In the belief of some people, the sea was possessed of a powerful being or witch-like spirit capable of doing harm. As it could hear what was said, it was pleased with sincere praise, but resented insincere praise and mockery. One could not, without incurring danger, speak disparagingly of, or mock at, the sea. It could bewitch people and cause their destruction. It claimed certain people as victims, who were therefore doomed to be drowned. For this reason, it seems, there was formerly an aversion among some to save people who were drowning in the sea, as the sea would before long avenge itself on the rescuer for being cheated of its prey. Stories are told of men who rescued others, and invariably were themselves drowned within the next twelve months. Probably for the same reason some people were averse to helping shipwrecked men, and it is said that in some cases obstacles were actually put in the way of their being saved.
Some spoke that a certain witch living in the sea who made winds and storms, and wrecked ships and boats, and of another witch or being, also living in the sea, who ground salt to keep the ocean salt (see Grótti).
- Teit, James A. (1918). "Water-beings in Shetlandic Folk-Lore, as remembered by Shetlanders in British Columbia." JAF 31:180-201, pp. 199-200.
This article incorporates text from Water-beings in Shetlandic Folk-Lore, as remembered by Shetlanders in British Columbia (1918) by James Teit, which is in the public domain.