Blue Men of the Minch

Black and white shipwreck - raft

This tale discusses shipwrecks, the luring of sailors to their demise, and humanoid creatures living underwater, so surely it must be about mermaids, right? Wrong! 

This legend follows sea-inhabiting “Blue Men”, said to create severe storms, who float when sleeping, and have many supernatural abilities. However, they are not to be mistaken with the blue-skinned Tolokan people who threatened to invade Wakanda in Black Panther Forever or the kelpies of Scotland

These blue colour creatures are exclusively native to the waters of Minch — hence their name, the Blue Men of the Minch. Come aboard as we navigate the mysteries surrounding these blue aquatic creatures of the Scottish deep. Ready? Let’s dive in!

Potential Origins of the Captivating Scottish Myth

The tale of the Blue Men of the Minch alludes to many supernatural creatures like mermaids and sirens. These particular blue mythical creatures enjoy drowning sailors and tend to attack passing vessels.

The Blue Men of the Minch also have ties to kelpie mythology, being referred to as highland storm kelpies due to their ability to create storms. However, with their distinctive blue colouration, they are believed to only reside in the Minch’s cold and raging waters. 

Other than being related to the Scottish kelpies, another tale suggests that the Blue Men are actually members of the Pict tribes. Some Blue Men of Minch sightings could be the tribe’s blue-painted bodies moving across the ocean on their boats resembling kayaks.

According to Scottish folklore, the Blue Men were part of a tribe of fallen angels. The tribe split into three: the Blue Men, the ground-dwelling fairies, and the merry dancers of the Northern lights (the aurora). The Blue Men live in underwater caves and follow a clan system overseen by one Chief Blue Man, whom some sources call Shony.

A more historical take centres on the Norse Vikings who had North African slaves and travelled to Scotland. The tale could stem from when the Vikings spent the winter months near the Shiant Isles accompanied by their ‘fir ghorma’ [Gaelic], which translates to ‘Blue Men’. 

Identifying the Mythical Blue Men of the Minch

The folk beliefs’ description mentions that these blue supernatural creatures are about the same size as humans and are usually seen from the waist upwards, raised above the waves. Scottish legend also suggests that they favour blue headgear, have fishtails, and enjoy soaking vessels using sea spray. 

Scottish folklore expert Donald Alexander Mackenzie described the Blue Men in his book “Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend” as having grey faces, wearing blue caps, and having long restless arms. 

He also mentioned a strait between the island of Lewis and the Shiant where the Blue Men swim around. This very restricted area is sometimes referred to as “The Current of Destruction” on account of the vast amount of ships wrecked there. 

Interactions With the Blue Men of Minch of Scotland

According to legend, when the Blue Men gather to attack a passing vessel, they ask sailors riddles and expect a matching two lines in return. The Blue Men will grant the vessel free passage if the sailor’s response gets a tail swish of approval.

If the Blue Men of the Minch aren’t satisfied, they seize the ship and it becomes an underwater vessel. 

The famous tales mention at least one account of a successful interaction between a skilled sailor and the Blue Chief. It goes something like this: 

Shony, the Chief, enquires:

“Man of the black cap, what do you say

As your proud ship cleaves the brine?”

Skipper answers:

“My speedy ship takes the shortest way,

And I’ll follow you line by line.”


“My men are eager, my men are ready

To drag you below the waves –”

Skipper responds:

“My ship is ready, my ship is steady,

If it sank, it would wreck your caves.”

And with that, the skipper saved his ship from the chief and his Blue Men with his commendable rhyming capabilities. 

John Gregorson Campbell’s “Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland” mentions that some sailors discovered a sleeping Blue Man and hoisted him onboard. Two fellow Blue Men witnessed the kidnapping and sounded a code blue. With their torsos raised and long arms flailing, they chased after the ship and started yelling.

Once they shout the sleeping Blue Man awake, the captured spirit breaks free and dives back into the sea. Happily swimming back to the safety of the caves inhabited by his people. 

Celtic Rituals 

It’s believed that when the Blue Men slept, their sea magic kept the seas calm. In contrast, when they awoke and left their underwater caves, they could cause rapid tides, making stricken boats sink. 

The Northern Outer Hebrides locals have certain customs and rituals to avoid destruction owing to the Blue Men. The residents believe that if they treat the storm kelpies of the Outer Hebrides with respect and care, the Blue Men tribe will return the favour. 

According to Scottish mythology, if you pour ale into the sea, as a thank you for the ale the Blue Men of Minch leave seaweed on the shores to use as fertiliser. As a precaution, on the night of the Celtic Halloween festival of Samhain, a candle is lit and left by the sea as a peace offering to the Blue Men of the Minch. 

However, even in such a limited range of the strait, the Blue Men are considered a personification of the powerful and turbulent sea, making them prone to temper tantrums. 

So when you’re out on the waters between northern and mainland Scotland, perhaps practise your rhyming skills in case you have to go bar for bar with the Blue Men of Minch. 

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