Hello Everyone! As many of you know, Katie Wright and I have been pushing our WILD OBAN Kickstarter proposal this month. In addition to our incessant begging (which will continue for just two more weeks!) I thought I'd share a couple of the folk stories originating in the Hebrides. The two tales below just scratch the surface of our research and I think shows a fascinating specificity to this Scottish area.
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And without further ado, enjoy!
The Hag Goddess of Winter
In the undulating waters of the Hebrides there is the Gulf of Corryvreckan, which the local people called the "Gulf of the Speckled Seas" or the "Gulf of the plaid" for an old and powerful hag that lived by these waters. The hag, Cailleach Bheur, was a mighty and giant witch that all were terrified of for she could turn the waters to storms and bring death to the lands. Once a year for three days, Cailleach Bheur went to the seas to wash her great plaid before the winter season. Using the gulf as her washtub she churned her cloth for three days straight causing the waters and winds to roar a tempest that was heard for twenty miles in all directions. The first swirling waters created the great Corryveckan whirlpool that still lasts the whole year round, catching and drowning passing fish and ships. Some say the hag lives in the whirlpool as the fiercest of the kelpies.
For these washing days the people of the islands hide indoors trying not to be caught in the witch's mad cleaning. When Cailleach Bheur was done her cloth was pure white. She then laid it over the lands to dry as it turned into a clean blanket of snow marking the beginning of winter.
Many more tales incorporating this whirlpool exist as the hag goddess doomed many a brave prince and princess in the course of Scottish history.
All photos taken by my partner Katie. Isn't she just awesome?
The Blue Men of the Minch
Long ago a tribe of fallen angels crashed to earth and split into three groups: the ground dwelling fairies, the "Merry Dancers" of the northern lights, and the sea inhabiting blue men. The blue men of the Minch, also known as storm kelpies, inhabit exclusively the stretch of water between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland. These creatures, unlike other kelpies, look like humans only blue and capable of living underwater. When the skies are clear and the waters calm, the blue men are in a fine sleep floating on the backs just below the water's surface. But when awake, they have the power to play with winds and create storms that try the strength of the strongest ships.
To pass the time the Blue Men play shinty when the skies are clear. When ships pass by they spray them with water and laugh roaring winds. When in a more mischievous mood, the kelpie chief, a Shony, rises out of the water and shouts two lines of poetry to the master of passing ships as a challenge. The man must shout two lines back for safe passage, but if he fails the blue men will attempt to capsize the ship and drown all the captain's men.
One of the few recorded instances of this exchange occurred long ago between a skipper and the Blue Men Chief:
Blue Chief: Man of the black cap what do you say
As your proud ship cleaves the brine?
Skipper: My speedy ship takes the shortest way
And I'll follow you line by line
Blue Chief: My men are eager, my men are ready
To drag you below the waves
Skipper: My ship is speedy, my ship is steady
If it sank, it would wreck your caves.
The diary of the Skipper notes, the chief was so surprised by the quick responses that the blue men all retreated to their underwater caves in shame. But it was not always that a captain was so fast on their feet and the Blue Men have drowned many a young sailor over the course of history.