Kelpies are supernatural water horses that haunt Scotland’s lochs and rivers. They appear as a lost pony, often grey or white, and entice people to ride on their backs before taking them down to a watery grave.
They’re all here! I took it upon myself to create an illustration of a Mythological creature or character for every letter of the alphabet, trying to span across a multitude of cultures and creature-types. Another thing I wanted to accomplish with this project was to find some the more unusual and/or obscure creatures that don’t get as much representation in artwork. Individual Tumblr Posts with said creatures’ descriptions are below.
Again, I’ll be making this into a small run of books as a way to test the waters. If there’s more demand for a larger run, I’ll definitely be looking into it!
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.
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.
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.
S is for Selkie: Selkies (also spelled silkies, selchies; Irish/Scottish Gaelic: selchidh, Scots: selkie fowk) are mythological creatures found in Scottish, Irish, and Faroese folklore. Similar creatures are described in the Icelandic traditions. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal). Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend is apparently most common in Orkney and Shetland and is very similar to those of swan maidens.
Male selkies are described as being very handsome in their human form, and having great seductive powers over human women. They typically seek those who are dissatisfied with their life, such as married women waiting for their fishermen husbands. If a woman wishes to make contact with a selkie male, she must shed seven tears into the sea. If a man steals a female selkie’s skin she is in his power and is forced to become his wife. Female selkies are said to make excellent wives, but because their true home is the sea, they will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. If she finds her skin she will immediately return to her true home, and sometimes to her selkie husband, in the sea. Sometimes, a selkie maiden is taken as a wife by a human man and she has several children by him. In these stories, it is one of her children who discovers her sealskin (often unwitting of its significance) and she soon returns to the sea. The selkie woman usually avoids seeing her human husband again but is sometimes shown visiting her children and playing with them in the waves.
The old people had runes which they sang to the spirits dwelling in the sea and in the mountain, in the wind and in the whirlwind, in the lightning and in the thunder, in the sun and in the moon and in the stars of heaven. I was naught but a toddling child at the time, but I remember well the ways of the old people.
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”.
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.
S'up everyone? Wanna know something I really enjoyed about writing this comic? The research. Mostly because it has something to do with a subject that I love.
Mermaids and history!
The stuff I’ve found out about has been pretty amazing too. The different stories, myths and legends, even finding the creation myths tying to the Merfolk are all interesting. Discovering the different kinds of mermaid and mermen from around the world make it all the better. Like the Irish legend of the Selkies.
I think a lot of people know what I’m talking about when I mention Selkies, but for those of you not in the know, Selkies are a mythological creature from Irish, Scottish and even Icelandic folklore. They can appear as regular seals, then appear as attractive young men and women when they shed their seal skin to look like normal people. Yes, shed, like a lizard, but these are more like a magic coat. They can also have the bottom half of a seal and the upper body of a person, making them look more like mermaids and mermen.
Selkies like to have humans as their lovers, but they can’t spend a great deal of time with them either. They can only be with a human once every seven years unless the human takes their seal skin and hide it or burn it. In some cases burning it means killing the Selkie, but that depends on the legend. Some of the more popular myths about Selkies involve Selkie maidens running away from their human husbands when they find their seal skin, usually in their children’s toy box or something.
Not a smart hiding place it would seem.
Sometimes they’d even take their children with them back into the ocean where they’d become Selkies too. Other legends have the Selkies take their human lovers to an island during midsummer where they remain, never returning to the mainland again.
Selkies will feature prominently in our story, especially during key plot points but that’s for another time. Later on expect us to post a synopsis about the story and more about other species of merfolk, like the inspiration behind Ursula of the Little Mermaid and how her species features in folklore.
I will pluck the Yarrow fair,
That more benign shall be my face.
That more chaste shall be my speech.
That more sweet shall be my lips.
Be my face the beams of the sun,
And my lips as sweet as the strawberry.
May I be an isle in the sea,
May I be a hill on the shore.
May I be a star in the waning moon,
May I be a staff to the weak.
Wound can I every man,
But no man can wound me.
A song to pick Yarrow from the Carmina Gadelica a compendium of Scottish Gaelic charms, hymns, and folk songscollected by folklorist Alexander Carmichael in the late 19th Century.
In flower remedies, yarrow is very protective, used to heal and
strengthen the aura. This song has a similar sense of both strength and
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.
The Each-uisge, meaning “water horse”, is a mythological Scottish water spirit. It is similar to the Kelpie, but far more malicious.
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.