The Questions People Ask a Whistlemaker
Misha Somerville answers questions often asked about an unusual and incredible profession.
The mythical Kelpie - infamous in Scottish folklore. Enshrined with myth and superstition, the Kelpie water spirit inhabits Scotland’s lochs and rivers as a shape-shifting creature that metamorphoses from human form into a powerful black horse with horns, dragging its victims into the watery depths. Many burns (rivers) and lochs (lakes) in Scotland are embedded with a Kelpie story, perhaps the most infamous of them immortalised in the children’s book, ‘The Kelpie’s Pearls’, which is set in a burn by the banks of Loch Ness just a few hundred yards from the first mk workshop where the original mk whistle was designed and made .
Similar mythological characters appear in many other countries. In Scandinavia the Bäckahästen, Australian Bunyip, Germanic Neck and Wihwin of Central America are all kindred spirits. One characteristic of the Kelpie is the hooves which point the opposite way from a horse - this is a characteristic shared by the Icelandic Nykur.
Perhaps it's most distinct and dangerous power is being able to change form and appear as a human.
T he first mk whistles were created in a workshop very near the site of a famous Kelpie story. Mollie Hunter's ' The Kelpie's Pearls' was set in a 'burn' - a term used for a small river in Scotland - which runs through Abriachan, a small settlement above Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.
Like in many places, music, poetry and story intertwine with mythology. Folklore can be handed down through generations in music and story. While some instruments are more modern - many of our instruments of today originated between the 16th and 19th centuries - whistles are tens of thousands of years old. Early examples, made from vultures wing-bones and dated at over 30,000 years old have been found in caves in central Europe. Wind instruments during very early times were often seen as a way to communicate with the spirit world and used in early religion. These connections can sometimes also be seen today e.g. the use of organs in churches.
The beauty is being able to draw from this deep well of folklore. Like reaching back through time, you can play a tune as old as the hills and bring it to the very moment you are in. When you combine this sense of time, with a sense of place, it is a very powerful force indeed, which speaks to our deepest selves - moving us emotionally in profound ways.