Let's face it, my readers know me as a Christmas writer. But from time to time I do like to look at other holidays and their roots. Soon we will come to an almost forgotten holiday, unless you're Irish. Yes, I am talking about Saint Patrick's Day. Over then next few weeks I will be sharing some of the history of this holiday. Today, let's talk about a tradition that lives on in Ireland but we in America think about only at Saint Patrick's Day. Let's talk about the wee-folk, or those of the various classes of legend in Ireland.
One thing that the culture of Christmas and Saint Patrick's Day have in common are the presence of little people. Where would Christmas be without Santa's elves? Equally, where would Saint Patrick's Day be without the leprechauns. Elusive, mysterious, and full of surprises these little folk have become a symbol of the festivities. Green clothing, buckled shoes and hats, pipes and beards they take on a look of a cereal box character at this time of year. In Ireland they are a bit more sinister. They have been known to cause nightmares and play pranks on those who come too close to their secret treasures. Once a part of a community of wee people called Luchor-pan, these little people have become known to be excellent shoe makers and keepers of good people's treasures. But if you come into contact with one of these folk you must beware. They are tricky. Grab him quickly and demand the gold. But be warned, you may lose what good luck you might have had for bad.
Throughout Ireland can be heard stories of many different creatures of both day and night. Families of the high Milesian race can dread the cries of the Banshee. She is known to bring death to he who hears them. Beware, too, her sister who seeks the love of mortals.
Various other creatures include the Pookah or hob-goblins. These shape-shifters often take the form of riding animals and will take a hapless victim on a ride they will never forget. He is in contrast to the Grogoch, a very friendly half human creature who will make himself visible to trustworthy people. And we cannot forget the mermaids which happen inhabit Ireland's coasts, singing a mysterious song and bewitching those who will listen.
Perhaps second to the leprechaun in their notoriety are the faery folk who live on the island. Many a man has crossed a faery ring to find himself out of the realm of natural time. The story is told that one man was actually lured into a faery ring by one of the beautiful creatures for what he though would be a night of dancing. When morning came he departed for home where he found that twenty years had passed.
These and more haunt the minds and imaginations of the Irish. The supernatural is as alive there as is the faith and strength of the Irish themselves. But this Saint Patrick's Day, beware. You can never be too careful when being surrounded by the customs and creatures surrounding its observance.