Monster Monday: Fear Gorta

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Fear Gorta.

The Scene at Skibbereen, James Mahony, 1847
The Scene at Skibbereen, James Mahony, 1847

In Irish folklore the fear gorta is a spirit of famine. Fear gorta means “hungry man” in Irish Gaelic. It appears as an emaciated human dressed in rags. In some legends, it is actually the corpse of an individual who was buried without rites that has come back. The grass around its grave is said to be cursed. Called “hungry grass” it will cause anyone who walks over it to have an insatiable hunger.

The fear gorta wanders the countryside begging everyone it meets for alms. It blesses those who are generous with good luck, but curses those who are not with bad luck or hunger. It may even attack those who provoke it. The fear gorta appears in times of famine, and some say its appearance was a harbinger of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.

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