Kelpie, or water kelpie, is the Scots name given to a shape-shifting water spirit inhabiting the lochs and pools of Scotland. It has usually been described as appearing as a horse, but is able to adopt human form. Some accounts state that the kelpie retains its hooves when appearing as a human, leading to its association with the Christian idea of Satan as alluded to by Robert Burns in his 1786 poem "Address to the Deil".
Almost every sizeable body of water in Scotland has an associated kelpie story, but the most extensively reported is that of Loch Ness. Parallels to the general Germanic neck and the Scandinavian bah have been observed. More widely, the wihwin of Central America and the Australian bunyip have been seen as counterparts. The origin of the belief in malevolent water horses has been proposed as originating in human sacrifices once made to appease gods associated with water, but narratives about the kelpie also served a practical purpose in keeping children away from dangerous stretches of water, and warning young women to be wary of handsome strangers.
October 5th, 2016
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