In the most placid rivers of Ireland and in the dark depths of the Scottish lakes live water demons, fairy creatures, that feed on human flesh: they are “kelpie”, “each uisge” (in English water-horse), “eich- mhara “(in English sea horse); to want to be picky kelpie lives preferably near the rapids of the rivers, fords and waterfalls, while each uisge prefers the lakes and the sea, but kelpie is the most used word for both. Similar creatures are also told in Norse legends (Bäckahästen, the river horse) – and Germanic (nix in the form of fish or frog). (first part)
KELPIE: WATER SHAPESHIFTER
In the time of the myth it was believed that there was a certain symmetry between the terrestrial creatures and those of the waters, so men and women were the newts and the mermaids, while among the marine animals there was the horse with the fish tail. It sleeps in solitary ponds or in the sea, is shown on the banks of rivers and lakes, and although its reign is the aquatic one, the kelpie can take the form of a beautiful horse (sometimes with a white mantle sometimes with a black mantle) but also of a beautiful boy or of a lovely girl.
Being a solitary creature, Kelpie is often looking for a partner who is described as a “leannan-sith” (a fairy-lover). Mary Mackellar in her essay ‘The Shieling: Its Traditions and Songs‘ writes of the many enchanted seductions to the summer pastures, when shepherds carried sheep on the highlands, going to live for the whole season in the isolated huts (shielings) next to rivers and ponds. The only way to distinguish the shapeshifters when they took the form of a young boy or a girl was to comb their hair: if sand and algae were caught in the comb it was a kelpie!
LOCH GARVE’s KELPIE
In some legends the kelpie is described as a solitary crature that to find a partner, it abducts a young woman: the kelpie is considerate and kind to her, and while keeping her prisoner, tries to comfort her. This one comes from the land of Clan Mackenzie and concerns the kelpie who lives in Loch Garve (Inverness)
“There’s a spot at the eastern end of Loch Garve, ye ken,” [Rupert] said, rolling his eyes around the gathering to be sure everyone was listening, “that never freezes. It’s always black water there, even when the rest o’ the loch is frozen solid, for that’s the waterhorse’s chimney.”
The waterhorse of Loch Garve, like so many of his kind, had stolen a young girl who came to the loch to draw water, and carried her away to live in the depths of the loch and be his wife. Woe betide any maiden, or any man, for that matter, who met a fine horse by the water’s side and thought to ride upon him, for a rider once mounted could not dismount, and the horse would step into the water, turn into a fish, and swim to his home with the hapless rider still stuck fast to his back.
(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, “Raiders in the Rocks”. Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
With the passing of time in Scotland the kelpie has become however a monster of the waters as the infamous Nessie of the Loch Ness.
THE WATER DEMON
The Kelpie is considered an evil creature a kind of demon that hunts victims to seduce and drown (and devour) them in the abyss (a memory of ancient sacrifices to the spirits of the waters?) So popular wisdom first recommended not to climb incautiously on the back of a lonely horse (because once we climbed on a kelpie there is no possibility of going down) and secondly if we have climbed and we are going to end up dragged in the deep water, we have to look for bridles to tame it (easier said than done naturally).
THE WATER FAIRES
The equivalent in Germanic folklore is nix or nixie (depending on whether male or female) of which the kelpie is one of the possible incarnations: the nix is shown in the form of frog or toad or small fish or a strange fish to human form. Wanting to make a distinction between Kelpie and Nix we can say that the first prefers to attract the victims in the form of a horse to get them on the back and carry them to the abyss; the second instead attracts them in human form with sweet melodies (they are sirens / nymphs with a beautiful singing or mermen skilled musicians)
Skye Water Kelpie’s Lullaby
Dh’èirich mi moch, b’ fheàrr nach do dh’èirich
Òran Tàlaidh An Eich-Uisge
A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan
Cronan na Eich-mhara
Song of the Kelpie
Up, ride with the kelpie
http://www.apjpublications.co.uk/skye/poetry/collect21.htm http://www.romanticamentefantasy.it/emozioni-in-tartan-leggenda-kelpie/ http://fairyroom.com/2013/03/bad-fairy-nixie/