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Celtic Mythology Irish Mythology The Partholonians Kelpies

The Kelpie

The Kelpie is a supernatural shape-shifting water horse that haunts the rivers and streams of Scotland. It is probably one of the best-known of Scottish water spirits and is often mistakenly thought to haunt lochs, which are the reserve of the Loch Ness Monster.

The creature could take many forms and had an insatiable appetite for humans; its most common guise was that of a beautiful tame horse standing by the riverside—a tempting ride for a weary traveller. Anybody foolish enough to mount the horse—perhaps a stranger unaware of the local traditions—would find himself in dire peril, as the horse would rear and charge headlong into the deepest part of the water, submerging with a noise like thunder to the traveller's watery grave.

The Kelpie was also said to warn of impending storms by wailing and howling, which would carry on through the tempest. This association with thunder—the sound its tail makes as it submerges—and storms, may be related to ancient worship of river and weather deities by the ancient Celts, although this is difficult to substantiate.


Suggested Reading

Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales
by George Douglas

Book Description
Treasury of fanciful, picturesque narratives—assembled by noted folklorist and recounted in their native vernacular—tell of brownies, kelpies, mermen and other supernatural creatures that assist, annoy and otherwise meddle in the lives of simple Scottish country folk. A delightful collection of imaginative and entertaining nursery and fairy tales, animal fables, witchcraft lore, and stories with a comic twist.


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