Lesser known folklore Creatures – The Clurichaun

Well, it’s that time of year again. St. Patrick has banished all of the snakes from Ireland, very good-looking Brazillians have frozen whilst dancing on parade floats, our emerald clad American cousins have been and gone to Dublin to feel close to their Irish ancestry, and we all got very very merry indeed.

It just so happens that getting very drunk is the favourite pastime of one of Ireland’s lesser-known folklore creatures; The Clurichaun.

A Clurichaun is the mythological first-cousin to the Leprechaun, meaning that they are often compared to and even confused with each other.

Clurichauns, and the stories about them, are most often found in Munster, Irelands southern province. More specifically, however, they are found in wine cellars. If you were to leave your drinks store unlocked, unattended, and unbarred, you would soon find it dry if there was a Clurichaun about!

With that in mind, here are the dos and dont’s when dealing with a Clurichaun

DO: Double check whether it is a Clurichaun or a Leprechaun. A Leprechaun would be very insulted if accused of being one of their drunken cousins. A Clurichaun however, is easily differentiated by his attitude and fashion sense. They favour reds and plums over the earth tones of their Leprechaun counterparts and have the attitude of a ragged fop rather than the honest worker. They also tend towards having a health does of facial hair, whereas the typical Leprechaun is clean shaven.

DON’T: Take your eyes off him. One of the reasons they are confused with the Leprechaun is that they share the same trait of disappearing if you look away for even an instant. The difference though, is that where a Leprechaun will simply vanish, a Clurichaun will vanish and take your wine and beer with him!

DO: Listen to his stories. Clurichauns are fabulous wordsmiths, and love nothing more than sharing a drop of whiskey with a friendly ear in exchange for their wonderful tales. Be careful though, as their constitution is such that thy can drink the most seasoned drinker under the table and still weave a tale.

DON’T: Anger a Clurichaun. They may be small but they can be fierce. Their cheery and laid-back attitude makes them slow to anger but, once angry, their vindictive fury can be terrifying to behold. They are likely to;

  • Turn your milk sour
  • Stop your hens from laying
  • Cause your family and household to come down with a pox
  • Make your cattle fall ill
  • Make your sheep break their pens
  • Beat you so badly that you will be bedridden for three weeks (in a particularly vicious story) So, its best to stay on a Clurichaun’s good side at all times, if you want to avoid these fates.

DO: Leave out food for them. After drinking all of your alcohol the Clurichaun is partial to a light snack, or seven. Leave out something tasty for them and they might be inclined to do something nice for you, such as leave you money or bring your house good fortune.

DON’T: Try to get away from them. If you find yourself plagued by a Clurichaun, the likelihood is that if you try to move house to get away, or try to otherwise get rid of him, it will have the opposite effect. Clurichauns are loyal creatures, and tend to attach themselves to families, mostly noble as they are the ones with the best wine cellar.

If you’re interested in stories about these creatures, there is a very famous one by folklorist Thomas Crofton Croker called The Haunted Cellar. Croker often used quite flowery and descriptive language so here is an abridged version for your enjoyment!

There was once a man named Justin McCarthy, who lived in his family home in Ballinacarthy. He was a wealthy man from a wealthy family and had inherited the house, including its extensive wine cellar. Though he as wealthy he was also generous, often sharing his wine with others and, the locals said, that he was a good employer to his household staff. Despite this he could not keep a butler in his employ for very long as every time he would send his butler to the wine cellar, they would return pale as a ghost and refuse to return to its depths. Mr McCarthy would then, invariably, have to retrieve the wine himself. In Mr McCarthy’s employ was a young lad named Jack, who worked in the stables. Jack had heard the stories about the cellar and thought that he was braver than all of the others, and whatever was down there was worth the raise in status and wages being Mr McCarthy’s butler would bring him. He offered his service to Mr McCarthy as his butler, and, as Mr McCarthy was a fair man, he was given the position on a trial basis. All was well for a while, and Jack worked diligently to prove his worth in his new position. One day, Mr McCarthy decided to go hunting with some friends, and instructed Jack that after dinner they would like some wine to pass the evening. Near the stroke of midnight the wine was called for, and Jack ventured to the wine cellar with a basket to fill with bottles. He crept down the stairs, thinking that there was nothing to fear waiting down there for him. As he neared the cellar door he heard a crashing from inside, followed by maniacal laughter. “It’s just my mind playing tricks on me,” Jack muttered aloud, and he took the large brass key to the cellar door, turned it in the lock, and ventured inside. As he enters the laughter grew louder and louder until it filled the entire room, shaking the racks of wine almost from their shelves and scaring poor Jack half to death. He heard a great crashing coming towards him, as if a wild animal had been let loose in the cellar. He fell backwards and, as quickly as he could crawled backwards out of the cellar. Shaking like a leaf he raced back to the drawing room, were Mr McCarthy and his friends were awaiting his return with the wine. Upon seeing Jacks ghostly white face and trembling form Mr Mc Carthy stormed down to the cellar. He burst into the room and was met by a tiny little man, wearing a red nightcap with a ruddy complexion, who hiccupped in greeting. “That’s it!” roared Mr McCarthy. “I’ve had it with you chasing my butlers away and scaring the life out of them. You’ve drank my wine and abused my generosity for far too long. I’m moving away tomorrow and you are never to darken my door again!” The Clurichaun grinned up at Mr. McCarthy. “Well, sir, in that case I will follow you. I will follow you and your wine to the ends of the earth if needs be. I am here to protect your wine from them that would take it from us… I mean you,” the Clurichaun corrected himself. Mr. McCarthy sighed, took the wine from the cellar and went back to his friends. Jack remained his butler but did not venture into the wine cellar ever again, and Mr McCarthy would have to fetch his own wine, carefully guarded by the Clurichaun of course, until the end of his days.