The beither is a large serpent from Scottish mythology which is armed with a deadly sting. According to John Gregorson Campbell the beithir is the largest and deadliest kind of serpent. He stated:
‘The big beast of Scanlastle in Islay was one of this kind. It devoured seven horses on its way to Loch-in-daal. A ship was lying at anchor in the loch at the time, and a line of barrels filled with deadly spikes, and with pieces of flesh laid upon them, was placed from the shore to the ship. Tempted by the flesh, the ‘loathly worm’ made its way out on the barrels and was killed by the spikes and cannon.’
Tales of the Beither
John Francis Campbell, narrates the tale of a wicked stepmother who happened to be married to an Irish king. Eaten with jealousy and under the influence of a wicked henwife, it was only a matter of time before she showed her hand. After doing some favours for the henwife, the henwife presented her with a magical shirt. At last, the evil stepmother was able to put her wicked plot into action. She presented the king’s son with a magical shirt, which was actually a shape-shifting beithir in disguise. No sooner had the prince donned this garment than he succumbed to his stepmother’s sinister enchantment.
Eventually, he escaped from his stepmother’s spell due to the help of a wise woman and her daughter. First, a cauldron was prepared, filled with herbs. Then, the prince was stripped of his clothing, all save the magical shirt. Finally, the wise woman gave her daughter a knife and as the prince sank down into the herbal potion, the beither appeared around his neck and pounced at the daughter who was able to cut its ties using the knife. Later the Prince and the Wise Woman’s daughter were married.
It is a huge wingless, dragon-type serpent with a venomous sting.
The Beither dwells in mountainous caves and corries (cirques) and is associated with bodies of water.
According to legend, if a normal snake is killed then some distance must be put between its head and body, or the parts will reconnect and return to life as a beithir.
If a person is unfortunate enough to be stung by the serpent, they must head towards the nearest river or loch. If they can reach the water before the beithir, they will be cured. However, should the beithir reach the water first, they will succumb to its venom.
Alternatively, according to another legend, the sting victim can be cured by dousing them in water soaked.
The beithir was said to be sighted on summer nights when lightning strikes occurred and is used to explain the damage caused by lightning.
The beithir is considered one of the fuath, a general term for various evil monsters and spirits associated with water. It may also be related to the Stoor worm or the Linton Worm.
Beither Location in Scotland:
The Beither is believed to live in areas with caves, corries and bodies of water.