Kelpies – Scottish Legends

Well, It’s been a long time since I have posted! But, in short, I had a couple of traumatic things happen and could easily have died twice. No, it wasn’t COVID, but I’m happy to get back to writing more. Here’s a quick post to get me back into the swing of things!

I am going to focus a little more on folklore today.  As a faery witch, I always enjoy learning about different faeries in different cultures. Every culture has them in some form. One of my favorites has always been the Kelpie.  I remember there was a minor character in the “Tithe” series by Holly Black that was one of my favorites growing up, so the fascination most likely started there. I’ve always enjoyed the somewhat creepy imagery of the water horses.

The Kelpie is of Scotish origin, and is thought to be a more malevolent faery…but I like to think that perhaps, they are just misunderstood? Maybe not… There are many stories of travelers and children who reached out to pet or ride the kelpie, while he was disguised as innocent, and became immediately stuck to the creature, who would then drown them…and maybe even eat them.  A Complete Guide to Fairies & Magical being describes the Kelpie as, “Scottish Long Fanged Water Demons who are expert shape shifters, associated with Scottish Loch, especially Loch Ness. They are sometimes described as Water Horses who lure riders and then drag them beneath the waters; and are also known to appear as handsome youths, except for their seaweed hair.

Some legends also say that if one can bridle the Kelpie, the Kelpie will have to do their bidding, and that they have the strength of 10 horses. As tempting as that may have been (or may be), this doesn’t normally turn out well for the humans.  It always makes me sad, really. The thought of humans trying to control faeries.  I wrote about Selkies in a previous post, and they have a similar way of being controlled.  Don’t try and tame something wild and free. Respect it!  Plus, we all know that bending someone’s will is bad karma, right? Supposedly, anyone who did manage to bridle the Kelpie ended up cursed in one way or another. 

Illustration by Martin McKenna for the book and recording Misterstourworm and the Kelpie’s Gift

“The Fairy Bible” also says that the Kelpie may be the rider between worlds, guiding Shamans on their journey.  So, this leans towards my thought of them just being a little misunderstood.

As I feel about much of the spiritual world, their ideas of “right” and “wrong” just don’t match up with ours. Spiritual beings, especially The Fae, have their own moral compasses and what may seem wrong to us, isn’t to them.   Respect & honor that, and learn to open your mind and heart…and also make sure not to offend them.  

Allure of the Seal

The world of the fae has always had the most important place in my heart. There are so many wonderful tales and poetry inspired by these magical beings. I’ve spent my life learning about them, and one of my favorite tales is about the Selchie or Selkie. For some reason they have always drawn me in and sent a warm light through my entire body.

There are different versions of the story, but in summary, the Scottish tale tells of a fisherman/hunter that comes across some beautiful women dancing on the shore. He’s mesmerized by their beauty, and then sees the seal skins on rocks near them.  If you steal the seal skin of a Selchie she cannot return to the sea, so he takes it and makes one of the beautiful ladies wed him. Eventually, she learns to love the hunter and bears a child. As the boy grows he sees how sad his mother is when she gazes out to the sea, and she explains why.  Eventually he steals the skin back for his mother and she is able to return to the sea….This is definitely just a summary and I fully recommend reading the whole thing. I’ll leave a link to a version of the full story at the bottom of the page.

Something here just really tugs at my heart. According to The Faery Bible, “The sea represents emotions, but these are not just personal emotions and ordinary human bonds. The sea signifies the longing of humanity – all the memories and feelings of the ages that are too overwhelming, too deep ever to be cast aside by a being as sensitive as the Selkie. She belongs to the collective emotional pool and she must dance the dance of life – she has far more to experience than simply the domestic joys of marriage and motherhood. For us, the Selkie represents the longing of the soul for it’s true home…”

Art by: Selina Fenech

There is such a beautiful sadness to the story, that I think that we can relate to as humans. At some point I think many of us have been forced to give up an important aspect of our personality when we didn’t want to. Growing up, in a sense, feels like our skins being stolen. We adjust to life and responsibility we’d rather not have, but sometimes gaze back longingly at a time when it felt like the world was ours. Our souls are always longing for something more.  Maybe it’s delusion but ever since I can remember consciousness I have always felt that my soul was far away from it’s true home in the sea. Domestication is a sickness that has always terrified me, and I wish nothing more than to be as free as a Selchie swimming in the sea. Able to survive in water and on land. Maybe in the next life, right?

As a general rule one should NEVER try and capture and control the magick of a faery being. Always respect the earth and the gifts it gives us. Work in tandem with it, and all of the magick that it holds.   And if you see a Selchie, watch from a distance and never, ever steal their skins.