Lochan-wan (Lambs’ Loch)
The following extract is taken from Folklore [A Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, Institution & Custom] Vol III (1892). ‘Lochan-wan* is a small loch, in a fine grazing district, lying on the upper confines of Aberdeen and Banffshire. When the following took place the grazing ground was common, and the tenants that lived adjoining it had each the privilege of pasturing a certain number of sheep on it. Each one that sent sheep to this common had to offer in sacrifice to the Spirit of the loch the first lamb of his flock dropped on the common. The omission of this sacrifice brought disaster, for, unless the sacrifice was made, half of his flock would be drowned before the end of the grazing season.
An attempt was at one time made to draw the water from the loch, and so dry it, that the burden of the yearly-sacrifice might be got quit of. A number of men met and began to cut an outlet for the water. They wrought all day without hindrance, and, when night came, they retired. On returning next morning they found that their work of the day before had been all undone during night. Again they busily applied their tools, and did a good day’s work. This day’s work was again undone during night. The third day was again spent in hard toil, but it was resolved to watch during the night how it was that the work carried out during each day was undone at night. A watch was accordingly set. At the hour of midnight there rose from the loch hundreds of small black creatures, each carrying a spade. They immediately fell to work on what the men had done during the day, and, in the course of a few minutes, filled up the trench that they had dug three times before. The grazing common is now a deer-forest, and so the Lambs’ Loch no longer needs the sacrifice of lambs.’
*Possibly identified as Lochan Uaine (The Lore of Scotland: A Guide to Scottish Legends)