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THE WATER-HORSES: TERRIFYING AQUATIC ENIGMAS OF THE BRITISH ISLES (BRITAIN AND IRELAND) - PART 2

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:50 PM

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THE WATER-HORSES: TERRIFYING AQUATIC ENIGMAS OF THE BRITISH ISLES (BRITAIN AND IRELAND) - PART 2


Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


ALASTYN: (IRELAND)


Considered to be the Gaelic sub-species of the British Isles' vast, carnivorous Water-Horse population.


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Also referred to as the Aughisky, this aquatic-equestrian is purported to share many of the same characteristics as the Scottish Kelpie and Each-Uisge. Although most regard this Gaelic beast to be the least aggressive of the three, it is still much feared in certain locales.


Eyewitnesses have described the animal as a Water Horse which is capable of assuming the characteristics of a man, save for its ears, which retain their horse-like appearance. According to legend the Alastyn's favorite pastime was to lure unsuspecting humans onto its back by appearing to be a docile horse. Once the trusting individual was firmly situated on the creature's spine it would suddenly bolt for the nearest lake or riverbed, where it would proceed to devour its victim posthaste.


EACH-UISGE: (SCOTLAND)


The Scottish Gaelic "Each-Uisge" has endured several anglicizations, e.g. aughisky. It belongs to the same family of water horses as the Irish aughisky, the cabyll-ushtey, the glashtin of Manx folklore and the ceffyl dwfr of Welsh folklore. It has even been suggested that the Each-Uisge may be a Scottish sub-species of the so-called "Irish crocodile," which is more commonly referred to as the dobhar-chu.


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The Each-Uisge is considered hands-down to be the single most dangerous cryptid of all the mysterious, aquatic mammals, which reputedly haunt the lakes and rivers of the British Isles, although the Cabyll-Ushtey runs a close second. The ferocity of this legendary beast is considerable even when compared to the carnivorous exploits of the other highland Water-Horses. As long as the Each-Uisge is ridden in the interior, he is rather harmless. But the merest glimpse or smell of water would mean the end of the rider. In fact, the Each-Uisge is known for devouring it's victims with a predatorial-ecstasy—consuming its prey entirely, with the exception of the liver, for which it seems to have developed a distaste.


The typical description of the Each-Uisge is that of a glistening, black horse with a greenish patina, although—much like the Alastyn and Kelpie—it is renowned for its metamorphic capabilities. It has also been claimed that the epidermis of the Each-Uisge has adhesive properties, which would explain why its victims aren't able to leap to safety before plummeting into their watery graves.


Unlike the Kelpie, who prefers a habitat of running water, the Each-Uisge makes its home in the calm, almost stagnant lochs and sea inlets of Scotland. That difference aside, the Each-Uisge is said to share the Kelpie's preferred method of capturing its prey, which entails the tempting of potential victims onto its back by appearing to be a tame mare. This method seems to create yet another distinction between the Water-Horses and other unusual aquatic animals such as the Australian Bunyip, which seems to prefer to attack its victims outright.


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Cautionary tales were once told of how an Each-Uisge once appeared as a pretty little pony to several little girls near Aberfeldy, Tayside (until 1974, Perthshire). As they mounted the pony, its back lengthened to accommodate them. Although the horse ran to and fro among the rocks, the children could not be unseated; next morning their livers floated to the top of a nearby lochan.


That having been said, one of the most horrifying Each-Uisge encounters ever chronicled was published in McKay's, More West Highland Tales, Volume 2. According to this antiquated account, there was a blacksmith—who hailed from Raasay, Scotland—who had a terrifying and tragic encounter with the beast.


The story goes that a blacksmith had a small herd of cattle, which were tended to by his children. One evening his daughter, who's turn it had been to watch the herd, did not return home in the evening. The following morning the blacksmith and his son discovered the eviscerated remains of the young girl. The bloody mess—which consisted primarily of the daughter's clothes, lungs and heart—was splayed across the rocky shores of a loch that was reputed to harbor an Each-Uisge.


Heartbroken, the blacksmith vowed to avenge his little girl, and, with a minimal amount of mourning, the smith and his son built a makeshift forge on the banks of the loch. The boy stoked the roaring flames, while his father worked throughout the day forging massive, iron hooks, which were said to glow red-hot in the blazing conflagration. As the sun began to dip low on the horizon, the man and his son placed the carcass of a sheep upon this fire, and it wasn't long before the scent of the roasting meat wafted out across the mist shrouded waters of the loch.


Suddenly, a massive churning of bubbles arose from the placid water, from which the Water-horse emerged. Described as an "ugly, shaggy yearling," the animal swiftly snatched the sheep. The Blacksmith and his son wasted no time in plunging their still smoldering hooks into the creature's flesh. After a horrific struggle, the men proved victorious and the flesh-eating beast lay dead at their feet. The next day, or so the account goes, there was nothing left of the monster save for a pile of what has been described as a "jelly-like substance", which the Scotts referred to as "starshine."


Although this tale has always been associated with the Water-Horse phenomenon, this creature's decidedly un-horse-like appearance—as well as its penchant for attacking rather than seducing its victims—seems to be yet another indicator that this animal is more likely to be a rogue specimen of Bernard Heuvelmans legendary super-otter, the "Hyperhydra egedei". It would also seem to contradict the view of some paranormal researchers that the Each-Uisge is a supernatural shapeshifter, able to appear as a gigantic bird or a handsome young man who attracts women, and can be recognized only by the water weeds in his hair.


CABYLL-USHTEY (SCOTLAND)


The deep, watery chasms wedged between the rolling, green hills of Scotland would seem to conceal as many secrets as the Amazonian rainforest and the wilds of Africa put together. There is hardly a loch, glen or river north of the British border that does not claim to harbor its own peculiar breed of cryptid, and the Cabyll-Ushtey is just one such animal.


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Referred to as the Manx Water Horse, this carnivorous creature is said to lurk beneath the surface of numerous highland water holes. Described as a prototypical water-horse, this beast's sole concession to originality is its pale-grayish color, which is, in fact, fairly similar to its purported cousin, the kelpie.


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Much like the rest of its ilk, the Cabyll-Ushtey is known for pulling men and animals alike to their deaths below the placid, peat blackened depths of one of Scotland's many lochs. This animal is believed by most researchers to be nothing more than a localized name for the more popularly regarded Each-Usige.


KELPIE: (BRITISH ISLES)


Undoubtably the most famous of all Water-Horses said to be lurking in the British Isles, this animal is renowned for its cunning and vicious disposition. In Orkney a similar creature was called the Nuggle, and in Shetland a similar creature was called the Shoopiltee. It also appears in Scandinavian folklore where it is known by the name Bäckahästen, the brook horse.


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The Kelpie is yet another insidious Water-Horse which is rumored to dwell in the churning, white waters of Ireland, Scotland and Great Briton. The Kelpie was the best-known of the Scottish waterhorses which haunted rivers rather than lochs or the sea. Known for preferring torrid rapids to placid pools, this stallion of the deep takes many of its cues from the other, less famous, Water-Horses of the British Isles. Much like the Each-Uisge or the Alastyn, the Kelpie is known for seducing its unsuspecting prey by assuming the guise of a submissive horse. It played the ordinary Bogy or Bogey-beast trick of alluring travellers on to its back and rushing with them into the deep pool, where it struck the water with its tail with a sound like thunder and disappeared in a flash of light. It was suspected of sometimes tearing people to pieces and devouring them.


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The Scott's Kelpie has been described as a menacing, black beast, which is half-horse and half-bull. This creature was also said to have two, razor sharp horns adorning its skull—not entirely unlike its gentler cousin the Tarbh-Uisge. This variety of Kelpie was also more inclined toward the consumption of fresh meat, than its southern ilk.


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It could also assume the shape of a human being, in which it appeared like a rough, shaggy man. In this shape it would sometimes leap up behind a solitary rider, gripping and crushing or frightening him to death.


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That having been said, there are some Scottish legends which portray the animal in a less ominous light. According to these accounts, although the unfortunate rider may well drown after plunging into the often icy depths of these murky, Anglo-Saxon lakes, more often than not the Kelpie's victim escapes, thoroughly moistened, but relatively unharmed. While an unwilling jockey is in for the ride of his life, he may consider himself lucky if the creature upon who's back he's clinging is actually a Kelpie, for decidedly unlike the other aforementioned Water-Horses, the beast in these accounts is not known for its carnivorous nature. Kelpies would sometimes interbreed with humans' horses, and the foals were said to be fine fleetfooted horses. The kelpie was also said to warn of forthcoming storms by wailing and howling. Rarely, kelpies could even be benign. The folktale The Kelpie's Wife tells of one in Loch Garve, Ross-shire, who had a human wife. The Jethro Tull song "Kelpie", from the 1988 album 20 Years Of Jethro Tull, tells of a young woman tempted away by a kelpie.


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However, this version of the Kelpie legend is far less commonplace.


A pituresque version of the story of 'The Time is Come but not the Man' is told of the river Conan in Sutherland, in which the Kelpie seems to figure as the hungry spirit of the river. In his horse form, the Kelpie sometimes had a magic bridle. Grant Stewart in his Popular Superstitions tells how a bold MacGregor, nicknamed Wellox, took his bridle off the Kelpie. The Kelpie begged him to restore it. but he kept it and used it to work magic. On the other hand, the man who put a human bridle on the Kelpie could subdue him to his will. Chambers tells us that Graham of Morphie once bridled a kelpie and used him to drag stones to build his new castle. When the castle was built he took off the bridle, and the poor, galled kelpie dashed into the river, but paused in the middle to say:


'Sair back and sair banes

Drivin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes,

The Laird o' Morphie'll never thrive

Sae lang as the Kelpie is alive!'

From then misfortune dogged the Grahams of Morphie until their lives ended.


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Theories


According to the Swedish naturalist and author Bengt Sjögren (1980), the present day belief in lake monsters in, for example, Loch Ness, is associated with the old legends of kelpies. Sjögren claims that the accounts of lake-monsters have changed during history. Older reports often talk about horse-like appearances, but more modern reports often have more reptile and dinosaur-like-appearances, and Bengt Sjögren concludes that the legends of kelpies evolved into the present day legends of lake-monsters where the monsters "changed the appearance" to a more "realistic" and "modern" version since the discovery of dinosaurs and giant aquatic reptiles from the horse-like water-kelpie to a dinosaur-like reptile, often a plesiosaur.


AUGHISKY (IRELAND)


The name Aughisky is an Anglicization of the Irish Gaelic 'Each-Uisge'.


This water-horse inhabits inland lakes and is not supposed to gallop along the shore like the Each-Uisge or streaming water like the Kelpie. November seems the month most likely for the aughisky to be seen.


The aughisky belongs to the same family of water horses as the Scottish Each-Uisge and bears some relationship with the Welsh Ceffyl Dwfr. It should not be confused with the beautiful, lake-dwelling horse called Cuchulainn which it is said can be captured and trained; it also returns riders to its mountain pool of its own volition when they were mortally wounded. The Shoopiltee is a variant of the Each-Uisge from the Shetlands, and is thus distinguished from the Kelpie which inhabit running water.


The following is excerpted from "Notes on Irish Folk-Lore" by G. H. Kinahan, from Folk-Lore Record 4, 1881.


There are fairies like a horse who inhabit certain lakes; they seem to be very common, as the Aughinch (the island of the waterhorse) is not uncommon in connection with most of the lakes. The horse comes out of the water of an evening to graze on the land. In general no bad stories are told about these horses, yet most people are afraid to pass a place they frequent after it is dark.


If a person gets between them and the water, and can steal up and put a halter on them, they can be subdued and used as long as they are not allowed to see their old lake; but if once allowed to see it, all power over them is lost, and various stories of them and their riders dashing into the water never to be seen again are told.


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An aughisky a few years ago frequented Lough Mask, co. Mayo, preying on the cattle, until it was laid by a monk of Toormakeady. Another that lived in Lough Corrib had a serpent's body and a horse's head; this used to feed on the bodies buried in the churchyard to the south-east of Ough-terard, but one of the Lees whose sister was buried watched her body and killed the monster, its blood staining the church wall to this day: the holes through which this aughisky came up can be seen along its track through Lemonfield Bog.


A waterhorse that lived in Litter-craffoe Lake was captured by a boy of the Coonneys, who was told by a wise woman if he ever let it see the water it would be the death of him. For years it was a faithful horse, but one day he brought it in sight of the lake, into which it shot like an arrow, carrying its rider with it, whom it killed and tore to pieces, as blood and fragments of his body floated on the surface of the water.


A ludicrous story is told of Tom C______. He was turning a 'lock of malt' on an island, when he saw a waterhorse coming towards him. He rushed into his boat and pulled for his life; but when he got to land he met a neighbour who asked him to lend him the boat, as his old mare and foal had just swam across the lake and he wanted to follow them—so much for this aughisky."


EACH-UISCE (IRELAND)


The each uisce is an Irish Water Horse. The etymology of the name is from the Irish Gaelic "Each-Uisce".


In all manifestations the each-uisce is a fearsome creature who can deceive and torment mortals. A sleek and handsome steed, it almost offers itself to be ridden. When humans bridle and saddle them, they make fine horses, as long as they do not catch sight of salt water. When this happens, the Each-Uisce bounds into the water with its helpless rider on its back; the horse may later devour the rider. Only the human liver will be rejected, which then floats to the surface. An untamed Each-Uisce might also devour mortal cattle. According to popular legend, St Féchíne of Fore (d. 665?) compelled an Each-Uisce to pull his chariot when his own horse had died.


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It belongs to the same family of water horses as the Scottish Each-Uisge and the aughisky and bears some relationship with the Welsh ceffyl dwfr. It should not be confused with the beautiful, lake-dwelling horses Cúchulainn captured and trained; he returned those to their mountain pool of his own volition when they were mortally wounded. The Shoopiltee is a variant of the Each-Uisce from the Shetlands.


The water-horse inhabits salt water or large still bodies of inland water, and is thus distinguished from the kelpie inhabiting running water. The Irish Each-Uisce is most likely to emerge from the water during the month of November (Samain), when it gallops along the sands or over fields.


CEFFYL DWFR (WALES)


The Ceffyl Dwfr is the Welsh Water-horse, very much like the Each-Uisgue of the Scottish Highlands.


The Ceffyl Dwfr is generally described as a beautiful but small creature who is seen grazing at the banks of a stream or waterway. It may tempt the unwary traveler to mount him at which point it will soar into the air and fly over river and mountain before suddenly melting into thin air to throw his rider to destruction upon the ground far below. Some versions of the Ceffyl Dwfr are said to be luminous.


Though more commonly associated with fresh water, there were versions of the Ceffyl Dwfr who frequented the sea shore. These were often described as being dappled grey, or were sandy brown in colour and it was said that they could be identified because their hooves faced the wrong way.


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It is said that a man once caught a Ceffyl Dwfr on the shores of Bae Ceredigion and aftewards he tried to break the creature to the cart. By means of an artfully contrived bridle he led the animal home, and used it as a cart-horse. But one day the bridle became unfastened, and the Ceffyl Dwfr darted with the cart and driver into the sea, and was never seen again.


Ceffyl Dwfr, in the form of a huge and clumsy horse were reputedly seen plunging up and down in the sea when thunderstorms were brewing, or just before a gale and the colour of its coat would reflect the weather conditions, changing from the pure white of sea-foam to the slate grey of thunderheads. It is said that a St Bride's Bay just after a storm such an animal was seen. Somehow a local farmer managed to catch it and put it to the plough. This arrangement seemed to work for several weeks until one day, seized by some internal impulse, the Ceffyl Dwfr turned and dragging both plough and ploughman behind it reached the shore and plunged headlong into the sea, to be lost amongst the waves.


In parts of Gwynedd it was believed that the Merlynod, small steeds peculiar to the area, were sired by the Ceffyl Dwfr on mountain ponies. Tales told in the region also suggested that the Ceffyl Dwfr could transform itself into other creatures and this it became a terror of the night. Often it would change into a goat and rush at its victims, causing them considerable injury.


In neighbouring Clwyd it was believed that the Ceffyl Dwfr would transform into a frog and leap upon the backs of its victims, clasping them in a fiendish embrace. Tales of Ceffyl Dwfr transformations were not confined to the north, however. For it is said that a man living in the wilds of the Rhondda was riding down to Pontypridd early in the nineteenth century, when a Ceffyl-dwr, in the form of a squirrel, leaped between his shoulders. The creature clasped his neck so closely as to make the man gasp for breath. Then he was shaken and beaten so badly that the next day a mysterious illness assailed him from which he never recovered, but lingered on in misery for nearly two years.


A story about the Ceffyl Dwfr comes from Glyn Nedd (The Vale of Neath). A man who had been on a long journey lingered there to rest by the shady lee of a large rock near a waterfall. A ceffyl dwfr slowly emerged from beneath the foaming cascade of waters, shaking the river spume from its snow-white mane and began to ascend the slope on which the tired traveller rested. Standing in the sunlight the animal whinnied, snorted and tossed its mane, as if to draw attention to itself.


Seeing this fine animal the traveller was tempted to mount the creature and when he approached, the horse came towards him rather than shying away so he was easily caught and mounted. Soon the traveller was safely astride the noble little horse. Though he had no saddle or bridle his hands felt comfortable intertwined with the animals' mane and it seemed a gentle beast. Soon however the passing landmarks indicated that they were travelling at remarkable speed and looking down it seemed that the horse's hooves were somehow not even touching the ground.


For a while at least the rider enjoyed the sensations of travelling so fast, but after a while, as the steed's progress did not slow he became alarmed and then terrified. The moon was full in the sky when the steed simply vanished from beneath him and he was thrown to the ground. The shock of the fall was very great, and he lay there dazed and bruised for a long while. At dawn the man picked himself up and, dusting himself off, he walked down the slow until he came to the town of Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion, many miles away from where he had started.


Another story about the Ceffyl Dwfr comes from Aberthaw, Morgannwg. During the early part of the nineteenth century an old man found himself walking down the moors near Aberthaw. It was a cold night near the midwinter solstice and as dark low-lying clouds threatened to obscure the moon the old man quickened his pace, fearing that snow would soon come.


When he was at about the mid-point of his journey he was astonished to see, about a stone's throw ahead of him, a small horse ridden by a gangly long-legged man. Horse and rider both were outlined by a dim shimmering light. He sought to catch-up with the traveller, but no matter how he quickened his pace the little steed somehow seemed just to out-distance him. Then, just as he reached his destination the figure and his steed slowly vanished.


As he related his tale to the people of the household they informed him that he had seen a Ceffyl Dwfr. That same night the valley through which he had been travelling was flooded by an unusually high full-moon tide and ever after he attributed his escape to the guidance of that little glowing horse.


CABYLL-USHTEY (ISLE OF MAN)


The Cabyll-Ushtey or glashtinhe is the Water Horse of the Isle of Man.


Pale greyish in color and similar to the Scottish Gaelic Each-Uisge yet not as dangerous or greedy. Still, it may occasionally seize cattle and tear them to pieces, stampede horses, and steal children.


The cabyll-ushtey appears in a few folk narratives.


HAVE SOME OF THESE MYSTERY CRYPTIDS CROSSED THE BIG POND?


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