Ah, Saint Patty’s Day! That one day of the year when every human wants to be Irish and every fairy wants to be a leprechaun. While leprechauns are one of the most familiar symbols of St. Patrick’s Day (along with the Shamrock), much of the ancient lore associated with these unique fae has gotten lost amid their commercial success.
Here are the top ten things the world has forgotten about leprechauns:
- Leprechauns are universally male. That’s right. There are no female leprechauns in Irish folklore.
- Not all leprechauns wear green. In fact, leprechauns from Ireland’s northern counties wear coats of red with seven rows of seven siler buttons each.
- Leprechauns on make one shoe, never a pair.
- They carry two leather pouches or purses to give away when they are caught — one pouch contains a gold coin that turns into dust or ashes when is separated from the leprechaun, the other holds a silver shilling which magically returns to the purse whenever it is given away.
- Another means to locating a leprechaun is by following the sound of his hammer.
- Leprechauns are the fae cobblers (shoe-makers). Their shoes are highly sought-after by other fae because they are so finely crafted.
- They are one of he few types of fae that are thrifty and often act as bankers for other fae. Their pot of gold could be the gold of other fae ot ancient treasure left behind by the Danes.
- Leprechauns first appeared in literature (as lubrican) in 1604 in Middleton and Dekker’s The Honest Whore.
- They drink, and often become intoxicated on, poteen, or Irish moonshine made from either barely or potatoes.
- You’ll never see a leprechaun at night.
If you think you see a leprecahun at night, you are probably seeing a clurichaun, which looks almost identical to a leprechaun except they have a very pink or red nose. Some say clurichauns are just drunken leprechauns. Others hold that they are cousins. Clurichauns are surly pranksters who favor living in wine cellars. Treat them well and they will protect your wine. Mistreat them and they will steal your wine and spoil what they leave behind. Being lazy, clurichauns are otfen seen riding sheep or dogs through the night. They don’t have a pot of gold or any money at all.
Like so many of the fae, leprechauns are not, entirely what humans expect them to be. In some parts of Ireland, they are said to have descended from Lugh, the High King. This would explain why they are so touchy about how they are treated. They are clever and cunning as well. Rarely the hero or focus of a tale, they can, if they are willing help the hero succeed. They also probably make wonderful drinking buddies, though you may end up paying for most of the drinks.