Each-uisge

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Each-uisge
(Aughisky (Ireland))
Eachuisge.jpg
A representation of an each-uisge
Grouping Mythological
Sub grouping Water spirit
Similar creatures Kelpie
Nix
Eachy
Mythology Scottish mythology
Country Scotland
Region Highlands
Habitat Sea
Sea lochs
Fresh-water lochs

The each-uisge (Scottish Gaelic: [ɛxˈɯʃkʲə], literally "water horse") is a mythological Scottish water spirit, called the each-uisce (anglicized as aughisky) or Ech-Ushkya in Ireland. It is similar to the kelpie, but far more vicious.

History[edit]

The each-uisge, a supernatural water horse found in the Highlands of Scotland, has been described as "perhaps the fiercest and most dangerous of all the water-horses" by folklorist Katharine Briggs.[1] Often mistaken for the kelpie (which inhabits streams and rivers), the each-uisge lives in the sea, sea lochs, and fresh water lochs.[1] The each-uisge is a shape-shifter, disguising itself as a fine horse, pony, handsome man or enormous bird.[1] 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 end of the rider: the each-uisge's skin becomes adhesive 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.[1]

In its human form it is said to appear as a handsome man, and can be recognised as a mythological creature only by the water weeds,[2] or profuse sand and mud in its hair.[3] 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.

Cnoc-na-Bèist ("hillock of the monster") is the name of a knoll on the Isle of Lewis where an Each-uisge was slain by the brother of a woman it tried to seduce, by a freshwater loch, Loch-à-Mhuileinn ("Loch of the mill").[3]

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 runs thus:

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.

Origins[edit]

The appearance of the Each Uisge on the Isle of Skye was described by Gordon in 1995 as having a parrot-like beak, and this, with its habit of diving suddenly, could be from real-life encounter with a sea turtle such as the leatherback sea turtle.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Briggs, Katharine (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. pp. 115–16. ISBN 0-394-73467-X. 
  2. ^ Varner, Gary R. (2007), Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men and Spirit Beings around the World: A Study in Comparative Mythology, Algora, p. 24, ISBN 978-0-87586-545-4   – via Questia Online Library (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b MacPhail, Malcolm (1896). "Folklore from the Hebrides". Folklore 7 (4): 400–04. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1896.9720386. 
  4. ^ Parsons, E.C.M. (2004). "Sea monsters and mermaids in Scottish folklore: Can these tales give us information on the historic occurrence of marine animals in Scotland?". Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals 17 (1): 73–80.