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There are two areas of folklore which will interest people who wish to learn about the area. One of these is the legend of the Water Horse, Water Kelpie or the Beast. The other local piece of folklore which many people find of interest is the Brahan Seer.

How The Loch Was Really Formed: Before getting into these, however, readers may like to hear of the story of how Loch Ness was originally formed.

Back in the mists of time there was a happy community of people living under the benevolent rule of a Druid priest. They had a sweet water well from which they collected all of the water they needed. The Druid, however, had made a strict rule that the well must always be covered after drawing water.

One day a young woman was in the middle of drawing water when she heard her baby screaming from the house. She rushed off to see what was wrong and left the capping stone off the well.

Within a few short minutes the water in the well had risen up and overflowed and within a very short time the valley was beginning to flood and the villagers had to flee to the hills and that is how Loch Ness was formed!

Statue of Saint Columba at Fort Augustus Abbey on Loch Ness

Mythical Beasts In Loch Ness: Regarding the Kelpie, Water Horse and Beast.  These, or similar creatures, inhabit the lakes, lochs, rivers and seas of the world and are often the mechanism peoples have used to keep their children away from the water's edge.

In the Amazon we are told of a giant snake; in Lake Okanagan in Canada it's a sea serpent; in Scottish lochs and Swedish lakes it's the Kelpie, although in Sweden the Kelpie can be friendly as well as menacing.

One of Saint Columba's two sightings of a beast at Loch Ness was the water horse, which was standing near the road waiting for a victim to approach.  The water horse would make itself appear to be a real horse complete with saddle and bridle.  When the weary traveller got into the saddle it would revert to its fearsome self, drag the traveller down into the depths and devour him.

The saint, on encountering the Loch Ness kelpie supposedly told it never to hurt anyone ever again at Loch Ness ... and, of course, it never has hurt anyone ever since!

Saint Columba's other sighting of a beast at Loch Ness was actually in the Bonar Narrows, where the River Ness leaves the loch.  A swimmer was fetching a boat for the saint when he was attacked by a water beast. The saint raised the sign of the cross and told the beast to turn and go back with all speed.  The beast submerged and yet another miracle was achieved by the saint.

The statue of Columba, shown to the right, is on the main bell tower where the saint surveys the length of Loch Ness from a height of about seventy feet (twenty metres). 

The Brahan Seer: Most readers will have heard of prophets, like Nostradamus, who have made predictions of global events, but the Brahan Seer's prophecies were much more local in nature. His simple prophecies concern such items as there being a locked cemetery at Tomnahurich hill to the disaster which would occur if the seventh bridge were built over the River Ness. His seventeenth century vision of horseless carriages, spitting smoke and fire, charging across the countryside is really quite remarkable.

Some of these can be put down to simple shrewdness or coincidence, but it is difficult to see how the prophecy of the building of the Caledonian Canal could be foreseen through simple common sense.

He prophesied that, one day, no matter how strange it may appear, there would be sailing ships sailing east and west behind Tomnahurich hill.  Some one hundred and sixty years later, the great Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford, opened his canal and it passed behind Tomnahurich hill fulfilling the prophecy.

The Brahan Seer was killed for a statement he made from his talent of having second sight. He told Lady Seaforth, on the Isle of Lewis that her husband was in the company of a young lady in Paris. This may well have been devilment as Lady Seaforth had been rather a nuisance worrying over her husband's late return from the continent.

However, she was incensed by the Seer's statement and had him executed.

He was taken to Chanonry Point, just opposite Fort George on the Moray Firth, and there he was thrown head-first into a barrel of blazing tar.  

[I occasionally mention this story on my tour and on one occasion I had added that this was a dreadful way to kill anyone. An Aussie on the bus piped up "better than going in feet first!". On another occasion I said that the Brahan Seer had made his famous prophecy on the way to his execution and another Aussie (why is it always an Australian?) shouted out, "Did he say, 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die'?" which I thought was rather brilliant.]

Ironically, Lord Seaforth arrived on the scene just a few minutes later and too late to stop the execution.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness in wierd light

On his way to the fire, the Brahan Seer made a curse cum prophecy about the Seaforth's which remains one of the most extraordinary and well-documented prophecies anywhere in the world.  It was well known about in the century preceding its fulfilment and during the period when it came true.

I have paraphrased here only part of the prophecy.

The estates will pass out of the Seaforth name and be inherited by a white coiffed lassie from the east (white-hooded lady from the east) who will kill her sister.  The Seaforth lord of the time will know that the prophecy is being fulfilled because he will be both deaf and dumb, will have had four male children and will have outlived them all.

The prophecy came true when a Seaforth heir, at the age of ten, caught Scarlet Fever and was turned profoundly deaf.  When he became the lord he had four sons and two daughters.  One of the sons died as a child, but the others all died as adults and he therefore outlived them all. In later life the lord became dumb because he could not communicate properly owing to his deafness. Not only this, but his eldest daughter had married a man called Hood ... perhaps Lord Seaforth saw this as meaning that his daughter would be the "hooded" woman?  Worse still, she had moved to India, the east, with her husband!

When he died, his eldest daughter did indeed inherit the estates, thus passing it out of the Seaforth name, but she had lost her husband at the same time as her father and she arrived back from India, to the Isle of Lewis, wearing a white widow's hood ... white being the grieving colour in those times ... and was therefore literally the white-coiffed lassie from the east.

Some time later, while driving a carriage with her younger sister, she overturned the carriage and her sister was killed ... so she had killed her sister thus fulfilling the remainder of the prophecy.

An amazing and true tale which was followed with great interest by the people of the time.

The link here gives other interpretations of Kenneth MacKenzie's talents: Brahan Link

[I will be adding other links to Brahan Seer websites shortly, but a search under Brahan + Seer on Alta Vista will turn up some good ones.]

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