If you’ve heard of St. Patrick’s Day, chances are you know about leprechauns. But did you know there are more fairies that hold equally enchanting and interesting lore? Read on to learn about three of these mythical Irish fairies.
Most simply changelings are fairy children who were exchanged for human children. Fairy babies most often die or incur a severe deformity during their birth. Fairies are very concerned with aesthetics and are averse to seeing less than eye-catching children; therefore, they swap them for humans. Aside from physical deformities that may be attributed to birth, they might also have talon-shaped hands and generally bring a sense of dread and unpleasantness where they go. They are ill-tempered, often cry, and get their pleasure from bringing displeasure—or more accurately, havoc—to a household. It is said that the changelings have an aptitude for musical instruments, and therefore may entertain their new human families with this talent.
Merrow is the Irish term for a mermaid or sea fairy. Beautiful and often enchanted with humans, mermaids have long held intrigue among mortals. Many of her features are humanlike, however her feet are in the flat shape of diving fins, thus to help her swim. Similarly, her hands are webbed between the fingers. She may also have scale-like features on the lower portion of her body.
While Hollywood and children’s books have presented a whimsical, fun-loving version of mermaids, they are said to be fickle and even precursors that arrive to warn of death. Merrows shed their seal-like skin and caps to come ashore, and because of their fascination with humans they are said to often end up in trysts or even marriage with mortal men. Men would even steal the caps to entice them to marry them and stay on land. However, as time passes the lure of the sea is sure to call her back to its waters.
There are also male versions of merrows; however, they are far less attractive with scaly skin from head to toe and cloaks that covered the body. They are also less whimsical and enchanting than the female counterparts and are said to be deceitful and vicious.
The word banshee is often associated with death, and rightly so, as the banshee is said to come to warn of one’s passing. The banshee is depicted as a woman with long flowing, unkempt hair who is wearing a loose-fitting gown. Her eyes are hollow and she wails at ear-piercing levels to alert humans that death is near. However, she can take other forms including a young woman and a mature, but well-kept woman. Gaelic folklore says that this spirit was only able to warn members of five Irish families—the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys, and the Kavanaghs. As with leprechauns, there have also been reported sightings—and perhaps more relevant—reported hearings—of the banshee and her shriek.