The Curse of the Red Haired Daughter

This short animation relates to the superstition regarding red-haired women and fishing. Essentially to meet a red-haired woman when going to sea (and she could be your wife, daughter, mother, sister, aunt, best-friend, etc.) was considered particularly bad luck and a strong enough reason not to set sail.

There is a long tradition, in Ireland and elsewhere, of distrusting those with red hair, and in particular women: “Let not the eye of a red-haired woman rest upon you”.

From where does this suspicion stem? It was said that the Biblical Cain had red hair, as did Judas Iscariot. In Ireland, it was believed that the Danes – the Vikings – brought red hair to these shores, hence the negative association. Ironically, although red hair is found throughout much of northern Europe it is most common in Ireland, Scotland and Wales (and less so with Denmark).

Whatever the reason, any red-haired person or indeed creature (the fox, hare and rabbit) was regarded with suspicion. Foxes were particularly despised by fishermen in Ireland and elsewhere (Cornawall, Brittany, etc.), so much so that if a Claddagh fisheman happened to see one of these animals or even heard its name mentioned he would not venture to sea that day. It was also noted that “if a man by the name of Fox, Hare, or Rabbit, wanted to settle among the Claddagh fishermen, he should change his name to Pike, Codde, or Salmon, or some such; for that his name would destroy the luck and happiness of this strange people” (Hardiman, 1846, 101).

Here our animator – Jessie – plays on this idea, depicting a Claddagh fisherman waking up enthusiastic about the prospect of fishing on Galway Bay only to be greeted by his red-haired daughter, which scuppers his plans.

SOURCES:

  • DANIELS, C.L. & STEVANS, C.M.(2003) Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore & the Occult Sciences of the World.
  • HARDIMAN, James (ed.)(1846) A Chronological Description of West or Iar Connaught, Written A.D. 1684, by Roderic O’Flaherty. Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society.   

  • MONAGHAN, Patricia (2009) The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore.
  • WILDE, Francesca Speranza (1888) Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms & Superstitions of Ireland.

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