Leprechaun, 60-ish, Ireland
Shoemaker and gold-keeper
On Saint Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish. But, any day of the year, no one is more Irish than the wee leprechaun.
Standing all of two-feet tall, these little guys (And yes. They’re all guys, which may explain they’re grouchiness), get their name from their small stature. The word leprechaun (luprachán in Gaelic) means small-bodied. They’re shoemakers by trade and generally can be found wearing a cocked hat and leather apron.
Technically these guys are fairies, in the form of an old man. They’re not particularly friendly and tend to keep to themselves, in trees, at the end of rainbows. You know. The normal places.
Perhaps another coping mechanism for being around too much testosterone, like many a good Irish man, leprechauns are also fond of the drink, particularly their own home-brew. Bad for them. Good for us.
Most leprechaun’s are guarding more than a bowl full of marshmallow cereal. There’s gold in their pots. Lots of it.
Leprechauns think a lot of themselves and are the self-appointed guardians of an ancient treasure left by the Danes when they went marauding through Ireland centuries ago.
And they won’t let it go without a fight.
According to Irish folklore, a rainbow will always lead you to a pot of gold. Problem is, those darn leprechauns are always moving their pots, and the rainbows with them.
He has to be sneaky. Because, once you have him, you’re golden, so to speak. A leprechaun must reveal his treasure to anyone who can catch him.
So, the best time to snag him is when he had a few (which, legend says, is most of the time).
Just don’t be drunk when you go leprechaun hunting. You’ll need to be on your game. If caught by a mortal, the leprechaun will bargain for his freedom. 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.
And keep a firm grip. Don’t let him out of your eye. He can vanish in an instant.
WHAT HE CAN DO FOR YOU: Make you rich, if you can catch him.
DID YOU KNOW: Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, a Catholic holy day, until 1959, when Walt Disney released a film called “Darby O’Gill & the Little People,” which introduced America to the cheerful, friendly leprechaun now an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.
Other St. Patrick’s Day symbols:
The shamrock: This sacred plant in ancient Ireland symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. Many Irish wore the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.
The snake: It’s rumored that on his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland. Really, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The “banishing of the snakes” was really a metaphor for Christianizing Ireland.
The parade: The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762
The saint: St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish have observed the anniversary of St. Patricks’s fifth-century death as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.
The green river: Every year since 1962, the city of Chicago has dyed the Chicago River green by dumping 40 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river.