A WATERKELPIE is a creature that lives in the deep pools of rivers and streams and is not to be confused with Loch Ness, who is theorized as many other things. The name may be from Scottish Gaelic, “cailpeach,” or, “colpach,” meaning: heifer and colt. Kelpies have been described as a young, sleek, handsome horse black or brown in color who can shapeshift into human form. It is said the creature’s skin is like glue and once enticing a rider onto his back they are stuck to be dragged to their water death and eaten. The Water Horse in other Celtic myths refers to the creature as, “A beautiful white mare who lures riders unto it’s back before running into the water and sometimes off cliffs, drowning their riders.”
Rhiannon, the Welsh goddess of horses, is said to ride a White mare as well which leads some to think of her as a Goddess of death because of the Water Horse story. Some tribes also refer to the “Water Horse” instead of Death who “Rode upon a pale horse.”
In many of the deep pools of the streams and rivers guardian-demons were believed to reside, and it was dangerous to bathe in them. It was the common opinion that some rivers and streams were more bloodthirsty than others, and, therefore, seized more victims than their milder companions. When an accident did happen, comparisons of course were drawn between the number that had been drowned in this and the next stream or river, and the stream or river was spoken of with a sort of awe, as if it were bloodthirsty and a living creature and much of this was attributed to the ever hungry Kelpie.
But I is also said that a Kelpie might be caught, and when caught, could be made to do all of the heavy work on one’s farm. If you were the one planning to catch the Kelpie, you would want to watch for an opportunity of casting a bridle over their head on which had been made an, “X,” or a star. When this was done the creature would become quiet. And when you set him free, be sure to look him square in the eyes, repeating the words–
“Sehr back an sehr behns. Cairrit a’ the Brig o’ Innerugie’s stehns.”
There are accountings and stories alike, quite old, of a men who had an encounters with a Kelpie:
Sometimes, when a castle or mansion was being sacked, a faithful servant or two contrived to rescue the plate-chest, and to cast it into a deep pool in the nearest stream. On one occasion a diver went to the bottom of such a pool to fetch up the plate of the neighboring castle. He dove, saw the plate-chest, and was preparing to lift it, when the Kelpie ordered him to go to the surface at once, and not to come back. At the same time the Kelpie warned him that, if he did come back, he would forfeit his life. The diver obeyed. When he reached the bank he told what he had seen, and what he had heard. But others caustically threatened him and promised him a large reward, so the man dove again. The others looked on from the embankment, and within just a moment or two the diver’s heart and lungs rose and floated on the surface of the water. They had been torn out by the Kelpie of the pool.
Another tale of a Kelpie encounter:
“A hardy Highlander was returning home on one occasion from a sacrament. He was on horseback. He had charge of a number of horses that were at pasture on the side of a lonely loch. The loch lay on his way home, and he would pass it, and see whether it was all well with the animals. One afternoon he came upon them all in a huddle, and to his astonishment, he saw in the midst of them what he thought was a large grey horse that did not belong to the herd. He looked, and in the twinkling of an eye, he saw an old man with long grey hair and a long grey beard. The old man turned with a wicked glare in his eyes hungry and threatened, and started after the farmer. The farmer, fearing for his life, immediately started off, and for miles, over rocks and rough road, the farmer galloped at full speed until his home was reached and he was certain the grey man was no longer following him.”