Irish mythological creatures stand out among mythical beings from around the world as some of the most captivating.
They’re not only popular (like the Leprechaun) but also super-scary in some cases, and often with exciting backstories. Even the dullest creatures have something you may find interesting – no doubt they’re all myths and legends from Irish culture.
We want to go over all their backstories, explain why they’re so important in Irish folklore, and how they compare to creatures from other myths.
This will give you a close look into how the Irish thought about spirits and
36 Exciting Irish Mythological Creatures
1. Abhcán – Dwarf Poet
He belonged to the Tuatha De Dannan (a race of Irish mythological beings) as a musician dwarf.
His purpose was mainly to sing, play music, and recite poetry. He made warriors and kings go to sleep with his voice and music.
According to the myths, Abhcán sails in a bronze boat with a tin sail until he’s captured. He got away from his capturer by singing a lullaby that made him sleep.
This is one of the good creatures, mainly considered a god.
2. Abhartach – Vampire King
Also known as the “Dwarf King” or Avartagh, this creature was vicious, cruel, and scary.
It was supposed to be a tyrant who eventually got killed. But given his evilness, Abartach emerged from the grave as a vampire. He then decided to go after innocent people to drink their blood.
Stories and legends say that Abartach story was true. In contrast with Count Dracula, this tyrant truly existed to the point he was the true inspiration for Dracula’s story.
3. Aibell – Guardian Spirit
Another Irish deity, this time a Goddess. She was considered a Guardian Spirit (like an angel) who carried a harp and sang beautiful hymns that killed her enemies.
While it was supposedly a gorgeous sight, her singing and music were a premonition. Anyone who heard her sing and playing music would die soon.
4. Alpuachra – Joint-Eater Fairy
This fairy was also known as the “Just-Halver” because he ate half the food of people. It was supposed to haunt those who ate newts were beset by the Alpuachra.
According to the legend, the Joint-Eater doesn’t let people get fat and nourish their bodies from food. Thus, they eventually starve and die of hunger.
The same legends say that the Alpuachra gets out of people’s bodies when it gets thirsty. Eating salty meats supposedly got it to jump into bodies of water to refresh.
5. Balor – Evil Eye
Balor was the name of the Fomorians leader. His complete name was “Balor of the Evil Eye,” a man who possessed a giant eye that could kill anyone and destroy countries.
His eye came from a spell that he was exposed to as a child. This granted the eye the ability to kill anyone who got in his sight.
Many people compare Balor to Cyclops from Greek mythology.
6. Bánánach – Battle-Haunting Spectres
Not an Irish creature is as scary as the Bánánach.
These were specters, a combination of a ghost and a living, like a demon. They appeared at night, haunting battle sites in search of souls from dead men.
Many stories and myths described the Bánánach as goat-like demons.
7. Banshee – Keening Ghost
Also known as the “Wailing Spirits,” they are among the most popular Irish creatures you’ll learn about. Banshees were ghosts and living creatures simultaneously, spirits with devilish eyes, pale skin, and white or black dresses.
They used to haunt men with their wailing and signify the death of a holy person or family member.
8. Bodach – Old Trickster
A man with a scary appearance, long arms and long legs, no face, and pale semblance appeared at night.
The Bodach was supposed harmless but loved to play tricks with children, scaring them away from doing evil deeds.
9. Cailleach – Old Hag
There are many stories behind the Cailleach – some say it was an old creature that helped create the world. Others say it was the Queen of the Winter, a deity in its own right.
Either way, it took the form of an old woman from the sea. It used to scare away sailors and people who lived close to the ocean.
The appearance of the old woman wearing long dresses and with a devilish look who haunted men is very close to that of the Baba Yaga from Slavic myths.
10. Carman – Irish Witch
Another creature with a wide array of stories was the Carman – also known as a Celtic goddess and Irish witch.
Legends say she came from Athens with her three sons (Dub, Dother, and Dian) to lay waste of Ireland. Her sons were taken out of the country, and she was imprisoned, then died of grief.
Myths call Carman a spirit, a person who signifies destruction and the start of the yearly harvest.
11. Cat Sí – The King of the Cats
Depending on who you ask, the Cat-Sith could be the King of the Cats or a witch.
Either way, the story comes from the Irish wildcat. While the real animal can barely cause harm due to its small size, the Cat Sí could take the soul of humans.
Some people also believed the Cat Sí to be a witch who used the dead bodies to make evil magic.
The original Cat Sí was supposed to have a black body and a white mark on its chest.
12. Changeling – Fairy Baby
Fairies in ancient Ireland were supposed to struggle with birth. Some of their offspring were born with deformities and awful diseases, which fairies hated.
They stole human babies and put their deformed babies in the cradles instead. These changelings eventually became part of human families, feeding on fortune and rejoicing when something terrible happened to their new families.
13. Clurichaun – Mischievous Fairy
Some Irish fairies like to play pranks and jokes, becoming an annoyance. Like the Leprechaun, the Clurichaun was a creature who messed with people and children.
But this one had the look of an old man, an alcoholic, resembling a homeless person. The stories say the Clurichaun liked to mess with kids who drank alcohol before they were of age and winery owners who left their wine barrels unprotected.
The creature carries a bag of silver and a bottle of wine wherever it goes.
14. Daoine Maithe – Human-Like Fairies
Some creatures are good-looking, bringers of good vibes. Among them, the Daoine Maithe stood out as the most popular.
They looked like humans and were supposed to come from heaven. Some of these fairies were angels who committed sins, but they weren’t bad enough sins to deserve hell.
Most Daoine Maithe were kind, solitary, and honest but could become evil if they were attacked or wronged.
15. Dearg Due – Female Irish Vampire
Another vampiric creature, this time, takes the form of a woman. The Dearg Due seduced young and old men to drink their blood.
She was Abhartach’s female companion, almost as terrifying and feared in the old times.
Her story inspired many myths from around the world. Among the most popular, you’ll find the story of Elizabeth Bethory “The Blood Countess.”
16. Dobhar-chú – Water Hound
You could also call it King Otter, as it has a confusing appearance, like a mix of a hound and an otter with fish features.
The creature haunted people who bathed in a deep lake and river waters. Supposedly, the animal didn’t get wet due to its waterproof fur.
17. Donn Cúailnge – Brown Warrior Bull
This was a bull who haunted battlefields and used to kill enemies without remorse, like a beast.
The bull was the most fertile, the biggest, and most productive of all studs. It belonged to the town of Cooley, and many people considered it a god.
While some legends say the Donn Cúailnge had no owner, other stories say he was the property of a smith who took it to battles.
18. Dullahan – Headless Horseman
If you’ve ever heard of the story Sleepy Hollow, you already know what we’re talking about. The Sleepy Hollow was American, though.
The Irish version originated in the middle ages, and its name says, Dullahan was a rider with no head. Its horse was black with a black cape.
According to the legends, Dullahan only rode his horse to signify death. Wherever he passed through, someone died in no time.
Also, Dullahan carried a long whip that he used to bathe curious onlookers with blood or blind them in one eye.
19. Ellén Trechend – Three-Headed Monster
Monsters are also part of Irish mythology, like the Ellén Trechend, a three-headed creature.
This monster lived in a cage and emerged to eat humans. Some stories describe it as a dragon that could breathe fire and burn cattle.
Most legends say the Ellén Trechend had the shape of a vulture and a snake simultaneously. It used to visit small towns and wreak havoc.
20. Failinis – Warrior Dog
Like the warrior bull, the Failinis was a fearless dog who fought with the bravest warriors and could defeat even the biggest of humans.
Also known as the defeaters of beasts, Falinis was big enough to destroy other beings and win battles for its owners.
21. Far Darrig – Mischievous Fairy
Like the Leprechaun and the Clurichain, the Far Darrig was a mischievous fairy who didn’t hesitate to make people feel scared, annoyed, and frustrated.
This fairy, however, was Leprechaun’s evil twin. While the less evil twin was more of a practical joker, the Far Darrig could imitate human’s laughs and wailings, scaring its victims away from forests.
The Far Darrig was also known to appear in dreams and feed on human terror, especially in the middle of the night.
22. Fear Gorta – Phantom of Hunger
With the looks of a starving old man, the Fear Gorta was supposed to signify hunger and food shortage.
This creature appeared as a walking corpse, almost like a zombie, with protruding bones and pale skin.
Despite its looks, the Fear Gorta could signify success. The legend says that this creature asked people for food, and those who gave it so could walk away fearless as they were blessed with prosperity. Those who didn’t would suffer eternal hunger.
23. Gancanagh – Love-Talker
It took the shape of a beautiful young man with the power of smooth talk. The Gancanagh could seduce men and women alike, eating their souls away.
The creature allured people with an exquisite scent. Its face was feminine and beautiful. It wore upper-middle-class attire and could seduce anyone.
This was also a fairy, but not as malevolent as others. Those who wasted fortunes in the name of lust were believed to be haunted by the Gancanagh.
24. Glas Gaibhnenn – Magical Cow
Another mythological animal, this time a cow. This cow had legendary powers, like the ability to produce unbeatable amounts of milk from its udders.
In contrast with a typical cow, this magical creature had green spots and colossal size. When the Glas Gaibhnenn appeared, it was because excellent yields and harvest seasons approached.
This was a cheerful appearance, and many people believed it emerged from the river.
25. Kelpie – Water Monster
The shape of a horse or foal, evil eyes, and a beautiful appearance – Kelpies were human-eating monsters.
But Kelpies were also known to take the shape of men and women, using their bodies to attract onlookers close to bodies of water to meet a horrific fate.
These creatures attracted humans to rivers and lakes using their beautiful appearances. Children, more than anything, used to get closed enough for the monster to pull them into the water, eat them, and leave their hearts and livers behind.
26. Leanan Sídhe – Evil Muse
The appearance of beautiful women seduced men and took away their souls. While humans got in with the Leanan Sidhe, they eventually died for mysterious reasons.
This creature only sought mortal lives she could take the soul from. Many stories call her a fairy mistress who also had vampiric habits, like drinking their victims out of their blood.
Some artists and poets got in love with the muse to eventually fall into madness, reaching the same fate.
27. Leprechaun – Mischievous Fairy
No Irish myth is as popular as the Leprechaun, and for a good reason.
This creature has been related to good luck and wealth, while others refer to it as an impractical joker who loves to scare humans at night by playing games on them.
Leprechauns trick humans into making bad decisions and take their possessions away.
This creature often took the appearance of an old fairy with old clothes, a hat, and only one shoe. It is heavily attracted to shiny objects like coins and jewelry.
28. Werewolves of Ossory – Werewolves
One of the first legends of werewolves in Europe came from the Irish. They were first named Man-Wolves of Ossory, as mythical monsters who haunted humans and ate their flesh.
Irish was once plagued by wolf packs from top to bottom. This gave the inhabitants the idea that wolves were evil beings and despised until they created this myth.
The werewolves were often related to evil warriors who raped and murdered people after battles, men who went from heroes to monsters leaving their bodies behind.
An animated film called Wolfwalkers was inspired by the story of the Werewolves of Ossory as men who left their bodies behind to become night creatures.
RELATED: Hollywood Movies Based on Mythology
29. Manannán – Sea God
Another leader of the Fomorians, Manannán, was known as the “Son of the Sea.” He was a warrior, king, and god who guarded the sea against evil spirits and enemies.
Tales say the Manannán travels across the sea with a boat that drives itself. He signifies calm waters and beautiful days in the open sea.
His appearance and story resemble that of Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea.
30. Merrow – Sea Roamers
Another sea creature, this time not as positive. The Merrow were human-like creatures that walked on the seafloor and could swim like a fish.
While they look similar to mermaids when described, the Merrow didn’t have fish-like bottoms. Instead, they had human feet. This allowed them to either live like fish in the ocean or roamed in human towns as men or women.
The Merrow weren’t exactly bad, but many stories call them the robbers of husbands. Fishermen were said to leave their wives for the beauty and gentle care of the merrow.
31. Muckie – Sea Monster
One of the most mysterious creatures, the Muckie inhabited seas, lakes, and rivers. In modern times, the creature supposedly lives in the Lakes of Killarney.
Either way, the animal is supposed to look like a giant eel with arms and a tail. Many people compared the story of the Muckie to that of the monster of the Loch Ness from Scotland.
32. Oilliphéist – Irish Dragon
If there ever were a dragon in Europe, it was probably the Oilliphéist (or where this myth comes from).
This was another Irish monster with the appearance of a giant reptile that could fly. The animal inhabited lakes, caves, and rivers and defeated hundreds of warriors who intended to kill it.
33. Pooka – Shapeshifter
Also known as the “Puca” or “Phooca,” this mythological creature was an evil fairy.
This wasn’t a mischievous or straight-up evil spirit, but it was related to animals that came out at night.
The original Pooka was believed to look like a horse (as a shapeshifter) who liked to make noise close to chicken and cow farms to scare the animals. This kept them from producing milk or laying eggs.
A Pooka wears a dark coat and tended to vandalize properties as well, especially at night. It didn’t harm people or animals but could wreak havoc in farms and houses.
34. Selkie – Seal Folk
Similar to werewolves, the selkies could change their form from sea animals to humans. But strangely, the Selkies change their shape from seals.
These selkies were known for being evil creatures who lured humans to the sea. They seduced men and women, eventually taking over their life. Some stories also say that selkies could live among humans, sometimes marrying and having families.
The story of the seal folk is close to that of the Bucca (a shapeshifter like the Puca), also from Celtic mythology.
35. Sluagh – Evil Spirits
These were evil spirits who haunted humans in search of humans’ souls. As half-ghost and half-demons, these spirits always looked to take souls of any human who got in their path.
The Sluagh roamed forests and prairies. Stories say they made no sound but used to travel in large groups, almost like an army of spirits.
36. Una – Fairy Queen
Fairies are among the most common of Irish creatures. And they had a queen.
She was called Una and used to rule the fairy kingdom. This power made her one of the most popular creatures in Celtic mythology.
Shakespeare uses the Fairy Queen as inspiration for his novel A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Irish Mythology Is Not to Dismiss!
As you can see from these fascinating myths and stories, the Irish certainly had a lot to do with popular culture today.
Legends like the Leprechauns and the Werewolves of Ossory are undoubtedly important, considering how present they are in today’s media.
And that’s only two of them. Don’t forget about the Banshees, Merrow, Bodach, and even Dullahan. These are undoubtedly stimulating myths that have shaped our modern stories and captivated thousands (in a good or wrong way).
Either way, we hope this list of Celtic mythological creatures was a great read and enjoyable. And more importantly, informative. Now you know where some of those popular stories come from…
George K has been immersed into the world of myths and dreams for a very long time now, attempting to find the numerous symbolisms and meanings attached to them. He is a prolific writer along with being an independent researcher. Contributing his knowledge and learnings to several magazines and blogs, he has the unique ability to simplify and explain even the most intricate subjects.