Instead, he forced her to marry another man who treated her cruelly. Finally, she killed herself. But she came back with a vengeance. She went to her husband and sucked his blood until he died. Then she did the same to her father. But she wasn’t finished. Each year, she arose from her grave and, still appearing beautiful, seduced men then drained them of their blood. Finally, stones were piled on her grave and her attacks ended.

Folklore beings come in various forms. One that is common throughout Celtic folklore is the Black Dog. The Irish have the Madra Dhu (which translates to ”black dog), the Scottish Cú Sith or Fairy Dog, and the Welsh Gwyllig.Folklore from the Isle of Man has its own black dog, Moddey Dhoo. It is a phantom black spaniel with curly hair which haunted Peel Castle. Unlike its counterpart, Moddy was neither vicious nor threatening despite its large size. The dog simply appeared at night and lay by the fire. After a certain passageway was blocked off, Moddy’s nightly visits stopped.

Arkan Sonney is a pig-faerie. His appearance is a lucky omen.

Manx folklore also has Arkan Sonney, a pig-shaped faerie. It is a good omen just to see this white pig. Catching it brings even better luck. Folklore says, if you catch this pig-faerie, a silver coin will appear in your pocket.

A terrifying animal-shaped faerie is the Scottish Joint-Eater. It is as deadly as its ominous name suggests. In newt-like form, this creature crawls into the mouths of those who have fallen asleep next to water, be it a loch, a stream, or whatever, after eating a meal. The Joint-Eater then consumes all the nutrients from the food. Worse still, once it’s invaded the person’s body, it remains, continuing to leech the food. So no matter how much the person eats, it will do no good. She will waste away. Fortunately, there is a cure. According to folklore, you can rid yourself of a Joint-Eater by lying down next to water with your mouth open. If you’re patient, after a time, the creature will climb out of your mouth and return to the water. When it does, you should close your mouth, get up, and run!

The final entry for this post is the Bodach, the Scottish bogeyman. He comes down chimneys but bears no relation to Santa Claus! Sometimes, he steals children. At other times, he terrorizes them while they sleep, pinching, poking, and otherwise tormenting them into having nightmares. The Bodach only bothers bad children, though, so tales about him were used to make children behave properly. One way to protect your children (or yourself) is to make a border around your bed with salt. For reasons known only to him, a Bodach will not cross salt. Pleasant dreams!

The Bodach, a Scottish bogeyman, comes down the chimney and torments sleeping children into having nightmares.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glance at some lesser known characters from the rich tradition of Celtic folklore. Please LIKE and SHARE the post. SUBSCRIBE and COMMENT too please. Thanks!

Until next week, slan go foil!

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