Yes, you read that title right, in the Highlands of Scotland lies in wait the Baobhan Sith (Baa’van Shee). A strange creature who is not your ordinary fairy and has a penchant for drinking blood. So what do we know about this haunting creature?
What’s in a Name?
Baobhan Sith is a fairly interesting name, literally translating from Gaelic to “Woman of the Sidhe” or, in more common terms, “Fairy Woman”. They are also known as the “White Women of the Scottish Highlands”, a title suggesting their connection to many types of ghosts or spirits such as Banshees. As the name suggests, only female ones appear to exist.
What are they?
These women are described as incredibly beautiful when they first appear, usually clothed in long green dresses. It is key to note here that green is actually a colour associated with fairies in Scotland. Their long dresses conceal the fact that they have deer hooves instead of feet.
They are shapeshifters who can glamour, take the form of a wolf, and even take the form of a raven or hooded crow. It is rare to see a lone Baobhan Sith as they prefer to hunt in packs.
They love to dance and use this to seduce men, their main prey. Yes girls, for once we get to be the monster and not the victim. They mainly stalk hunters, being drawn in by the smell of blood on their clothing. The legends say that they dance with their victim until he is entranced, then reveal the long talon-like nails they have before slitting the throat of the victim and draining him dry. In some versions, they even tear their victims apart in their frenzy. Some stories say that they can take the form of those they had just drained. For fans of Doctor Who you could think of the Plasmavore from Season 3 Episode 1 “Smith and Jones”.
They tend only to appear when the men hunting make a wish for female company, tying into the Scottish superstition that if you make a wish at night without asking God’s protection it will be granted in some horrifying way.
Should you ever encounter a Baobhan Sith then you simply need to find iron to ward them off, like most fairies they are vulnerable to it. Interestingly, this means they also tend to not be fond of horses as they are often shod in iron.
Baobhan Sith, like other vampires, disappearing with the daylight. There are some stories that they sleep in coffins and can be trapped inside by building a stone cairn on the top of the grave. In some legends, they are witches or enchanters who did not stop using their powers even in death.
Here’s another bit of a plus side for us girls, should you, unfortunately, fall victim to a Baobhan Sith it is said you will come back as one yourself and join your sisters in their dance.
So where did these creatures come from? Some people believe that these are actually the original vampire, predating Carmilla and Dracula by centuries. I find this a bit unlikely with the story of Cain and the Lamia being more credible potential sources for the origin vampires. They may be more likely the Scottish version of Maenads without a Dionysus-like leader.
It is possible that they were once Deer goddesses who were punishing those who hunted without performing the appropriate rituals. They may have been downgraded to fairies like many goddesses previously. It is possible that the more vampiric elements and their bloodthirsty nature were exaggerated upon by the Christian church to deter potential followers from joining the fairy dance.
On the other hand, it could be as simple as they are dancing vampires haunting hunters in the Highlands. Maybe the wait out there still for men to fall prey to their dark charms.
There are some modern stories that reference these fantastic femme Fatales, but sadly they are not well known. While these wonderful creatures will not be incorporated in my current novel, I definitely have plans to use them in one in the future.
In researching for this blog, I actually discovered there is a comedy horror film called Baobhan Sith on Amazon Prime from 2017. Let’s just say, it’s been added to the Halloween marathon this year.
- Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses, Judika Illes, Harper Collins, 2010, ISBN: 0062046098
- The Tale of Scottish Banshees: The Baobhan Sith, The Scotsman, https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/tale-scottish-banshees-baobhan-sith-1479692
- Baobhan Sith, Mythology Wikia, https://mythology.wikia.org/wiki/Baobhan_sith
- The Baobhan Sith — The Scottish Vampire, Scot Clans, Amanda Moffet, https://www.scotclans.com/the-baobhan-sith-the-scottish-vampire/
- Baobhan Sith: Are Scottish Vampires More Deadly, The Spooky Isles, Rose Garnett, https://www.spookyisles.com/baobhan-sith-scottish-vampires/
- Baobhan Sith, A Scottish Female Vampire, Cobalt Fairy, Lydia Kendall, https://cobaltfairy.com/baobhan-sith-scottish-female-vampire/