By Rhetta Akamatsu
The Irish are famous for their ghosts. Many American beliefs originate with the Irish and other Celtic people. Like the Irish themselves, these ghosts tend to be dramatic.
Irish ghosts range in size from the nearly invisible to the huge, from tiny sprites to giant headless horsemen. Some of them are vengeful, some mischievous, some helpful.
In many parts of Ireland, candles are still burned all day and all night from the time a person dies until the funeral, to keep the spirit of the person away from the home by light and fire. This belief dates back to Pagan times, never that far away in Ireland.
The Irish word for ghost is Tash (pronounced Tais.) Sometimes, the word Thevshi (taidhbhse)is also used.
As in most cultures, those who die suddenly are more likely to come back as ghosts. Some may be held by a wish for vengeance or by anger, while others are held by unfulfilled desire, or love. Irish ghosts are often very active, and like to move things around and attract attention anyway they can.
Sometimes, when people die, fairies lead their souls away, and sometimes the souls are caught by evil spirits. Young children who die are especially vulnerable to fairies or to evil spirits. Usually, a ghost must do what the living command, a very handy trait. If told to go away, the spirit has no choice but to do so.
From time to time, spirits take the form of animals, such as rabbits,cats, rats, or black dogs.
Often, Tash live in the walls of the house or under the roof or in the cellerm and they are very restless and noisy. Sometimes, they even live in large trees outside of houses. Unless you make them angry, they are not dangerous, although they can be a nuisance, pulling off covers in the winter, knocking things off walls, upsetting pails, and generally acting like naughty children. If you make them angry, they can turn mean, throwing stones, causing storms, making cattle and people sick, and raising the noise level to unbearable heights.
On the other hand, Tash often appear as butterflies, and these are happy spirits, only visiting and not stuck here, but moved on to immortality. Seeing a butterfly near a corpse or around a grave is a comforting sign because all is well with that departed soul.
The Irish commonly believe that everyone has a double, or fetch. If you see a friend's fetch in the morning, that is nothing to worry about, but if you see a fetch in the evening, that person is doomed to die soon.
Today, in Ireland, haunted places abound everywhere, from cottages to castles, farm sheds and linen mills to railway stations and universities.
The key to the Irish belief in ghosts is to treat them with respect. As long as they are not angered, ghosts are not dangerous, even the mischievous ones, and can be tolerated. The paranormal is still accepted as a matter of course among many of the Irish, and just another aspect of life.