Scottish fairies aren’t always friendly, warns guest writer KIERAN MacRAE, of the Generally Spooky Podcast
Over on the Generally Spooky Podcast, my wife, Eilidh, and I have been talking about Scottish Fairies.
And it was news to me, but fairies are definitely not to be messed with.
Most of them are pretty ambivalent when it comes to us humans. Some of them might help you if you’re in a pinch (with strict rules about how to behave, of course) but there are others that will harm you with no provocation at all.
Some might even steal you off to Fairyland if you aren’t careful!
If you’re visiting Scotland and you feel like doing some fairy-spotting, then do so at your peril, but here are five fairies you might encounter in the Scottish wilderness.
As far as fairies go, Brownies are the ones you want to meet. They are house-dwelling fairies that are known for helping out with chores, especially around farms. You might spot them living in your attic, wood shed or in the woods nearby your home.
But all of this help comes with a catch.
If a Brownie feels like you aren’t pulling your weight and expect them to do everything for you, they’ll stop helping you all together. And if you reward them too generously for their work, then they’ll disappear forever, since they only take what they need.
If you spot one, then make sure you leave out a bowl of milk for them. And don’t skip on doing the dishes!
Changelings are an old legend in Scotland. They’re the fairy children left behind after the fairies, or trows, have stolen away a human baby.
A changeling might give themselves away by acting too much like an adult, causing mayhem for their new parents, or even being able to have full conversations.
The baby-snatching fairies are known for living in fairy hills, which you can find all over Scotland.
Pregnant women and newborn children are particularly vulnerable to the trows, so be extra vigilant! It wouldn’t hurt to keep some iron handy…
The Ghillie Dhu is a fascinating Scottish fairy legend, and my personal favourite. He was known to live in a birch forest near Gairloch in the Scottish Highlands.
He is one with nature, clothed in leaves and moss and choosing a solitary life away from humans in the safety of the trees.
Other fairies might try to steal your children away but the Ghillie Dhu is known for having a soft spot for them, even helping guide lost youngsters back home and away from danger.
The Fairy Queen
Also known as the Queen of Elphame, she’s a mystery to humans. She’s been described as both young and beautiful, and old and haggard; benevolent and generous, and demonic and troublesome.
The Queen of Elphame appears in many of the confessions that were made during the Scottish witch trials starting in the late 1500s. Those accused would recount how they had met with the Queen, received their powers from her or even had romantic relationships with her.
So if you are met by a woman on a shining white horse, with bells tied to its mane, take care. You might get more than you bargained for! Just ask Thomas the Rhymer.
Before discussing her on the podcast, I had never heard of Nicnevin – and I’m from Scotland!
She is the evil counterpart to the Queen of Elphame, and just as wicked as you’d expect. She’s been referred to as the Scottish goddess of witchcraft and magic, and rides with a host of spirits and nymphs across the sky.
The Queen of Elphame might be the queen of the Seelie Court – all the fairies that think of humans much like they might think of rocks and deer – Nicnevin is the queen of the Unseelie Court: the fairies that go out of their way to do harm.
Be on your guard, particularly during the autumn and winter months, since this is when she likes to roam the Scottish countryside.
KIERAN MacRAE co-hosts the Generally Spooky Podcast. If you love learning about history, like settling in to listen to a good story, or just enjoy getting a little spooked, then this is the podcast for you!