The Dullahan – The Headless Horseman of Ireland

By | 2017-10-27T14:25:05+00:00 October 27th, 2017|Irish Knowledge|0 Comments

With Samhain and Winter fast approaching, you need to be aware of some of the demonic creatures that torment our shores. With the veil between the living and the dead at its weakest, some vile other worldly creature escape into this realm, to torment the living. Ireland is a land full of mystical legends and haunted tales. The tale of the Dullahan is one that strikes fear into the heart and gives new meaning to the word terrifying.

The Dullahan is the Irish version of the Headless Horseman. In Irish he is known as Gan Ceann, this means “headless” or “without a head”. He is usually male and is known to be an Unseelle Fairy. This court of fairies are not of a friendly disposition. The Unseellle were dark and evil fairy folk. They seem to always appear at night to terrify the human inhabitants of Ireland. They were not always completely malevolent and could become attached to humans but it was very rare. This sect of fairy folk can also be referred to as Elves.

The Dullahan, is a headless horse rider, that is most commonly depicted riding a perfect pure black stallion with a flowing black main which is like liquid darkness and death. He dresses in haunting black robes that move like smoke.

He carries his head under his arm, the death like head holding a sadistic smile. The eyes set into the decapitated head move constantly looking out over the Irish Countryside in search of prey, the Dallahan appears on the darkest nights of the year. Legend says that he carries a whip made of a human spine and carries object associated with death, such as candles inside skulls and a wagon made of human bones and rotting flesh. He holds his head up high to see across the lands of Ireland, with supernatural sight that defies the darkest night.

The Dullahan is not like the Banshee, she warns of death, he does not warn he is the vile bringer of death and collector of souls. Traveling so fast over the land that the hooves of his horse would set the hedges alight with flame, along the road he traveled.

Wherever The Dullahan stops riding that is where his victim dies. He will call out the name of the person he has come for and there is no hiding from the imminent death that will follow. As soon as the name is called the person will die.

The Dullahan can pass through all gates and all forms of locks,  they open as he approaches. If you happen to see the Dullahan beware, they do not like to be watched while they carry out there deathly duties, and will throw a bucket of human blood on anyone that dares to do so. The only defense against the vile Dullahan is gold, they are terrified of gold in even the smallest of amounts.

The Dullahan is also said to be the spectre behind the reins of the infamous

Death Coach. The Death Coach is woven into fabric of the folklore and legends of Ireland, known in Irish as the Coiste Bodhar. The sight or Sound of The Death Coach warns all who witness its eerie sound or presence of the imminent death of themselves or a loved one. Legend says that once the Death Coach comes to earth it can never return empty. The Death Coach is referred to by W.B. Yeats and appears in the famous Irish movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

It is thought that the Dullahan might be the manifestation of the Celtic God Crom Dubh or those who suffered the fate of human sacrifice, done in his name, he was the Celtic god of fertility. He was the chosen God of the Irish Ancient King Tighermas. Every year he would offer human sacrifices to Crom Dubh and the chosen method of sacrificial execution was decapitation. The practice of worshipping the Gods of the Ancients stopped with the coming of Christianity in the 6th Century.

This is when the old ways started to die out but they never died out completely and some of our ancient traditions still survive to this day. Remember to be aware that there is always something that inspired our haunted folklore and I cant help but wonder what the truth is. This Samhain (Halloween) make sure to watch out for evil spirits and to ward off The Dullahan, make sure to wear something gold, even a small gold pin may save your life.

About the Author:

Sinead is the head of our Historical and Cultural research team. Sinead studied Archaeology with modular Anthropology, and has Post Graduate qualifications in Heritage Management, including History, Museum Management and Religious Studies.

Leave A Comment