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The Dullahan, Durahan or Dullaghan (Irish: dúlachán, //), also called Gan Ceann (meaning "without a head" in Irish), is a type of mythological creature in Irish folklore. He is depicted as a headless rider, on a black horse, who carries his own head held high in his hand. It is said to be the embodiment of the Celtic god Crom Dubh.
The mouth is usually in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head. Its eyes are constantly moving about and can see across the countryside even during the darkest nights. The flesh of the head is said to have the colour and consistency of mouldy cheese. The Dullahan is believed to use the spine of a human corpse for a whip, and its wagon is adorned with funeral objects: it has candles in skulls to light the way, the spokes of the wheels are made from thigh bones, and the wagon's covering is made from a worm-chewed pall or dried human skin. The ancient Irish believed that where the Dullahan stops riding, a person is due to die. The Dullahan calls out the person's name, drawing away the soul of his victim, at which point the person immediately drops dead.
There are rumours that golden objects can force the Dullahan to disappear.
In popular culture
- The fantasy film Darby O'Gill and the Little People features a Dullahan who drives the Death Coach. When it arrives, it calls out Darby's name in place of his daughter and he enters the coach, though he is saved by the king of the leprechauns.
- Dullahan is a common name for headless warriors - predominantly knights - in Japanese video games and anime. The influence from this has resulted in Japanese young adult media commonly portraying "Dullahans" with traits not associated with the original Irish folklore, such as wearing plate armour.
- Irish author Derek Landy's work draws from Irish folklore. The novel Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil features a Dullahan who drives the Coach-a-Bowers, which is pulled by four headless horses, and is summoned to collect any human who has heard the call of a banshee.
- Croker, Thomas Croften (1834). Fairy legends and traditions of the south of Ireland. pp. 209–286.
- Haggerty, Bridget. "The Dullahan - Ireland's Headless Horseman". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
- "5 Famous Monsters That Are Way Scarier in Other Countries". Cracked.com. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Hidden Ireland | The Dullahan". www.irelandseye.com. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- The Supernatural Revamped: From Timeworn Legends to Twenty-First-Century Chic. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. 2016. ISBN 9781611478655.
- The Dullahan Legend at Scary For Kids.
- Dullahan Website
- Jessica Traynor (23 October 2019). "How tales of the headless horseman came from Celtic mythology". The Irish Times.