Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Kelpie

Lost little pony standing there
So handsome, black and sleek
But you my dear must beware
His interest your flesh will pique
He'll drag you down to waters deep
And then drown you for his dinner
Those left on land will start to weep
When he leaves nothing but your liver
                                                ~ Morrigan Aoife  


The Kelpie is a shape-shifting supernatural water spirit or Water Horse, from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and streams of Scotland and Ireland. The name Kelpie may have derived from the Scottish Gaelic cailpeach or colpach meaning heifer or colt.

Kelpies are an amphibious species and are connected to bodies of water in a magical way. They have the ability to live underwater and in many legends, they sink under the surface of their own body of water and appear to never resurface.  The Kelpie is also said to warn of impending storms by wailing and howling, which would carry on through the tempest.

Although generally assigned to the faerie realm, Kelpies are solitary creatures, not often seen with other faeries.  Like other creatures of Scottish Folklore the tales of the Kelpie vary by region.  Legends tell of two common forms these shape shifters may possess: A human male and a beautiful majestic horse.  Examples of other not-so-common forms are: a handsome horse with a fish-like tail, a horse with his hooves on backwards, a shaggy man covered in horse hair, a human male with hooves, a human female, often called a Water Wraith.    

Like many Celtic spirits, the Kelpie is a trickster who leads humans astray.  Its most common guise is the form of a young, sleek, handsome horse whose hide is typically black or green as glass with a jet black mane and tail although in some stories it is white or golden yellow. Its skin is said to be like that of a seal, smooth but cold as death when touched.

It appears often as a lost pony (although its mane is constantly dripping water) it uses this form to lure humans, especially children, into the water to drown and eat them. The water horse encourages children and weary travelers to ride on its back which tales say could actually lengthen to make room for as many as 20 children.

Although it may look like a gentle pony once its careless victims fall into its trap, the water horse's skin becomes sticky and the horse will rear and charge head long into the deepest part of the water, dragging the humans stuck to his body on their final ride into water where he would drown and devour them—except the heart or liver. When plunging into the water, a Kelpie slaps his tail hard against the surface, making a tremendous banging sound, and disappears under the water to devour his prey.

Malevolent in nature Kelpies have an insatiable appetite for humans and are widely known for drowning and eating their human victims but other legends tell of Kelpies stealing human girls to take as wives, never to see their families again. Still others say the Kelpie is not always male, but may also take the form of a beautiful human woman. These female Kelpies created illusions to keep themselves hidden, keeping only their eyes above water to scout the surface. In this instance, the female Kelpie is often referred to as a Water Wraith and is most often seen clothed in a green dress, but make no mistake she is just as treacherous as a male Kelpie.
One of the other forms assumed by the Kelpie is that of a hairy humanoid, who would leap out from the riverside vegetation to attack passing travelers. Their grip is said to be like that of a vice, crushing the life out of anybody unfortunate enough to come within the Kelpies clutches.
There is one way in which a Kelpie can be defeated and tamed; the Kelpie's power of shape shifting resides in its bridle, and anybody who could possess such a bridle could force the Kelpie to submit to their will. A Kelpie in subjugation is highly prized; it can be used for hard labor as it has the strength of at least 10 horses and the endurance of many more.  It is tireless, works like a demon, and has such stamina it can carry its rider endlessly.
However, the fairy races are always dangerous captives, especially those as malignant as the Kelpie and unfortunately, at the end of each day the Kelpie must claim one human victim.
There is only one thing that can truly stop a Kelpie. Though they live in moving water, Kelpies cannot be exposed to still water of any kind: puddle water, rain or tap water, or non-fizzy bottled water. Travelers usually pack a small bottle of puddle water as a form of protection.
While in human form Kelpies are said to always be dripping wet or have water reeds or seaweed in their hair. They must always have something that connects them to the water which often gives them away.
In the event that a Kelpie mated with a mortal horse, its offspring would have golden wishing hooves. However, when approached by a human the offspring would drown them in the nearest body of water.  Other legends say that it is not the Kelpie itself which lures and kills travelers but that it is the resulting offspring from a Kelpie and a mortal horse breeding, which actually kill people.  
Although not found in the original folktales, some believe Kelpies aid water mills and dispose of trash in the sea. Others believe Kelpies may hate humans for ruining their home.  

Also not part of the original tale is that someone who mentions Christ's name after being trapped will be thrown off the water horse and that a Kelpie can be caught only by trapping it with a bridle that is engraved or adorned with a cross. These new additions are believed to be an attempt by the church to incorporate Celtic lore into religious beliefs to make them more appealing to potential converts.

Other unconfirmed tidbits are that Kelpies tend to come out mostly in November and that they will not come unless summoned, or to eat. It is also mentioned that Kelpies could use their magical powers to cause streams and lochs to flood overwhelming passers-by. Yet another tale said Kelpies have backward hooves and could change form between horse and water.

These foul tempered Fae are rarely seen today, a fact which most would consider a blessing since humans are the favored meal of these cannibalistic faeries.

** There are many mythological creatures similar to the Kelpie, the color of these water horses may differ to those of the Scottish Kelpie and they may only appear during certain times of the day or night.
A list of these Water Horses include:
The Nuggle or Nuggies  from Orkney, and a Shoopiltee, or Njogel, or Tangi from Shetland.
On the Isle of Man, the Kelpie is known as the Cabbyl-Ushtey (Manx Gaelic for "water horse", compare to Irish Capall Uisge) or the Glashtin.
 In Wales, a similar creature is the Ceffyl Dŵr.
In Scandinavian folklore, it is known by the name Bäckahästen, - The Brook Horse.
 In Norway it is called Nøkken, where the horse shape is often used, but is not its true form.
The Cornish call them Shoney which is derived from the Norse name sjofn, meaning a 'Goddess of the Sea'.
 In the Faroe Islands it is called Nykur and in Iceland it is called Nykur, Nickers  or Nennir.
Another similar water horse appearing in the mythology of Scotland and Ireland is the Each Uisge or Fauth," a sea-dwelling creature that often takes the form of a handsome man. Also in Ireland, a faerie known as the Phooka is said to take the shape of a horse and induces children to mount him. He is then said to plunge with them over a precipice killing them.
 In Greek mythology, Poseidon is the god of the oceans and of horses, and took the form of a horse to seduce Demeter.
Sorry about the late night posting my family is in chaos, my niece Heather Barns was hit by a car today as she walked home from school. She is in critical condition. Please consider adding her to your prayers.


  1. Definitely putting out positive vibes out to Heather! Is she any better this morning?

  2. There have not been any significant changes thus far. I am trying to keep all those who are concerned updated on Facebook at It is afterall the fastest source for social media. Feel free to check the page for continued updates and thank you for asking.

  3. Oh, I'm sorry about your niece! What terrible news! I hope she'll be okay. Definitely will add her to my prayers.

    Have you ever read Scorpio Races? The author took this mythology and applied it to her world. I think you'd enjoy it. It's a good, incredibly haunting read. :)

  4. So sorry about your niece. I will definitely put out prayers for her.

    I think from now on I'll be keeping a bottle of water close by. I sure don't want to run into a Kelpie!