Scotland is home to many mythical beasts and their legends. Some benevolent and some malevolent. These myths and legends are the lifeblood of our nation. A rich part of our cultural heritage and to an extent they are part of our history, as many believed these creatures were as real as you or I and lived their life according to these old stories. I will let you make up your mind about that. There are many not included in this A-Z as some of the beasties did not want the public attention!
BAOBHAN SITH – An alluring female vampire ghost that preys on unsuspecting male travellers in the North East of Scotland. Said to be very beautiful with glowing green eyes and long sharp nails. They fly through the night sky and hunt their victims in packs. Iron is the only protection against them.
BEAN NIGHE (washing woman) – A devilish faerie who washes the blood-stained clothes of those about to die in remote pools and streams. If you catch sight of her as she hangs the linen up to dry on nearby trees it means your death, unless you can catch her and force her to foretell your future.
BLUE MEN – A fearsome blue skinned creature who dwells in the Minch, a dangerous strait of water in the Outer Hebrides. If you fail to pay them homage in the form of white money (silver), they will place a curse upon you before their terrible screams create furious storms that will sink your ship.
BROWNIE – A common household spirit with brown skin and hair who looks like a tiny old man. The brownie comes out at night to help around the house in exchange for milk. They take great offence if you try to name them or give them clothes to cover their ragged bodies, so you have been warned!
BODACH (old man) - Sometimes referred to as the Cailleach’s husband. Also believed to be a dark bogeyman figure who was an omen of death. Bodach is also said to come down the chimney to kidnap naughty children, so he is used as a cautionary tale to frighten children into good behaviour.
BOOBRIE – A gigantic mythical water bird, whose natural habitat is the remote lochs and glens of the Highlands. It has massive wings and razor-sharp talons that are said to be big enough to carry away cattle and any humans who fail to take cover when it is flying overhead.
CAILLEACH (old woman) – Goddess of Winter who lives in the Scottish mountains to watch over the wild animals and vast forests. The washing of her plaid in the great whirlpool of Corryveckan in the Hebrides summons the cold winds and her great staff freezes the ground until spring returns.
CAOINEAG – An invisible highland banshee whose name means ‘weeper’. She foretells death in her clan by singing a lament in the night. Her keening was said to have alerted some of the Clan MacDonald to the massacre and in doing so saved their lives at the battle of Culloden.
CAOINTEACH - Another female death spirt that is attached to various clans. When a death from illness was about to occur, she would appear outside the sick person's house wearing a green shawl and begin lamenting at the door. If she was interrupted, she would strike out causing injury.
CEASG - A mermaid with the upper body of a beautiful woman merging with the tail of a fish. They can not only live in the sea but also in fresh waters. It is said that these maids will grant three wishes to anyone who captures them. Like selkies, they sometimes marry humans but always return home.
CHANGELING – A faery child that had been left in place of a human child that has been stolen by the wee folk. They are said to be small, sickly and don’t grow. These inhuman children often have strange physical characteristics like beards and long teeth and may also be wise with uncanny insight.
CU SITH – Hell hound of the Highlands, that hunts the locals who live in its territory around old castles in the North. Known for its deathly green eyes and a haunting howl that can be heard for miles around. It rips its prey to pieces with its sharp canines and claws before it devours the flesh and bones.
CAT SITH - A fairy creature said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. Also said to be a witch that could transform into a cat nine times. Many believed it could steal a person's soul by passing over a corpse before burial, so watches were performed beside the dead to keep it away.
EACH USIAGE – A dangerous shapeshifting water spirit, that is similar to the kelpie but far more vicious. It dwells in the sea, or sea lochs. It can appear as a horse, a handsome man or even a boobrie. It has a particular desire for the flesh of women and will devour everything except human liver.
FINFOLK – Believed to be descendants of the Scandinavian Sami people. They are dark sorcerers who are feared by the fisherfolk of the Orkney Isles as they create storms, steal catches and damage their boats. They live under the sea during winter and on secret disappearing islands during summer.
GHILLIE DHU – One of the oldest Scottish faeries, also known as ‘the dark-haired laddie’. They are ancient tree dwellers who watch over the vast Caledonian Forest. These tiny creatures are very shy and like to dress in leaves and moss to disguise themselves but will sometimes appear to help children.
GLAISTIG – A bewitched faerie being who was once human. A hard worker who helps around farms and is rewarded with an offering of milk left in a glaistig stone. Although helpful, she should never be angered for this being can also be troublesome. Her appearance often foretells of an event.
KELPIE – A water-horse that dwells by Scotland’s rivers and lochs. A shapeshifter who appears as a wild horse with a dripping mane, or a handsome man with long wet hair. It can only be captured by its golden bridal. Beware, for if you jump upon its back you will be stuck and dragged under the water.
LOIREAG – An old hag like water nymph from South Uist. This strange creature has a great love of music and likes nothing better than to listen to the island women sing their waulking songs when they beat the tweed. If they dare to sing out of tune the Loireag will spoil or may even steal the tweed.
NUCKELAVEE – A sea demon from the Orkney Isles. A truly hideous creature with no skin, long sinewy arms and breath so powerful it could wilt crops and cause sickness. Only controlled by the ‘mither o’ the sea’ an ancient Orcadian sea spirit. The only way to escape the Nuckelavee is to cross fresh water.
PECH – A type of gnome-like creature who was small in size but extremely strong. They brewed heather ale and battled against the Scots. Thought to be one of the original builders of the stone megaliths of ancient Scotland, along with the giants. They might be related to the Picts and pixies.
REDCAP - A fearsome goblin who haunts the old border castles. This beastie is wee, wiry and so fast that he can even outrun the wind itself. He always catches his victims and when he does, kills them with his sharp teeth and even sharper claws. Once they are dead, he dips his bonnet in their red blood.
SELKIE – One of the seal folk, an attractive shapeshifter who can live upon the land if they take off their enchanted skins. However, if their coats are stolen by a mortal, they cannot return to their beloved home under the sea and often are forced to marry, which never ends well.
SHELLY COAT – A strange water creature. One that is rarely seen but can be instantly recognised by the rattling sound of shells and high-pitched laugh. It dwells beside the rocks on the seashore and is a troublesome but not malevolent mischief maker who likes to play pranks on children.
STOOR WORM - A gigantic sea dragon over a thousand feet long. It lives in the sea beside Orkney and has a ferocious appetite. It could demolish ships with its huge forked tongue and was so big it could even drag entire villages into the sea. Human sacrifices were they only way to keep it at bay.
TANGIE - A shape-shifting sea spirit from the Orkney and Shetland Islands. This merman takes his name from the seaweed that covers his body. He can appear as either a horse or an old man. It prays on young women out walking at night near the lochs whom it will abduct and devour under the water.
TROWS – A troll like thunder loving creature from Shetland. Also known to the islanders as the ‘Grey Folk’. Ugly looking beasts who dwell in mounds (trowies). They can only come out at night for sunlight turns them to stone. Despite their strange looks, they are said to be very talented fiddlers.
UNICORN – The ancient Scottish National Emblem that stands for strength and courage. A mythical medieval creature that was connected to the Stuarts. It has with a prized horn (alicorn) said to have powers of purification and magic. Sadly, hunted to extinction or is it?
URISK – A type of Brownie that dwells beside water. Like many of Scotland’s beasties, they can only be seen by those with second sight. Those that have seen the Urisk, say he is a strange looking solitary creature who has the hairy legs, curled horns and ears of a goat with the face and body of a man.
WULVER - A humanoid wolf like creature, who unlike the werewolf was not a shapeshifter. Because of his hairy appearance, the wulver lives in hillside caves out the sight of mortal man. He spends his days fishing and is not aggressive if he is left in peace. Some believe it is an immortal spirit
WHITE STAG – A sacred beast associated with King David and the feast of Holy Cross. Rarely seen except in the thick morning mist. Its great antlers are prized but a curse will be upon anyone foolish enough to kill the stag. A sighting of this beast was said to foretell the death of the Clan Chief.
Hearing Rowan tell her tales is a truly magical experience. Mesmerizing and so from the heart”. (Shona Sullivan)