The Faery Folklorist provides an in-depth article about the water horses of Loch a Gharbh-bhaid Beag (which, if you haven’t guessed, is in Scotland).
Many a Scottish loch lays claim to a water-horse, but how many can say they have a whole herd living beneath the still dark surface? Loch a Gharbh-bhaid Beag in the North West Highlands is said to be home to not one Each Uisge, but a whole herd! If you’ve not heard of the infamous water-horse, you can read more about them here in a previous blog. Unusually, this particular story has a reasonably happy ending with no deaths or gore, which does make a change from the usual ending of the water-horse dragging it’s victim into the deep murky waters to their doom.
The Faery Folklorist has posted a wonderful introduction to the trows of the Orkney and Shetland Islands. In case you’re not quite up to speed on your trow-lore, the article begins,
According to Saxby and Edmondston’s ‘Home of a Naturalist’ (1888), “This interesting race of supernatural beings is closely allied to the Scandinavian Trolls, but has some very distinctive characteristics of its own. The Trow is not such a mischief-making sprite as the Troll, is more human-like in some respects, and his nature seems cast in a morbid, melancholy mould.”
From there, the article discusses what trows look like, where they live, and the sorts of things they do. There is even a brief but delightful list of trow names culled from Orkney and Shetland folklore.
Whether out of respect for faeries, the environment, or history, a number of archeological sites and stunning natural vistas have been preserved in northern Europe, as Melissa Marshall describes in an article at Atlas Obscura titled “Fairy Forts, Dens, & Glens: When Places Are Preserved by Mythical Belief.”
In an effort to avoid the wrath of the fairies, communities of the British Isles and Ireland have protected the fairy “homes,” and as a result have preserved sites of great beauty from development and destruction, which is a kind of magic in itself. Conversely, more than a few lovely spots have become damaged and even threatened with destruction by enthusiastic fairy hunters.
Ireland’s Fairy Forts — more properly known as ring forts — are the remains of strongholds and other dwellings dating back as far as the Iron Age. However, local tradition holds that fairies make their home in these ring forts and terrible luck will come to anyone who participates in their destruction. These folk beliefs seem to only date back to the 12th century, but they were strong enough to allow thousands of ring forts to grow wild as the rest of the land was being cultivated for human use.
In modern times, folk beliefs alone have often not been enough to preserve these archaeological sites. In Iceland, protection of elf homes (elves being supernatural cousins of faeries) is codified into building codes and even made a semi-official vocation at Elf School, and yet some cynics avow that non-believing environmentalists might be exploiting folk beliefs to protect the island’s pristine eco system.
It’s a very interesting article that addresses the many conflicting motivations—and results—of setting aside certain places “for the faeries.”