The history of everyone’s favourite Autumn celebration is indelibly linked with Scotland’s own history. Naming the holiday ‘Halloween’ was originally coined in Scotland in the 16th century as a derivation of ‘All Hallows Eve’, a tradition that had it’s roots in the Gaelic fire festival known as Samhain (pronounced “Sow-win”) that would mark the ending of the harvest season and the ushering in of the dark half of the year. The Gaelic people believed that the barriers between the physical and spiritual worlds would break down during this time, allowing for interactions between the people of our world and the other. Great fires would be lit to keep back evil spirits and people would take fire from these bonfires back to their homes to keep hearth fires lit for the full 3 days of the festival.
The tradition of ‘Trick or Treating’ as well is derived from the Irish and Scottish tradition of ‘Guising’. Children would dress up as evil spirits in the hope that being in disguise would save them from harm from any wandering evil spirits that would mistake them as one of their own. After performing songs or tricks ‘Guisers’ were given gifts.
You might be wondering about the kinds of malicious entities that people of Scotland used to fear. Scotland has a rich mythical history and the people had many monsters to watch out for that have mostly been forgotten in the modern age. So! we aim to remedy this… If you find yourself out ‘guising’ this Halloween here is a list of Scottish monsters that you might want to keep an eye out for!
These terrifying aquatic spirits haunt rivers and lochs and normally take on the appearance of a horse (Although they can also take the form of a beautiful young woman). They draw in their victims by emitting a sound like a woman screaming. If you decide to ignore all of these quite obvious warning signs and touch the Kelpie you will become stuck and the water horse will dive in to the water with you attached and drown you.
Particularly fond of children there is an old Scottish legend of a night in which a Kelpie had gathered 9 children and was going for it’s 10th victim but the young boy touched its nose and when the horse dove for the water he managed to cut off his finger and survived. It’s said that this monsters only weakness is its bridle and if you can break that you will take control of the beast.
The name ‘Bean Nighe’ means ‘washerwoman’ in Scots Gaelic. Another water based beastie, the Bean Nighe is said to haunt streams where she washes blood from the clothing of those about to die. She is normally described as appearing as an old hag with webbed feet, one nostril and one long tooth. Our neighbours over on the Isles of Mull and Tiree have the colourful description of Bean Nighe as having breasts so long that she throws them over her shoulders to drape down her back. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth that is now doomed to wash the clothes of the almost-dead until the day that they would have otherwise died.
The Bean Nighe isn’t likely to do anything more to you than give you a hefty fright but it is said that if you sneak up on her as she sings and grab her before she can run away she will tell you the name of the person that is supposed to die. She might even grant you three wishes if you’re lucky.
Still, please don’t go around grabbing women that are near rivers. That’s a good way to get arrested.
The Red Cap
Is that wee Brian down the street there dressed up like a garden gnome? Maybe. Or maybe it’s a Red Cap Goblin looking for its next victim!… OK, if you’re trick or treating and see a small person with a red cap it’s probably safer to assume they aren’t a malevolent goblin hell bent on murder, but you never know!
These wee buggers are also known as Powries or Dunters and are a type of Dwarf, Goblin or Fairie that generally are said to hang around down at the borders. They inhabit ruined castles and are said to murder anyone who strays in to their homes and dye their hats with the blood of these victims. Strangely enough it’s also said that they need to kill regularly because if the blood in their caps dry out then they die. With dwindling interest in Museums and Heritage sites I’d say it’s probably a safe bet that these wee guys are probably done for…
If you find yourself alone this Halloween and desiring a lady companion, be very careful if a beautiful woman in a green dress suddenly turns up out of nowhere with an interest in you. Especially if this woman has hooves instead of feet!
Normally victimising hunters in the Highlands, but also appearing to desperate men, it is said that the Baobhan Sith appears as a beautiful young woman that wears a long green dress but has deer hooves instead of feet. She is in fact a vampire, and one that has a strange and gruesome way of killing her prey. She dances with her chosen victim until they are exhausted, at which point her nails turn in to talons. Preferring to use brute force over the finesse we usually associate with vampires who drink from a persons neck; the Baobhan Sith would slit open the man’s chest and proceed to drain them completely of blood.
These elusive creatures can sometimes be found roaming the streets on the night of Halloween in large groups looking for anyone much smaller than them. Once they have picked a victim they will approach from behind so as not to be seen and grab the bag containing all of the child’s hard earned treats gathered over the night.
Although just as despicable as the other ghouls on this list these are much easier to deal with. It is recommended that you walk the streets either with your parents or in groups. Bag Snatchers become easily frightened and generally wont approach unless you are on your own.
Can you think of any other Ghastly Ghouls that haunt Scotland? Lets discuss it over on our facebook page!
Stay safe out there.