Ireland is not particularly known for its vampire legends. Strange, in a way, because the Emerald Isle gave birth to two of the best-known and most influential vampire authors in history: Bram Stoker and Sheridan LeFanu. The authors of both Dracula and Carmilla, respectively, were both born and raised in Ireland and likely owe some of their literary creations’ characteristics to stories they heard growing up.
The most famous of Ireland’s vampires is a specific woman known as the Dearg Due (dar-ag dua) or “red blood sucker” said to be buried in Waterford, Ireland. The story is told of a beautiful young woman who, forced to marry a cruel and abusive clan chieftain, committed suicide. At the anniversary of her death, she rose from the grave with a blood lust. She began with her father and former husband, but her rage and thirst could never be sated. She sings to men in their sleep, luring them from their homes and draining the blood from their bodies.
In their earlier, pre-Christian forms, many fae creatures had distinctly vampiric characteristics. The first of these is called the Leanan–Sidhe (Lee-awn She). They appear as beautiful women, often invisible to everyone but their intended victim, who seduce men and try to cause them to fall in love. If successful, the Leanan-Sidhe will drain him of life energy during sex, similar to a succubus, and feeds small amounts of her blood to him so that he is inspired to write love poetry to her. Slowly, he is drained to a husk. If, however, the man does not fall in love with her, the Leanan-Sidhe will strangle him and drain his body of blood. In some versions of the legends, resisting the seduction of the Sidhe causes her to fall in love with her intended victim and serve him as a slave.
Rather than simply drink the blood like most vampires, this creature has an element of the vampiric witch to her. She keeps her victims’ blood in a large red cauldron, which is the source of her ability to shape-shift into animals, become invisible, and remain youthful. The Sidhe in this creature’s name is a word traditionally associated with the fae in Irish folklore and refers to the ancient burial mounds Celtic people used for centuries. These mounds were often believed to be gateways between the land of the living and the dead. Some early beliefs about the origin of the fae mention not Arcadia, but rather the underworld.
A variation on this theme is the Baobhan Sith (Bavaan Shee). Technically a revenant, created when a woman died in childbirth and the body rose as a fae—again we see references to the underworld origin of fae—this vampire was unusual in that it would attach itself to a specific family and live among them normally. In fact, prior to the arrival of Christianity in Scotland, it was considered a sign of status to have one in the family. Most likely a precursor to the Banshee, the Baobhan Sith warned of impending death by wailing and, if a group of them came together to wail, then the death would be of a great person. After Christianity took hold, however, the Baobhan Sith took on a more evil role.
Described as a beautiful, tall, pale woman in a green dress (which hid cloven hooves), this vampire would appear to lone shepherds or travelers as a woman they knew or lusted after and lead them away to dance. Once the man was exhausted, the Baobhan Sith would attack and drink his blood. They could also transform into crows and, like most fairies, it was vulnerable to iron.
Similarly, people from Great Britain to Brazil to Eastern Europe and the United States all tell tales of White Ladies whose appearance boded death on the nights of the full moon. Originally ghosts of noblewomen who had been murdered or died an otherwise tragic death, and later associated with any local tragedy, they could be seen wandering cemeteries, crossroads, and the castles and manors where they died. Dressed in period finery and carrying chalices filled with poison, it was said that they would call out with hypnotic voices, inviting any who heard them to dance to music that didn’t exist. Those who accepted the invitation would be drained of blood, their bodies found the next morning by the side of the road. The White Ladies’ very touch was icy cold and could drain the life energy of the living. These ghostly ladies, like their fae counterparts, were vulnerable to the touch of iron but could also be warded off by crucifixes or priestly blessings. Another variation on this theme is the Lady in Red, more often a prostitute or jilted lover killed in a fit of passion and often to be found haunting theaters, hotels, and brothels.
Heard about any that I missed? Please let us know in the comments below!
Brian McKinley doesn’t really exist. He’s a constructed mortal identity used by a relatively young Vampyr in order to publish the truth about The Order. Due to the world-wide influence of The Order and its minions, these accounts must all be published as fiction. Sometimes the names and sequence of events have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and to keep from getting sued.
Brian is no longer a typical Vampyr and, for this reason, lives in hiding and writes from a secret location. The real “Brian” lives a life of danger and excitement; he loves Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and gangster movies as much as he loves chicken fried steak. And he really loves chicken fried steak! He’s a reader, a role-player, and a dreamer. He’s lived many lifetimes and is eager to share as many of them as possible with his readers.
He’s the author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony and Drawing Dead: A Faolan O’Connor Novel which won the Author’s Talk About It 2016 Horror Novel Contest.