Updated: Jan 21, 2022
The Highlands hold many myths and legends. Most warn people not to stray from the path, don’t speak to strangers – especially beautiful female ones, best to stay in doors and most definitely stay faithful.
This one warns of The Baobhan Sith – a female blood sucking fairy who terrorised the misty glens and the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, preying on unsuspecting travellers. The words baobhan sith (pronounced baa’-van shee) stand for fairy woman in Scottish Gaelic.
This blood sucking woman was also known as Baobhan Sidhe, Bavanshee, Baavan Shee or The White Woman of The Highlands. Like other legends she has the form of a beautiful woman who would appear to men and try to seduce them. The Baobhan Sith were mostly attracted to male hunters drawn out by the smell of their blooded clothes. They are described as beautiful women dressed in green – the colour of magic and the fairies.
These vampires are different from the Bram Stoker Dracula kind of vampire, they don’t have pointed fangs that sink into their victim’s neck. The Baobban Sith when attacking use their long and sharp finger nails then drink the blood from the open scratch wounds. They look very ordinary until the attack, then their delicate hands turn into talons to bleed their unsuspecting victims. They begin by asking their victim to dance, charming the young man until he is under their spell – then out come the nails.
If they attack and kill a woman she will return as one of their kin. Most of the Baobhan Sith where previously enchanters or witches who keep on using their skills after death.
The Baobhan Sith only come out when the darkness falls, during the day they rest in buried coffins. They only rise and feed once a year.
A lesser popular version tells they have hooves instead of feet, though they keep it hidden under their clothes. They may be of Human or Half-Elven stock, but they always appear as beautiful women and enchantresses, sometimes attacking in small groups with others of their kin. Baobhan Sith are supposed to be able to shift, but not into bats: their animal of choice is the wolf. Shapeshifting will lessen their power as they won’t be able to use their glamour in animal form.
They are clever and can speak any language their victim knows due to a form of telepathy, but they will sound as if they have a strange accent.
The only way to kill or harm a Baobhan Sith is with iron. They dislike horses because of their iron shoes – a clear warning to hunters leaving their wives at home it’s best to stay on their horse. A Baobhan Sith can be trapped in their buried coffin by building a stone cairn over their grave, this was thought to stop them from rising.
One encounter with these Scottish Vampires tells of four young friends who after hunting decided to spend their night in an abandoned cottage. As darkness fell they set a fire in the hearth and they started singing and dancing. As one of them expressed his wish to have female companions with them, four women knocked at their door and started dancing with the youths. As the baobhan sith started to attack their prey, one of the young men who was singing ran to the door, taking shelter between the horses. The creature that was running after him waited for him to get out of the safe circle formed by the animals but the man stayed within until dawn broke, and the woman disappeared shortly before the sun rose. The man returned to the cottage to find his friends dead and drained of blood. He was saved only because faery creatures are traditionally afraid of iron for it can harm and kill them, and the horses were shod with iron shoes.