A representation of an each-uisge
|Sub grouping||Water spirit|
|Other name(s)||Aughisky (Ireland)|
The each-uisge (Scottish Gaelic: [ɛxˈɯʃkʲə], literally "water horse") is a mythological Scottish water spirit, called the each-uisce (anglicized as aughisky) or Ech-Ushkya in Ireland. It is similar to the kelpie, but far more vicious.
The each-uisge, a supernatural water horse found in the Highlands of Scotland, has been described as "perhaps the fiercest and most dangerous of all the water-horses" by folklorist Katharine Briggs. Often mistaken for the kelpie (which inhabits streams and rivers), the each-uisge lives in the sea, sea lochs, and fresh water lochs. The each-uisge is a shape-shifter, disguising itself as a fine horse, pony, handsome man or enormous bird. If, while in horse form, a man mounts it, he is only safe as long as the each-uisge is ridden in the interior of land. However, the merest glimpse or smell of water means the end of the rider: the each-uisge's skin becomes adhesive and the creature immediately goes to the deepest part of the loch with its victim. After the victim has drowned, the each-uisge tears him apart and devours the entire body except for the liver, which floats to the surface.
In its human form it is said to appear as a handsome man, and can be recognised as a mythological creature only by the water weeds, or profuse sand and mud in its hair. Because of this, people in the Highlands were often wary of lone animals and strangers by the water's edge, near where the each-uisge was reputed to live.
Cnoc-na-Bèist ("hillock of the monster") is the name of a knoll on the Isle of Lewis where an Each-uisge was slain by the brother of a woman it tried to seduce, by a freshwater loch, Loch a’ Mhuileinn ("Loch of the mill").
Along with its human victims, cattle and sheep were also often prey to the each-uisge, and it could be lured out of the water by the smell of roasted meat. One story from McKay's More West Highland Tales runs thus:
A blacksmith from Raasay lost his daughter to the each-uisge. In revenge the blacksmith and his son made a set of large hooks, in a forge they set up by the loch side. They then roasted a sheep and heated the hooks until they were red hot. At last a great mist appeared from the water and the each-uisge rose from the depths and seized the sheep. The blacksmith and his son rammed the red-hot hooks into its flesh and after a short struggle dispatched it. In the morning there was nothing left of the creature apart from a jelly like substance.
The appearance of the Each Uisge on the Isle of Skye was described by Gordon in 1995 as having a parrot-like beak, and this, with its habit of diving suddenly, could be from real-life encounter with a sea turtle such as the leatherback sea turtle.
- Briggs, Katharine (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. pp. 115–16. ISBN 0-394-73467-X.
- Varner, Gary R. (2007), Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men and Spirit Beings around the World: A Study in Comparative Mythology, Algora, p. 24, ISBN 978-0-87586-545-4 – via Questia Online Library (subscription required)
- MacPhail, Malcolm (1896). "Folklore from the Hebrides". Folklore. 7 (4): 400–04. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1896.9720386.
- Parsons, E.C.M. (2004). "Sea monsters and mermaids in Scottish folklore: Can these tales give us information on the historic occurrence of marine animals in Scotland?". Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals. 17 (1): 73–80.