The Kelpies Mythical Scottish Water Horses
Discover The History Of The Kelpies
Located in Falkirk a large town in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, within the county of Stirlingshire. Lying in the Forth Valley, is where you will find The Kelpies. Unveiled in April 2014 as the largest equine sculpture in the world standing at 30-metre-high, these horse-head sculptures are situated in Helix Park near the M9 Motorway and are a fitting monument to Scotland’s horse-powered industrial heritage.
But what are the ‘kelpies’?
A kelpie is a shape-changing aquatic spirit of Scottish legend. Its name may derive from the Scottish Gaelic words ‘cailpeach’ or ‘colpach’, meaning heifer or colt. It is said that Kelpies like to haunt rivers and streams, usually taking on the shape of a horse.
These water horses can also appear in human form. They may materialize as a beautiful young woman, hoping to lure young men to their death. Or they might take on the form of a hairy human lurking by the river, ready to jump out at unsuspecting travelers and crush them to death in a vice-like grip.
Be cautious as Kelpies may look innocent, but these are malevolent spirits. The kelpie may manifest as a tame pony beside a river. This can be attractive to children – but they should be careful if they were to mount the pony, for once on its back, a sticky magical hide will not allow them to dismount! Once trapped in this way, the kelpie will drag the child into the river and then eat them.
Kelpies are also said to be able to use their magical powers to summon water up to flood and sweep passing travelers away into a watery grave.
Thunder is what the sound of a kelpie’s tail entering the water is to resemble. So, if you are ever passing by a river and hear an unearthly wailing or howling, take care: it could be a kelpie or an approaching storm.
But it’s not all bad news as a kelpie has a weak spot – its bridle. Written is Scottish folklore, it is said that anyone who can get hold of a kelpie’s bridle will have command over it and any other kelpie. A captive kelpie is said to have the strength of 10 horses with the stamina of many more and is highly prized trophy.
The MacGregor is rumored as a clan to have possession of a kelpie’s bridle, that has been passed down through the clan’s generations. The bridle is said to have come from an ancestor who managed to remove it from a kelpie near Loch Slochd.
The kelpie is even mentioned in a famous poem by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns,
‘Address to the Deil’:
“…When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord
An’ float the jinglin’ icy boord
Then, water-kelpies haunt the foord
By your direction
And ‘nighted trav’llers are allur’d
To their destruction…”
Kelpies in Scottish History
A common Scottish folk tale is one of the ‘kelpie and the ten children’. This story goes that having lured nine children onto its back, the kelpie then chases after the tenth. The kelpie catches the child and strokes its nose, but his finger becomes stuck in the nose of the Kelpie. The boy cuts off his finger though and escapes. The other nine children are dragged into the water, never to be seen again.
Through out history there have been many tales of water horses in mythology. For example, in Orkney there is the Nuggle, in Shetland the Shoopiltee and in the Isle of Man, the ‘Cabbyl-ushtey’. In Welsh folklore there are tales of the ‘Ceffyl Dŵr’.
Scotland has another famous mystical water horse, the ‘Each-uisge’, which lurks in lochs and is reputed to be even more vicious than the kelpie.
So next time you are strolling by a pretty river or stream, be cautious as you may be being watched from the water by a malevolent Kelpie, if you are lucky you may be able to acquire your own 'Bridle'.
We really hope you enjoyed this tribute to The Kelpies mythical Scottish water horses. The amazing monument to the Kelpies is a a must see on a visit to Scotland.
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