Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)


Myth Monday: Cat Sith, the Fairy Cat (Scottish Legend)
By Kara Newcastle


I’m sure a great many of you are somewhat familiar with fairies. They’re small (not
always), they’re beautiful (usually, but looks can be deceiving), they have gossamer wings (occasionally), and they have their fairy pets.

Aha! I see the surprise on your faces. “Pets?” you’re asking. “Fairies have pets?” Yes, they do. They have fairy horses, fairy cows, fairy dogs … and fairy cats, called the Cat Sith (pronounced cat shee, and no, not the character from Final Fantasy VII.) Fairy animals abound in various mythologies of Great Britain and Europe, but the Cat Sith is best known
in Scotland, as you’ll soon see why.

The Cat Sith was said to be huge, the size of a large hunting dog—or even bigger. It was solid black, save for a white patch on its chest, and had intense yellow eyes that held intelligence that seemed to go beyond the range of any ordinary cat, big or small. It was frequently seen with its back arched and fur bristling along its spine, its ears laid back and huge fangs bared. It was not a friendly kitty.

Unlike some fairy folk, the Cat Sith was always ferocious, and while it didn’t actively seek out humans to harass, it was known to go after humans who had hurt other cats. A Cat Sith will never give an offender a warning—it will launch immediately into a vicious attack as soon as it is provoked because it is always ready for a fight. This made it the perfect heraldic animal for many Scottish Highland clans, such as the MacBains and the Mackintoshes. Please, no Simpsons or Brave jokes here.

At Samhain (the original name for the festival we now call Halloween), the Cat Siths were known to roam the land at night (this is why black cats are associated with Halloween!) If a family wanted to make sure that they were on the Cat Sith’s good side, they would leave a bowl of milk out in front of their door on Samhain. Like all cats, fairy and otherwise, Cat Sith loves milk and will bless the family that left them the treat. If a family neglected to leave milk out, the Cat Sith would curse them so that all their cows would stop giving milk.

However, in the Scottish Highlands, Cat Sith was known particularly for stealing the souls of the recently dead and carrying them away to the fairylands. All the Cat Sith had to do was spring over the corpse and snatch the soul straight out of the air as it hovered there, waiting to move on to the Otherworld. To prevent their loved ones’ spirits from being forced to eternally serve the fairies, Highlanders would hold a wake called the Feill Fadalach, or Late Wake, to make sure the Cat Sith didn’t jump over the dead body. Unlike
other wakes where sad people gathered to mourn, the Feill Fadalach was held all day and night until the body was buried, and it was essentially a party. The Highlanders would try to divert the lurking Cat Sith with riddle contests, music, and dancing, wrestling, not lighting any fires because the Cat Sith (like all cats) loved warmth, and—get this—spreading catnip throughout the house.

Apparently, even fairy cats are not immune to the ‘nip.

As Christianity took hold in Britain and the isles, the Cat Sith’s identity began to change, especially when the savage witch hunts began. Instead of being a fairy cat, Cat Sith was now believed to be the form a witch could shapeshift into to either cause chaos in the community or escape pursuers. It was believed that a witch could transform into a black cat eight times, but if she turned into a cat for a ninth time, then she would be stuck in that form forever. This is partly where the myth that a cat has nine lives comes from (nine was considered the perfect number by many pagan/pre-Christian cultures, because,
once broken down, it was three equal groups of three, and three was associated with Triad goddesses—I could go into it more, but that would make this blog way longer) and why  cats—especially black ones—are linked with witches.

Sightings of actual Cat Siths were reported in Scotland for years, but most people dismissed the reports out of hand—no way could there be that big of a black cat with a white chest patch roaming around the highlands and moors. There had never been any proof of anything larger than the native wildcat (sometimes called the Highland Tiger, with good reason) living in Scotland, and even then those cats looked like hefty striped tabby cats. Anything that was found had to be a hoax. The Cat Sith existed only in legends …

And then one was captured.


Kellas cat found in Aberdeenshire on display in the Zoology Museum University of Aberdeen by Sagaciousphil wikimedia
Kellas cat on display at Zoology Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland

In 1985, Ronnie Douglas, a gamekeeper in Kellas, Moray, was stunned to find a large, black cat with a white chest patch in one of his snares. About a year later, a live one was caught by the Tomorrows World team. Soon, a total of seven additional specimens were collected by alien big cat (in this case, “alien” as in “not supposed to be from around here,” not as in, “extraterrestrials made a pit stop here so their pets could go to the bathroom”) researcher Di Francis, who gave them all to the National Museum of Scotland. There, studies revealed that some of the “Cat Siths” were actually a cross between a domestic cat and a Scottish wildcat. They were then named the Kellas cat by cryptozoologist Karl Shuker after the village where the first one had been found.

While the Kellas cat might not be supernatural, they are BIG. The snared Kellas cat measured fifteen inches tall at the shoulder and was forty-three freaking inches long! That cat was roughly the height of, and longer than, a typical cocker spaniel. Can you imagine a cat that big getting the zoomies in the middle of the night? Yeah, and whatever it howled for, you would give it without a second thought … and if you’re thinking about getting one as a pet, lemme put a stopper in that idea right now: just like its mythical counterpart, the Kellas cat is fierce, more than ready to attack, and can never be tamed. And I don’t think you want a four-foot-long wild cat getting pissed at you for any reason. Or no reason at all.

Now that it was proven that these cats were real, many researchers have gone back and reexamined depictions of the Cat Sith in legend and pagan art. One scholar, Charles Thomas, theorizes that the cat depicted standing triumphantly on a salmon in the 1,000-year-old Golpsie stone in Dunrobin Castle Museum actually depicts one of these hybrid cats. Elsewhere in England, where sightings of unusually large black cats sometimes pop up, it has been suggested that the Kellas cat might account for a few of the sightings.

With less than 400 Scottish wildcats remaining in the wild, conservation efforts are being made to limit crossbreeding with domestic cats to preserve the species. You might see a few Kellas cats in zoos now, but if the conservation is successful, the Kellas cats, like the Cat Sith, made fade away into legend once more.

Myth Monday: Attack of the Killer Sea Globsters! (Cryptids)

September 17, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



It came from the briny deep! More specifically, this time it emerged out of the Bering Sea, washing up on the shores of Siberia—a large, lumpy, white, furry formless mound of … something … with a tentacle-like appendage stretching out beside it. It didn’t look like the remains of any animal known to man, with no discernible shape, no flippers, no tail, no apparent head, and covered in white fur—and not to mention stinking to high hell. It was clearly a dead animal, but what was it? Could it be a giant octopus? A colossal squid? The decaying corpse of a fuzzy sea serpent?


The thing found in Siberia on August 15, 2018 is just one in a long line of globsters—a term coined in 1962 by famous cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson to describe any large lump of flesh that washes up out of the ocean that has no obvious resemblance to any known animal (also known as blobsters.) These unidentified sea-going carcasses are usually first discovered by an average person (that is, somebody who isn’t educated in marine biology) who is out for a stroll on the beach. The discoverer understandably has no idea what the formless, often huge mass of flesh is and, more often than not, they soon come to the conclusion that they are looking at the dead body of some kind of sea serpent.


Hate to break it to everybody, but of the globsters that have been found, recorded and tested since the early 1800s or so, not a single one of them has proven to be a sea monster … or, at least, that’s what they want you to believe, but that’s a topic for another blog. Anyway, almost every globster that has been discovered has been proven to be the blubber from a decaying whale, the remains of a dead shark (often a basking shark), and, on occasion, parts from a dead giant octopus or squid. Sometimes the globsters will still have jaws, beaks or flippers attached, but the subsequent rotting of the animal’s flesh alters the appearance, leading witnesses to believe—and quite stubbornly so—that what they’re looking at is not the body of a dead porpoise, it’s the body of a dead sea monster.

Here’s a case in point: on April 25, 1977, off the coast of New Zealand, the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyo Maru snagged something big in one of their nets. Unsure of what it was, the crew pulled the thing up onto the deck and were beside themselves with shock when they saw it: it looked like the rotting body of a dead plesiosaur! The crew managed to take a few pictures of the thing and obtained a few samples, but it smelled so ungodly that they were forced to throw it back rather than have it contaminate their fish. Now, when I first saw those pictures when I was like ten or so years old, I was 100% certain that this thing was an honest-to-God sea monster. I mean, look at it (here, because it’s copyrighted and I don’t have permission)! It looks just like the sea serpents you would see in books in movies. How could it not be?

Well, there’s like a 99.99999% chance that it’s not a sea monster. Without a body to examine to be absolutely sure, there will always be some doubt, but what you’re looking at in this picture is very likely the remains of a dead basking shark. Weirdly, when basking sharks and similar animals die and decay, they tend to break down in a similar way, leaving their bodies to look as though they were long-necked sea serpents in life. It’s highly likely that the discovery of these corpses back in ancient and medieval times prompted people to believe that there were long-necked sea monsters out there, waiting for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ruling the possibility of sea monsters out entirely, but we have to look at the facts before we jump to conclusions.


But what about the reports of white fur? Well, I’m not a biologist and I haven’t seen a “real live” globster up close and in person, but my guess is that it’s just the fraying remains of blubber or fat, coming apart due to a combination of rot and scavenging sea animals—hey, these bodies have probably been floating around for weeks before coming ashore, it’s not like a bunch of fish, sharks and seagulls are going to pass up the opportunity for a floating buffet. Also, newborn whales and dolphins are born with fur, but they lose it shortly after birth. Maybe it’s possible that every now and again a cetacean grows up still retaining its fur, but it’s highly unlikely.

But then again … there have been sightings of unidentified sea-going creatures that appear to have fur, the most famous likely being Trunko.


The creature known as Trunko was sighted off the coast of South Africa in October of 1924 and reported in London’s Daily Mail the following December. Witnesses claimed to see a furry, snow-white whale-like creature with an elephantine trunk fighting with two killer whales for about three hours, using its tail to fend them off and apparently raising itself about twenty feet out of the water. One of the witnesses, a farmer named Hugh Ballance, said it looked like a “giant polar bear” … except for, you know, the trunk. (And I know what you’re thinking, NO, it WASN’T Tuunbaq from The Terror.)

Apparently, the beast succumbed to injuries from the battle and washed ashore, where it laid for about ten days but was never examined by researchers. About four photos were taken of the thing, but it seems they weren’t discovered until September 2010. Furthermore, the body was left on the beach so long that the tide eventually carried it back out sea, and nothing like it has been reported since. People who saw the body have differed on their accounts a bit, with some saying it had a trunk, others saying that it had a pig nose, and a few claiming it had a tail like a lobster. There were disagreements on the actual date of the orca vs. sea monster battle as well, though the recovered photographs were dated as being taken in July 1925. Karl Shuker, another big name in cryptozoology and apparently the guy who actually christened the creature “Trunko,” examined the photographs and concluded that the globster in question was just whale blubber, and suggested what the witnesses had actually seen was just two orcas maowing down on a dead whale.

One thing’s for certain, whether the globsters are known animals or not, they’re appearing with increasing frequency all over the world. This past August it was Siberia. In 2017 globsters appeared in two different places in the Philippines and on Seram Island. In 2003 a globster appeared in Chile, one showed up in Newfoundland in 2001, and from 1990 to 1997 four different globsters washed up in Scotland, Bermuda, Nantucket and Tasmania. Maybe we should be less concerned with what these things are and more concerned with what’s going on with our oceans.