Myth Monday: How the Giants’ Causeway Was Created (Irish Legend)

Myth Monday: How the Giants’ Causeway Was Created (Irish Legend)

By Kara Newcastle

Kara’s Note: Just in case there’s any confusion, the Fionn mac Cumhaill (pronounced ‘Finn Mac Cool’, if you’re wondering) isn’t exactly the hero from the Irish Red Branch sagas, but a different version of him. Still it’s a great story.

Fionn mac Cumhaill was a giant of a man. No, he really was. He was BIG. Big in size, big in fame, big in attitude and, well, sometimes big in mouth. Once in a while that big mouth of his got him into trouble.

Fionn was Ireland’s greatest hero since the days of Cu Culhainn, and because of that Fionn took the job very seriously. When he wasn’t out riding with his band of warriors, the Fianna, Fionn liked to strike out on his own for a bit, checking in on things here and there, making sure everything was in order. It was one of these little jaunts that found Fionn along the coast, looking out over the Irish Sea. There, far out was the land of Scotland. And looking back at him was another giant.

Squinting through the sunlight reflecting off the waves, Fionn raised his hand in greeting. “’Morning, friend!”

The Scottish giant seemed to squint back. “Ye talkin’ to me?” he shouted.

“That I am. I’m Fionn mac Cumhaill.”

The Scottish giant jerked back, then laughed. “Ye can’t be Fionn mac Cumhaill. Ye’re jest a wee thing! Fionn mac Cumhaill is a giant!”

Shocked, Fionn spluttered for a moment—he had never been called “small” before! “Ye must be blind lad—I am Fionn mac Cumhaill, and I’m a sight bigger than ye!”

“Ye’re talkin’ mince. No way are ye bigger than me. I’m Benandonner, the biggest giant in Scotland!”

Fionn snorted. “Ye ain’t much to look at.”

Benandonner sneered and held up one hand. “I got more power in me finger than ye’ve got in yer whole scrawny body.”

“Aye? Well, I got a finger for ye.”

“Away and boil yer head!”

“Bite the back of me bollix!”

Outraged, Benandonner jabbed one of those magic fingers at Fionn. “Shut yer puss or I’ll shut it for ye!”

“I’d like to see ye try!”

Apparently, Benandonner was more than happy to take Fionn up on that, and he promptly reached down, scooped up and armload of rocks and earth, and heaved it out into the sea. Picking up another armload, Benandonner flung that out into the water, creating a path.

Realizing that the Scottish giant was building a bridge and itching for a fight, Fionn began to gather up all the rocks he could find, tossing them out into the water. Both giants worked furiously, constructing a causeway between their two lands with the aim of meeting in the middle and caving each other’s skulls in.

However, as Benandonner drew closer, Fionn was able to get a better look at him. At first, he was just a little speck out on the horizon, but as he grew closer and closer, Fionn noticed a few things …

… The first one being that Benandonner was actually a hell of a lot bigger than Fionn!

Realizing that he was badly outsized, Fionn panicked, dropped his rocks and ran for it, running so fast that one of his boots flew off and remains on the beach to this day. He pelted all the way home at the top of his speed, thanking the gods with every pounding footstep that he didn’t live far. He threw himself through the door, slamming it shut and scaring the life out of his wife Oona as she sat by the fire, baking griddle cakes, his favorite food.

Giants_boot_Dec2004 by SeanMcClean wikimedia commons
Fionn’s Boot, size 800W

Nearly leaping out of her skin, Oona spun around to face him. “Fionn, what the—?!”

“I picked a fight with a Scottish giant and he’s bigger than me and now I’m gonna diiiiie!” Fionn screamed.

Oona flinched back at Fionn’s panic; she had never seen her heroic husband act this way. “Fionn, slow down and tell me what happened?”

Gulping for breath, Fionn scrambled for the crossbeam for the door. “I saw a Scottish giant,” he wheezed as he slammed the bar down. “All I said was ‘hello,’ and next thing ye know, he’s building a bridge across the sea to fight me!”

Oona narrowed her eyes. “Sounds like there’s a piece of the story missing.”

“Doesn’t matter, he’s after me.” Frantic, Fionn spun around, looking for a place to hide. “It’s Benandonner that’s after me—”

“Benandonner? The Red Man? The Thunder of the Mountain? Ye picked a fight with him?!”

Looking at his wife in disbelief, Fionn waved his arms at the door. “Aye, and he’s on his way!”

“Leave it to ye to pick a fight with the most barbaric giant in Scotland.” Shaking her head, Oona turned, scanning their room. Her eyes fell upon the baby’s cradle. She had given birth to their son just a scant few months before, and it was obvious he had inherited his father’s legendary height …

Oona pointed at the cradle. “Get in the cradle.”

Not sure he heard correctly, Fionn stopped short. He looked at her, dumbfounded. “Whu …?”

“Get in the bloody cradle, ye daft edjit ye! Ye’ll just fit. We can make this work.”

Astonished, Fionn looked between Oona and the baby’s cradle. Just as he opened his mouth to protest, a voice from miles away roared, “I’m here, mac Cumhaill! Where’d ye run off to?”

“Bollix!” Fionn squeaked. Without a second thought, the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill leaped into his baby son’s cradle, wedging his head in and tucking his tree-like legs up against his chest. Moving swiftly, Oona tucked the blankets and linens in tightly around Fionn, wrapping his head and beard in a baby’s bonnet. She had just enough time to take one step to the side when a massive fist battered their door, shaking the entire house as though it were in an earthquake.

“Open up!” Benandonner roared.

“Just a wee moment,” Oona replied, her voice mild and pleasant though her eyes shot daggers at her cowering husband. Darting over to the fireplace, Oona grabbed one of her iron skillets and dunked it in the griddle cake batter, coating it thoroughly. Tossing the skillet onto the ashes, Oona swiftly moved to their larder, finding the toughest piece of fat they had. Pulling a stout piece of redwood from the stack of kindling beside the hearth, Oona managed to grab up her hammer and tacks from the mantel as Benandonner resumed beating on the door.

“I said—” he snarled.

“And I said it’d be a wee moment!” Oona shouted back as she quickly nailed the piece of fat onto the redwood, shooting a worried look back at Fionn, whose huge, terrified eyes peeked out over his son’s blanket. “I’m putting my son into his bed!”

Flinging the hammer aside, Oona sprinted over to the door as Benandonner slammed his huge fist into it so hard the wood planks began to warp and bend over the crossbeam. Heaving the crossbeam out of its track, Oona drew in a steadying breath, waited, then whipped the door open, springing aside as Benandonner, already midway through his next punch, overshot his mark and pitched headlong into the mac Cumhaill house.

Gasping, Benandonner staggered, spinning his arms around for balance as he righted himself up. Recovering, the Scottish giant growled and whipped his head back and forth, searching for his rival. “Where’s that bastard mac Cumhaill?”

“Ye mean my husband, Fionn? Oh, he went to the north to hunt deer.” Steadying herself, Oona glided past the glowering giant. “He said something about coming back later to bust in the head of some clod from Scotland. Would that be ye?”

Insulted, Benandonner drew himself up to his full height. “Yer old man’s a bleeding idiot, missus. He looks as though he’d only come up to me gut.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Smiling, Oona pointed to an array of spears, swords, and shields Fionn had mounted on one of their walls. “That there is my husband’s weapon collection. Surely no small man could lift anything so big, aye?”

Studying the weapons on display, Benandonner narrowed his eyes. “Hrmph … I reckon not, no …”

“Fionn is no small man, I assure ye.”

Wrinkling his nose, Benandonner sneered down at Oona. “That remains to be seen, but he’s in no way stronger than me.”

Oona arched an eyebrow. “How d’ye reckon?”

“Oh, I’ll show ye.” Opening the door, Benandonner reached out and plucked a large rock out of the ground beside the path. The rock was easily the size of a yearling calf, and as Oona watched, Benandonner easily wrapped his pinky finger around it and squeezed.

With a head splitting “CRACK!”, the rock shattered, pouring down in a cascade of gravel from Benandonner’s hand.

Oona heard Fionn gulp in the cradle behind her.

Oona fought back a gasp, quickly redirecting her gaze down to the pile of dust and pebbles on the floor between her and the Scottish giant so he wouldn’t see the flash of fear crossing her face. She drew in a shaking breath, forcing herself to calm. “That is impressive.”

Benandonner smirked. “Thank ye.”

“But Fionn has broken so many boulders with his just his little toe that he grew bored with it.”

Benandonner stopped short. “Little … toe?”

Oona nodded. “Aye. He was looking for a challenge, but it was far too easy for him.”

“Bah.” Snorting, Benandonner waved her boast away. “We’ll see about that. Even without my magic finger, I would make short work of that runt.”

“Ah. In that case, why don’t ye wait here a while until Fionn comes home? I’m presently in the middle of making dinner.” Seeing the uncertainty growing in Benandonner’s expression, Oona bit back a pleased grin and gestured to the cradle where Fionn hid trembling under the blanket. “This is here is our son. He was born not quite three months ago.”

Hearing that, Benandonner stopped abruptly, his spine going visibly rigid as his eyes nearly sprang out of their sockets. Shaking his head, Benandonner looked at the quaking lump of blanket and bonnet. “Wait … that’s yer son?”

“Aye, ‘tis.”

The color draining from his face, Benandonner shuffled half a step back. “B-but … if that’s yer son … how big is his father?!”

“Enormous, actually. But worry about that later. Come, have dinner with us.” It was all Oona could do to keep from laughing out loud; Benandonner’s reaction was priceless. Smothering her giggles, Oona picked up her fork and began removing the griddle cakes and the batter-covered skillet from the fireplace, watching out of the corner of her eye as Benandonner, clearly second guessing the size of his foe based on the size of his “offspring,” sat down several feet away from the cradle. Picking up the batter-covered skillet, Oona held it out to Benandonner. “As our guest, ye are welcomed to the first serving.”

“Oh. Thank ye.” Still keeping a concerned eye on the “baby,” Benandonner absently accepted the disguised skillet and lifted it up to his mouth. Without looking, he bit into the iron pan, and instantly his front two teeth shattered.

“AAAARRRGHHH!!!” His massive hands flying to his mouth, Benandonner shot to his feet. Howling, he danced around in a crazed circle, bashing into walls and furniture. “My teeth! I broke my teeth!”

Oona snorted. “On a griddlecake? Dear me, yer teeth must be remarkably weak to break on something so soft.”

“Soft?! It felt like there was an iron bar in it!”

“Well, aye, I do make the cakes with iron,” Oona agreed, doing her desperate best not to burst out laughing at Benandonner’s aghast look. “That’s how my family likes them. But I do feel badly that ye hurt yer teeth. Let me find ye something else to eat.”

The Scottish giant rubbed gingerly at his mouth. “I’m not sure I want to try anything else.”

“Oh, come now. Some bacon will put ye right.” Hefting up the fat nailed to the redwood log, Oona passed it into Benandonner’s huge hand.

Benandonner’s hairy eyebrows went up. “Bacon, eh?” he said approvingly.

Without a second thought, the giant popped the fat wrapped board into his mouth and bit down.

“WHAT THE BLOODY—?!?!” Spitting the wood out, Benandonner threw himself backwards, both of his hands again clapping down on his mouth. “I just broke my back teeth!”

Triumphant, Oona shot a glance to Fionn as he peeked out of the cradle. They grinned briefly at each other before Fionn ducked back under the blanket; this was sure to make Benandonner leave now.

Clucking her tongue, Oona crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. “Oh please. My husband Fionn eats a hundred of these a day without carrying on like yer doing now. Even our son can eat a cake, and he has no teeth at all.”

Furious, Benandonner glared at Oona through watery eyes. “Prove it then!”

“Aye, I will.” Plucking an unaltered cake from the hearth, Oona walked over to the baby’s cradle. “Here, sweetheart, have a bite.”

Inching the blanket away from his face, Fionn grinned at Oona and opened his mouth—then choked back a gag as his wife crammed the griddlecake into it. Fionn gulped it down quickly.

“Mmm! Yummy, Mama!” he squealed, then yipped as Oona, her smiling face unwavering, gave the cradle a swift, jolting kick to shut him up.

Benandonner stared. “I don’t believe it.”

Oona’s smile faltered just barely at the edges; she had hoped this would be enough to scare the giant off, but, shaken as he was, Benandonner didn’t seem ready to leave yet. Recovering herself, Oona shrugged and gestured to the false baby. “Check his mouth and see for yerself then.”

Fionn’s eyes bugged out. “What are ye doing?!” he mouthed frantically.

Setting his jaw—then wincing at the soreness where his two front teeth used to be—Benandonner stomped forward. “All right, I will,” he snarled, and thrust his hand under the blanket.

Seeing the enormous fingers sliding towards him, Fionn cowered back as far as he could in the cradle. Finding no escape, no hiding place there, he did the only thing he could, the thing Oona had prayed he would do.

Fionn opened his mouth wide and bit down on Benandonner’s fingers. Hard.

“GYYYAAAGGGGH!!!” His scream rattling the entire mac Cumhaill household, Benandonner wrenched his hand away, throwing a stream of bright red blood through the air as he flung himself back as far as he could. “Damn it! Damn it—yer brat just bit my magic finger off!”

Baring her teeth, Oona laid a protective hand over the swaddled Fionn. “Don’t ye be talking about my baby that way!”

“No … no, oh no …” Clutching his bloody, mangled hand, Benandonner stared down at the ragged stump in horror. “That’s where I kept all my strength. Without my magic finger, I’m as weak as a lamb!”

“Is that so?” Smirking, Oona nodded her head towards the door. “The ye best be off—Fionn will be home at any moment. He would have made short work of ye anyways, but if ye’re as weak as ye say …”

“I’m going!” Scrambling to his feet, Benandonner bolted for the door, throwing it open so hard and fast he nearly wrenched it off the hinges. Not daring a backwards glance, Benandonner ran down to the beach and over the land bridge he and Fionn had made earlier that day. Benandonner ran so fast that his thundering footsteps caused the bridge to crack apart and sink in the middle, leaving the piece in Ireland intact—as Fionn was a much better builder than any barbaric Scottish giant could ever be.

Seeing Benandonner flee renewed the courage in Fionn mac Cumhaill and he sprang out of the cradle, tossing aside the bonnet and blanket as he charged after the Scottish giant. Upon seeing the land bridge crumble beneath Benandonner’s heels, Fionn realized he couldn’t follow the cur—not that he really wanted to—but he couldn’t just let Benandonner leave without showing off a bit. Hunching down, Fionn scooped up a massive chunk of earth and flung it at Benandonner’s retreating back. Fionn’s shot went wide, missing the giant and landing instead in the Irish Sea, where the larger chunk became the Isle of Man and the small pebble that broke off turned into the uninhabitable islet Rockall. Even though Fionn missed by an enormous amount, the huge earthen projectile was enough to scare Benandonner deep into Fingel’s Cave on the coast of Scotland.

Pleased with his victory, Fionn mac Cumhaill dusted his hands off and turned to head home—stopping short and cowering under the withering gaze of his clever wife Oona.

And that’s how the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland was created.

Myth Monday: The King o’ Cats (Scottish Folktale)

Myth Monday: The King o’ Cats (Scottish Folktale)

By Kara Newcastle

The sun had barely disappeared over the horizon by the time Keir MacRae got home. The gravedigger burst through the door so suddenly that his two children, his daughter Gunna and son Earvin nearly leaped out of their skins with fright. Hearing the children screech in alarm, Bradana, their mother and Keir MacRae’s long suffering wife, came racing out of the pantry to see what the fuss was about. Discovering it was only her husband, Bradana scowled. “Well, well … look what the cat dragged in.”

“For God’s sake, don’t say that,” Keir hissed as he bolted the door. Swallowing hard, he ran a hand through his oddly mussed hair and minced over to the front window, peering out into the settling dark. “Ye would not believe the night I’ve had.”

“Oh, do tell,” Bradana sniffed, arching an eyebrow as she watched her husband look this way and that. “It must be a good story if it’s kept us all waiting an hour for ye to get home so the little ones can eat supper.”

“Oh, a good story it is, all right.” Keir grabbed each of the window curtains in either hand and yanked them shut. “The house is all locked up, aye?”

“What’s this all about?” Bradana demanded.

“Just tell me the house is locked up!”

“Aye, ‘tis!” Bradana felt her ire draining away as Keir finally turned to face his family. His face was as white as the driven snow, and his eyes darted wildly about. “Mr. MacRae, what’s gotten into ye?”

“I …” His shoulders sagging, Keir ran a hand over his face, his wide, rough palm hovering briefly over his eyes for a moment. He drew in a deep breath, but it shuddered the whole way in and out. “Earvin, lad, fetch yer da an ale, aye?”

Bradana frowned as Keir shuffled towards his chair before their fireplace. “I don’t know if ale’s the right thing for ye at the present.”

“Well it can’t hurt me none.” Waving for his bewildered son to hurry on, Keir came around his chair—and stopped dead.

Mystified, Bradana hurried towards her petrified husband, following his huge eyes down to the seat cushion of his favorite chair. Seeing the black lump, Bradana slowly raised her eyes to Keir. Keir continued to stare down at the shape, his mouth slack, a gleam of sweat forming along his brow.

He looked terrified.

Hesitating, Bradana slowly reached out and gently pressed the tips of her fingers against Keir’s forearm. “Keir,” she whispered, “’tis only the cat.”

For a moment, Keir didn’t stir a muscle, didn’t respond to her touch or her voice. He stared down at the big, sleeping black cat, looking for all the world as though he were staring down the mouth of hell itself. The cat itself was unperturbed, half twisted onto its back, its neat paws tucked up in front of the white blaze on its chest.

Confused by her father’s rigid state, little Gunna edged around him, closer to the chair. “Would ye like me to move him, Da?”

Keir jerked violently at the question, his body whipping from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, as though he were fighting free of a nightmare. “No!” he shouted, the ferocity of his voice causing Gunna to gasp and Bradana to shoot a hand out, catching her daughter by the shoulder and wrenching her away from her father, pushing her behind her skirts.

“Keir, what has gotten into ye?” Bradana cried, feeling Gunna quaking even through her petticoats. “Ye’re frightening the children!”

“I—?” Blinking, Keir snapped his head up. He looked at Bradana, bewildered. His eyes fell to Gunna, who scurried further behind her mother, then up to the pantry door where Earvin stood, a stein of ale clasped in both hands. His father’s roar had startled the boy so bad that he had jumped and sloshed the ale onto his shirtsleeves.

Seeing the shock on the faces of his wife and children, Keir grimaced, looked down at the cat—who, as usual, hadn’t batted so much as a whisker in his direction—and slowly backed away. “No … no dear, leave him be. I’ll just sit myself here at the table. Earvin, the ale if ye would?”

Earvin looked as though he’d rather chew his own hand off than go near his suddenly lunatic father, but the boy summoned up a bit of courage and tiptoed forward, hastily shoving the tankard across the rough table as Keir slumped into his usual chair at the head. He sat there looking almost boneless, his neck too weak to support his head.

Bradana knotted her hands into her apron. “Well, Mr. MacRae …? Will ye tell us what happened to ye tonight?”

Keir shook his head. “Ye’ll nay believe me.”

“I’ll believe anything at this point,” Bradana snapped, motioning for bewildered Earvin to back away. “I’ll believe anything if it explains why ye’ve gone out of yer senses!”

Keir frowned. He lifted his head, gazed into the worried and furious face of his wife, then sighed. “Aye. All right, so I had just finished digging a grave—for Mr. Fordyce, ye recall—and I right difficult time I had of it too. Moving all that dirt, the stones, cutting through the roots, I wore myself out so much that when I sat down to rest inside, I dozed off.”

Bradana frowned, resisting the urge to say she wasn’t surprised.

Not noticing her sour look, Keir went on. “I fell asleep. I woke up just as the sun was almost gone. A cat’s meow woke me.”

From the chair by the fire, the MacRaes’ big black cat opened one sage green eye, stretched and said, “Meow.” It was a soft, little sound, but it was enough to make Keir MacRae jolt as though he had been struck by lightning.

Keir swallowed hard. “Aye … l-like that.”

“Ignore the wee thing,” Bradana said, waving her hand to draw Keir’s terrified face back to hers. “Ye said a cat’s meow woke ye?”

“Uh … a-aye.” Shaking his head, Keir noticed the stein of ale on the table and grabbed it, taking a deep gulp before continuing. “So, aye, I heard a meow. It struck me as odd, so I stood up and looked over the edge of the grave, and what d’ye think I saw?”

“I haven’t a clue.”

“I’ll tell ye what I saw—nine cats! Nine black cats, all with white marks on their chests, much like …” Keir faltered. His eyes flicked back to their cat, who now was fully awake, rolled over onto its paws, watching Keir through half-lidded eyes.

Keir licked his lips. “Like our cat there,” he whispered.

“All right, ye saw nine black cats like ours,” Bradana said, barely sparing their own feline a glance as she spoke. “What of it? Ye’ve seen cats in the graveyard before.”

“Not like these!” Pausing to take another fortifying swallow, Keir ran the back of his hand over his upper lip. “Nay, these cats—can ye believe it?—these cats were walking on their hind legs, like people! One big one was in the lead, and eight of them, they were carrying a coffin!”

Silence settled over the household as Keir stopped for breath. Their big black cat’s eyes widen as young Earvin asked haltingly, “A coffin?”

“Aye!” Keir exploded, making Bradana and their poor children leap with fright. “A coffin! And not just any coffin—it had a black velvet pall on it. And on top of the pall was a golden crown! A golden crown, did ye hear me? A golden crown, and every third step these cats took, they’d say ‘meow’­—”

The MacRaes’ cat sprang up onto its feet. “Meow!” it cried.

His fear forgotten, Keir jabbed a finger at their cat. “Like that exactly! That’s what they did! They said meow, and their eyes were glowing green, I swear, like lanterns … Look at the cat, it’s like he knows what I’m talking about. Look at the way he listens to me!”

“Never mind that!” Bradana spat. “What happened next?”

“I’ll tell ye what happened next,” Keir exclaimed. He pointed to himself. “The big one, the one in front, he saw me, and he walked over to me and said—I swear on everything that’s holy, this is what he said—‘Tell Tom Tildrum—‘”


“I’m getting at it! The big cat said, ‘Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum is dead.’ That’s what he said! He spoke to me like a man and told me to tell this Tom Tildrum blighter that Tim Toldrum is dead. I don’t know any Tom Tildrum, and I have no way of finding out, and I was right afraid to tell them all that, so I just nodded and lit out of there. Came straight here.” Keir flung his arms up in the air. “That’s the night I had! What d’ye all say to that?”

“I’ll tell you what I have to say!”

 Her head whipping around at the voice from the chair, Bradana’s eyes flew open and she screamed in horror, grabbing her two shrieking children to her. “God in heaven—look at the cat!”

Keir was looking. They all were—they were all staring in disbelieving terror as their big black cat with the white blaze on his chest rose up on his back legs, his tail excitedly lashing through the air. Grinning in delight, the cat threw his front paws up in the air.

“Tim Toldrum is dead?” the cat cried. “By Jove, that means I’m King o’ Cats now!”

Meowing in glee, the MacRaes cat—Tom Tildrum, the new king of the fairy cats, the cat sith—sprang off Keir’s favorite chair and leapt headlong into the fireplace, scrambling up the flue and disappearing from sight forever. To be sure the creature was gone, Bradana MacRae swatted around the inside of the chimney with her broom, while her beleaguered children tried to slap Keir Macrae awake, as he had fainted away at the sight.

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: Vampires from Around the World (World Mythology)

October 31, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



Everybody knows about the traditional European vampire: thin, pale, red lips, piercing eyes, sleeps in a coffin, survives on blood drawn from a victim’s throat which has been punctured by a pair of fangs, blah blah blah. Fortunately, that’s not the only kind of vampire out there—there are hoards of them all over the world, each more unique (or weirder) than the last. Take a look, and keep the garlic handy!

Oh, and fair warning … some of these can be a little gross.

  1. Bakeneko (Japan): Before the arrival of Europeans, Japanese people believed in vampires, but their versions weren’t reanimated human corpses out looking for blood; typically, a Japanese vampire was an everyday, run-of-the-mill animal that had developed nefarious powers. One famous story tells of how a bakeneko (ghost cat) sought revenge for the unfair death of her owner’s son by Nabeshima Mitsushige, a local daimyo (feudal lord.) The bakeneko killed Mitsushige’s favorite concubine and then took on her appearance so that she could drain the life from him at night. After noticing how Mitsushige seemed well during the day but increasingly weak and frail after spending the night with his concubine, the daimyo’s retainer Komori Hanzaemon hid in their bedchambers one night and caught the bakeneko attacking the prince. He drew his sword and slew the blood-drinking cat vampire.

  2. Chiang-shih/jiangshi (China): The Chinese vampire is one of the more unique reanimated human bloodsuckers in mythology. Why? Because it gets around by hopping! Long ago if a person died far from their home, their grieving relatives would hire a Taoist priest to bring the body home. The priest would go to the corpse, bind its arms and legs together, then attach a magic spell to its forehead to make it stand up and hop its way home—naturally, it only moved along at night when the roads were deserted, since the sight of a corpse bouncing along a road would surely give living witnesses heart attacks. In time the myth evolved, and a chiang-shih was thought to be the reanimated  or demon-possessed body of a dead person who had not been buried properly. They grew fangs and claws and attacked people for blood—all while still hopping around. If a chiang-shih was not disposed of quickly, it would move through seven stages of evolution (sort of like the worst Pokemon imaginable), growing increasingly more mobile, more powerful, and eventually gaining the ability to fly and transform into wolves. They were almost impossible to kill at that point. Salt, garlic and iron were effective tools against a chiang-shih.

  3. Chupacabra (North and South America, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean): The most modern of all vampires, the Chupacabra (“goat sucker”) is a creature that apparently comes in two different species: the half-ape-half-reptile-kangaroo-like-usually-fairly-large-and-may-or-may-not-be-winged variety most often reported in Mexico, South and Central American and certain places in the Caribbean, or the hairless, blue-eyed dog-like creature seen (and killed and taxidermized!) in the Southwest United States. The reptilian version gained notoriety in the early 1990s, particularly in Puerto Rico, when an unexplained rash of pet and livestock killings occurred. The animals—particularly goats, hence the name—were found dead and largely intact, save that they appeared to have been completely drained of blood. Sightings of the fanged kangaroo-lizard-monkey thing quickly followed, giving rise to a new legend. More recently, similar livestock deaths in the United States, particularly Texas, have been blamed on a highly unusual-looking canine-like animal seen lurking around. The dog thing is gray, hairless, has front legs shorter than the back, weird knobs on its hind end, only two mammary glands (unlike a dog’s typical six), piercing blue eyes and long white fangs. The animal has been sighted by hundreds of witnesses, including a sheriff’s deputy who caught it on her dashboard camera. Several have been shot and killed, and the body of one that was hit and killed by a car was rescued by Dr. Phylis Canion, who had it stuffed and mounted. DNA tests suggest that it’s probably a mix of coyote and wolf, but it sure is weird looking. See it here!

  4. Langsuyar and Pontianak (Indonesia): The langsuyar is a woman died either while pregnant or during childbirth, and a Pontianak is a baby that was stillborn (though some other regions believe that pontianak is an even more vicious version of the langsuyar.) The langsuyar appears as a beautiful woman with ankle length black hair (though sometimes she can be a detached head), long claw-like nails, hands that drag down by her feet, and wearing green robes. She hunts infants and especially likes the blood of newborn boys. The langsuyar can be recognized by a hole in the base of her neck, and she can be cured of her vampirism if you cut off all of her hair and fingernails and stuff them into the hole—good luck with that. To prevent the creation of either a langsuyar or a Pontianak, the mouths of the corpses must be filled with beads to keep them from screeching, eggs must be placed under their arms and needles in their hands to keep them from flying. As recently as 2013, villagers in Kelantan, Malaysia, reported a langsuyar flying over their houses, cackling.

  5. Leanan Sidhe (Ireland): Interestingly, while most of Europe west of Romania had never heard of the blood-drinking vampire, Ireland had a wealth of tales about fairies that would feast on the blood or life energies of human beings. One such fairy vampire was the beautiful leanan sidhe, who was highly attracted to poets and artists. If a leanan sidhe found and fell in love with a poet or artist, she would act a as their muse, granting them inspiration to created fabulous works of literature or art. However, there was a cost; the poet may gain inspiration, but he would slowly wither and die as the leanan sidhe fed off of his energy. Once the victim had passed away, the leanan sidhe would move on to find new prey.

  6. Manananggal and Aswang (Philippines): Perhaps the grossest of all the vampires, the manananggal is a woman who can either detach her head from her body or her upper torso from her lower torso (depends on the story). The detached part of her body then flies through the air, trailing its intestines behind it. The manananggal loves to prey on pregnant women and, upon finding one, will perch on the roof of the woman’s house and lower its needle-like tongue down inside. The tongue pierces the woman’s stomach through her bellybutton and sucks out the heart of the baby, resulting in a stillborn child. The manananggal can be defeated if the lower part of its body is found and filled with salt or garlic, preventing the upper half from rejoining the rest of its body, and then dying in the rising sunlight. Another way to defeat the manananggal is to cut its tongue; one popular story (I might be getting it confused with another similar vampire) tells of an expectant mother who was sitting in a chair sewing, and noticed a long dark thread on her lap. Annoyed that she couldn’t find the end of it, she snipped the thread with her scissors, then jumped in fright as she heard something yelp, fall off her roof and crash into her yard. The next morning a dead manananggal was found in her yard, and was recognized as a local woman. A similar creature, called the aswang, is male, doesn’t detach any part of his body but can shapeshift into an animal, and is impervious to sunlight. It feeds on babies and small children, but would never harm anyone in its village and can actually be a good friend. They are driven off by salt, garlic and holy items and can be killed by decapitation. In the 1950s, the CIA helped to curb an uprising in the Philippines by killing a rebel soldier and staging his body to look like he had been killed by an aswang (it worked—the rebels fled the area.) An episode of Destination Truth featured a hunt for an aswang near a mosque in the Philippines.

  7. Obayifo (West Africa): Here’s a interesting vampire for you: the Dahomey and Ashanti people of West Africa believed in a creature called an obayifo, a black-magic user who was so constantly hungry that they were known to steal children to eat (hence the Ashanti word obayifo, “child-snatcher”) and not only sucked blood out of living people but also the juice out of fruits and vegetables. They appeared as ordinary human men or women, and sometimes could leave their bodies and travel as balls of light. In their human forms, they were pretty easily identified as vampires: they glowed from their armpits and anuses.

  8. Penanggalan (Malaysia): Much like the manananggal, the penanggalan is a woman who detaches her head from her body and flies around at night with her organs trailing behind her like the world’s most disgusting kite tail. How the woman becomes a penanggalan varies from story to story, though frequently she’s cited as being a woman who died in childbirth or a midwife who has made a pact with the devil. When she needs to return to her body, she soaks her entrails in vinegar to shrink them down for easier insertion (hey, I don’t make this crap up, I just report it.) The penanggalan uses her long tongue to feed on the blood of pregnant women and infants, all of whom die from a wasting disease. She can be deterred by wrapping thorny branches around windows or planting prickly pineapples beneath the stilt legs of the woman’s house, where the penanggalan will be snagged and can be hacked to death with a machete. If the body is found it can be burned or filled with crushed glass, preventing the head from rejoining. The head will then be killed by sunlight.

  9. Rakshasas (India): Most often described as being infernally beautiful women, rakshasas are blood-thirsty demons that haunt Indian cemeteries and crematoriums, and are known to follow in the wake of Kali, the goddess of destruction. Travelling by night, these fanged beasts liked to prey on pregnant women and infants, and a hero who could kill a rakshasa was a powerful warrior indeed. Like many vampires, rakshasas could be killed with fire.

  10. Red caps (Scotland): Red caps are hard to miss; they’re Scottish dwarves that tramp through the roads and fields at night, brandishing axes and halberds as they go. The second they spy a human being, the chase the hapless person, hack him to death, and then soak their caps in his blood. No, they don’t drink the blood—they just like the color of it. That’s all.

  11. Sasasabonsam (West Africa): A freaky vampire, this thing had iron teeth and hooks for toes. It would sit in tree branches that extended over a trail and dangle their legs down, waiting for someone to pass by. When a human made to mistake of crossing under their tree, the sasasabonsam would grab them with their hook toes, haul them up into the tree and drain them dry.

  12. Soucouyant/loogaroo (Caribbean, United States): A soucouyant (often known as a loogaroo in the United States) is an old, black magic-wielding hag who peels off her skin at night, hides it, transforms into a fireball and then flies through the air seeking victims. She worms her way through a gap in a person’s house and then proceed to drink their blood from their limbs. If she drinks too much, her victim will die and possibly become a soucouyant as well. Like many vampires, the soucouyant is very OCD, and if you scatter rice around your bedroom, around the outside of your home or at a crossroads, she has to stop and count every single grain; if she doesn’t complete the task before dawn, the sunlight will burn her and she’ll rush screaming back to her skin. If you should find the soucouyant’s skin, you should coat the insides with salt and put it back in its hiding place. When the soucouyant tries to put the skin back on, the salt will burn and kill her.

  13. Tlahuelpuchi (Mexico): An interesting and unusual vampire from ancient Mesoamerican myth, the tlahuelpuchi is a person, most often a woman, who is cursed to become a vampire when they reach puberty. They feed largely on the blood of infants, and if they don’t consume blood once a month they will die of starvation. Tlahuelpuchi maintain their own hunting territories apart from one another, though the are in communication with other supernatural entities and magic workers. The tlahuelpuchi hunt by leaving their legs behind in their home, transform into a turkey or a vulture, then fly in a cross pattern above the house of their intended victim as part of a ritual (north to south, then east to west.) When a tlahuelpuchi is discovered, they have to be destroyed immediately, though if a family member kills them the curse can pass on to them. Garlic, certain metals and onions can protect people against the tlahuelpuchi.

  14. Vrykolakas (Greece, Bulgaria, Slavic folklore): Ever had a hard time deciding if you want to be a vampire or a werewolf? Well, you’re in luck, because if you’re a vrykolakas, you can be both! A vrykolakas is a person who lived a sinful life, was excommunicated, ate the meat of an animal killed by a wolf or was a werewolf in life. When this person dies, they can return to life as a vampire. The vrykolakas then roams through their hometown, killing villagers, spreading disease and terrorizing their surviving family members. Burning or dismembering the body, piling rocks atop the body, decapitation and staking were effective ways at killing the vrykolakas. Like a surprising number of vampires throughout the world, vrykolakas are obsessive-compulsive, so if you spread seeds of grains of sand over the grave, the vampire is compelled to count each grain—at a rate of one grain a year, so you’ll be pretty safe.

  15. Yara-ma-yha-who (Australian Aboriginal legend): Among the weirdest of vampires, this one takes the cake: the yara-ma-yha-who is a frog-like humanoid with red hair that sits in fig trees, waiting for humans to stop by. When a human does pause at the tree, the yara-ma-yha-who drops out of the tree and attaches its fingers—each tip of which has a sucker on it—to the victim, draining them of blood. Once the human is dead, the yara-ma-yha-who swallows them whole, drinks some water, sleeps for a little while, then spits the person back out. The victim is alive, but a little shorter than before, and their skin now has a red tint. The yara-ma-yha-who does this over and over again until their victim is turned into a yara-ma-yha-who. Interesting, the yara-ma-yha-who hunts exclusively during the daytime and will only go after living prey, so if you see one coming at you, drop to the ground and play dead until sunset; once it gets dark the yara-ma-yha-who will return to its tree and you can make a run for it.

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.

Myth Monday: Mermaids and Their Kin (World Mythology)

July 17, 2018

By Kara Newcastle


If you spend as much time researching mythology as I do, you start to notice certain things that are universally true. For example, every culture/society in the world either believes in or has legends regarding certain creatures, and any culture that largely bases its existence on being near the water has stories of aquatic humanoids. What, you thought that Hans Christian Andersen invented mermaids? Oh, no, no, no, they’re everywhere, they’ve been around for a while, and there have been some instances were people have found that they might actually be real. Here’s just a few of the most interesting ones:

  • Mermaids (Europe): Mermaids and the slightly less popular mermen are of course the most well known of the aquatic humanoids, appearing in legends and artwork from Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Norway and beyond. These creatures, collectively called merfolk,  are mostly considered to be sea-dwelling, though there have been stories of them living in pools of water inland. The females, or mermaids, have the upper torsos of beautiful human women, though below the waist they are depicted as having a long, scaly tail like a fish (though interestingly artwork usually shows them as having the up and down tail design of ocean mammals like dolphins, whereas fish have tails that swing from side to side.) Mermaids were reported by sailors as approaching their boats, swimming alongside them, or perching on rocks in the ocean, frequently brushing their hair. Typically, seeing a mermaid wasn’t good; stories abound of mermaids trying to lure sailors into the water with them where they would grab the poor sap and drag him underwater to drown him, or offering to guide the ships to safety while in reality they intend to cause the ships to crash upon hidden rock and reefs, killing everyone on board. Worse than the mermaids were the mermen, who, though possessing a generally human-like torso, was a little more like the Creature from the Black Lagoon on top than, say, Michael Phelps-ish, and they were much nastier than mermaids, often directly attacking passing ships in order to kill everyone on board. Christopher Columbus saw a group of mermaids (probably manatees, but how the hell do you mistake a manatee for a mermaid?) shortly before discovering the New World, Henry Hudson’s crew reported seeing them off the coast of Norway, John Smith (yes, that John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, but take anything he says with a grain of salt) saw a group in the West Indies, and the psychotic pirate Blackbeard was so terrified of them that he’d steer his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, far from areas that were said to be populated with merfolk.


  • Orang Ikan (Indonesia): The orang ikan (“Fish man”) doesn’t quite fall into the category of mermaid, but, as an aquatic humanoid, can be classified as the same species. Said to look like a cross between an ape and a fish, the pinkish-colored bipedal orang ikan lives primarily in the lagoons of the Kei Islands, occasionally journeying out onto the beaches but largely remaining in the water where they can be seen hunting fish with great speed. Ugly and smelly, the native Indonesians choose to keep a respectful distance away from the creatures, and the orang ikan do likewise … with the exception of World War 2. In 1943, the Japanese had occupied the Kei Islands, and during the occupation soldiers periodically ran into groups (schools? pods?) of orang ikan. There were reports of the orang ikan growling at the soldiers and at least one instance of an orang ikan appearing to charge them through the water, but no actual physical interactions are known. The story goes that a commander and his men tried several times to trap one with no success, and when the commander returned to Japan after the war, he urged zoologists to look for the creatures, but no one took him seriously.

  • Selkies (Scotland): Selkies are a unique breed of merfolk; in the sea, they take on the forms of seals, but when they come upon land, they shuck off their sealskins and walk about as humans. Selkies can be either male or female (though, again, females are more widely reported) and are said to be extremely attractive as humans and known to seek out regular humans for romantic interludes. When a selkie is done with whatever business they had on land, they return to wherever they tucked away their sealskins, pull them on like furry scuba suits, and return to the ocean. If a human (and honestly, they’d have to be a real asshole to do this) found the selkie’s skin and hid it, the selkie would be so desperate to get it back that they would do anything for it. A famous folktale tells how a man stole a beautiful selkie woman’s skin and hid it, telling her that she’d get it back if she did what he wanted. He took the selkie home and married her, keeping her on land for years until one of their children accidentally discovered the hidden skin and showed the selkie. Overjoyed to have her freedom back, the selkie took the skin and ran down to the beach, never to be seen again. If you go to Scotland and ask if anyone can claim selkie ancestry, they’ll be easy to find—legend says that the children of selkies have webbed fingers.


  • Oceanids (Ancient Greece): The Oceanids were the three thousand beautiful daughters of the Titan Oceanus and the Titaness Tethys. Among them were the goddess Metis, the mother of Athena, Styx, the goddess of the Underworld river of blood that separated the land of the dead from the land of the living, and Doris, the mother of the Nereids. The goddess Amphitrite, who is the unwilling wife of the sea god Poseidon, is sometimes referred to as an Oceanid (sometimes as a Nereid, sometimes as both … mythology can be confusing) and is the mother of the merman Triton. Each Oceanid is the guardian goddess of a sea, lake, pond, fountain or spring (and because there aren’t three thousand different bodies of water in Greece, some were in charge of things like flowers and clouds), and the Greeks frequently made sacrifices to them to ensure a safe journey over the waters. In ancient art the Oceanids are portrayed as ordinary but beautiful young women who live in the sea. And in case you’re wondering, the Oceanids had three thousand brothers, called the Potomoi, who were the gods of rivers and also normal-looking.


  • Nereids (Ancient Greece): The Nereids were the 50 beautiful and human-looking daughters of Doris, an Oceanid, and Nereus, a shape-shifting river god who was sometimes portrayed with the upper torso of a human man and the lower body of a fish or eel-like animal.  The most famous of the Nereids was Thetis, a sea-dwelling goddess who inherited her father’s shape-shifting ability and is best known as the mother of Achilles, though some sources also cite her as the creator of the Amazons as well.

  • Encantados (South America): Ladies, if you’re ever near the Amazon River and you’re about to get it on with a handsome, hat-wearing local who says he needs to get home before the sun rises, check under the hat first—there could be a blowhole on top of his head! Much like the selkies, the encantados are actually river dolphins that emerge from the water and transform into handsome men in order to hook up with beautiful human women. For some reason that I haven’t found out yet, the encantados can’t get rid of their blowholes, so they hide them by wearing hats. In addition, the encantados can only transform into men at night, and they must return to the Amazon River before daybreak, when they’ll be forced to turn back into dolphins. The native South Americans take the existence of the encantados seriously, and even today there are stories of human women having sex with encantados and then giving birth to their children.

  • Merrow (Ireland): Remember the merrows from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? The merrow is a mermaid native to the coasts of Ireland. The females have a beautiful woman’s upper torso and a fish tail, and the mermen are ugly, as they always seem to be, and both sexes have webbed fingers. What sets them apart from other merfolk is that the merrows genuinely like humans and want to help them. Sailors still fear them because the merrows will surface to warn them about violent storms, but the merrows don’t actively try to hurt humans, and are known to fall in love and marry them, with their half-human children being born with scales on their bodies. Merrows can come on land, but only in the shape of hornless cattle (I have no idea why yet). In the sea, merrows wear bright red caps that help them swim underwater, and if a human is able to snag one of these caps, the merrow cannot return to the sea. A famous story from Ireland recounts how a female merrow was caught in a fisherman’s nets and, knowing that she was dying, she asked the fisherman to take her to a church so she could be baptized as a Christian. The merrow passed away soon after and was buried in the churchyard. A chair was carved with an image of the merrow on the back to celebrate the event.

  • Nixies (Germany): Nixies are nymph-like beings that live in freshwater lakes and rivers. Unlike sea-going mermaids, Nixies aren’t usually reported as being good-looking. In fact, they’re wrinkled and ugly (both the males and the females), and they actively try to lure humans to the water in order to drown them. Strangely, male Nixies look like old men from the neck up, but with a fox body and horse hooves.

  • Sirens (Ancient Greece): I have to include the Sirens here, even though they’re generally said to be half woman and half bird instead of half fish (though they are sometimes depicted that way, and have even been shown as one-third human woman, one-third bird and one-third fish!). The Sirens lived on a large rock in the Mediterranean Sea, and their sweet singing often hypnotized sailors, causing them to drift off course and smash into the rocks, where the Sirens would then devour them. Only one man was able to listen to the monsters and survive: Odysseus, king of Ithaca. En route home from the Trojan War, Odysseus was warned that he would pass the Sirens. Curious to hear what they sounded like but not wanting his men to be affected, Odysseus plugged the ears of his crew with beewax and had them tie him to the mast of his ship to keep him from taking a flying leap overboard. Odysseus got to hear the Sirens’ song and, so distraught that a mortal man had heard them but escaped, one of the Sirens threw herself into the sea and killed herself. The term siren came to mean any ocean-dwelling mermaid that sang to lure men to their deaths, and the medical term Sirenomelia describes a condition where infants are born with flipper-like feet.


  • Rusalki (Russia): Rusalki (singular; Rusalka) are beautiful but deadly water maidens that live in rivers, ponds and lakes. They are human-shaped and have translucent skin, but sometimes have tails that give them away. They can transform into various water creatures and even horses, and are known for their enticing singing. They sing to draw the attention of handsome young men, hoping to seduce them (though some stories say they aim merely to kill the poor saps) and drag them down into their watery world. One folktale recounts how a young man named Ivan was playing music in his house when he noticed a beautiful Rusalka dancing outside. Falling instantly in love, Ivan followed her down into the water, where they lived together for some time. Eventually, Ivan became homesick, but when Rusalka refused to set him free, he made the sign of the cross, scaring the pagan creature off. He managed to escape, but never dared to go near the water again. Sometimes the rusalki are lonely (or just malicious) and try to lure children into the water to keep them company.


  • Ningyo (Japan): Possibly the weirdest-looking mermaid yet, the Ningyo is usually described as a fish with the head of a lovely woman, though the head is also sometimes described as being ape-like, and occasionally the Ningyo has scaly arms with clawed hands. She is peaceful and benevolent … and humans try to catch them to eat them. The story goes that if one were to eat the flesh of the Ningyo then they would live forever, or that old women would become youthful and beautiful again. Stories abound of the Ningyo being caught in fishermen’s nets and pleading for their lives, crying tears of real pearls. Sometimes the fishermen let them go, and sometimes they don’t. It was recorded that one was captured in the year 619 and kept for two days in a tank in Empress Suiko’s court before it finally expired.

  • Mondao (Zimbabwe): While there are many types of merfolk from Africa, I just wanted to end this already-long list with the Mondao. The Mondao is a particularly vicious type of mermaid, said to look like a pale-skinned human with black hair and a fish tail. I didn’t find any particular myth, but in 2012 construction on the Gowke and the Manicaland dams was suspended because terrified local workers claimed that they were being attacked and pursued by angry Mondao, and that a few of them had even vanished. As a solution, the local workers were shipped out and white workers—hired because they didn’t believe in Zimbabwean legends and superstition—were trucked in … only to refuse to work because they were being continuously stalked by angry merfolk. Tribal shamans and chieftains were asked to come in to appease the spirits. The rituals were carried out and the Mondao relented, though the chiefs warned it would only be a matter of time before they became angry again.


christopher columbus


the queen anne’s revenge

Myth Monday: The Loch Ness Monster (Cryptids)

June 12, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



There’s something in that lake.

What is it, you ask me? Damned if I know, I answer. No, seriously, I don’t know what’s in there, but, like a few billion other people on the planet, I’d really like to know. About 23 miles away from Inverness, Scotland, Loch Ness is one of the biggest lakes in Great Britain, measuring twenty-two miles long and 755 feet at its deepest point. Anything could be hiding in that thing, and many people believe that something does.

In May 2018, Neil Gemmell, the leader of a group of scientists from New Zealand, announced that they were going to try to prove that something was in the loch by taking water samples obtained in April 2018 and testing the resulting DNA that floated around in it. That made me think two things: 1) What an awesome idea! And 2) Now it’s time for a cryptid blog! (And because it’s a “monster” it’s perfect for Myth Monday!)

Just about every human has heard of the Loch Ness Monster. It has the distinction of being the most famous cryptid (an animal that is thought to possibly exist but we don’t have solid proof one way or another) in the world. It’s also one of the earliest recorded monsters as well, though the story blends a little mythology with it: In 586 A.D., the Irish saint Columba traveled to Scotland with his followers to spread the word of God to the tribal Scots and Picts. As they followed the River Ness down to the loch (“loch” is Scottish for “lake”, if you haven’t put that together yet), they came across a group of Picts who were burying, depending on the version of the story, either a man or a young boy close to the shore. St. Columba asked what had befallen the deceased, and the Picts said that he had been swimming in the loch when he was attacked by the giant, vicious lake serpent that lived beneath the surface. They went on to say that they were at the mercy of the creature, as it was highly aggressive and not afraid to go after humans or their livestock.

Sensing an opportunity to help (and gain some converts in the process), St. Columba ordered one of his followers to strip down and start swimming. If the apostle had any reservations about being used as bait, it was never recorded, but he did as he was told, pulling off his robe and wading into the freezing cold, dark water. He made it up to his chest when the beast exploded out of the water with a skull-splitting scream. It opened its fanged jaws wide and coiled its snaky neck, ready to strike, when St. Columba shouted at it. “In the name of God, you will not touch this man!” St. Columba bellowed, and made the sign of the cross in the air. The power of God was so strong that the horrified monster backed rapidly away, then plunged back into the peat-stained water. It never attacked another human after that, and the Picts were so amazed by the power of St. Columba’s god that they all instantly converted right then and there.

Apparently, sightings of the snake-like creature continued, and though as far as I can tell it was only occasionally written about, it was well known to the people of the area. Since the area around Loch Ness was pretty remote for centuries, few outside the vicinity knew anything about the creature.


And then came the automobile.

With the introduction of cars to Scotland, it was necessary to construct roads to major towns and cities. One of these roads was built alongside Loch Ness, and apparently, motorists weren’t the only ones using it.

On July 22, 1933, George Spicer and his wife were driving beside Loch Ness when a bizarre creature suddenly shuffled across the road in front of their car. Not only was it bizarre, it was huge, with the Spicers stating that they thought the body of the thing to be about twenty-five feet long and four feet tall, with a neck that reminded them of an elephant’s trunk waving in the air, but they couldn’t make out any limbs. The beast flattened all the brush down with its body as it slid towards the loch, about twenty yards away.

On January 4, 1934, so early the moon was still brightly shining in the sky, veterinary student Arthur Grant was riding his motorcycle along the road beside Loch Ness—and keep in mind that he was a veterinary student, so he knows a thing or two about animals. As he came up past the loch, he saw something shuffling around in the brush off to the left side of the road. Something big. Before Arthur had a chance to even guess as to what it could be, a huge shape suddenly charged out in front of him, perhaps startled by the sound of his motorcycle. It was big, it had a humped, barrel-shaped body, a long, snake-like neck and a slender, serpentine head. It twisted its neck around to look at him dead on, then lunged across the road, down in an embankment and plunged into the loch.



It’s a wonder Arthur didn’t crash his motorcycle at the sight! Though shocked and likely terrified, Arthur summoned enough courage to pull over and followed it down to the loch so he could get another glimpse at—whatever the hell it was. Unable to see anything else, Arthur safely finished his journey to Abriachan, later telling people that he had seen a monster at Loch Ness, that it looked like a strange cross between a seal and a plesiosaur, a sea-dwelling reptile from the Triassic period onward. Soon the local paper caught wind of the tale and interviewed him, asking him to provide a sketch of what he had seen. The story was so incredible that it was soon picked up by newspapers all over the world: an otherworldly creature had been seen in modern day Scotland.


And with that, the Loch Ness Monster—soon to be affectionately dubbed “Nessie”—became an international celebrity.

Sightings of the creature continued for years, most of which occurred within the loch itself, with witnesses reporting either a large gray hump in the water that resembled an overturned boat, a serious of several humps traveling across the lake, a black shape beneath the surface moving against the current, or a horse-like head atop a long neck rearing over the surface. There have been stories of boaters being bumped into or nudged by a huge animal, though it never seemed to overturn any of them, and there were never any reports of Nessie acting aggressively to humans (maybe St. Columba’s prayer still works!). In fact, the monster—or possibly monsters, as there have been a few reports of more than one animal in the loch—seems extremely shy.

Despite all the stories, there were still skeptics. To be honest, the idea that an animal that big could exist in an ice-cold loch and not be seen ore frequently, not leave behind footprints, eggs, carcasses or even spoor, makes the whole thing seem more than a little outlandish. Doubters demanded proof. And believers were determined to get it … especially when newspapers started offering cash rewards for convincing evidence.

There were some photographs taken, blurry and shadowy. There was a 16mm color video of the creature taken by G.E. Taylor, a tourist from South Africa, on May 29, 1938, though many skeptics believe is shows nothing more than three minutes of an inanimate object floating in the water. Most photographic evidence has been dismissed and witnesses ridiculed as being too eager or gullible.

And then there was the Surgeon’s Photo.

You may not know the name of the picture, but I know you’ve seen it. It’s the most famous photograph of Nessie ever taken … except it’s fake. See, earlier that year a man named Marmaduke Wetherell had discovered what he thought were Nessie’s footprints in the mud along the lake. Unfortunately, the footprints were hoaxed by two impish schoolboys (though most reports believe Wetherell himself did it) using a dessicated hippo foot umbrella stand, and the British newspaper the Daily Mail mocked Wetherell for his “discovery.” Incensed and insulted, Wetherell convinced his stepson Christian Spurling to fashion a sea monster head and neck and attached it to a toy submarine. Along with his other son Ian (who had bought the materials for the decoy) and friend Maurice Chambers, they floated the fake Nessie in the loch and took four photographs. Wetherell then gave the photos to his friend, Robert Kenneth Wilson, a respected colonel, gynecologist, and lover of practical jokes.

The doctor submitted the photo to the Daily Mail (sans his name, being referred to only as “the surgeon,”) on April 21, 1934. The Daily Mail believed it, ran the story, and the group of hoaxers allowed the world to believe for nearly sixty years that the doctor had actually photographed the elusive beast. It wasn’t until 1994 when Christian Spurling made a deathbed confession, revealing that the picture was utterly, totally fake. I remember catching the story on the news that night and being so disappointed!

Naturally, this led to a new wave of skepticism and a new wave of hoaxing. More pictures were produced, but many of those, while well done, are clearly faked (look closely and you’ll notice thing like the sunlight on the monster doesn’t match the way the light falls in the water, its shadow might not match the form, and the water around the animal isn’t as disturbed as it should be if something that big had suddenly emerged from the depths—one picture is even referred to as the Loch Ness Muppet), and others are just too vague to clearly be anything, but weird enough that it couldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

Still, Nessie continued to be seen, and now the scientific world decided to get in on the controversy. After all, if regular folk couldn’t figure out what the freak the freak was, then a well educated group of scientists would be able to come up with something, right?

Well, no. Not really. Not definitively, at least. Various groups of scientists from all over the world visited Loch Ness and conducted searches with fish detectors, underwater microphones, bait traps, sonar and motion sensitive cameras. Not one group was ever able to come back with any kind of hard evidence, though many of the expeditions did produce some weird findings. Bait traps were cleaned out (that could have been from the native eels), schools of fish were seen fleeing from a large animal on the fish finders, large objects were recorded moving swiftly under the surface, odd noises were recorded, and a series of bizarre pictures were taken under the surface.

The pictures are creepy, to be sure, but they’re unclear, and I mean that literally; there is so much peat in the water that you can’t see more than maybe 2 feet in front of you, and the deeper you go, the darker it gets. The bottom of the loch is covered with mud, clay, peat and rotting vegetable matter, and the slightest movement stirs up underwater tornados of crap that take forever to settle. There are also an untold number of logs, sunken boats, trash and, believe it or not, the remains of a Loch Ness monster prop from a Sherlock Holmes movie that sunk there after filming, so these pictures really could be anything. There is one remarkable picture of an odd flipper, but critics have stated that this could be a picture of any aquatic animal that a scientist, either desperate for more funding or afraid of looking like a fool who wasted his time looking for monsters, snuck into the stack of photographs.

This has frustrated scientists endlessly; if they go to prove the monster doesn’t exist they come back with proof that maybe it does, and if they go to prove that it does exist they don’t find any proof at all! This still hasn’t stopped them from theorizing what Nessie could be. Some researchers maintain that Nessie is no more than an old rotting log that drifts to the surface when methane gas released from rotting plants shakes it free from the bottom, but that doesn’t explain the sightings of Nessie moving around, the “overturned boat” appearance, the size, or the sightings of Nessie on land. The most popular theory claims that, based on Nessie’s overall appearance, that it’s a plesiosaur that somehow became locked in the loch. This theory doesn’t hold a lot of water (sorry) only because for a dinosaur to have survived for 65 million years, it would need a breeding population, and Loch Ness doesn’t have enough food in it to sustain a population of huge paddling reptiles.

Other theories have abounded from giant otters and beavers (which actually relates to Gaelic mythology, but that’s a different blog), to long-necked seals, giant catfish, sturgeons and zeuglodons (primitive whales with snake-like bodies but short necks.) Angler Jeremy Wade from Animal Planet’s River Monsters suggested that it’s possible the Loch Ness monster is actually a Greenland shark that wandered from the sea into the loch via the River Ness. Cryptozoologist Nick Redfern mentioned in his book The Monster Book that a new theory suggests that since eels live within the loch, then perhaps Nessie is what’s known as a eunuch eel. Eels mature within the loch and then migrate out to sea to mate, but occasionally there re eels that fail to mature sexually (hence “eunuch”) and remain in the loch for the rest of their lives. These eels can grow to be extraordinarily big, and no one knows how big they get or how long they live.

Other theories suggest that Loch Ness is what paranormal researchers call a “window area” and either we’re seeing back in time, or it allows a plesiosaur to swim out of the Triassic and briefly into our time. Others have suggested mass hallucinations, a tulpa-like entity (“tulpa” possibly being a misnomer, the idea comes from Tibetan mysticism that a person can develop their psychic abilities to such a degree that they can cause entities to physically manifest), and one story claims that infamous 19th century English sorcerer Aleister Crowley conjured the creature and, not knowing what to do with it, released it into the loch.

And there’s always the possibility that the Loch Ness monster is an actual animal that humans have yet to fully discover. The idea’s not so farfetched, as the silverback gorilla, the tapir, the giant panda and numerous other animals were once thought to be mythical until they were discovered by humans. Plus, Nessie’s description is very similar to those of other lake monsters, such as Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, Champ in Lake Champlain, even Morag in nearby Loch Morar, and others. So maybe there’s something in that dark lake after all.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for the DNA results to come back to know. And, as the scientist says, even if no DNA is found, it doesn’t mean that Nessie doesn’t exist … it just means we have to keep looking until we’re certain.