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Funeral Coach

The coach-a-bower is based in Irish folklore. It is also called the Death Coach or Coshta-Bower. It is said to be a very large black coach that is pulled by six black horses. Depending on the version you read the horses are sometimes headless and sometimes not. The driver of this death coach is said to be the Dullahan.  "Dullahans are headless. Although the dullahan has no head upon its shoulders, he carries it with him, either on the saddle-brow of his horse or upraised in his right hand. The head is the colour and texture of stale dough or mouldy cheese, and quite smooth. A hideous, idiotic grin splits the face from ear to ear, and the eyes, which are small and black, dart about like malignant flies. The entire head glows with the phosphorescence of decaying matter and the creature may use it as a lantern to guide its way along the darkened laneways of the Irish countryside. Wherever the dullahan stops, a mortal dies."*

The coach-a-bower is sometimes also seen with the banshee. Although the banshee belongs with a specific family the dullahan does not, and can call upon anyone from any family. His calls however are not warnings to the family they are the names of the souls he is calling for or the name of the person who is about to die. "There is no real defence against the dullahan because he is death's herald. However, an artefact made of gold may frighten him away, for dullahan's appear to have an irrational fear of this precious metal."* Again this legend changes slightly depending on the version you read. Some say that if you hear the coach "It will go rumbling to your door, and if you open it, according to Croker, a basin of blood will be thrown in your face."* Another version of the legend comes from a story that a lady personally retells her experience with the Coach-a-bower she says "They say that it is the devil himself who drives it and that the horses that pull it are all headless but that no mortal eye can see it as it goes past. Three raps on the window are a sure sign that death is in a house but if the coach only stops at a door then it is a signal that there will be a lasting sickness in that place. That was what I heard anyway."*

Although this is based in folklore it is a legend that is widely know and widely feared. No matter what country's death omens you look at, you will find the same thing. That most people both fear and respect the omen for what it represents. Death. I don't know of any other word that can bring to mind so many different images and thoughts. Why are we interested in these stories? Why do we watch for these ancient signs? Why do so many people still believe in the old ways and the old superstitions especially when it comes to death? I believe the answer is simple. As humans we fear what we do not know. We fear what is inevitable. We fear what we have no control over and in the end that is what death is. The inevitable, unknown, uncontrollable journey that all of us will travel at some point.

References

*1.  Dullahans are headless. Although the dullahan has no head upon its shoulders, he carries it with him, either on the saddle-brow of his horse or upraised in his right hand. The head is the colour and texture of stale dough or mouldy cheese, and quite smooth. A hideous, idiotic grin splits the face from ear to ear, and the eyes, which are small and black, dart about like malignant flies. The entire head glows with the phosphoresence of decaying matter and the creature may use it as a lantern to guide its way along the darkened laneways of the Irish countryside. Wherever the dullahan stops, a mortal dies.

 http://library.thinkquest.org/C005417/dullaham.htm

*2   There is no real defence against the dullahan because he is death's herald. However, an artefact made of gold may frighten him away, for dullahan's appear to have an irrational fear of this precious metal.

http://www.irelandseye.com/paddy3/monstatxti.htm

*3 It will go rumbling to your door, and if you open it, according to Croker, a basin of blood will be thrown in your face.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/yeats/fip/fip31.htm

*4 They say that it is the devil himself who drives it and that the horses that pull it are all headless but that no mortal eye can see it as it goes past. Three raps on the window are a sure sign that death is in a house but if the coach only stops at a door then it is a signal that there will be a lasting sickness in that place. That was what I heard anyway.

http://www.irelandseye.com/aarticles/culture/talk/banshees/coach2.shtm

 

Written By : Jennifer Tyrrell