Why St. Patrick’s Day Invokes My Fear of Red Shoes

I used to be afraid of red shoes.

​I was quite young, about six or seven, but something about the brightness of the colour red sent an almost religious fear through my budding soul. It should not be on the feet. The part of the body responsible for moving us about should not be sullied by red.

It’s not that I dislike the colour – on the contrary. I chose it as the main colour on this site after the dark background to represent the Dark Ages and the mystery of the forests. No, red is a colour of life, passion and energy. So why do I have this irrational fear?

The truth is that I don’t know. I saw someone yesterday wearing red shoes  and the immature fears emerged again. The panic fluttered in my heart. But the lady looked very nice in her co-ordinated outfit with no sign of the devil driving her forward. The good news is that I managed to conquer my fear and avoid an impromptu exorcism. Now I just experience a small panic attack.

As Saint Patrick’s Day looms, on 17 March, it set me to thinking about leprechauns. These were small magical folk from the old Celtic beliefs who, like the Anglo-Saxons, thought that elves existed and could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.” They were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.

However, the link here with my red shoe thing is that their job was that of shoemaker. They mended all the shoes of the elves or fairy folk but were often grumpy. Well, who wouldn’t be doing that job. In mythology, the little people would often swindle their customers while they were trying on their shoes. So perhaps it was a leprechaun who cursed the very first pair of red shoes I tried on when I was a child. I can remember it clearly. My mother was very enthusiastic about these shiny red shoes, but I had a sudden shudder of fear. ‘No!’ I cried, ‘I need the black ones!’

And the black shoes took all my fear away.

By the way, leprechauns have no connection to Saint Patrick other than their shared link to Ireland. Like the shamrock, which was a sacred native plant symbolising rebirth, leprechauns have been adopted to celebrate all that is Irish. I have my own ways to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. I polish my shoes.


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