Top Seven Scottish Monsters!

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In Scottish Fairy Book, researcher Elizabeth Grierson says, “Perhaps it was the bleak and stern character of their climate and the austerity of their religious beliefs which made our Scottish forefathers think of the spirits in whom they so firmly believed, as being, for the most part, mischievous and malevolent.”

Whatever the reasons are, it’s clear that Scotland’s supernatural beings are more colorful than most and perhaps far more evil. So…lock your doors and windows. Snuggle up in your blanket by the fire and settle in. These are the top seven Scottish monsters.


7. THE SLUAGH (Sloo-ah)

Folk_Ways - unknown-source.jpgIf you travel in Ireland or the Hebrides, keep an eye on the dark brooding sky. And listen for the flapping of wings. Maybe it’s just a few crows…or maybe it’s the Sluagh. The name means “the Host”. This malevolent flock of bird-like spirits fly through the night sky hunting mortals. They will snatch you up so as to drop you from a great height. Or they may drag you down into the earth, even to Hell.

Some consider them to be fallen angels. Others say they are the unforgiven dead. They may also be a Gaelic version of the Wild Hunt – the ghostly hounds and spirits who travel the skies in winter foretelling of death and disaster.

One witness told the folklorist Alexander Carmichael that they fly about quote: “in great clouds, up and down the face of the world like the starlings, and come back to the scenes of their earthly transgressions.”


6. THE EACH UISGE (Easch Oosh-ka)

Folk_Ways - may have heard of the Kelpies – the Celtic shape-shifting water-horses found in streams or rivers. This fiend disguises itself as a fine pony or a handsome man or beautiful woman. You will find it along the river bank, shores of the sea or large lochs. As a horse, it will bid you to ride it. Perhaps you can take it home as a prized addition to your farm. If you are unwilling to mount, it may shape-shift into its human form to try to tempt you to dance and embrace. But don’t be fooled.

The Each Uisge‘s lovely skin adheres to its human prey. Once you touch or mount, you are trapped. The creature will dive to the depths of the loch with you in it’s grip. There you shall drown and the Kelpie will tear you apart. It will devour all but your liver, which floats to the surface. (In some versions of the story, it eats the heart and liver and the rest of you is what floats to the surface)

The folklorist John Gregorson Campbell recorded many tales about the Each Uisge. In one, a boy who had touched the horse with his finger and become stuck was able to escape by cutting it off.

If you think you’ve met one, look for water-weeds or sand in the hair.


Folk_Ways - de3viantart-vulpes-lbculta.jpgSpeaking of horses…sort of. If you journey to the Orknies, perhaps the most terrifying fellow you may meet is the Nuckelavee. A native of the sea, he appears as part horse, part man, with the human torso rising from the center of the horse’s back. His mouth is that of a pig or whale.

Most horrific of all, he has no skin. You will see his thick black blood coursing through sickeningly yellow veins around pale sinews and powerful grotesque muscles.

The Nuckelavee is pure malevolence. His breath withers crops and infects livestock. He is the bringer of devastation and famine. In fact, he is so feared that Orkney Islanders could not speak his name without immediately saying a prayer. He comes ashore during the season of drying kelp (used to make fertilizer among other things) and it is said he hates the odor of the burning seaweed. This seasonal interference may have been a native explanation for failed crops in bad growing years, and hence famine.

He is also a hunter of mortals. If the Nuckelavee chases you, your only chance is to head for the nearest brook. The only thing that can stop the Nuckelavee is fresh flowing water. Perhaps not surprisingly, this fiend is of Viking origin.


Folk_Ways - Redcap.jpgThe Red Cap, also known as the Powry or Dunter, is a foul and murderous goblin of the Borders Region. He makes his home in the ruins of castles and churches, especially along the lonely roads through the moors. He prefers those places which were once the scenes of murder and battle. And in this gloomy land there are plenty of those.

The Red Cap appears as a short, thickset old man with long fang-like teeth and bony fingers that end in talons. His large eyes glow a fiery red and his grisly hair streams down his shoulders. The Red Cap wears iron boots and carries a pikestaff, that is a combination of a spear and an ax.

When travelers take refuge in his lair, the Red Cap attacks from above, either pelting them with huge stones or skewering them with his pikestaff. After the kill, he soaks his cap in his victim’s blood in order to retain its colour. It is said that if the cap ever loses its color, the Red Cap will die.

Red Caps get a small mention in the novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where J.K. Rowling calls them “nasty little goblin-like creatures that lurked wherever there had been bloodshed.”


3. THE BAOBHAN SITH  (baaván shee)

Folk_Ways - jessika-cheyenne-guarapuava_beautifulbizarre_008.jpgThe Baobhan Sith is a wanderer of the wooded Highlands. A dark faerie, she appears as a beautiful young woman wearing a long green dress. However, if you look closely you will notice her feet are in fact deer hooves. This sultry vampire preys upon male hunters as they stalk deer alone in the forest. She is drawn to them by the scent of blood on their clothing. Often, she will manifest in the evening after a lonely hunter expresses a desire for female companionship. Drifting into the firelight, she will dance with her victim until they are exhausted. Then the mysterious woman’s nails turn to talons with which she will slash open the man’s chest and drain him of all his blood.



2. THE BEAN NIGHE (Ben Neeah , Ban NEE-yuh)

Folk_Ways - deviant-art-energiaelca1.jpgKnown in both Scotland and Ireland, the Bean Nighe is among the most ancient of spirits. Her name means simply “the washer woman”. But this is no household maid. You will meet her near water, perhaps the rocky banks of a mountain stream.

From a distance she may appear quite normal. Sometimes an old hag, sometimes a beautiful young woman. Move closer and you may notice she has only one nostril, one long tooth, webbed feet, and single low-hanging breast.

She will be hard at work pounding laundry on the rocks. No…not laundry…she is washing the bloodied grave-clothes of people who are close to death. There is a slim chance she will grant you a wish if you act a certain way. But it is just as likely that she encompasses your doom, or the doom of someone you love dearly. One tradition says this morbid creature is the the ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth. If there were unwashed clothes present in the home at the time of her death, she is doomed to wash and wash and wash until the date of what should have been her natural death finally comes around. For this reason, it is an old custom to remove all laundry from a house during s birth…just in case.



Folk_Ways - metimeforthemind.jpgWe saved this one for last because unlike some of the other Scottish monsters, this one may be real and accounts of him are quite recent and modern.

Lurking among the misty hilltops of Ben MacDui is a terrifying beast. Hill walkers, hikers and tourists have felt the icy presence of a thing which is not quite a man. We say “felt” because rarely has the creature been seen distinctly. Rather, it is described as a presence. Or at best the vague shape of a huge shambling man in the snow and fog. Hardened hikers are reduced to shivering wrecks as a pervasive sense of dread comes over them. Then they hear ominous footsteps behind them. And then they run.

Known as the Liath Mor (“Leeah Moor”) or simply “the Big Grey Man”, this yeti-like creature has haunted Ben MacDui for over one hundred years.

The best record of an encounter we have is from Professor Norman Collie, who in 1891 wrote graphically of his terrifying encounter with the Grey Man. Collie himself thought perhaps his senses were playing tricks on him. That is, until he compared notes with other explorers and found that they too had met the creature.

Hill walkers recount the Grey Man keeping pace with them at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. And all speak of the sheer terror that accompanied the creature. Once experienced, few climbers return to Ben MacDhui and the terror that lurks there.

If you dare, the mountain awaits you.

Have a Happy Hallowe’en! For a brief overview of the Celtic Samhain holiday, Click HERE.

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