The Leprechaun, fairy elf from Irish mythology

The leprechaun is a fantastic creature well known from Irish folklore.

Like an elderly man with a tiny waist, wearing a bowler hat and dressed all in green, he lives in our villages and forests.

Halfway between a fairy, a hobbit and a gnome, many popular tales and legends describe how the leprechaun can come to the aid of men he considers good... and play terrible tricks on others!

Most folklorists describe these little men as solitary creatures who survive in the world of magic by working as shoemakers.

Where the figure of the leprechaun immediately becomes more interesting is when we know that these beings hide great treasures, in the form of pots filled with gold, and that they can grant certain of our wishes.

In short, the leprechaun is the mythological character who will interest us today, and whose mysteries we will try to unravel together!

Contents :

What is a leprechaun actually?

A magical character with a troubled origin

A few words about Irish legends and mythology

Discovery of 3 legends about the leprechaun

7 Fun Facts About the Leprechaun

The leprechaun as a good luck charm

The place of the leprechaun in contemporary Irish culture

Bronze statue of an Irish leprechaun.

What is a leprechaun actually?

The leprechaun is therefore a creature from Irish legends quite close to the leprechaun. So take a look at this doll, it will give you a good idea of ​​what a leprechaun looks like.

Another interesting approach could be to look at the etymology of his name in order to understand what kind of character he could be…

As such, most linguists tell us that the term "leprechaun" appears to be derived from the Irish "leath bhrogan", which simply means shoemaker. As we will see in one of the following points, this is indeed his main profession.

However, this is not enough for us, and we want to learn even more about this mysterious being. We will now look at its main characteristics.

A particular physical appearance

As we have just said, leprechauns are a kind of little elves wearing traditional, all-green costumes.

Probably inspired by Celtic druids, they have big beards and generally live in the forest.

Even if Irish mythology presents us with other ages, most leprechauns will be relatively old, enough in any case to be able to grow a large beard... and to have developed a pig-like character.

Also note here that, although most agree on "leath bhrogan", some linguists attribute the name leprechaun to the Irish word "luchorpán", meaning small body.

Shoemaker, a profitable profession!

Celtic mythology does not let this fool you: it is money that makes the world go round.

Their main activity for most of them consists of being a shoemaker. Making shoes therefore, the “basic” leprechaun will always have very beautiful, perfectly polished ones.

You should know that the main tool of the shoemakers of yesteryear was the hammer. The leprechaun always uses it, and this is another of his characteristics: hearing the sound of a hammer hitting leather on a regular basis can be a sign that one of these fey beings is close to you.

A taste for music

Like most Irish people, leprechauns have a taste for music and, more particularly, for the music of the Emerald Isle.

To the sound of bagpipes, harps, Celtic flutes and other violins: they know how to be great dancers and like to smoke pipes with their friends.

It is even said that hearing a melody coming out of nowhere (in the countryside or the forest for example) is a sign that a party leprechaun lives nearby.

Where the leprechauns live

Another indicator of their presence is simply knowing the places where they live. Hating above all crowds, leprechauns live far from cities and close to nature.

Some tales describe how one lived in the hollow of a tree at the edge of a forest, while another liked to take refuge in rabbit holes. Sometimes also, leprechauns will choose to live in abandoned buildings on isolated farms and hamlets.

A mischievous character

In terms of their character, these playful gnomes are particularly mischievous and will enjoy setting traps for those they meet. They are also quite good at guessing and will be able to ask you difficult riddles.

This lively mind also provides them with valuable help in protecting their treasures because, yes, a leprechaun will often hide a hoard that he has accumulated over the centuries.

Guardians of great treasures

Generally presented in the form of a pot filled with gold coins (its treasure can take another form, but everyone has this image in mind), its owner will only agree to leave it to you on the condition that you managed to catch it with your gaze, and you didn't let go until they revealed the location of the jackpot.

Indeed, the leprechaun's fear of being fixed by a man is even greater than his greed and love for riches.

The Republic of Ireland is rich in treasures, and Gaelic culture teaches us that they can be tourist or spiritual... but also material!

A four-leaf clover amulet, a leprechaun doll and a Claddagh ring

The luck of an Irishman

thanks to the lucky charms of Ireland

Discover

A magical character with a troubled origin

Despite its small stature, the leprechaun occupies a large place in the folklore of many countries.

Initially purely Irish, this magical being quickly became popular, seeing many people making a place for it in their imagination.

What's even more interesting here is to note that the leprechaun actually seems to come from beliefs that were also once shared by a whole bunch of different cultures!

Most folklorists believe that leprechauns themselves appeared around the year 700.

These creatures, however, have even older ancestors that go back several millennia in the past.

The Irish who remain closest to their roots know, for example, the “ clúrachán ”, this sort of little fairy living hidden in attics (and wine cellars, but that’s for another reason).

If we are telling you about it, it is because this clúrachán would seem to bridge the gap between the figure of the leprechaun and others dating from ancient Celtic culture.

The chain of transmission from the past to the present day is therefore very real here…

Path through a fantastic forest in Ireland in an autumn month.

A few words about Irish legends and mythology

Leprechauns, gnomes, leprechauns and leprechauns: Irish mythology is rich in these little prankster characters.

Besides their size, many of them share other characteristics, and for good reason: they all belong to the same family.

Most of them are direct descendants of the “Tuatha Dé Dannan” (about whom you can find more information here ). It is by this name that the major gods, goddesses and fantastic creatures of Irish folklore are designated.

More than just a name, this is a real family.

Those who descend from it (like the leprechauns) are called the “Aos Sí”.

Although, as we have said, the first appearance of our character dates back to the 8th century, Irish mythology did not wait for it to develop, even becoming one of the richest (and unique) in the world.

If you are also interested in the culture of this evergreen island, take a look at this collection of Irish lucky objects : you should find something there to make you travel and dream.

In short, through the Tuatha Dé Dannan - Aos Sí meditation, then Aos Sí – leprechaun, our little guy can boast of belonging to a powerful lineage!

Although at first, he was only a distant cousin, somewhat lost even, of this clan... That has changed a lot!

Today, leprechauns are arguably the best known of all the Tuatha Dé Dannan.

Figurine of a green leprechaun with his hat and beard.

Discovery of 3 legends about the leprechaun

Most of us have forgotten the original meaning of our ancestral fables and legends.

Simple stories to help children fall asleep, a way of explaining little-understood natural phenomena or historical facts made more and more allegorical: none of that!

Legends (and even more so those that we are now going to discover together) have always been created to teach profound lessons, to carry essential moral messages.

In our case, it will be here the avarice, madness and the desire to enrich oneself at all costs which will be illustrated, and against which we will be warned.

Yes, remember: leprechauns are the guardians of gold and treasure who can make many envious...

Lake in Ireland on which Vikings were able to sail.

A natural reaction to Viking invasions

The Vikings raided and invaded Ireland during the 7th and 8th centuries. (Hey, right at the moment when the leprechaun appeared…)

According to legend, the raids were so intense that all of the island's gold quickly found itself in the hands of foreign warriors who, not knowing how to transport it all, dropped some in places when they joined their longships.

In this context, small beings protecting nature appeared to collect the fallen gold and return it to the Irish. Seeing their distress, some even tried to collect the riches directly from the boats ready to leave (with more or less success, but that's another story).

When the Vikings saw that their treasures had diminished in size, they were not satisfied with it and set out again to burn villages and monasteries.

The leprechauns (yes, these little beings were indeed leprechauns) then had an idea : they were going to hide all the gold in the country to ensure that it never left.

Since then, each of them has jealously guarded a jar full of coins.

Middle Ages stained glass window showing a king with his scepter and crown.

Fergus, the hero of a famous tale

This third legend is undoubtedly the one you will hear the most if you ever have the chance to visit Ireland.

More precisely, a tale known under the name of “Echtra Fergusa maic Léti” (The adventure of Fergus son of Léte) and dating from the 8th century indeed presents us with the leprechaun alongside a king who is, to say the least, astonishing. …

So here is a summary of this story.

Long ago there lived a king known as Fergus Mac Leti, ruling a small kingdom in the west of Ireland where the crops were plentiful and the people happy.

One day, after spending the night drinking, King Fergus woke up on a beach where there was a group of leprechauns. Knowing the legend that surrounded them, he decided to catch them in order to claim the wishes to which he would then be entitled.

One of the sovereign's wishes was to be able to breathe underwater, which he was granted. Players and revengers, the leprechauns had however added a condition which unfortunate Fergus had to accept: this power would not work in the bay of Dundrum (in the region of the current city of Ulster).

Inevitably, our king decided one day to bathe there. A bad spell was then triggered and a terrible sea monster appeared before him.

Fergus was able to escape after several hours of struggle, but the vision of the beast was so horrifying that his face remained frozen in an expression of terror until his last breath.

Thus, the wish offered by the leprechauns had transformed into a terrible curse.

Representation of the young Lugh, in the guise of a barbarian warrior.

Lugh, the Irish god of light

According to the opinion of many historians, the leprechaun is in fact a representation of a character well known to the Irish: Lugh.

God of light, the Sun and greatest warrior in mythology, the evolution of his physical appearance has in fact reflected that of the Irish people's spirituality.

While he presented himself a long time ago as a young, proud man with undeniable physical power, he began to age and shrink.

Some even began to call him “Lugh chromain”, which means “Lugh the bent”. This posture comes from having moved into the underworld at the same time as the other gods, at the time of the Christianization of Ireland.

This is truly an iconic character, and one about whom you will learn more here.

The very colorful evolution of Lugh indeed testifies to the progressive abandonment of pagan traditions and beliefs of the past.

In short, this god would today take the form of the leprechaun, this sickly little being, fearful and fleeing society... but who nevertheless always hides great treasures...

Lake in Ireland on which Vikings were able to sail.

Rediscover a forgotten magic

pagan jewelry, symbols and lucky charms

Discover

7 Fun Facts About the Leprechaun

This part of the article is undoubtedly somewhat lighter and more frivolous than the rest.

However, it remains amusing to see how rich the traditions around the leprechaun are and how “amazing” ideas could see the light of day.

Anyway, now let's take a look at 7 fun facts about our small friend.

Catching a leprechaun is complicated...

Catching a leprechaun is no easy thing, that much is clear. They are fast, intelligent, fearful and some even have the power to make themselves invisible.

In short, you will need a lot of luck and patience to hope to achieve your goals.

As such, we do not have specific advice, as each encounter with these little beings can be different.

As a general rule, the noise we told you about at the beginning of the article (that of their hammer on the leather of the shoes they make) is a good indicator. Aside from that, the rest will come from your cunning and sagacity of mind...

Even if you manage to catch one, the game is not over. The leprechaun that you will have in front of you will indeed try to divert your attention by all means so that you take your eyes off him and he can run away.

…but not impossible!

Be careful, catching one is not an impossible thing. There is no shortage of stories of men and women who have had their dearest wishes granted thanks to a leprechaun.

No, you just have to know how to do it.

This was apparently the case in 1989 for an Irish businessman who claimed to have evidence that a leprechaun inhabited a hilltop in his village known as "Slieve Foye."

More precisely, the man presented a tiny green suit as well as gold coins that he said he had found in a clearing...

Although few people believe it, the “evidence” is now in a local museum where the curious can come and admire it.

If you want to embark on the adventure yourself, here are four tips from the wikiHow site for catching a leprechaun.

Some cities are in the game

Some towns give an important place to the leprechaun in their traditions and folklore. We can think of Dublin, Limerick or Cork, but there are many others.

This is for example the case of Carlingford in County Lough in Ireland, where every year a major leprechaun hunt is held.

Participants then look for ceramic statuettes or stuffed animals representing these natural beings, which they can then exchange for prizes.

However, nothing prevents the possibility that a real leprechaun could one day hide among the artificial representations...

A strong taste for alcohol

Pints ​​of beer, whiskey and bagpipes: we all have in mind the image of the drunk leprechaun drinking liters and liters of beer in cozy taverns among his peers.

This is true with some of the leprechauns. In particular, our little companions enjoy wine (remember, some live in wine cellars for this reason) as well as an Irish drink known as "poitín". They like to prepare their drunkenness potions in a large cauldron, and will happily give you a taste (provided you manage to find them).

If, however, you want to find a real drunkard, you will have to look instead among the cluricanes, the distant cousins ​​of the leprechauns known for their slight elbow and their numerous tricks played on men.

Shoemakers, but also bankers

We told you, a leprechaun will most of the time have a profession as a shoemaker.

Their miserly nature and the way in which they jealously guard their gold, however, naturally designate them for another profession: that of banker.

Did you know, for example, that the bank employees in the “Harry Potter” saga, these sickly and calculating little beings, were inspired by leprechauns?

There is no female leprechaun

Yes, it seems that there is no female leprechaun.

In any case, there is no trace of it. Two main theories have developed on this subject.

On the one hand, it could simply be that they are even more fearful of humans than their male counterparts, and therefore simply hide better.

The other theory is that leprechauns are purely masculine beings. Their grumpy, solitary, drinking and acerbic character could be a clue in this direction.

Decoration of a ceramic leprechaun on a swing.

The leprechaun as a good luck charm

A question arises when reading this article: is the leprechaun a good luck charm or, at least, could one of its representations be used as such?

The answer is quite simple. Yes.

From his appearance, our little man was linked to wealth through the pot of gold he keeps (and therefore to material success and abundance) but also to personal fulfillment (through the wishes he grants us if we catch it). Talking about a lucky leprechaun is therefore relevant, if only for these two reasons.

When we also know how rare it is to catch a leprechaun, and therefore that you really have to have exceptional luck to do so, everything becomes clearer.

Aside from the figure of the leprechaun, it is interesting to note how facing the subject of the Irish good luck charm is. We can for example cite the four-leaf clover, symbol of the country, or the Claddagh ring or the Celtic cross.

An expression also designates this link to lucky charms: “Luck of the Irish” is in fact commonly used to designate a character on whom fate has smiled in an extraordinary way.

Again, if you want to learn more about Ireland and its secrets, this collection on our site may be a good place to start.

Young woman with her hair dyed green and a leprechaun hat.

The place of the leprechaun in contemporary Irish culture

Today, the symbol of the lucky leprechaun serves as a tourist attraction for many cities which see it as a way to add customs and folklore on the cheap.

Certain Irish villages suddenly began to become “the village of leprechauns” overnight, without anything in their history justifying it.

Others of course have a real connection with this legendary character, but this is really not the case for everyone.

It was in fact from the end of the Middle Ages that the artists and authors of the Emerald Isle began to put the leprechaun at the center of their culture.

Our character has been so associated with the Irish for centuries now that some people began to get annoyed with leprechauns, believing that they harbored certain prejudices against them.

Here again, it is not the majority who look at these folk traditions with an amused eye...

During the massive immigration of the Irish to America, the figure of the leprechaun was even exported to the other side of the Atlantic.

Today, nearly 10% of the inhabitants of the United States have Irish origins, and therefore recognize our leprechaun as a symbol of their culture.

This is particularly noticeable during Saint Patrick's Day when many American cities adorn themselves with the green and orange colors typical of Irish culture. Celtic pubs are then decorated with Irish shamrocks, and Guinness (the country's famous beer) flows freely alongside whiskey glasses.

For a simple guy from fairy tales, the leprechaun is definitely surprising.

Lucky charm featured in this article

Leprechaun doll

Leprechaun doll

See more
author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.