Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Things That Go Bump in the Night–Caoiniag and the Glencoe Massacre

Who doesn’t love a good monster?


For this year’s blog challenge, Sorchia’s Universe plays host to long-legged beasties and evil fairies from all over the world.   

If the sight of it gives you the creepy-crawlies, the heebie-jeebies, or the all-overs you’ll most likely find it here. And if you don’t, let me hear from you! Tell me a story about the nasty critter most likely to send you screaming to your mommy.


C is for Caoiniag


She weeps—the Caoiniag is the Scottish version of the Irish banshee. While she certainly

foresees danger, some speculate she may even be at the bottom of it as a Bean Nighe—an evil fairy. She is never seen—but her weeping signals death and destruction. A Caoiniag will often attach herself to a family or place and signal imminent peril with her weeping.

She is also called “ The Washer at the Ford” and is probably a kind of water spirit since she is also associated with waterfalls and streams. She is washing the blood out of the grave clothes of those who are about to die a horrible death. She is associated with women who die in childbirth.

One of the most famous Caoiniags lived/lives/exists/existed near Glencoe, Scotland. Before the MacDonald massacre, she cried her little eyes out but nobody paid any attention. 

The Glencoe Massacre

Bad blood between the two mighty clans, the Campbells and the MacDonalds, goes way back—a little matter of a herd of Highland cows (okay, a bunch of herds of coos over a long, long time) which changed hands (from Campbell to MacDonald and back again) The loss of this particular herd of bonny Highland coos caused consternation and embarrassment.  Coo stealing was a favorite pastime and the two clans traded coos like kids trade baseball cards, but the Campbell laird was unable to pay his gambling debts and the fighting escalated into a guerilla war with clan members taking potshots at each other whenever the opportunity presented itself.

As the Jacobite rebellions gained steam in the late 1600’s, the MacDonalds came down firmly with the Jacobites. Predictably, the Campbells came down just as firmly for the English monarchy.  With the Jacobite defeat in 1698, a Campbell regiment was billeted with the MacDonalds at Glencoe—What could possibly go wrong? For two weeks, the MacDonalds treated the regiment as became a Scottish clan where hospitality is valued as highly as battle worthiness despite the stinging defeat and the ancient feud.

If you were going to hear a Caoiniag, the night of February 12 was your best chance. Early in the morning of February 13, 1692, the Campbells murdered their sleeping hosts in Glencoe and continued the slaughter in the settlements of Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achnacon, killing crofters, women, and children and burning their homes. Many MacDonalds died later in the winter from exposure.

This heinous act violated the Scottish law of “murder under trust” which is worse than plain old murder. Despite an inquiry and a judgement which did little more than exonerate the King, no legal retribution was granted. The two clans continued to feud for centuries. The cries of the Caoiniag may still echo through the glen if danger or death threaten the MacDonalds.


Over three hundred years later, this event continues to reverberate even at Celtic festivals here in Missouri.  Every event includes a section known as Clan Row. Clans put up tents and display memorabilia and provide membership info to any who believe themselves to be related.  It’s all a precursor to the next Scottish uprising which we salute with a wee dram as we sign the clan roll.

The Campbells and the MacDonalds set up their clan tents side by side with a sign between them reading “The Feud is . . .”. Below that is a movable bit that can be made to say ON or OFF.  All in good fun. Both sides say the feud is a matter of history only.

Behind this strapping example of a modern MacDonald, you can see the Campbell tent and the sign.
Behind this strapping example of a modern MacDonald, you can see the Campbell tent and the sign.

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Thanks for reading this far. Have a frighteningly great day!


April 5 post—D for Dearg-dhu, an Irish vampire, and Dragons (because you can’t do a legendary critter blog without one.

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