The Truth about 
Irish Gaelic:

What do you think of the historically correct image of the Leprechaun?  I invite your input- send me e.mail! For more accounts of appearance click here.
Perhaps it is a reflection of the modern age  that there is little agreement between sub-cultures as to the nature of the Leprechaun. Today commercial  images seem to prevail and Celtic sub-cultures such  as Irish-Americans are quite content with the image of  the Leprechaun as overweight,  alcoholic, pipe smoker  with ill fitting clothing that they put up everywhere around  St. Patrick's Day (March 17). While I would not wish  to deny any group their Icons, I do want to provide an  alternate image which is based upon scholarship and oral  historical accounts. Start with the only reference to the Leprechaun or perhaps translators inserting the term, in the Ancient Irish Tales. Click here Next consult the extensive  research of Evans Wentz Just click. Then go on to read of the stories and sayings about the Leprechauns click here.  Ok then in a nutshell what is it all about? Click here then! Dennis King has found the following words in Irish Gaelic  to be related to the Leprechaun. He has discovered that "luchorpán", the earliest version was used in  the 8th century in "Echtra Fergusa maic Léti". It was then a type of water sprite. lochramán loimreachán loragádán lucharachán lucharbán luchargán lucharpán luchorp luchorpán luchragán, luchramán, luchrupán, lupracán, luprachán ,lúracán, lúrapóg, lurgadán , clúracán ,clúrachán, clutharachán.
I have provided a coloring page which will help one and all remember
how the Leprechaun looks! Please use it freely and perhaps more people
will know them when they see them! Click here for the coloring page.
An  account of the early or old Leprechaun notes that the hat has changed from the earliest records: The cap of rashes made by children gives a good idea of the ancient barread,
of which it is possibly an imitation. The old leprechaun, or fairy shoe-maker, was
always described as wearing knee breeches and a conical cap; although the moderns
usually represent him in a three-cocked hat.
-From:A Descriptive Catalogue of the Antiquities in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. William Robert Wilde, 1863




Leprechauns in Lives of the Saints- Second Voyage of St. Brendan of  Clonfert

95) After leaving this place they saw a little insignificant country
near them. And as they were landing there, the harbour was filled
with demons in the shapes of dwarfs and leprechauns opposing them,
whose faces were black as coal. Then said Brendan: ' Let go the
anchor, for no one can enter this land but one who shall wage human
war against demons, and shed blood over them.' They remained
there till the end of seven days and seven nights, and they could not

draw up their anchor, and they left it there, stuck between the rocks,
and then quitted the harbour.


95. ' Dwarfs and Leprechauns ' = in formis quasi pigmeorum, R. The
word luchurpdn (lit. little body) occurs in many forms, and is the Anglo-
Irish 'Leprechaun', a kind of fairy. In Rawl. B. 502 f. 41°. 5, these
beings are said to be the offspring of the unlawful intercourse of the
chilren of Seth with those of Cain; but according to ib. f. 42*'. 47 (||LU 2*
45) they are the descendants of Ham after he had been cursed by his
father. The qualification for entering the demon isle differs from the
Latin : ' nisi is qui bella humana gerit, et sanguinem fundit.'

-From:Bethada Naem NErenn-Lives of the Irish Saints, Charles Plummer, 1922

 It appears that it is all in translation. Clearly Brendan did not meet a race of little leather workers with crocks of gold. It seems that Dwarf's or little people were surely the ones.....

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The  Research of Evans-Wentz
From the work of Evans-Wentz  you receive an image of the Leprechaun or small, yet perfect in every way who  inhabits rocks or caves and guards a sack of gold.  His hat is red and sometimes he is to be found near springs. The leprechaun has several distinct virtues:  He is crafty and can not be caught.  When caught he must be honest and grant requests or tell you where his money is.
He is also  generous-  when caught he will hive his money away without a fight.
Having put so much gold aside he must be a hard worker and must also be thrifty.

The Leprechaun is not a Gnome or dwarf- he is "perfect in every way".  Dwarfs
and Gnomes have big heads and stubby bodies. Although perfect in his small way his perfection is that of a worker and craftsman and not that of the more aristocratic and well  dressed Gentry  who are beings who are small and resemble the aristocracy.  The Leprechaun is a well dressed craftsman and appears as a shoemaker.

One wonders - Why would such an ordinary  leather worker be so elevated?
Perhaps this importance of the  leather worker is quite ancient and derives from a time before metals when Leather was  one of the most important materials being used for everything from clothes to dishes to  armor?

Evans-Wentz  provides   primary records concerning the Leprechaun as  known by Irish  men and women of the 19th century. 

The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries
W.Y. Evans-Wentz 
( Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, N.J. 1978) 

“My mother once saw a leprechaun beside a bush hammering.  He disappeared before she could get to him, but he also was unlike one of the gentry.”-p47 Peasant Seer, County Sligo 

“The leprechaun is a red-capped fellow who stays round pure springs, generally shoemaking for the rest of the fairy tribes”- p.52 Patrick Waters, Tailor, Cloontipruckilish 

“One day ,in her girlhood, near a hedge from which she was gathering wild berries she saw a leprechaun in a hole under a stone:--He wasn ‘t much larger than a doll, and he was most perfectly formed , with a little mouth and eyes. Nothing was told about the little fellow having a money-bag, although the woman said people told her afterwards that she would have been rich if she had only had sense enough to catch him when she had so good a chance.”- p;71 Dr. Hyde, Ratra 

“....a leprechaun which had been appearing to school-children and to many of the country-folk. .....Most of them were certain that there could be such a creature showing itself....were all quite anxious to have a chance at the money-bag, if they could only see the little fellow with it.  I told one good natured old Irishman at Ballywillan......that the leprechaun was reported as captured by the police in Mullingar.  “Now that couldn’t be, at all, “ he said instantly, “for everybody knows the leprechaun is a spirit and can’t be caught by any blessed policeman, though it is likely one might get his gold if they got him cornered so he had no chance to run away.  But the minute you wink or take your eyes off the little devil, sure enough he is gone.”- p. 71 ,Ballywillan and Mullingar. 

“The leprechaun indicates the place where hidden treasures is to be found.  If the person to whom he reveals such a secret makes it known to a second person, the first person dies,  or else no money is found: In some cases the money is changed into ivy leaves or into furze blossoms.” -P.82 Lough Gur 

“The testimony of Celtic literature goes to show that  leprechauns and similar dwarfish beings are not due to a folk memory of a real pygmy race, that  they are spirits like elves, and that the folk memory of a Lappish-like people  (who may have been Picts) evidently was confused with them so as to result in their being anthropomorphosed..... While asleep on the seashore one day, Fergus was about to be carried of by the luchorpdin whereat he awoke and caught three of them to wit, one in each of his two hands and one on his breast.  “Life for life” (i.e. protection) say they.  “Let my three wishes (i.e.) choices be given,” says Fergus.  “Thou shalt have,” says the dwarf “save one which I forbid thee: thou shalt not go under Lough Rudraide (which) is in thine own country.” There after the luchuirp (little bodies) put herbs into his ears, and he used to go with them under seas.” In an etymological comment on this passage, Sir John Rhys says: “ The words luchuirp and luchorpain (Anglo-Irish leprechaun) appear to bean literally  “small bodies”, and the word here rendered dwarf is in the Irish abac, the etymological equivalent of the Welsh avanc, the name by which certain water inhabitants of a mythic natuer went in Welsh...”-p.237 

“Among the usually invisible races which I have seen in Ireland I distinguish five classes: 
1. There are the Gnomes who are earth-spirits, and who seem to be a sorrowful race.  I once saw some of them distinctly on the side of Ben Bulbin.  They had rather round heads and dark thick set bodies, and in stature were about two and one half feet. 
2. The Leprechauns are different, being full of mischief, though they, too, are small.  I  followed a leprechaun from the town of Wicklow out to the Carraig Sidhe, “Rock of the fairies, “ a distance of half a mile or more, where he disappeared.  He had a very merry face, and beckoned to  me with his finger”-p243, Mrs. X a cultured Irishwoman living in County Dublin. 




The Observations of


'...a little red jacket or roundabout, with red breeches buckled at the knee, gray or black stockings, and a hat, cocked in the style of a century ago [that would be 1800, dear reader], over a little, old, withered face. Round his neck is an Elizabethan ruff, and frills of lace are at his wrists.

'On the wild west coast, where the Atlantic winds bring almost constant rains, he dispenses with ruff and frills and wears a frieze overcoat over his pretty red suit, so that, unless on the lookout for the cocked hat, "you might pass a leprechaun on the road and never know that it's himself that's in it at all."'

There are variations: the leprechaun family was a diverse one; and each area of the country had its own name for the leprechauns living in the region. Each of these had its own style, which McAnally described:

  • The Logheryman of the Northern counties wears the uniform of some British infantry regiments, a red coat and white breeches, but instead of a cap, he wears a broad-brimmed, high, pointed hat, and after doing some trick more than usually mischievous, his favorite position is to poise himself on the extreme point of his hat, standing at the top of a wall or on a house, feet in the air, then laugh heartily and disappear.
  • The Lurigadawne of Tipperary wears an antique slashed jacket of red, with peaks all round and a jockey cap, also sporting a sword, which he uses as a magic wand.
  • In Kerry, the Luricawne is a fat, pursy little fellow whose jolly round face rivals in redness the cut-away jacket he wears, that always has seven rows of seven buttons in each row, though what use they are has never been determined, since his jacket is never buttoned, nor, indeed, can it be, but falls away from a shirt invariable white as the snow. When in full dress he wears a helmet several sizes too large for him, but in general, prudently discards this article of headgear as having a tendency to render him conspicuous in a country where helmets are obsolete, and wraps his head in a handkerchief that he ties over his ears.
  • The Cluricawne of Monaghan is a little dandy, being gorgeously arrayed in a swallow-tailed evening coat of red with green vest, white breeches, black stockings, and shoes that "for the shine of them would shame a looking glass." His hat is a long cone without a brim, and is usually set jauntily on one side of his curly head. When greatly provoked, he will sometimes take vengeance by suddenly ducking and poking the sharp point of his hat into the eye of the offender. Such conduct is, however, exceptional, as he commonly contents himself with soundly abusing those at whom he has taken offense, the objects of his anger hearing his voice but seeing nothing of his person.-

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What it is all About this Leprechaun

Whatever you do or think should be never think that we should all agree! Disagreement and free ranging personal opinion is a dear trait of the Celtic culture. Everything is interpreted. And that is the only firm law that exists.

Even though small people do turn up in the voyage of St. Brendan they don't seem to have been Leprechauns. Some have equated them with the Tuatha de Dannan but they don't appear in any form of leprechaun sense in the ancient stories. Most likely the leprechaun originated in the post Celtic period with the peasantry. This is not to say that I do not believe...but that the revelation came later in time.

What then does one do with the disagreement? Green, yellow, red, gold...bad, crafty good....conical hats, three corner hats, slightly nasty, very nice....

The best way to deal with this is to expect that the Leprechaun can dress and behave as he pleases and to acknowledge the mystery of it all - something that human's can't quite describe adequately.

The leprechaun may just be a mystery beyond our grasp. The Irish have described in the person of the leprechaun an amorphous yet knowable and realizable cloud of attributes- most of them in one context or another admirable. The cloud of mystery can not be seen unless it is papered over with story attached to it to give it shape. Sometimes there are gaps in the covering of this transparent entity but generally once covered it can be seen and described.

Here are a few of the attributes of the leprechaun that have been cobbled together by story to reveal him to us:

1. The Leprechaun is a professional- In ancient Celtic times leather would have been worked much as were metals. The use of leather pre-dated the use of metals so the leather worker would have been a very important specialist and of high rank in the community.

2. He would have made a fair amount of income-as he was a hard worker. As a professional the Leprechaun is well dressed. He is not a member of the gentry but his clothes do fit and he looks good on the street.

3. The Leprechaun was also thrifty- he saved his money and stored it away. How else would he have so many crocks of gold? A wonderful trait!

4. Leprechauns followed rules. When they were caught they had to do what they had to do and this is done without exception. One might think of this as a great way of instilling the concept of reciprocity.

5. Honesty is also a trait of the Leprechaun- when caught the answer must be true.

6. The Leprechaun drinks alcohol but he does not get drunk. He might get tired and go to sleep but when awakened he is sober and crafty.

7. My favorite aspect of the Leprechaun is the most Celtic. The Leprechaun is crafty, and sly. He does not trick people or take advantage of them. He simply catches them in their human failings. Word games that they could win by thinking they loose to the master Leprechaun. What a better trait in a peasant - the ability to live upon the edge of the law, spotting and exploiting loopholes legally.

So...when you find a need to talk about these values take  out the stories  and attach them to the amorphous cloud and you will find inside the form of the Leprechaun. Use these stories to let others see him and the values he represents.

If you see a Leprechaun that is not quite right- look for the stories that are used to reveal him. Where did they come from? If not from the Irish peasantry then away with them.

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