Beware Of The Shapeshifting Gaelic Bodach Who May Be Difficult To Trick

Ellen Lloyd - -  When darkness falls and the days get colder, we gather around the fireplace to embrace the warmth. In the old days, when there were no radiators, the chimney was a treasure that helped survive cold winters. Folklore stories tell the chimney was appreciated and feared because it is also home to powerful spirits.

Today, many children are told Father Christmas comes through the chimney with their gifts, but kids in Ireland and Scotland are cautious because they have been informed of the frightening Bodach, who enters the house using the chimney.

Beware Of The Shapeshifting Gaelic Bodach Who May Be Difficult To Trick

Gaelic Bodach is an evil creature. Adobe Stock - Joelee Creative

The evil Bodach does not need the invitation to visit your home. If he decides to come to your house, he will do so, and rest assured he is not paying a courtesy visit.

The Gaelic Bodach can be described in many ways. Some say he is a ghost or trickster, while others call him the Devil.

Stories of Bodach can be found in folklore and modern literature. Scottish folklore accounts say Boddach comes through the chimney to kidnap naughty children. In Eachtra Bhodaigh a Chóta Lachtna, an Irish version of the Fenian Cycle from the 16th or 17th century Bodach is identified with the Manannán mac Lir. This comparison is not so far-fetched because Bodach and Manannán mac Lir were shapeshifters.

Irish mythology, Manannán mac Lir is the God of the sea, healing weather, and a master of shapeshifting. He was the one who gave the Tuatha de Danaan three incredible gifts. It is said Manannán had "many extraordinary magical powers. He owned a self-propelling boat named Scuabtuinne ("wave sweeper"), a sea-borne chariot drawn by the horse Enbarr ("water foam"), a powerful sword named Fragarach ("the answerer"), and a cloak of invisibility (féth fíada)." 1

In Scotland, stories of Bodach are often told to frighten children into good behavior. The Scottish Bodach is best described as a bogeyman.

As explained by Linda Raedisch in the book The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year, "if the dead could escape up the chimney, might not a few wayward spirits come tumbling down?

While the witch used the chimney mainly to depart and re-enter her own home, the Bodach, a Scottish version of the black-faced English bogeyman, liked to frequent other people's chimneys.

Beware Of The Shapeshifting Gaelic Bodach Who May Be Difficult To Trick

Stories of the Gaelic Bodach are still told in the Scottish Highlands. Painting by Henry Bates Joel - Credit: Streethistorian1 - CC BY-SA 4.0

If he heard there were some particularly bad children up in the nursery, he might avail himself of the flues to get at them. There are few descriptions of the Bodach, since most of his victims were successfully scrobbled up the chimney and never heard from again, but he was supposed to resemble a little old man." 2

In the Scottish folktale Bodach An T-Sílein, the evil Bodach appears as a beggar and kidnaps a young girl carrying her off in a bag on his back. However, he is outsmarted by a woman and some animals who decide to teach him a lesson.

He leaves the bag at a house and asks a woman to look after it until he returns the next day. The woman agrees, and when the Bodach vanishes out of sight, she suddenly hears a scream from the bag.

"Let me out of the bag," the girl cried.

The woman let her out and, and they filled the bag with mice, rats, dogs, black salmon and seals. The beggar came.

"Where is the bag I left yesterday?"

Here you have it, here you have it," said the woman.

He took it on his back and went away.

"Sing a son, my girl. The road is long", he said.

“Miaoo, miaoo” from the bag. He threw down the bag, opened it, and out leaped the dogs and animals. They went straight for the beggar and killed him," the Scottish folktale tells. 3

Updated on December 13, 2022

Written by - Ellen Lloyd –

Copyright © All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of

Expand for references