Fairy Door in Tree

Ireland’s Fantastic Faerie Folklore

Leprechauns. The wee people. The Faerie folk. Whatever you call them, Ireland’s mystical not-quite-human population is one of our most famous ambassadors. They star in a huge range of stories from the charming to the terrifying. They inspire the designs of many Irish gifts. And they even have their own line of tiny doors, which can be spotted in homes and forests throughout Ireland. But who are the faeries of Ireland? What should we know about these creatures who live unseen among us?

Fairy & Leprechaun Home of Sunflower
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While sightings of actual faeries are extremely rare, we do see evidence of their existence and their construction skills all around us. Aside from their very popular little doors, Ireland boasts many fairy forts. (Also known as ring forts, these structures date back to the Iron Age.) The portal between Dublin and New York is grabbing much media attention, but it’s not the first portal in Ireland. The faerie forts are portals between this world and the spirit world, where the faeries live when they aren’t bringing mischief and mayhem to our world.

Belleek Pottery Toadstool Ornament
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These raised earthen rings are a common sight in rural Ireland, where they are often in fields where cattle or sheep graze nearby with  trees and shrubs growing in a circle around them. People have respect for the faerie forts and don’t interfere with them in any way because Irish faeries are not all sweetness and light. In fact, they are as capable of terrifying us as they are of bringing us good luck or pots of gold or other Irish gifts.

A Fairy Ring

People once lived in great fear of the faeries. They believed that a faery could snatch someone and send a changling to replace them. Parents worried particularly about their sons, as it was believed the faeries mostly chose boys. To protect their sons, some parents who feared their family had been targeted by the faeries would dress the boys in girls’ clothing and grow their hair long to reduce their chances of being abducted.

Who Are Irish Faeries?

They go by many names, which makes sense because they come in many forms. According to folklore, among Ireland’s earliest inhabitants were the Tuatha Dé Danann, not-exactly-human beings with magical powers. Their arrival frightened the locals, but they were mostly very peaceful. Mostly. From there, legends of other mythical being emerged.

Hollywood has embraced selkies, seal-like creatures who can choose to take human form, with films including The Secret of Roan Inish and Ondine. Shape-shifting and transformation are a consistent feature of Irish folklore. The puca also changes form. They usually appear as domestic animals or humans. The Dullahan is the original headless horseman. The banshee appears in the form of a woman, but she could be old or young. This spirit foretells death by wailing. And of course, the leprechaun. In Irish folklore, he isn’t always very nice, but next to the other members of this rogue’s gallery, he isn’t too bad. He’s just very moody, sensitive and unpredictable. But if you can flatter and charm him, he will reward you with good luck.

NEW! Irish Leprechaun Salt & Pepper Set
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The best way to encounter a leprechaun or any other Celtic faery is in the form of Irish gifts. They all look better as lawn ornaments or as decor to liven up your home!