Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ireland's Carriage of Death

The Cóiste Bodhar (say it like coach-a-bower) is a psychopomp of Irish folklore that appears as either a black coach or sometimes a hearse, carrying a black coffin. The coach is pulled by a team of black horses and driven by the Dullahan, a sort of Headless Horseman of Irish legend. The Dullahan drives the coach to the home of one slated for death to collect his or her soul, much as the legendary Grim Reaper does. According to legend, if the The Cóiste Bodhar is passing through, all gated roads should be opened so as to allow him swift passage through and away to somewhere--anywhere--else.

In 1806, a man lay dying while his family waited for the doctor on the stoop outside. Hearing the furious roar of a fast approaching coach, the family eagerly stood to greet the doctor. Two of the man's sons ran to open the gate but found it locked. It was never locked. This was strange. One of the sons ran back inside to find the keys, but the coach only raced on  at break-neck speed. The family was confused by this and then startled when the dark coach suddenly vanished. It wasn't the doctor who drove by at all; it was the Dullahan atop the dreaded Cóiste Bodhar. When the son came back from inside, he said he found the keys hidden beneath the innkeeper's pillow, as if he knew the sick man in his bed would surely draw the attention of The Cóiste Bodhar.

Probably it is for the best. Legend claims that anyone who opens their door to the apparition, will be splashed in the face by a basin of blood.

It is recommended that anyone who spots the coach avert his or her eyes. Making eye contact with the Dullahan could force him to stop and unexpectedly claim a new passenger.

One man, Michael Noonan, witnessed the coach while out riding and described it as completely silent even though the six black horses pulling it were galloping furiously. Noonan, knowing the legend, quickly averted his eyes and the fearsome carriage flew past him on its silent quest for souls.

On December 11, 1876, a servant working for the MacNamara family at Ennistymon House in County Clare had been walking the grounds late at night when he hear the approach of a carriage. What an odd hour to arrive, he thought. But as he peered into the darkness, the servant had the horrible realization that this was The Cóiste Bodhar. He quickly raced along the road and opened the gates leading to the home before throwing himself into the vegetation at the side of the road just in time to witness the black coach fly past. Sir Burton MacNamara was spared that night as the coach rode past the house without stopping. Unfortunately, it must have rode on to find it's quarry elsewhere: Sir Burton MacNamara died only a day later, in London.

While no one truly believes the legend anymore, the Dullahan and The Cóiste Bodhar are still something of a bogeyman that children in parts of Ireland still fear.

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