This page is about the Manx legend of the glashtin, an amphibious goblin or horse-like creature. Not to be confused with glaistig, a hoofed water-nymph in Scottish folklore.
This article also discusses the Manx cabbyl-ushtey (water-horse) and tarroo-ushtey (water-bull) in connection with the main entry.


Glashtyn (Manx: glashtin,[1][2][3][4] glashan,[5] glaistyn, glastyn;[6] pronounced /ˈɡlæʃtɨn/, is a legendary creature from Manx folklore. The word glashtin is thought to derive from Celtic Old Irish: glais, glaise, glas, meaning "stream",[7] or sometimes even the sea.[8][9]

By some accounts, the glashtin is a goblin[1] that appears out of its aquatic habitat,[10] to come in contact with the island folk. But others describe it as a water-horse.[2] There was actually never a consensus in the old collected folklore about this.

Shapeshifter theory

The two conflicting accounts above can be reconciled by the trick of regarding the Manx glashtin as a shape-shifter. Recent literature embracing this notion claims that the equine glashtin assumes human form at times, but betrays his identity when he fails to conceal his ears, which are pointed like a horse's.[11] One modern tale relates how a fisherman's daughter outwitted the glashtyn whom she recognized by his horse's ears, resisting his temptation of a strand of pearls dangled in front of her, and holding out till the red cockerel crowed to announce (prematurely) the break of dawn (Matthews & Matthews 2006,[12]). Here it is said that the glashtyn can transform whenever upon a dunghill.

Women-loving creatures

Modern conceptions tend to portray the glashtin as a dark, splendidly handsome young man with flashing eyes and curly hair, capable of alluring women with their looks.

The creature, known under the variant form #Glashan, was known to have great curiosity for women and pester them in rather picaresque manner, and would grab hold and tear off pieces of women's attire.

Earlier folklore collections

The shapeshifter rationalization notwithstanding, early collectors of Manx folklore were only able to gather disparate, inconsistent accounts of the glashtin from different sources (exemplified below, under #Joseph Train, #Cabyll ushtey), some making him out to be like the Fenodyree or kindred spirits, while others insisted it was a water-horse. A similar dichotomy is applicable to the Scandinavian nykken.

Joseph Train

Train's History of the island[2] represents one of the early commentary on the glashtin. In one passage, he claims that the glashtin was a water-horse, and this sea-glashtin[13] would emerge out of his marine habitat, mingle with the local land-roving ponies and cross breed to produce foal. An earlier historian George Waldron records such behavior for the water-bull (see #taroo ushtey below), but makes no endorsement for any water-horses doing the same.

Train also alleged that the renowned Hom Mooar (which signifies "Big Tom", a name of a fairy fiddler, as explained by "A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect"[14]), was a glashtin. He goes on to supply as an example a tale taken from Waldron, describing a man was lured by invisible musicians to a strange banquet, and obtained the silver cup that came to be used for the "consecrated Wine in Kirk-Merlugh (Malew Church),[15][16] even though Waldron never refers to the enchanted musicians as glashtin or "Big Tom".

Train claimed he used as his source an MS Account of Manks Superstition, which was a study on folklore he commissioned specifically for his work from an island native.[17]


tarroo-ushtey (Manx pronunciation: [taru ˈuʃtʃə];[18] Mx. for "water bull"[19]).

The 18th century Manx local historian George Waldron records the superstition about the Water-Bull, an "amphibious creature" with every semblance of a natural bull, but a cow mating with it calves only a misshapen "lump of flesh and skin without bones" and often dies giving birth. He also tells that a neighbor detected a stray bull in his herd, and suspecting it to be a Water-Bull, rounded up a group of men with pitchforks to give it chase, but the beast dove into a river and eluded them, bobbing its head up in mockery.[19] It was Train who later supplied the equivalent name in the Manx language (possibly from his native reporter).


See also kelpie and each-uisge for Scottish analogues

cabyll-ushtey (Manx pronunciation: [ˈkaːvəl ˈuʃtʲə];[20] Mx. for "water horse")

Manx folklorist and historian Arthur William Moore was also unable to avoid the dichotomy regarding the glashtin. In one instance, Moore represents the glashtin as "a hairy goblin or sprite".[21] But in another instance, he says glashtin was another name for the "Cabbyl-Ushtey", the "water-horse".[22]

Moore says there was a sighting of the horse in 1859 at Ballure Glen, and after being spotted people from nearby Ramsey flocked to see, but no one caught sight of it. The glen beneath the Glen Meay Waterfall (near Peel; see Morrison's tale below) was haunted by the ghost of a man who unwittingly rode on the horseback of the glashtin or cabbyl-ushtey, and was drowned at sea. (Moore took both these stories Jenkinson's book published in1 1874, whose source for the first sighting was a "respectable farmer's wife from Ramsey" who told Jenkinson about an occurrence reaching 15 years back[23])

Nevertheless, recent literature makes the cabyll-ushtey as being more benign as the Scottish Gaelic each-uisge.[24]


Scottish folklorist J. F. Cambpell collected from a woman living on the Calf of Man the southern Manx lore concerning the glashan. She describes a being who assists as a farmhand, performing tasks of rounding up sheep from the fold, or thresh stalks of corn if left unbundled[25] —- qualities elsewhere ascribed to the fenodyree.[26]

Skirt-chasing nature

One intriguing anecdote is of a glashan who caught a girl by getting a tight griphold of her dress. But while he slept, she cut away the dress and escaped, making him cast away the cloth, uttering something in Manx unintelligible to Campbell. Roeder records a similar tale of a woman who loosened her apron-string to rid herself of the glashtin clung on her apron, and he spoke the words: 'Rumbyl, rumbyl, cha vel ayms agh yn sampyl' (The edge or skirt of the garment, I have but the sample.).[27] Morrison's tale gives a bastard version of this in her "The Buggane of the Glen Meay Waterfall".[28]

In closing, Rhys too reports that his "informants" were at odds, some of them regarding the "glastyn" as the Manx version of the brownie, while others were adamant it was "a sort of grey colt, frequenting the banks of lakes at night".[29]

See also

(Category:Scottish legendary creatures)
(Category:Welsh legendary creatures)
(Category:Manx legendary creatures)
(Category:Scandinavian legendary creatures)

External links

  • Introduction to Celtic studies: Isle of Man (George Broderick)




  • ,
    • (2nd ed., 1878)
  • Letter H
(etymology citations)
  • , under entry for Mullenbeg.
(early works containing tales)
  • ; p.xxxii
  • , p. 8-13 www.isle-of-man
    • Avail. online at: pp.134-191
  • , Chapter XVIII, Popular Superstions, p. 142-184
    • Train commissioned a MS Account of Manks Superstition "collected for this work by a native of the Island", p. 147n, which he uses as reference.
    • (2nd ed. 1744)
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