Murdhuacha (Gaelic)

The Merrow are Irish mermaids. There are mermen, too, but they have little interest in people and hence little contact. Female Merrows, on the other hand, display interest in human life and so sometimes emerge from the water.

The Merrow’s little red hat distinguishes her from other mermaids. She needs it to navigate between watery and terrestrial realms. Capture the hat and capture the Merrow. Legends describe men stealing her hat in order to marry the Merrow. She usually makes a good wife and adapts to human society. The hat must remain hidden, though, because if she regains it, she will return to the sea, abandoning her husband, children, and whatever life she has created on land, no matter how happy, content or in love she may be. (It’s unclear whether the Merrow chooses to go or whether the hat exerts an irresistible lure.)

Merrows are reasonably gentle mermaids. As with others of their kind, they sit on rocks, sing alluringly, and create distractions; hence, they are blamed for shipwrecks. Merrows also have a tendency to manifest just before storms, so their appearance may be perceived as a dreaded harbinger. Merrows possess magical skill and knowledge, which they use on behalf of those humans they love or for whom they feel loyalty.

An Irish legend suggests that in addition to banishing snakes, Saint Patrick transformed recalcitrant Pagan women into mermaids.


Their descendents: characterized by webbed digits and/or scaly skin.


Merrows are shape-shifters. They appear as beautiful mermaids, but on land may sprout legs and resemble human women. (The tip-off to their true identity may be inexplicable water dripping from hair or clothing.) They also emerge from the water in the form of small, hornless cattle.


That jaunty little red hat


Flowers (real or crafted from paper or clay), candy, fruit, wine



Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.