“…the Leprechauns can be bitterly malicious if they are offended, and one should he very cautious in dealing with them, and always treat them with great civility, or they will take revenge and never reveal the secret of the hidden gold.”
— Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, Lady Wilde
“As with all faeries, it is important to see the Leprechaun before he sees you.”
— Faeries, Brian Froud & Alan Lee
Since the passing of St. Patrick’s Day and the arrival of Spring, I have had a case of Leprechauns on the brain. The only cure (I’ve found) for a Leprechaun cranial invasion is to write down and share one’s discoveries. For the last few days I have been diving into whatever I can find on Celtic Mythology and Faerie Folklore, and I have uncovered some strange and interesting facts…
- Original Leprechauns may have been water dwellers. The first known works to mention a Leprechaun comes from the middle ages and tells the tale of Fergus mac Leti, King of Ulster. King Fergus falls asleep on the beach and is dragged into the sea by 3 luchorpan, a Middle Irish word that translates to “small body” – possibly an origin of the modern English name, Leprechaun. Now drenched in seawater, Fergus wakes abruptly to find the three little men pleading for their lives. Fergus spares them in exchange for three wishes, one of which he uses to gain the ability to breathe underwater. The ability will work anywhere except Loch Rudraige, for that is luchorpan territory. He goes there anyway and is attacked by a sea monster. The story suggests that (some?) Leprechauns could live underwater.
- Leprechauns have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. It’s probably safe to say that the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as we know them today were not invented in Ireland, but in America. Originally, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with nothing more than a religious feast, but traditions took a strange turn somewhere in recent history. Irish Americans have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with pub crawls and parades longer than they have in their native Ireland! The colour green has been used to represent Irish patriotism for centuries, but the official colour of St. Patrick was actually blue! Some point fingers at the 1959 Disney film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People for separating the Leprechaun from his original Celtic roots and reinventing him as a derogatory Irish stereotype forever fusing him with St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans.
- Leprechauns are actually partial to red. Due to the somewhat strange relationship, if you think about it, between St. Patrick’s Day, Irish patriotism and Leprechauns, most people believe that Leprechauns only wear green. In fact, most 17th century poems depicting Leprechauns describe them as dressed in “unfairy homeliness” clad in red coats, three-cornered hats and buckled shoes. Sometimes they wear cobbling aprons.
- Leprechauns are the cobblers and bankers of the fairy realm. If you want to catch a Leprechaun, your best bet is to look under hedges and dock leaves. This is where they are often found cobbling a shoe, but only ever one, never a pair. They are also the best at knowing where to find hidden treasure. Forget your metal detector… catch yourself a Leprechaun! First, find one before he finds you. Once you spot him, don’t look away or he’ll vanish …and don’t be a bully about it, or you will likely be bullied right back!
No gold for you!
- The Leprechaun may have divine ancestry. When the invading Milesians conquered the Danaans, the tribe and their leader Lugh, Celtic god of the sun, and god of arts and crafts, retreated into the hills. This along with the rise of Christianity in Ireland led to Lugh’s divine demotion and he became known as Lugh-chromain, or Lugh the craftsman shoemaker. Lugh-chromain could have been another possible origin of the word, Leprechaun.
- Leprechauns have an evil twin or an evil cousin, or possibly more of a Jekyll and Hyde situation. The Cluricaun, looks much like a Leprechaun, only they are much more devilish. Some say the Cluricaun is a Leprechaun at night after a few pints, and you don’t want to be around one if he is in a drunken state. The Cluricaun is known to trash houses, raid wine cellars and take your sheep for wild joyrides.
- Leprechaun travel destinations you can visit today:
A) Mill Ends Park, Portland, Oregon, USA – There is a small city park, and I mean small… as in, officially the world’s smallest city park… home to a Leprechaun colony led by Head Leprechaun, Patrick O’Toole. It is the only Leprechaun colony west of Ireland. If you are ever in Portland, stop by SW Naito Parkway & Taylor Street and check in on the local Leprechauns.
B) National Leprechaun Museum, Dublin, Ireland – the first ever attraction dedicated to Irish mythology – a fun and magical world full of fascinating folklore, mythology and enchanting stories.
C) National Leprechaun Hunt, Slieve Foy Mountain, Carlingford, Ireland – Protected by European Law, a population of 236 Leprechauns claim sanctuary in the caverns outside of Carlingford in Ireland. If you can be there before March 29, 2015, you can partake in the annual national Leprechaun hunt. 100 ceramic Leprechauns will be hidden around the protected site – cash prizes are awarded to those who find one. Living Leprechauns, if seen, are to be left alone. Hunters are required to have a hunting permit, cost is €6.00. Adult hunters are provided with a small bottle of whiskey to aid them in the hunt.
“Of course [you don’t have wings]… you’re a boy!” — Kira, The Dark Crystal
Bonus: There are no female Leprechauns… there are theories that since Leprechauns are always solitary males, they have either been rejected by or chose to leave their respective fairy colonies. Leprechaun might be more of a status or lifestyle (like a monk or a hermit) than a race, thus explaining why there are no females… that is, until I invented them…