Shellycoats

Ruth at Celtic Myth Podshow is blogging today about shellycoats, a generally harmless if perplexing creature from Scottish folklore.

THIS is a freakish spirit, who delights rather to perplex and frighten mankind than either to serve or seriously to hurt them.

Shellycoat, a spirit who resides in the waters, and has given his name to many a rock and stone the Scottish coast, belongs to the class of bogles.

When he appeared, he seemed to be decked with marine productions, and in particular with shells, whose clattering announced his approach.

The Fairy Flag of Clan MacLeod

Some light reading for your Thursday:

Many, many years ago, the Chief of Clan MacLeod was a handsome, intelligent man, and all the young ladies in the area were very attracted to him, but none suited his fancy.
One day, he met a fairy princess, a bean sidhe, one of the Shining Folk. Like all the other females he met, she fell madly in love with him, and he with her….

The Boobrie

For some reason, horses and faeries often go together in Celtic folklore. Not only are faeries sometimes depicted riding ghostly horses with bells adorning their tack, there are also pookas and other creatures that often assume the form of a horse. And then there are water horses (or kelpies)—horses that live underwater, as the name might suggest. There are also, it turns out, faeries who turn into water horses.

The boobrie is such a faery, and Flossie Benton Rogers has provided us an introduction to these creatures over at her blog, Conjuring the Magic:

Not to be confused with a Kelpie, the Boobrie is a Scottish fae that possesses the wondrous ability to shapeshift into a water horse. Since the Boobrie salivates at the thought of cows and fat lambs—its favorite snacks, along with succulent otters, ships transporting barnyard animals along the coast of Scotland risk being accosted. Boobries can even gallop on top of the waves to reach their destinations and are often mistaken by sailors for ghost horses.

In addition to a water horse, the Boobrie can take the appearance of a black feathered waterbird, something akin to a fierce cormorant. This is perhaps the Boobrie’s default form. Its strange claws appear like the wizened hands of a demon, and its caw roars like the bellow of a bull. Some legends insist the bull is one of the Boobrie’s possible forms and that it can stray from the coast to nestle among thickets of purple heather. Whether or not this fae can hug the land, it’s a rare loch in Scotland without the menacing presence of a resident Boobrie. As a bird it loves flying low over the turbulent seacoast, its huge ebony wings casting sinister shadows on the moon spattered waters below.

Five Helpful Clans of Little Folk

shee_an_gannonNot all faery beings can be imposing sídhe lords and ladies, sinister jinn, or wild, unpredictable satyrs. In world mythology, some of the inhabitants of the Otherworld are humble, unassuming, and even quite helpful to mortals. Today, I’ll highlight five types of little folk that you probably wouldn’t mind dropping by. They are all good with chores and domestic tasks of various sorts, and are usually happy to help mortals out for a modicum of remuneration. (Offerings of food or milk or cream usually does the trick.) All of these beings are all found in Scotland, Ireland, or surrounding regions.

Brùnaidh/Grogan

A brownie is called a brùnaidh in Scots Gaelic and grogan in Irish. These are domestic spirits who attach themselves to a house or family and often perform domestic chores when no one is looking. The house elves of Harry Potter are modeled largely on brownies.

Uruisg/Fenodyree

The uruisg (or urisk) is very much like a brownie, but is set apart by having goat-like hooves. They are called fenodyrees on the Isle of Man. The are said to have a mischievous nature and also tend to be inclined to perform farming or agrarian tasks. They are thus somewhat similar to a pooka.

Kilmouli

Kilmoulis are faery millers, an ugly form of brownies said to haunt mills. They also hail from the Border counties. They have enormous noses but no mouths, and therefore they have to inhale their food through the nose. Kilmoulis work hard, but also enjoy tricks and pranks.

Gruagach

Gruagachs (the Gaelic plural is technically gruagaichean) are field-folk native to Scotland. Their name literally means “long-haired one.” They love to help mortals with household tasks. Female gruagachs herd and protect cattle, and are also associated with water. They are described as having long blonde hair and wearing a green dress. Sometimes they are said to be attractive; more often, however, they are grotesques hags—although extremely kind-hearted.

Male gruagachs have thick fur, although occasionally they are described as handsome youths dressed in green and red. They commonly work as farm hands shredding and thrashing grain.

Clurichaun

A clurichaun (Irish clobhair-ceann) is thought by some to be a variant form of the leprechaun who goes out to drink after finishing his daily work. They are always drunk. If treated well, a clurichaun will protect a mortal’s wine cellar.