scottish-folklore

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The Kelpie by Emma Weakley

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In mythology, the kelpie is described as a strong and powerful horse. It is a white and sky blue colour and appeared as a lost pony, but could be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its mane and tail are a bit curly. Its skin was said to be like that of a seal, smooth but as cold as death when touched. Kelpies were said to transform into beautiful women to lure men into their traps. They created illusions to keep themselves hidden, keeping only their eyes above water to scout the surface. The fable of the kelpie varies by region. The Kelpie’s mane is said to be a sky blue colour. The water horse is a common form of the kelpie, said to lure humans into the water to drown them. The water horse would encourage people to ride on its back, and once its victims fell into its trap, the water horse’s skin would become adhesive and the horse would bear the victim into the river, dragging them to the bottom of the water and devouring them—except the heart or liver. A common Scottish tale is the story of nine children lured onto a kelpie’s back, while a tenth kept his distance. The kelpie chased the tenth child, but he escaped. Another more gruesome variation on this tale is that the tenth child simply stroked the kelpie’s nose but, when his hand stuck to it, he took a knife from his pocket and cut his own hand off, cauterizing it with wood from a nearby fire.

Ghillie Dhu
A fairy (originally god) and guardian of the trees in Scottish mythology. He is kind to children, but generally wild and shy. Said to be dark haired. He is particularly fond of birch trees and is most active at night. They wear clothing made from sewn together leaves and knitted grass and mosses.

 Extended info:

Lifestyle: The Ghillie Dhu were once very shy, docile creatures that lived alone in birch trees protecting the woods around them from destruction by man or nature. They lived upon berries and nuts and created warm round nests from plant fiber. However as their habitat in the Scottish forest dwindled, the Ghillie Dhu not only became more accustomed to man - though remaining terribly shy and silent - but also began sending emigrants to other parts of the world. A key contingent of these mobile Ghillie Dhu followed Scottish fur trappers and voyageurs to French Canada in the late 1700’s and established a vibrant community in the forests of North America. While some of these Ghillie Dhu were only too happy to return to their solitary ways in this new wide open territory, others chose a lifestyle in closer association with man. Those who stayed behind in Scotland either died out or intermarried with other more domestic varieties of fairies and ceased to be Ghillie Dhu within a few generations.

Human Interaction: Those who stayed in the forest have lost almost all contact with the both the natural and supernatural worlds, continually moving to areas of greater isolation and only occasionally contacted by lost humans whom they comfort and redirect. However those who picked the path of human contact have become some of the most well-known and loved fairies in the English-speaking world. Choosing a role that allowed them to exercise their love and wish to care for human children, while still maintaining a shy distance, these Ghillie Dhu as a group perform the services ascribed to the singular “Tooth Fairy.” Living in back yards and parks, these Ghillie Dhu only visit children by night, in order to collect their teeth (which they use to cast protective magic for that child). Given the blessings they provide for these children, the Ghillie Dhu are somewhat perplexed that human parents feel compelled to leave money as well, but they for the most part do not question the curious nature of human beings.

Reposted because it’s relevant to my current drawing project. 

Scottish myth and folklore

The Ghillie Dhu or Gille Dubh is a faerie, a guardian spirit of the trees. He is kind to children, but generally wild and shy. Said to be dark haired, he is described as clothed in leaves and moss.. He especially likes birch trees, and is most active at night. In lore, this solitary spirit is said to reside primarily near Gairloch and Loch a Druing.

Selkie

In Celtic Folklore, selkies are creatures that roam the sea as seals and shed their skin to become humans and walk on land. Both Selkie men and women are very attractive and desired by humans.

There are many stories where human men capture selkie women by hiding their skin, and thus keeping them from returning to the water. It is also said that if a human woman wishes to make contact with a male selkie, all she has to do is cry seven tears into the sea.

(Reference)

Notes:

Selkies were requested anonymously requested. If you have a request please feel free to drop it in my Ask Box or Tweet it @WorldofMyth.

Name: Nuckelavee, Nuckalavee
Area or Origin: Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Nuckelavee is a horse-like demon from Orcadian mythology that combines equine and human elements. It is considered the most horrible demon in all of Scotland and the name Nuckelavee may be derived from a nickname for Satan, ‘Old Nick’. The demon’s foul breath could kill crops and sicken livestock, and it was held responsible for droughts and epidemics on land, despite it being primarily from the sea. It is said to have had two forms, the one that dwells in the sea has no consistent description, but its form on land, while it varies, has more consistency. Based on a supposed first-hand confrontation with the demon, it was described as looking like a horse with a rider on top, though the rider’s torso was fused to the horse’s back and possessed no legs of its own. The “rider’s” arms were abnormally long and could reach the ground from where it sat. Its head could be as large as 3 feet wide, and due to its neck not being able to support its massive weight, would roll back and forth. Both the horse’s face and the rider’s had only one eye, said to burn like a red flame. A final and most gruesome detail was the fact that the Nuckelavee had no skin, and had yellow veins outside its muscle that would pump black blood throughout its body. The seemingly simple way to get rid of the Nuckelavee was to cross a freshwater stream, and it was kept in confinement during the summer months by The Mither o’ the Sea, an ancient Orcadian divine and the only one able to control it. 

Wisps

 Wisp is the most common name given to the mysterious lights that were said to lead travelers from the well-trodden paths into treacherous marshes. The tradition exists with slight variation throughout Britain, the lights often bearing a regional name.


There are various explanations for the Will o’ the Wisps, the most general being that they are malevolent spirits either of the dead or non-human intelligence. They have a mischievous and often malevolent nature, luring unwary travelers into dangerous situations. Wirt Sikes in his book British Goblins alludes a common story about a Welsh Will o’ the Wisp; a peasant, who is travelling home late in the evening sees a bright light travelling before him, looking closer he sees that the light is a lantern held by a “dusky little figure” which he follows for several miles, suddenly he finds himself standing on the edge of a great chasm with a roaring torrent of water rushing below him. At that moment the lantern carrier leaps across the fissure, raises the light over its head and lets out a malicious laugh, after which it blows out the light leaving the unfortunate man far from home, standing in pitch darkness at the edge of a precipice. They were not always so dangerous, and there are tales told about the Will o’ the Wisp being guardians of treasure, leading those brave enough to follow them to sure riches.

Am Fear Liath Mòr

Am Fear Liath Mòr, also known as the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, or simply - the Greyman, is the name of a presence or creature said to haunt the summit and passes of Ben MacDhui, the highest peak of the Cairngorms and the second highest peak in Scotland (and also in the British Isles).

Description 

It has been described as an extremely tall figure covered with short hair, or as an unseen presence that causes uneasy feelings in people who climb the mountain.

“I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. For every few steps I heard a crunch, and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself this is all nonsense. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben Macdhui and I will not go back there myself I know.”

- John Norman Collie, 1925

The footprints were seen and the photographs published by John A. Rennie in his book Romantic Strathspey, and the prints he found were in the Spey Valley some 15 miles away from Ben MacDhui. The prints:

“…were running across a stretch of snow covered moorland, each print 19 inches long by about 14 inches wide and there must have been all of seven feet between each "stride”. There was no differentiation between a left and a right foot, and they preceded in an approximately single line.“

Sightings

There have been reports since the 13th century, often the creature was referred to as Woodwose or “Wood Men.”

In the Matt Lamy book 100 Strangest Unexplained Mysteries, Lamy notes a sighting in the early 1990s in which three men caught sight of a bipedal creature with an eerie, inhuman face in a forest near Aberdeen. Several weeks later, whilst driving through the area at night, the creature appeared again and ran alongside their car even at speeds of 45 miles per hour, seemingly trying to enter the vehicle. One of the three claimed later that a female friend of him, living in a secluded cottage, has twice seen a dark, hairy figure standing in the forest watching her cottage, before disappearing out of sight.

Many witnesses say they have an overwhelming feeling of negative energy around them. In some cases the feeling becomes so intense that hikers are drawn to the dangerous cliff edges almost preparing to throw themselves into the abyss, some say that the he is trying to send climbers over the edge of a precipitous drop at Lurcher’s Crag.

Some have even reported the Fear Liath speaking in an incomprehensible voice that vaguely resembles the Gaelic language.

In another account from 1943 mountaineer Alexander Tewnion claimed that he had actually shot at a creature with his revolver. He had been climbing Ben MacDhui when a thick mist descended so he descended by the Coire Etchachan path. He heard footsteps nearby and remembering the account from professor Collie he peered cautiously into the mist. A strange shape loomed up and came charging towards him. Pulling out his gun he fired three times and then turned and ran towards Glen Derry.

THE DARK SIDE OF MYTH & FOLKLORE: KELPIE

In Celtic mythology, the Kelpie is a water fae who usually appears as a white horse with wet hair. Generally, the kelpie tries to entice humans into climbing onto its back. Once someone does so, the Kelpie races for the nearest lake or river and dives in seeking to drown and devour the human(s). They were also sometimes said to take the shape of beautiful women.

>> Supernatural Creatures: Wraiths

        Wraiths, or wraith is actually Scottish dialect from the 1500s for “ghost,” or “spirit”. They are apparitions of someone just before or after they have died. However, where did the idea of them with ragged black cloaks symbolizing death develop from? Most sources point to J. R. R. Tolkien and his Ringwraiths.

        In J. R. R. Tolkiens books, a wraith, or Nazgûl  is a human turned into an undead being by necromancy, or died in dishonor or darkness.  Because of such dark deaths, their weakness is daylight itself, or fire. Another similar creature in famous literature are the Dementors of Harry Potter (and some believe the other-worldly beings are based off of Tolkiens work), who also wear black cloaks, yet suck the happiness from a human, and eventually their soul.

        In some folklore, a wraith has no heart, or no soul. So, when a wraith finds one with a soul, it will suck it out to claim the soul as its own (though it only lasts temporarily therefore they continue to hunt souls for themselves.)

Sources: X | X 

Bean Nighe

The Bean Nighe, the Washer at the Fords, is the Scottish version of the Irish Bean Sidhe (Banshee). She wanders near deserted streams where she washes the blood from the grave-clothes of those who are about to die. It is said that Bean Nighe are the spirits of women who died giving birth and are doomed to do this work until the day their lives would have normally ended.

A Bean Nighe is thought to have one nostril, one big protruding tooth, webbed feet and long hanging breasts. A mortal who is bold enough to sneak up to her while she is washing and suck her breast can claim to be her foster-child. The mortal can then gain a wish from her.

The Washer of the Fords is sometimes known under the generic name of ban nighechain (little washerwoman) or nigheag na h-ath (little washer at the ford).

Glaistig

The Glaistig is a type of ghost in Scottish mythology, as well as a type of fuath (malevolent water spirit). Her Gaelic name translates to “water imp”.

Description

She may appear either as a beautiful woman or a monstrous mien. She is often depicted as a half-woman half-goat (similar to a Satyr). The lower goat half of her hybrid form is usually disguised by a long, flowing green robe or dress, and the woman often appears grey with long golden hair.

She is said to frequent lochs and rivers in the Highlands of Scotland.

There are variations surrounding whether or not Glaistig is benevolent or malevolent.

Some stories have her luring men to her lair with her enchanting song or dance, where she would then drink their blood. Other such tales have her casting stones in the path of travellers or throwing them off course.

However, in other sources she is said to be a type of tutelary deity and protector of cattle and herders, and in at least one legend in Scotland, the town of Ach-na-Creige had such a spirit protecting the cattle herds. The townsfolk, in gratitude, poured milk from the cows into a hollowed-out stone for her to drink. According to the same legend, her protection was revoked after one local youth poured boiling milk into the stone, burning her. She has also been described in some folklore as watching over children while their mothers milked the cows and fathers watched over the herds.

The Green Lady

Another rendition of the Glaistig legend is that she was once a mortal noblewoman, to whom a “faerie” nature had been given or who was cursed with the goat’s legs and immortality, and since has been known as “The Green Lady”. She might either be benign, watching over houses and looking after the weak mind, cause poltergeist activity, or appear as a vengeful ghost

In some tales, she was the daughter of a lord who was murdered in a green dress, and then stuffed unceremoniously up the chimney by a servant. It is said that her footsteps can still be heard as she walks the castle in sadness.

However there is another variation on the Green Lady legend. It tells of a mortal woman who lived on an island near the Firth of Clyde and who was smitten by the faeries and was granted her unspoken wish to become one of them. Afterwards, she dedicated herself to watching over the cattle of the island until a farmer offended her greatly through rude treatment and she left, making her way to the mainland by leaping to nearby islets before snagging her hoof in the rigging of a passing ship. She, according to this tale, fell into the ocean and presumably drowned, or at any rate was never seen again.

THE DARK SIDE OF MYTH & FOLKLORE: BAOBHAN SITH

In Scottish mythology, a baobhan sith is a type of fairy or spirit who wanders the Highlands at night seeking to feed on the blood of humans, preferably young men. They are usually said to dress in green and have long fingernails that they use to draw blood. Sometimes, they are also said to have cloven hooves. They are vulnerable to sunlight and iron.

Tam Lin
  • Tam Lin
  • Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer
Play

A Scottish folktale (ballad), in which the heroine much rescue her man from the Queen of Fairies (while pregnant no less!).

(This is not my song, I only felt the need to post it because it’s lovely and actually very relaxing, and a great tale (especially if you love fairytales and folklore!). I’m researching Scottish folklore for a paper and I’d always heard about this one, but I’m having way too much fun listening to all the musical renditions now….).

Each-uisge

The Each-uisge, meaning “water horse”, is a mythological Scottish water spirit. It is similar to the Kelpie, but far more malicious. 

Description

Found in the Highlands of Scotland, the Each-uisge has been described as “perhaps the fiercest and most dangerous of all the water-horses” by folklorist Katherine Briggs. It inhabits the sea, sea lochs, and fresh water lochs. The Each-uisge is a shapeshifter, disguising itself as a fine horse, pony, handsome man or enormous bird.

If, while in horse form, a man mounts it, he is only safe as long as the Each-uisge is ridden in the interior of land. However, the merest glimpse or smell of water means the death of the rider: the Each-uisge’s skin becomes sticky and the creature immediately goes to the deepest part of the loch with its victim. After the victim has drowned, the Each-uisge tears him apart and devours the entire body except for the liver, which floats to the surface.

In its human form it is said to appear as a handsome man, and can be recognised as the Each-uisge only by the water weeds, or sand and mud in its hair. Because of this, people in the Highlands were often wary of lone animals and strangers by the water’s edge, near where the Each-uisge was reputed to live.

Along with its human victims, cattle and sheep were also often prey to the Each-uisge, and it could be lured out of the water by the smell of roasted meat. One story from McKay's More West Highland Tales states:

A blacksmith from Raasay lost his daughter to the Each-uisge. In revenge the blacksmith and his son made a set of large hooks, in a forge they set up by the loch side. They then roasted a sheep and heated the hooks until they were red hot. At last a great mist appeared from the water and the Each-uisge rose from the depths and seized the sheep. The blacksmith and his son rammed the red-hot hooks into its flesh and after a short struggle dispatched it. In the morning there was nothing left of the creature apart from a jelly like substance.

Bean Nighe - “Washer Woman”

Similar to the Banshee, the Bean Nighe is an omen of death in Scottish Folklore. The Bean Nighe are often seen washing the cloths 

“As the "Washer at the Ford” she wanders near deserted streams where she washes the blood from the grave-clothes of those who are about to die. It is said that mnathan nighe (the plural of bean nighe) are the spirits of women who died giving birth and are doomed to do this work until the day their lives would have normally ended.

bean nighe is described in some tales as having one nostril, one big protruding tooth, webbed feet and long-hanging breasts, and to be dressed in green. If one is careful enough when approaching, three questions may be answster child. The mortal can then gain a wish from her. If a mortal passing by asks politely, she will tell the naered by the Bean Nighe, but only after three questions have been answered first. A mortal who is bold enough to sneak up to her while she is washing and suck her breast can claim to be her fomes of the chosen that are going to die. While generally appearing as a hag, she can also manifest as a beautiful young woman when it suits her, much as does her Irish counterpart the bean sídhe.“ – Wikipedia

Type of Mythology: Celtic Folklore

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean_nighe

Notes:

I normally don’t copy and paste paragraphs from Wikipedia, but whoever wrote the above paragraph did a great job and there was little I could do to truncate or improve it.

Notes:

This is a part of my OctoberSeries posts on on creepy mythology and folklore. If you have any requests, please drop them in my Ask box.

When The Song Dies

In Scotland, folk songs serve as memories, of places and the dead who once inhabited them. Exploring the theme of change, When The Song Dies seeks to bring the audience under the captive spell of the old ways.

Featuring the beautiful scenery of the Scottish Isles with tales of folklore and superstition, this short film captures the way in which local folk belief lives on in the hearts and voices of the people and relates to anyone who follows the old traditions that are so close to dying out.