Emerald Isle

The Headless Horseman

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Irish Ghost Stories

The haunting tale of The Headless Horseman

The headless horseman is a very ancient tale of Ireland, stretching back to the days before Christ came with St Patrick, when a dark king used to sacrifice people to old black one-eye, Crom Cruach, by decapitation. That very same Crom Dubh, the worm god, who consumed the Druid Prince Cesard in green bubbling acid at the battle of Moy Tura after his collector of souls was struck down by Nuada with his golden sword! When you make a bargain with elder powers you keep it one way or the other.

And still they say his servants ride the highways and byways of Ireland, collecting their due wherever it may lie. As headless horsemen they ride, bearing a whip made of human bones or atop a horse-and-six with funerary light blazing in skulls set about it, and green sparks flying from their iron shod hooves.

The head which looks and smells like old rotten cheese can be held aloft, allowing the Dullahan, or headless horseman, to see a great distance even on moonless nights or in the darkest of chambers. And when he finds the one he seeks, he speaks their name and they drop dead, to be carried away to whatever fate awaits them.

No road is barred to the Dullahan, all gates and locks fall open at his approach. He can't be outrun or evaded. The only thing that will slow him down is an object of purest gold, for he cannot pass even a pin's worth of the stuff.

Should you chance to see a Dullahan, avert your eyes quickly, for they don't like people watching them work. A douse of blood may be your reward for staring at them, often marking you out to be the next in line for the chop, or a flick of their dread whip may cost you an eye, ripped living from your head.

The last and perhaps most recent of the many legends of the Dullahan was that of Thomas Roper, of Roper's Rest off Blackpitts road in Dublin, who became Viscount of Baltinglass. It's not known what he did to draw the attention of the Dullahan but rumours persist of a gruesome incident which killed a member of his family, and they were let rot for some time without a proper burial.

So should you hear the thunder of hooves behind you and the snap of a whip some foul night, close your eyes and pray you have gold to hand, for it might well be the headless horseman looking for recruits!

Old Roper's Rest is indicated on the map you see beneath.

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