Gaelic and Celtic Customs
from the Hebrides and Beyond

Fada's Farsaing (Far and Wide) is a series of articles by Liam O Caiside in English but with Gaelic words and phrases interwoven in the text. The articles describe a wide range of Gaelic and Celtic customs. These pages were originally published in the "Scottish Radiance" e-magazine and have been reproduced here with the kind permission of the Scottish Radiance editor, Sharma Krauskopf.

The Njuggle and The Brownies

The Njuggle
The njuggle , an amphibious creature which frequented meadows and streams but was never found far from water is common Shetland folklore. He was a master of disguise and often turned himself into a pony or horse to entice the weary traveller unto his back. Once someone was foolish enough to get on his back the creature would roar and with a flash of blue flame run for the nearest water. It was a known truth that if you were approached by a njuggle you should light a match as the creature was terrified of fire.

The njuggle liked millstreams and to keep themselves safe the miller would keep in a corner a toyeg - a mall straw basket containing grain as an offering to the njuggle. If this was not done the njuggle would creep into the underhoose and stop the mill from working. He could be driven away by a firebrand down by the lightening tree.

The Brownie was a domestic trow or fairy whose assistance was needed in brewing ale, churning butter and in grinding meal in the quern. In most kitchens a sacrificial stone was reserved for the Brownie and when brewing a little wort was placed there, whereas when churning a few drops of milk were sprinkled in each corner. The Brownie also guarded the corn yard during the winter and he was given a little stack of bere for doing so. The Brownie was a temperamental creature and one had to humour him but not overdo the attention or he could get very mad and take it out on who ever had offended him

Source: "Traditional Life in Shetland" by James R. Nicolson

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