Spirituality

What is a leprechaun

By Jean Sanders
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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man dressed as leprechaun peering around a wall
These apparently aged, diminutive men are frequently to be found in an intoxicated state, caused by home-brew poteen.
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Leprechaun (Old Irish for 'small body'), in Irish folklore, is a fairy in the shape of an old man, sometimes conceived as a cobbler, with a hidden store of gold.

So much part of Irish folklore, Leprechauns are said to be very small sprites who sometimes live in farmhouses or wine cellars. They are known to aid humans and perform small labors for them. Sometimes they ask humans for supplies and furniture, for which in return they give objects which bring luck and fortune.

Leprechauns are called fairy cobblers, for they make shoes for elves (but always one shoe, never a pair). Supposedly, they are seen quite often by humans and are described as merry little fellows gaily dressed in old-fashioned clothes; green, with a red cap, leather apron, and buckled shoes. Full grown leprechauns are reported to be about 2 feet tall. They will frequently be clothed in the garb of a shoemaker, with a cocked hat and a leather apron. Frequently scowling, leprechauns are said to resemble small, grumpy old men.

They spend a great deal of their time making shoes. Most importantly, each and every leprechaun possesses a hidden pot of gold. Stories say that treasure hunters looking for a Leprechaun's pot of gold should listen for the sound of a shoemaker's hammer. If caught, the leprechaun must reveal the whereabouts of his pot of gold. But be careful! Keep your eyes on the tricky leprechaun every second. He will try to trick you into looking away, and if you do...Poof! He vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.

What about the word "leprechaun?"

The name leprechaun may have derived from the Irish leath bhrogan (shoemaker), although its origins may lie in luacharma'n (Irish for pygmy). These apparently aged, diminutive men are frequently to be found in an intoxicated state, caused by home-brew poteen. When they finish their daily tasks, leprechauns like to organize wild feast, during which time they are referred to as cluricauns. These (often drunk) cluricauns can then be seen riding in moonlight on the back of a dog or a sheep. However they never become so drunk that the hand which holds the hammer becomes unsteady and their shoemaker's work affected.

Even though there may be some disagreement on exactly what is a leprechaun, most people beleive that leprechauns act as self-appointed guardians of ancient treasure (left by the Danes when they marauded through Ireland) by burying it in crocks or pots. This may be one reason why leprechauns tend to avoid contact with humans whom they regard as foolish, flighty (and greedy?) creatures. If caught by a mortal, he will promise great wealth if allowed to go free. He carries two leather pouches. In one there is a silver shilling, a magical coin that returns to the purse each time it is paid out. In the other he carries a gold coin which he uses to try and bribe his way out of difficult situations. This coin usually turns to leaves or ashes once the leprechaun has parted with it.

The Leprechaun family tree

The leprechaun 'family' appears split into two distinct groups - leprechaun and cluricaun. Cluricauns may steal or borrow almost anything, creating mayhem in houses during the hours of darkness, raiding wine cellars and larders. They will also harness sheep, goats, dogs and even domestic fowl and ride them throughout the country at night. Although the leprechaun has been described as Ireland's national fairy, this name was originally only used in the north Leinster area. Variants include lurachmain, lurican, and lurgadhan. And what is a leprechaun in Irish literature?

Leprechauns rarely appear in what would be classed as a folk tale; in almost all cases the interest of these stories centers round a human hero. Stories about leprechauns are generally very brief and generally have local names and scenery attached to them. The tales are usually told conversationally as any other occurrence might be told, whereas there is a certain solemnity about the repetition of a folk-tale proper.

In most tales and stories leprechauns are depicted as generally harmless creatures who enjoy solitude and live in remote locations, although opinion is divided as to if they ever enjoy the company of other spirits. Although rarely seen in social situations, leprechauns are supposedly very well spoken and, if ever spoken to, could make good conversation.

Now that you know all about the lucky Leprechaun, you might want to familiarize yourself with the four leaf clover and all of the good fortune it may bring you.

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