Cliffs of moher in Clare co., Ireland

[dropcap]Several[/dropcap] countries around the world have an abundance of delightful, scary or downright strange folklore that can impart wisdom, stave off poor decision making or explain the country’s customs. Ireland is no stranger to this mythology, and most Irish stories contain fabled creatures, both good and evil, who teach lessons to mortals walking the Emerald Isle.

Although the term “screaming like a banshee” is widely used, most don’t understand the meaning. A banshee, according to Irish mythology, is a spirit in the form of a lamenting, wailing woman who appears in warning of the forthcoming loss of a loved one. If you’re worried about receiving a visit from one of these terrifying banshees, fear not: only those of high rank and pure Irish blood can hear her screams.

Expectant parents, watch out for the far darrig. These small creatures are donned in red caps and gowns and delight in stealing babies, leaving a changeling in its place. The changeling is, to put it simply, a fairy full of issues – it may look and act like a child, but will have a dull personality and a handful of diseases and disorders.

Ending on a lighter note, the fear gorta tests a person’s capacity for generosity. Taking the form of an emaciated man during times of famine or drought, this spirit will approach unsuspecting mortals by asking for food or water. If the human helps, he or she will be rewarded with good fortune.

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