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Life Lessons from Scottish Mythology

a sunset over a body of water

Scottish history is captured by myths and legends, tales that have inspired writers and artists for centuries. In old times, people struggled to explain the mysteries of life, so they believed very deeply in stories transmitted by word of mouth. These tales also taught moral values, lessons on how to live our lives consciously and help the world be a better place.

In this article, we will take a look at what we can learn from our incredible and rich folklore, focusing on the powerful philosophy of Fairy Tales.

Life Lessons We Can Learn from Scottish Mythology

Now some of you may have been a little confused. When we say Fairy Tales, we’re not talking Tinkerbell here. Scottish folklore is full of stories of some strange people living besides us in the shadows and invisible lands. Sometimes, only under special circumstances, exceptions can be made and us mortals are allowed to visit their kingdoms; don’t get too excited though, as they are not all friendly.

These Faeries have a very important mission to perform, that keeps them extremely busy (specially these days). They help earth, assist humans, and protect the plant and animal kingdom. They teach us, dumb and simple-minded humans, lessons on how to live our lives and respect our planet’s environmental values. Their world is divided in two Royal Courts (here, the term Court refers only to the home of the Faeries’ King and Queen); these Royal Courts are known as Seelie and Unseelie. The Seelie Court is home to the royalty of the faerie world and, although not exactly friendly or affable to mortals, they are not malevolent. The Unseelie Court, also known as The Host, is home to spirits who live to cause pain and misery; kidnapping, murdering and even eating humans. Examples of Scottish faeries include the Kelpie and the Red Cap.

1. Respect the environment. Human land use, animal exploitation and general abuse has led to a resource crisis for many ecosystems worldwide. Faeries are nature protectors and animal healers. It saddens them deeply that we feel entitled to use the environment at our will and will punish anyone involved in such acts.

The Kelpie is a water spirit that lives at the bottom of a loch. When they leave their homes, they are often known to take on the shape of a beautiful, strong horse. Any mortal that dares to ride and tame the beast will end up attached to it, with no way to escape. The Kelpie will then race to the bottom of the loch where the human will drown to be eaten by its atrocious teeth; except for the liver (they detest its bitterness) which would float to the surface. Of course, this is Scotland, so the liver probably wasn’t worth eating anyway. Kelpies are a legend of the Highlands of Scotland.

2. Bear the consequences of your actions. It is crucial to remember that there is no escape from the consequences of our actions. We shape our destiny day after day, and there are decisions that even affect collective fates.

The Red Cap is the evilest of all faeries. At first glance, it looks like a harmless old man, with long grey hair and grey beard. As you get closer, you can see it’s got claws instead of hands. It lives in ruined castles, especially in the Borders, where the history of conflict with England is full of war, blood and murder. It always wears a red hat, coloured by the blood of its victims. If you cross paths with it, do not try to run, or fight, as it moves faster than light, and overcomes even the strongest man. You can only get past it (and save yourself) by quoting a passage from the Bible.

But, why is the Red Cap so mean? It is said that the Picts- warrior tribes who were living in Scotland when the Romans arrived in the 1st century- used human blood to purify their castles. This horrific act created resident ghosts in the buildings: The Red Caps.

3. Be grateful and appreciate what you have. Learning to practice gratitude is a very valuable lesson in life.

The Brownies: These little creatures are said to inhabit farms and houses in the Scottish Highlands. They wear green suits and little green caps. They have pointed ears and long nimble fingers. Brownies are the friendliest and most benevolent faeries towards humans, they even help with the housework and farm duties while we sleep. In return, the humans are expected to leave gifts for them, such as milk and honey, or cake. However, those humans who try to take advantage of the brownies, will be duly punished with mess and chaos in their houses, as they don’t tolerate laziness or ingratitude.

4. Never judge by looks. If you meet someone for the first time, you may form an opinion about them in your mind which can be totally misleading. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Looks are often deceiving.

Urisks: These Faeries are very ugly creatures; extremely skinny and wrinkled, with duck feathers on their backs and necks; and the legs of a goat. Humans are often disgusted by them, sometimes even frightened. They are, however, very affable and respectful, and, if you give them a chance, you will find a forever friend. They are so eager at the chance to make friends, that they are always happy to help with almost any work, offering you their good energy in exchange for some company. They detest bad manners and are often said to pull pranks on disrespectful humans.

5. Accept yourself for who you are. It sometimes feels like things are never enough, and we try to live someone else’s life, based on false beliefs of who we are meant to be.

Selkies: These maritime faeries are found on the Scottish coasts. They are described as seals that shed their sealskin to become human males and females. Selkies belong to the sea and, although sometimes they dream of a life on earth, giving up their nature could end up killing them of grief. Their tragic story starts when they come ashore to become humans for a short period of time, and someone steals their skin when unattended. Once a Selkie loses his/her skin, they become the human’s “possession” and they can no longer go back to their life underwater. Sometimes, a Selkie finds happiness on earth with their human but, that does not mean that, if they ever find their skin, they won’t return to the sea. They would always go back if they had the chance.

If you want to learn more about Scotland and its fairies, why not start planning your visit to one of our many locations associated with these mysterious creatures, and experience the magic of Scotland at its best.

Written by Macarena Sierra, Sales Executive