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Unexpected Traditions

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A trow is a mischievous fairy or spirit that roams the Orkney and Shetland Islands but does not venture as far south as the Outer Hebrides.  Trows were believed to be nocturnal and were similar to the Scandinavian trolls.  They were small, ugly and often bad tempered, although they could also be helpful.  Interestingly there are no female trows, so they must marry human wives in order to reproduce. 


In Shetland it was customary for the best man to follow the groom about for the week before the wedding, in case he was taken by trows who wanted his betrothed for themselves. In Orkney it was just the pre-wedding night that was critical. There are placenames associated with trows such as Trowie Knowe in Shetland and Trowie Glen in Orkney.  However, trows were not the only beings of short status, as near to the Trowie Glen is the Dwarfie Stane which has tales of both dwarfs and giants.

CLICK HERE to hear how the famous Smerclete pipers were taught by the fairies.

The sìthichean, or faeries, inhabited the otherworld in the Outer Hebrides.  Similar to the trows or peerie folk, they also lived in hillocks or small grassy knolls.  Although, through Hollywood, many now imagine fairies as cute sparkly winged beings who are to be trusted, this was not the case in island tradition.  


The sìthichean were to be feared as they would cause you harm.  This could be by turning milk sour, burning your bread, or more seriously stealing your children.  Childbirth was their ideal opportunity to cause mischief as they would take a newborn child if it was not watched over or protected by charms or incantations.  

Strangely Familiar Video :::  

Strangely Familiar:

The Otherworld in Lewis Life by Catriona Murray

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