Kate Belew Kate Belew
3 minute read

In Scotland, there is a shapeshifting spirit, The Kelpie, that waits in the shallows of the waters for travelers to pass by their haunts. These dark horses, considered dangerous spirits, perhaps a personification of changing waters and floods can change between these horse-like and human forms. The etymology of Kelpie is unknown, but it may be derived from the Gaelic calpa or cailpeach, meaning "heifer" or "colt.”

The stories of these mythic horses often served as a warning; be weary of water, and don’t talk to handsome or beautiful strangers on the road. Some think that Kelpie's stories may have originated from water spouts or even as a way to rationalize and understand the drowning of children in shallow water. 

Initially appearing tame and inviting, one would be tempted to ride the tender and docile horse to cross waters. Once on the horses’ back, the Kelpie would race to the depths, drowning its victim. In some tales, once a person puts a hand on the neck of this being, they will be unable to remove it and have to cut their hand off to escape this last treacherous ride. 

He watched the wheeling eddies boil,/Till from their foam his dazzled eyes/Beheld the River Demon rise.” - Sir Walter Scott

Kelpie myths are common, specific stories are associated with individual bodies of water across Scotland, and there are corresponding myths of shapeshifting horses across the globe. You’ll know a Kelpie's by their hooves, which are backward, differentiating them from your average mare. Though usually dark-colored, they sometimes have manes of serpents or are white and are usually solitary creatures. 

Messages from the Kelpie 

Embrace the Depths 

The Kelpies teach an essential lesson about depths. Though dangerous, these shapeshifters can traverse these underworld-like spaces. Take a note from these shapeshifters, and like the Kelpie, archetypally explore the deep, the dark, and the churning water. What do these spaces have to teach you? 

Connect with the Shadows 

Shadow work enables you to embrace the potent, instructive, and fertile stories in our shadows. What has been deemed unwanted, ugly, or even downright evil about ourselves is the cave in which precious gems can be discovered. Embrace your shadows. Invite your demons to tea. 

Honor the Element of Water 

The Kelpies are river residing, and haunt and protect spaces near water. When the Kelpies appear, it might be time to connect with the element of water, and honor this aspect on the wheel. Associated with the west, water is an element that can guide us to connect with our emotions, our lineages, and history. What might the water be trying to teach or tell you? Craft an altar dedicated to this element, and listen closely. 

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