Ah, Celtic myths! I’ve previously talked about Greek myths and while they surely a barrel of laughs, I wanted to present you some other myths form a pretty far away land: the lands of Celts! The Greek mythology is pretty well known, with the almighty Zeus, the beautiful Aphrodite and the radiating Apollo, but it’s not the only mythology known to and created by humans. Mystical world of stories, legends and Gods are waiting for us to be read and interpreted. From faeries, the banshee to the famous leprechaun, let me tell you some of the most interesting and entertaining Celtic myths!
Faeries are often portrayed as frightening and dangerous creatures
We all know what a fairy seems to look like. If you love stories such as Tinkerbell you may think that fairies are fragile and adorable creatures that are in direct connection with the nature. Welp, in the majority of the Celtic myths, the faerie is not a blessing, but most of the times, a misfortune.
They were known for kidnapping people, especially infants, hiding themselves under various magic disguises to trick humans. Let’s take the world of Tír na nÓg for example. That is the Land of Youth, or better known, as the land of faeries. A world full of beauty, riches, youth and joy which has a pretty dark twist. For humans, what are decades in the real world, are a few hours in the faerie land.
The myth of Oisín
Once upon a time there was a human hero named Oisín and Niamh, a woman from the Land of Youth. These two fell in love. Since Niamh couldn’t live with the humans, she gave Oisín a magic horse that could travel over the seas and would bring him in the faerie land. The land riches, beauty and glow are unbelievable and Oisín decides to marry Niamh and live with her.
Yet, after around three years he gets homesick and misses his motherland. The faerie woman lets him return under one condition: to ride the same horse she gave him and to never touch the ground. After he gets back to the human world 300 years have passed and everything he knew crumbled before he could even realize. He falls from the horse and turns into an old man immediately and dies of old age. Not the happiest myth, right? It’s interesting how much it resembles the Japanese legend of Urashima Taro.
We talked about how your usual faerie was a bit of a jerk, kidnapping and tricking humans, but do you know the myth of the banshee? This Celtic myth tells the story of a spirit or faerie that takes the shape of a woman and announces the death of a human. There are many variations of this myth: sometimes she is unusually tall, sometimes she is unusually short, (under a meter).
What is certain is that whenever you hear a sudden crying, weeping, keening or screeching, you should know that a banshee is near. Her appearance may change according to the age of the deceased one, either taking the shape of a young maiden sweetly singing and weeping or the form of a wrinkly old woman, mourning and crying. And sometimes…her gruesome and horrendous figure lets you speechless.
The Children of Lir
There once were four siblings whose mother died. The three boys and one girl still loved their only remaining parent, their father named Lir. And this guy, who was either blind or didn’t have a very functional mind, remarried Aoife, a jealous and wicked woman who planned to murder Lir’s children.
But Aoife chickened out and decided in the last moment to turn them into swans. This course would last 900 since she wanted Lir to love her forever. However, their father found out about the course and since he couldn’t really do anything about his children, he decided to course Aoife to be a demon of the air for eternity. This Celtic myth most probably inspired Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Wild Swans” which is extremely similar to the Celtic myth.
Which is your favorite Celtic myth?