IRISH GHOST STORIES: The Dearg-Due
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR! Time for bangers and mash (the homemade dish we prepare each St. Patrick’s Day as a family tradition), green drinks, green hair-dye, and for pinching people who don’t wear green. (An interesting tradition all to itself started by faerie folk, particularly our favored clurichaun.)
Green rules the day!
However … monsters still rule the night, and as @TheMonsterGuys, St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be complete without a good ol’ Irish ghost story.
Bit o’ trivia for ye before we dig up any ghosts: Did you know that Abraham (Bram) Stoker, an Irishman himself, blended the Slavic vampire myth with lore from his own country to create the now-classic Count Dracula?
There are a number of vampiric faeries in Celtic folklore, like the leanansidhe [leananshee], sister to the bansidhe [banshee], but today we’re considering a legend that many consider NOT to be a faerie. We, however, consider her to be quite similar to the sluagh [sloo-ah]—SO. MANY. FUN. WORDS!—who are an undeadly class of the fae folk all to themselves.
Meet the DEARG-DUE [dar-ruhg du-ih].
This tragic figure – a pale-haired, red-lipped seductress, whose name literally means ‘red-blood sucker’ – shares some universal traits with other vampires, but unlike the rotting corpses of Eastern Europe’s bloodsuckers, this Irish spirit is both beautiful and seductive.
As the old story goes:
There was a young girl who loved a simple peasant boy. To their dismay, her parents arranged for her to marry a chieftain in exchange for money and influence. As so many arranged fairytale marriages turn out, the rich chieftain was a lecherous and evil man who locked her away as a trophy, abusing her and feeding her on occasion. She wasted away over time, slowly giving way to a painful death of self-starvation.
The only one who noticed her disappearance was the simple peasant boy, and it was his sorrow that brought her back.
The spirit of the girl became vengeful and hungry in her own way. She rose again, an image of beauty, but a spirit of fury. She butchered the chief, drinking his blood – and her bloodthirst continued: when some go missing, or when children become mysteriously ill, or die unexpectedly, it is often attributed to the cursed and blood-thirsty Dearg-Due.
She steals the blood of children, of the innocent, and of young men. It is believed that she haunts their dreams with a siren’s song, luring them into the darkness, and beckoning them to follow her to her grave. It is there that she punishes the innocent as she was punished in life.
To keep her spirit at bay, people began the annual ritual of placing stones over her grave, a long-standing tradition in Irish lore for preventing the dead from rising again. The weight of the stone pile kept her asleep in her death, similar in the way that the Slavics would place stones on the head and chest, or in the mouth, of their dead.
Side thought: The Slavics would also nail the well-preserved bodies of their dead to their coffins to prevent them from rising again.
Perhaps it was this legend that inspired Stoker to blend mythologies, drawing as well from other inherited regional stories.
So be merry this fine St. Paddy’s Day! Wear a bit of green, and have a boxty for us. Most of all, though, be careful of any seductive spirits, lest you get more than a simple pinch during this beloved Irish celebration.
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