Halloween Costumes Inspired by Irish Folklore

The crafty Fear Dearg, just one of many Halloween costume ideas inspired by Irish lore. (Image: Mirrix / deviantart.net)

By Michelle Meagher, Editorial Assistant
October 14, 2016

With Halloween upon us, many are still scrambling to buy last minute costumes. Before you spend a dismembered arm and a pirate’s peg leg on a pre-packaged idea that’s probably been done a hundred times before, check out some of Ireland’s most fearsome creatures for inspiration. After all, Halloween’s roots can be found in ancient Celtic traditions, so why not trust the pros?

“The Vampire,” by Philip Burne-Jones. (Wikimedia Commons)

Everyone is a vampire for Halloween, right? Especially after films like Twilight and HBO’s widely popular True Blood, but do you know anyone going as a Dearg-due? A Dearg-due is not just your typical bloodsucker. This particular creature is a woman who was once a beautiful young girl forced into an arranged marriage, and, depending on which version of the legend you subscribe to, she either took her own life or died of a broken heart. As the story goes, she rises from her grave every year and seduces men, luring them to their deaths and sucking them dry to the bone. The only way to defeat the Dearg-due is by placing stones around her grave. How you choose to portray this vampiress is up to you. She is as terrifying as she is beautiful, and while people may guess you are just an ordinary vampire, why not wear a necklace of stones around your neck, which is sure to raise questions you can answer by telling her ancient and terrible tale.

The Dullahan. (Image: kid eternity / maskofreason.wordpress.com)

The Dullahan is similar to a headless horseman. This Irish creature is a fae (fairy) whose head is permanently detached from his body and held beneath his arm. The Dullahan always rides upon a black horse, sometimes accompanied by a wagon made out of skeletons. The Dullahan claims the souls of whatever parish it visits, and it is impossible to stop him, as he is able to pass through any obstacle. Onlookers are warned to look away lest it throw a basin of blood upon them or crack them with his especially gruesome whip made of spinal cord.  Gold is the only way to defeat this soul-snatching creature, as he will flee from its presence. I can assure you will be the only Dullahan at your costume bash, as the creature is widely unknown. You will be too, if you’re holding your head in your arms!

The “Bunworth Banshee,” from Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, by Thomas Crofton Croker, 1825. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Bean Si (Banshee) is the most feared of all Irish mythological creatures. She is so feared because hearing her shrieking wail foretells the death of a loved one, and crossing paths with a Banshee predicts one’s own death. The Banshee is a shape-shifter and can appear in the form of a young girl, a mother or an old woman. She wears a flowing white, grey or green dress with an unshapely grey robe. Her hair is long and fair and she untangles it with a silver comb. With her simple attire and fearsome reputation, the Banshee is a fairly easy but still exquisite creature to portray this Halloween. All you’ll need is a robe, white face paint, and silver comb and a bone-chilling wail to ensure you do Ireland’s most feared creature justice. This last element lends itself very well to Halloween karaoke parties.

The Wurrum. (alphacoders.com)

The Wurrum is a watery creature said to be half-fish and half-dragon. It is monstrous in size, at over fifty feet in length. All boatmen and fisherman of yore sailed the waters wary that the beast beneath the shimmering depths could at any moment could rear its hideous head and swallow the fishermen and their boats in one giant gulp. The Wurrum would make for a unique costume and a fun story to tell your friends and strangers. It may be a little more involved to design, and you might have to scale back on the whole fifty feet thing, but how many half fish and half dragons will there be roaming the streets Halloween night?  Exactly.

The Irish water horse and victim (kittelsen.ru)

While we’re on the subject of terrifying water creatures, the Each Uisce (or Uisge) is a most dangerous of water horse that prowls the sea and large lakes. Its purpose is to catch humans, drown and devour them. It takes the form of a horse to entice people to ride it, but can also appear as a human and does so to seduce its victim. It will pursue anyone who attempts to flee. This could be a fun costume, as you can dress up as half-human/half-horse, like an evil blood-thirsty Centaur.

The Irish werewolf, known as a faelad. (spookyisles.com)

The Laignech Faelad is the Irish werewolf. Legend goes that these men could change into wolves whenever they pleased and would often return to human form with hunks of flesh still wedged in their mouths. Other variations say they only turned on a full-moon or once a year.  These flesh-hungry beasts could make for a terrifying costume, and werewolves are always a great staple on Halloween night.

Lanhuan Shee (aminoapps.com)

The Lanhaun Shee is a fairy mistress who seeks the love of mortal men. She lures men with her beauty, and with high stakes: if they refuse her love she must become their slave, but if they consent she feeds off of their life-force until they eventually fade away and die. This fae could make for a good and humorous costume if you can convince some of your guy friends to follow you around in a trance-like state (and buy your drinks). All you need is billowing white robes and a whole lot of charm.

Fear Gorta. (deviantart.com)

The Irish Fear Gorta is an emaciated male fairy who begs for alms. He is a gaunt figure and his arms are but twigs barely strong enough to hold out his beggar’s cup. Many turn in disgust from the Fear Gorta, which brings poverty and hunger upon them, but if you are kind and generous to this spirit of the famine, he will bless you with a lifetime of fortune. The Fear Gorta would be an interesting and simple costume to put together. A ratty t-shirt and holey pair of trousers, some face paint or perhaps even a ghoulish emaciated mask, and an alms cup, and you’d make a pretty sad though accurate-looking Fear Gorta.

The Fear Dearg is a fairy who enjoys practical and sometimes gruesome jokes. He is a solitary fae with a bushy red beard and dresses in a red hat and coat with a pipe propped between his lips. He will often ask to warm himself by the fire, and be wary of refusing the Fear Dearg for terrible misfortune will befall anyone who does. You can be the life of the party on Halloween night dressing in the Fear Dearg’s red waistcoat and hat, and playing practical (please avoid the gruesome) jokes on all your friends. Don’t forget your beard or pipe to pull the whole ensemble together!

Happy Halloween!


ED: This article was originally published in October 2013

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