Blue Men of the Minch: Diving into the Depths of Fear

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Blue Men of the Minch, feared aquatic creatures off Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, incite terror. RICK HALE investigates.

Blue Men of the Minch

We all have something we fear. Some irrational phobia that when presented with sends us into a downward spiral of loathing and dread.

One of my phobias, and I know this is going to sound strange, I fear water.

I mean of course I can drink it and bathe in it, and rather enjoy both. But getting me anywhere near a pool or, god forbid a natural body of water, I begin to shake and crushing anxiety sets in.

Now what would explain such a fear? A psychic friend told me it’s because I drowned in a former life.

While I think it’s because I fear the many creatures that inhabit water or the fact it’s a deep dark abyss, that to be enveloped by it means certain doom.

So, as you can imagine, the words I’m about to write and the folkloric creatures we’re about to explore, is good therapy for me.

For in the waters off the coast of the outer Hebrides in Scotland there is much to fear. And one of those things to fear is the Blue Men of the Minch.

What are the Blue Men of the Minch?

Ever since man took to the open seas, tales of sailors encountering horrific beasts have been told when they came to shore. 

Typically these stories are about the open sea and rarely a small stretch of water.

However the strait between the Lewis and Shiant isles placed a particular amount of dread and fear on the hearts and minds of the men who sailed its choppy, cold waters.

But what was it they feared? It wasn’t the black inky waters that spelled certain doom if their vessels went down.

It was what lived in the water that sent shivers down the spines of these salty old sea dogs.

They feared angering the Blue Men of the Minch, a kind of storm kelpie who didn’t take kindly to those who invaded their waters.

The Blue Men received their name from their distinctive blue skin caused by the cold waters they inhabited.

The Blue Men also had long green beards that trailed behind them as they rocketed through the waters. 

According to many a sailor, they would watch in horror as the Blue Men swiftly swam up to their boats, grabbed hold with their large hands, and shook the ship apart with their prodigious strength.

Belief in the Blue Men became so great, sailors would only set sail on the Minch if the sky was clear and the sun was bright.

If the storms arose and the winds violently blew causing great waves, sailors would stay on land for fear they would meet their doom at the hands of these aquatic terrors.

Legends of the Blue Men of the Minch

According to legend, it was possible to best the Blue Men by having a sharp tongue and using logic. Begging would not help. That would only make them angrier, as many a captain learned the hard way.

Although belief in storm kelpies have been part of Scottish legend for thousands of years, it was a 1917 book on Scottish myths and legends that brought the myth to a wider audience.

In his book, Wonder Tales of Scottish Myths and Legend, Donald Alexander Mackenzie detailed how the Blue Men lived in caves and delighted in terrorizing sailors and fishermen.

17 years before Mackenzie’s book, John Gregorson Campbell explored the superstitions of the Highland people and their myths concerning the Blue Men.

Campbell reported that the Blue Men would light candles on the waters during Samhain, the Celtic precursor to Hallowe’en.

Campbell also detailed his own sighting of a watching a blue man following a boat as it sailed through the waters of the Minch. 

And lucky for them he never managed to catch up, because if he had, those sailors may have never walked upon dry land  again.

Folklorists believe that belief in the Blue Men of the Minch may have had its origins in ancient beliefs of mermaids and mermen who were often reported on the high seas.

Another thing to consider, perhaps these Blue Men are a personification of the violent, unforgiving waves of the ocean tossing their vessels to and fro.

And even sinking them beneath their cold waters, sending them to a watery grave for all time.

Tell us your thoughts about the Blue Minch in the comments section below!


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