There was a time before the sudden shift in Scotland’s weather could be explained through scientific reasoning. The unusual land formations, ancient stone circles, and otherworldly scenery inspired Scottish mythology. Celtic legends and myths have been passed down from one generation to another, coupled with Scots’ knack for story-telling. The winning spirit of the Scottish people is a result of their proud and turbulent heritage. Scotland attracts tourists from around the world with its rich culture and mythical folklore.
In Celtic folklore, fairies or faeries are known for their malice and mischief. However, some legends tell stories of fairies who were known for healing, giving protection, or passing their skills to humans. Scottish folklore divides fairies into the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. Fairies from the Seelie Court were known for playing harmless pranks and were generally kind to humans. On the other hand, fairies from the Unseelie Court were malicious and would harm mortals for pleasure.
In the stories, fairies would kidnap humans, particularly babies, leaving a changeling in its place. It is thought that if one traveled to the fairy world and ate any of their food, he would be trapped in the otherworld forever. Fairies were also known to use magical powers to change their appearance at will. It is also believed that time passes at a different pace in the fairy realm, much quicker than the human world. In Scotland, people consider many trees, mounds, and other natural features of the land to be the property of fairies and that any mortal who harms them would be cursed. Some people would also leave offerings such as sweet milk, cakes, or chocolate around their homes to soothe the fairies and keep them from causing mischief.
The Unicorns of Scotland
The extent of the Scots’ belief in mythological creatures and folklore can be assessed by the truth that the national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn. Etched in stories beyond the ancient Babylonians and Celts, the Unicorn was associated with power and nobility in Scotland by the 12th century. The majestic and wild nature of the animal soon became a symbol of Scotland’s spirit of freedom.
You can find pictures of the Unicorn draped in gold chains on the royal coats of arms of Scotland and the United Kingdom. An interpretation of this symbol suggests that the Scottish kings were powerful enough to master even the strongest of creatures.
Kelpie and the Scottish Folklore
Stories depict Kelpies as shape-shifting and horse-like spirits that possess the strength of 100 horses. Believed to wander Scotland’s lochs and rivers, Kelpies have a dark and dangerous nature, unlike Unicorns. This mythological creature is known to trick people into riding on its back and drowning its rider into the dark watery depths. These water horses can appear in human form too. They can emerge from the river as an attractive young woman, ready to lure young men to their end. They can also appear in the form of a hairy human, prepared to crush unsuspecting travelers to death with their vice-like grip.
Kelpies are known to possess magical powers to summon a flood to sweep away travelers. Legends say that the sound of a kelpie’s tail hitting the water is the same as thunder. However, this beast can be controlled if someone gets hold of its bridle; that man then has the power to command it to do its biddings. There is an ancient rumor that a Kelpie’s bridle is passed down through generations in the clan of MacGregor and is said to be the possession of an ancestor who took it from a Kelpie near Loch Slochd.
The Loch Ness Monster
The stories of the Loch Ness monster lurking in the waters of Loch Ness in the Highlands are not just a fable. With over 1000 eyewitness accounts, Nessie does really exist. Described as long, thin, usually green in color with small black humps, snake-like head, and a tail, she gracefully appears and disappears, leaving behind perfect circles of disturbed water.
The most recent legend of the Loch Ness monster was born in 1933 when a local couple claimed to have sighted “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” When this story was reported on the local news, a media frenzy began with newspaper correspondents flying to Scotland to verify the truth behind the sighting. A circus offered a reward of 20,000 pounds sterling reward to anyone who captured the beast. The Loch Ness monster gained public interest with time as more sightings were reported.
The Selkies of Scotland
A mythological creature in Scottish folklore, Selkies are known as shape-shifters that can change between the seal and human form by replacing their skin through shedding. Selkie folk refers to them as being very attractive in their human form. Graceful, kind-hearted, and romantic, any human that crossed paths with Selkies would fall desperately in love with them. The tales of Selkies are not limited to Scotland, but stories of this magical creature can be found in the folklore of Iceland, Ireland, and The Faroe Islands.
The story of the Selkies originates from the family of the sea king and queen. When the queen of the sea died, the king was left alone with his mourning children. To appease the little ones, the king married a wicked witch of the sea who was jealous of the benevolence and beauty of the children. She cast a spell on the little ones, turning them into seals left to swim in the ocean forever. They were granted one day a year to shed their seal skin and take their human form on land.
Exploring Scotland is like opening a storybook of magic, monsters, and mythical creatures. The otherworldly landscape often feels like it is shaped for fairies and giants. Claiming a diverse culture, Scotland has a rich history with stories of heroes, fairies, monsters, and more. These Scottish folklore tales have played an important role in shaping Scotland’s culture.