10 Creatures in CELTIC MYTHOLOGY You DON'T Want to Meet
In this installment, we're taking a look throughout Celtic Mythology to bring you the most horrifically terrifying creatures to stalk the land.
Dearg Due (DARE-rugk DU-ah)
Literally translated to "Red Blood Sucker" in Gaelic, the legend of Dearg Due is a story of a woman scorned. She was known for her beauty throughout the country and courted by many wealthy and powerful men, only to fall in love with a peasant. Disapproving of this love, her father arranged a marriage with a wealthy but cruel older man. Abused and locked away, she eventually committed suicide, vowing vengeance. Rising from the grave the night after her burial, she exacted her revenge by sucking the blood from both her husband and father, creating the legend of Dearg Due. She now is said to lure children, the innocent, and especially young men with a siren song to her grave to steal their blood.
Wielding a human spine for a whip while riding a magnificent black stallion and clad in flowing black robes, the Dullahan is headless and, unlike the Banshee, doesn't come to warn of death. He carries his head either on his saddle-brow or in this hand and has a supernatural sight. Just by holding up his head, he can see vast distances across the countryside. He cannot speak but once on each excursion and only to call out the name of whom he desires dead. If you ever saw this headless horseman as he passed you, you would be rewarded with a bucket of blood thrown into your face or be struck blind in one eye. Luckily, he is known only to appear on certain Irish festivals or feast days after sunset, but if you want an extra edge against this fearsome creature, carry a trinket made of gold.
Often heard at night - either crying or singing - Banshees are looked upon as a forewarning to an imminent death. The screech they let out is said to sound between the wail of a woman to the moan of an owl. They are rarely seen, but usually take the form of a young girl, a matron, or an old crone. She may also appear as Bean Sidhe (ban SHEE), or woman of the hills, and can be seen washing blood from the clothes of the person about to die. Originally, the Banshee could only cry for five major Irish families: the O'Neills, the O'Brians, the O'Conners, the O'Grady's and the Kavanaghs. However, there have been others and intermarriages have extended this list. Once a Banshee is linked to a family, they stay with them wherever they go, so even you could one day hear the dreadful cry of the Banshee.
Restless spirits, sinners and evil doers that aren't welcome in heaven nor hell, or even the otherworld; those rejected by the Celtic gods and even the earth itself make up the ranks of Sluagh. Troublesome and destructive, they fly in swarms - always from the west - in search of the dying to pluck their souls away. In an effort to prevent this, Celts would close windows facing west until the last rites could be performed. The Sluagh, meaning "host", weren't opposed to taking the soul of the healthy and living either, it is just more difficult as they can be evaded by keeping indoors or avoiding secluded, unpopulated areas. Once they have a soul, there is no mercy, no escape, and no release to the afterlife; you are doomed to stealing souls for all eternity.
Often referred to as "The Dog of Darkness" or "The Black Hound of Destiny", it is no wonder the name Gwyllgi (GWISH-key) strikes fear in men's hearts. A mythical dog of Welsh origin that appears as a frightful apparition of a mastiff or black wolf, the Gwyllgi (GWISH-key) has baleful breath and red eyes. To make matters worse, they like to stalk and attack travelers along their favorite haunt, which are desolate roads at night. Sightings have included the Nant y Garth pass located near Llandelgla (chan-DEG-lah) in Denbighshire (DEN-bi-shur) and as far away as Marchwiel in Wrexham. To this day, people still claim to see this fearsome creature stalking the land.
Shape changing aquatic spirits of Scottish legend, Kelpies lingered near rivers and streams. Its most common form was a tame horse where it tried to attract weary travelers or women and children on to its back. Once it found a victim, its hide would become magically adhesive, not allowing them to dismount and would drag them into the water to be devoured. As the Kelpie's trail entered the water, the sound it made resembled thunder. Kelpie would also appear as a beautiful woman to attract young men, or as a hairy man that pounced on unsuspecting people and crushed them to death with a vice-like grip. On a good note, the Kelpie had one weak spot - its bridle. If anyone could get a hold of this bridle, they had command over any Kelpie.
Leanan Sidhe (lee-ANN-awn-shee)
Roughly translated as "fairy sweetheart", Leanan Sidhe are beautiful woman of the Aos Si (ace-shee), or "People of the Barrows". They often take human lovers who will then live brief, but highly inspired lives. Their best known depiction is of a beautiful muse who offers inspiration for creative minds in exchange for their undaunted love and devotion, which ultimately leads the artists to madness and death. Some depict Leanan Sidhe as restless or easily daunted, jumping from one lover to another when bored, which also proves fatal to the former lover.
Abhartach (ahr-reh-KACKh) like hour-KACKh
In the town of Slaughtaverty (slaught-TAV-er-tee), Ireland during the fifth century, a dwarf tyrant known as Abhartach ruled his kingdom cruelly with dark magical powers. So feared by his people, they conspired with another warlord to assassinate their king. Abhartach was murdered and buried standing straight, which was an honorable burial for his stature, but he would not remain there. Returning from his grave, Abhartach demanded blood tribute from his people to sustain his energy, leading him to be slain several times. The warlord grew tired and frustrated of having to constantly dispatch Abhartach, so he consulted with others that harnessed magic to find a solution to this problem. Eventually, Abhartach was kept from returning by being killed with a "yew wood" sword, and buried upside down, then covered with an enormous stone.
The Celtic fire-spitter and said to be the Mother of the devil, Caorthannach (queer-hawn-nock), hatched deep within the molten core of the Earth when it was just a swirling mass of vapor, water, and rock. After years of terror from her and her spawns, the Christian missionary and bishop now known as St. Patrick, prayed for guidance to rid his beloved Erin isle of evil. Having his prayers answered, he fought Caorthannach (queer-hawn-nock) at the peak of Mount Ox for two days and nights until she fled. Knowing St. Patrick would pursue her, she spit toxic fire into every water source along the way. Thinking she outsmarted her pursuer, she started to descend into Lough Derg, her home and portal to hell. With the grace of God, St. Patrick was there waiting for her where he continued the battle with Caorthannach (queer-hawn-nock) into the watery depth. Some say she was defeated by St. Patrick within those waters, but others believe he shut the portal to hell where she waits to wreak havoc on the world again.
First appearing in the tales of King Arthur, the Questing Beast is also known as the Beast Glatisant or Barking Beast. This hybrid creature is said to have the head of a snake, the fore-paws and upper body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the hooves of a deer. Its name derives from the noise it emits from its stomach, described as "thirty couple hounds questing". This beast was conceived by a princess who slept with the devil to make her brother love her. Instead of fulfilling his promise, the devil convinced the princess to accuse her brother of rape. When her father heard the accusations, he had the boy torn apart by his hunting dogs, but not before he prophesied the abomination his sister would bear, claiming it would emanate the same sounds around him when he was killed. As such, the beast has been taken as symbolism of incest, violence, and chaos, the same elements that eventually destroy Arthur's Kingdom.