Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't Get On This Horse! Kelpies

Hi! Denise Golinowski here with a belated dose of Myth Perceptions.

Continuing with the Shapeshifters World Tour, I've skipped over to Scotland to explore the myth of the Water Horse or Kelpie. My research revealed that Kelpies are not shapeshifters in the truest sense of the word, but I still found them intriguing, so here's the scoop.

Kelpies are water spirits who assume the form of a horse. They are commonly described as black, or green with black mane and tail. Their skin is tough, similar to seal skin, and very sticky. Often they appear to drip water from their mane or have water weeds in their mane and tail. If they take a human form, they are more often male, though occasionally female. But no matter the form, the Kelpie is always dangerous and intent on luring humans to their deaths.

They often appear beside large bodies of water or rivers, standing where they might tempt a weary traveller to climb up onto them. Then, when the rider was stuck like a fly on flypaper, the Kelpie races into the water, slapping the surface with their tail hard with a sound like thunder, carrying their hapless victim into the depths to drown. Then the Kelpie feasts upon the dead, sometimes leaving the liver or heart, though I could find no explanation for the Kelpie's distaste for said parts.

As with most magical shapeshifters, there is a way to trap them. In the Kelpie's case, if you can take possession of their bridle, you can control them. They are magically strong and several stories tell of clans who claimed possession of a Kelpie's bridle. One did well, one did not. Myself, I find it strange to think that a spirit would permit something so obviously man-made to manifest on their physical form or accept the imposition of same upon themselves. However, myths will be myths.

While the Kelpie's equine form is rather distinctive, I mean, green skin or water soaked mane, the human form was a bit less unusual. They could be extremely handsome or beautiful, as the sex may be. However, in human form, seemed they always had a bit of water weed in their hair. Oh, and sometimes they were quite wet, but standing beside water would make that almost understandable.

The most commonly told story involves a Kelpie who tried to lure ten children to their deaths. Nine fell prey to the temptation of riding a huge docile horse, who then drowned them. The tenth child recognized the danger, however the stories disagree on how he escaped. Either he simply refused to ride or he hesitated, moved to stroke the Kelpie's nose. When his hand stuck, he realized his mortal danger and cut off his own hand rather than be drowned.

So, if you're ever walking along the edge of a lake, river, or loch, don't accept rides from strange horses or overtures from men or women with water weeds in their hair.

Guess that's all for this month's stop on the Shapeshifters World Tour. Next month, we'll be off to Eastern Europe to meet the Swan Maidens, lovely ladies who transform in to swans.

NEWS FLASH! Collector's Item is Free on Kindle through March 23rd, 2013.

Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Collector's Item has been released by The Wild Rose Press exclusively on the Kindle and will be available in all electronic formats on May 17th, 2013!

Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is also available  through the Wild Rose Press. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.


  1. Eeeeeeeeek!! That's like two of my worst nightmares (getting stuck on a runaway horse, and drowning) combined into one massive terror! I am definitely steering clear of sticky horses and water-weeded humans! Thank you for the warning! :-)

  2. That is a strange one! And I wonder about the sea weed that always found in its hair? You'd think if they had the power to shapeshift, they could also get rid of the weed or maybe, air dry really fast! LOL

    I still wonder why they are different from other magical shapeshifters? Can they not control when or what they shift into?

    Interesting post, as always! :-)

    1. Really...good point. If they can shift, why can't they lose the seaweed?! :-)