Water Spirits… what are they? What is the difference between Merman and Mermaid? What are their special powers? What are their limitations? The islands of the Outer Hebrides are separated from the rest of Scotland, by the strait of water known as “the Minch”. The Minch basin was formed before recorded history, by the largest meteorite ever to strike the British Isles. Here alone may one chance to see the “blue men”, which in other parts of Scotland are completely unknown.
Before the written word, a tribe of fallen angels split into three parts. The first became the faeries that dwell on terra firma, the second faction took to the sky, becoming “Merry Dancers” of the Northern Lights, and the third became the blue men who frolic in the seas of the Minch.
The blue men are humanoid but they are incredibly strong. They swim with their torso raised from the water, exposing their chest, and they twist and dive like a porpoise. When the waves are choppy they sleep in underwater caves, but when the weather is fair they sleep just under the water’s surface.
They have the power of speech and are known to taunt sailors. Unlike mermaids the blue men have legs, and sometimes board vessels to demand tribute. If the ransom is not paid, they will raise up a storm in an effort to capsize the boat.
There is no history of sailors attacking blue men but there is one account of a blue man being captured. He is found dozing on the surface of the water and the mariners haul him on board their ship. He is sleeping so deeply that he does not wake up, even when one of the crewmen to carry his body, loses his grip and the blue man’s head bounces on the wooden deck. They bind the creature’s hands and feet with heavy rope.
Then the skipper sees that two more blue men have risen from the sea and are chasing his vessel. They call out to their friend on board, by name. They call him Ian More, meaning “Ian the Great”. When the creature hears his name, he awakens. He breaks free of the puny ropes of men and dives into the water. This is how local mariners learned that all blue men have names by which they address each other.
Kenny MacLeod was a man on the isle of Lewis, who could not swim. He earned his living collecting seaweed washed up on shore, which farmers needed to use as fertilizer. Kenny was too poor to marry… but he was proud to be chosen every year by the people of Lewis to deliver their annual peace offering to the blue men. Every spring when the waters were still cold as ice, he bravely waded out into the sea until it reached his belt buckle. He carried half a cask of ale.
The libation was collected by Shony, the chief of the blue men himself. Every year Shony invited Kenny to visit his underwater cave, and always MacLeod politely declined. Until one abnormally cold spring when Kenny overheard in the pub, that he was always chosen to present the offering, because were he to be drowned, it would be no great loss to the people of Lewis. That is the year he agreed to Shony’s offer.
Shony completely covered MacLeod’s head with the blue sea-hood which all his people wear, and pulled him under the waves. Kenny could still breathe because the sea-hood filtered out the water, allowing oxygen to pass. At the end of his visit to an underground cave and the city of blue men, Kenny begged to be returned to the island. Shony agreed, but only if Macleod returned with more ale, once a month instead of once a year. “That I would be happy to do,” replied Kenny, “if you would make a gift to me of a sea hood.” To this the chief agreed.
Kenny MacLeod then made use of the sea-hood, to salvage gold from sunken ships, but not those that sank in the Minch. He never returned to the island of Lewis. Instead he did marry a good wife, with blue eyes, and he was always kind, to his four children.
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