Hebridean mythology and folklore

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The Inner and Outer Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland are made up of a great number of large and small islands. These isolated and mostly uninhabited islands are the source of a number of Hebridean myths and legends. It is a part of Scotland which has always relied on the surrounding sea to sustain the small communities which have occupied parts of the islands for centuries, therefore, it is natural that these seas are a source for many of these legends.

Water Spirits[edit]

Kelpies[edit]

"Boy on white horse" by Theodor Kittelsen.

Kelpies were said to occupy several lochs, including one at Leurbost.

Blue Men[edit]

The Blue men of the Minch (also known as storm kelpies), who occupy the stretch of water between Lewis and mainland Scotland, looking for sailors to drown and stricken boats to sink.

Seonaidh (Shonny)[edit]

Seonaidh - a water-spirit who had to be offered ale.

Merpeople[edit]

It has been claimed that there is a mermaid's grave in Benbecula, but the exact location is unknown. The mermaid was killed in the early nineteenth century after having been seen for a couple of days, before a teenage boy threw a rock at it, killing the entity. Accounts stated that the upper part of the creature was the size of an infant, while the bottom was like a salmon.

Water Monsters[edit]

Loch Monsters[edit]

Searrach Uisge - a monster who was said to occupy Loch Suainbhal. Resembling a capsized boat, this creature has been reported swimming around for one and a half centuries. Locals say lambs were once offered annually to the creature.[1] Other such creatures have been reported in several other lochs, including Loch Urubhal.

At Loch Duvat in Eriskay, while out looking for a horse that escaped his farm in the mist, a farmer saw what he thought was his missing beast in the loch. As he approached, he realised he was looking at a strange creature which gave an unearthly yell, sending the farmer running home.[1]

Sea Monsters[edit]

Various sea monsters have been reported off the shores of Lewis over the years, including a sighting reported in 1882 by a German ship off the Butt of Lewis. The ship, 15 kilometres off the coast, reported a sea serpent around 40 metres in length, several bumps protruding from the water, along its back. Sea serpents have also been reported at the southern side of the island.[1]

Werewolves[edit]

A German woodcut from 1722

A family of werewolves were said to occupy an island on Loch Langavat. Although long deceased, they promised to rise if their graves were disturbed.[1]

Will-o'-the-wisp[edit]

Wills-o'-the-wisp have been reported in the area of Sandwick. The lights that float around the area normally announce approaching death for a local. Some say the light belongs to an Irish merchant who was robbed and murdered on the island.[1]

Fairies[edit]

At Luskentyre in Harris, a hound has been known to leave oversized paw prints on the damp sand which vanish suddenly half way across the beach. It is alleged that this is a fairy hound.[1] Then in South Uist, a woman walking with two friends in the pitch dark watched as a self-illuminating dog, the size of a collie but with a small head and no eyes, ran towards her. The creature vanished as it bounded past. On reaching home, she described what had happened to her aunt, the older woman told her it was a Cu Sìth, a fairy dog. One of the heirlooms of the chiefs of Clan Macleod is the Fairy Flag. Numerous traditions state that the flag originated as a gift from the fairies.

See also[edit]

References[edit]