GRT History Month 2022 Round-Up 💫

🗓 June is “Gypsy, Roma & Traveller History Month” throughout the UK. So here’s a wee round-up of some interesting things that were shared this year ⬇️

Glasgow-based Romano Lav, a charity working to challenge discrimination & promote equality for Roma in Scotland, held various events such as a special Roma News & Views episode with themes of solidarity & resistance & “Astar e Iag”, an exhibition of Roma history & resistance which included work by local school children 💙♥️💚

Also, while not based in Scotland, Smith’s Kushti Podcast is well worth a listen too – she covers topics such as Romani Feminism, resistance & police brutality: listen here or wherever you usually get your podcasts 🎧

In addition to celebrating Romani history & culture, GRT history month also celebrates other Travellers including Scotland’s native Scottish Travellers. Tobar an Dualchais had some brilliant posts on their FB page, with particular highlights including: Scottish Traveller Belle Stewart talking about berry-picking & singing one of her songs; Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson talking about a Henwife with supernatural powers; traditional Traveller crafts such as basketry & tin-smithing; legendary Traveller storyteller Stanley Robertson & “wandering singer” Jimmy MacBeath💧

Am Baile also put together a nice gallery of historic Scottish Traveller images & there was a brilliant article in The West Highland Free Press by the wonderful Jess Smith, Scottish Traveller & storyteller (who is also involved with the Heart of the Travellers charity) 📰

Jess Smith in action reminding us of the importance of passing down stories before telling a scary story about “burkers” herself ⬆️

Both Roma & Scottish Traveller cultures have unfortunately faced much discrimination & extreme prejudice over the years due to being different from the settled majority. The Moving On Song, sung beautifully by Sheila Stewart sadly tells of this. We should be doing all we can to stop this & to educate ourselves to make sure we’re not harbouring any misconceptions or prejudices. You can read a brief history of Scottish Travellers & Roma in Scotland here in this illustrated guide. You can also watch talks on Scottish Traveller history here & here 📚📺🧠

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

💛 Latha Buidhe Bealltainn Sona Dhuibh & Happy May Day!

🔥 Latha Buidhe Bealltainn Sona Dhuibh to those celebrating, & Happy May Day/International Worker’s Day too 💪🏻

🌞 Following on from the Scottish Gaelic traditions posted yesterday, I thought I’d post today about 1st May also being International Workers’ Day – this traditional time of change from Spring to Summer is also a time with a newer tradition of protesting to improve the rights of workers 🪧

🎙 Have a read of a speech given by Trade Unionist Jimmy Reid from Govan on being elected as the rector in 1972 ⬇️

📰 See also: May Day events are held every year in various locations throughout Scotland, for example this year in Glasgow, & here’s lovely image of kids at a 1924 parade shared today by the Glasgow Archives FB page ⬇️

💻 Some further reading on the general history behind May Day can be found here.

🎶 I’ll end with a wee seasonal song that’s not Scottish but an Old Middle English song believed to be one that we have the oldest written record for (fans of The Wicker Man will recognise it lol) – click the link above to view manuscript & lyrics, or see below to listen to a version on YouTube ⬇️

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🔥Oidhche Bhealltainn Greetings!

🔥 Tonight is Oidhche Bhealltainn (Beltane Eve) – hope everyone celebrating has a good time 💛

📰 Here’s an interesting & relevant article from the brilliant Quern-Dust Calendar online archive:

“…May-Day is universally known to Gaelic speakers as Latha Buidhe Bealltainn, the Yellow Day of Beltane. It marks the first day of summer, but we needn't necessarily regard it as falling on 1 May - in the Old Style which survived until a couple of generations back, it fell on 13 May.

Bealltainn has been derived from beall-teine, "bale-fire" or "beacon-fire" (of which more later), but why buidhe, "yellow"? Well, buidhe is the colour of gold and of sunshine and of whisky and of good luck as well: buidhe dhut, lucky for you! Gold and whisky make little sense here, and the weather of May-Day, far from being sunny, is characterised by glaisean cumhach na Bealltainn, the dreary drabness (or linnet) or Beltane; so that seems to leave good luck.

The best-remembered saying about Beltane is…”

➡️ Continue reading more about dates, language, the role of fire, & of course washing faces in the morning dew in “BETWEEN TWO BELTANES” by Raghnall Mac Ille Dhuibh. (You may notice there’s no mention of any connection to the Phoenician God Baal because there isn’t one – unfortunately it’s a common myth that doesn’t make sense if you know anything about Scottish Gaelic Language)

🩸As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is one of the times of year when Otherworldly beings were thought to be particularly active, so have a read about this cute wee bird & some surprisingly sinister folklore associated with it in “Yellowhammer Folklore”, a previous short article of mine.

⬆️ Informative post & lovely photo from Stories of Scotland giving more details about morning dew as well as showing people still washing their faces in modern times 💧

🐍 Read more about Bealltainn & its relationship with other major Scottish folk festivals here ⬅️

🗓 Lastly, there are many other festivals taking place in Europe at this time of year – such as Walpurgisnacht – so it’s important not to lump them all together & recognise they all come from different cultures ☺️

📸 Featured photo credit: Pexel

Some Seasonal Spookiness – not just for Halloween!

🗓 Bealltainn, one of the 4 Gaelic Fire Festivals/Old Quarter Days is coming up tomorrow night, & since these are times of year when Otherworldly beings are traditionally believed to more active I thought I’d share some accounts of strange goings on in an abandoned Highland lodge 🏔

🎙 Have a listen to “Case 10: Don’t Sleep in this House” & “Case 11: The Curse of Luibeilt” on BBC’s Uncanny podcast to hear climber Phil tell of his story of what he experienced at Luibeilt then later on in his Glasgow flat – there are also wee updates in the Case 12 & 15 episodes if I remember rightly: listen here or wherever you usually listen to podcasts ⬅️

👻 Or you can read a bit about the case if you rather do that than listen here with this summary on Spooky Isles 💻

🥾 Also here for Phil’s enquiry & the responses he got on this climbing site 💬

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland is of course chock-full of ghost stories from isolated bothies to busy cities, so no surprise podcasts like Uncanny feature some Scottish locations as well as Scottish expert paranormal psychologists etc📍

🎧 If you enjoyed those Uncanny episodes I’d highly recommend the whole series as well as Danny Robins’ other podcasts Haunted & The Battersea Poltergeist – featuring both staunch believers & hardened skeptics many interesting themes are explored such as grief, trauma, fear, memory & perception 🧠

(🐍 What’s a Gaelic Fire Festival/Old Quarter Day? Have a read of one of my previous articles here 🔥)

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

🐣 Happy Easter to all those celebrating ✝️

🌅 Today I’d like to share a couple of interesting Easter-related links, starting with a nice article in the WHFP on Hebridean Easter traditions:

“Early one Easter Sunday when I was about eight, my father came into the bedroom I shared with my sister and said: “Èirichibh, feuch am faic sibh a’ ghrian a’ dannsa!” – ‘Get up and see the sun dancing!’

As I sleepily got out of bed and tried looking at the sun as it rose over Beinn a’ Mhuilinn, it did appear to be dancing as I blinked to adjust my focus, the colours burning into my vision!

Easter is probably my favourite time of year. As we come out of the dark winter months the dawn chorus returns, lambs are born and flowers begin to blossom.

Being brought up on the predominantly Catholic island of South Uist I also associate it with the returning of chocolate to the kitchen cupboard after the long period of Lent!”

📰 Read the rest of the article here on the West Highland Free Press website ⬅️

🐇 Next, here’s a brilliant article from Norwegian historian Maria Kvilhaug addressing many modern myths surrounding Easter traditions in general throughout Europe – where did the egg, rabbit etc symbolism come from? What about claims of connections with ancient Goddesses like Ēostre & Ishtar? Head over to Maria’s site to learn more ⬅️

🧙🏻‍♀️ Lastly, again not Scotland specific but very interesting info about the history behind the “Easter Witches” tradition of Sweden that has some similarities to historical witchcraft belief in Scotland – for example there being certain times when you’d be more vulnerable to supernatural attacks & that there were things you could do to protect yourself – over on Daily JSTOR ⬅️ (Thanks to my Dad for sending it to me the other day ☺️)

Happy Easter Victorian-style lol – shared by University of Aberdeen ⬆️

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

Bible, Key & String – folk divination through time

📖🗝✨I’ve shared posts before regarding using keys & things like Bibles, prayer books or Psalters in folk magic in order to divine certain information, one post concerning the Medieval to Early Modern Period & another the mid-1800s, so I thought I’d share what seems to be an example surviving into modern times. This example of teenage girls using a key, string & a Bible in an effort to find out who they’ll marry was collected from a Margaret Wilson of Lilliesleaf in the Scottish Borders, 1990, recalling her younger years:

“When I was [young], right silly, I used to do these things with friends, girls together. I must have been about sixteen. The girl I worked beside she used a Bible; this Bible was opened at a certain place and a big door key was put in, and string tied round. You each put a finger below the key and you said letters. It was supposed to move at a certain letter; it moved, but I don’t know whether the other person was helping it move or not!”

Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave by Margaret Bennett (Unfortunately not sure how old Margaret Wilson was at the time of her interview)

⭐️ Previous posts referred to:

Medieval to Early Modern ➡️ here on this site &…

Mid-1800s ⬆️

(Side Note: Margaret Wilson’s account of the method they used also bears obvious similarities to Ouija boards – these aren’t of Scottish origin so I’ve waited to the end of the post to mention them. I think many people now are familiar with the relatively short history of the Ouija board & how it didn’t really get its “demonic” reputation until after films like The Exorcist came out etc, but I thought I’d link an article on it here just in case anyone’s interested: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/ ⬅️ Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, I think it’s interesting how certain things have ended up with very bad reputations in popular imagination while others haven’t despite being very similar 💭)

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel

“There are limited options for Gaelic in the face of a crisis”

📰 A great, thought-provoking article about the options for Scottish Gaelic amidst the current crisis it is facing, particularly in vernacular communities which would be a real loss if they were unable to survive, was recently published in The West Highland Free Press ⬅️

🌈 It’s a challenge without an easy answer, though I did like this wee bit of hope at the end when Hutchison writes:

“And yet, and yet, the siren voices sing… the last 500 years have been replete with Scots encouraging or happily predicting the early demise of Gaelic.

The wise old language thwarted them in the 16th century. May it not do so again?”

⚠️ General Note: the purpose of posting information about Scottish Gaelic & Scots languages is not to try to force them on people, nor to try to give the impression that all people in Scotland currently speak Scottish Gaelic &/or Broad Scots. It’s to try to help people be informed about the linguistic & cultural heritage of Scotland – language & culture are inextricably linked after all, so if our native languages do really die out then so will parts of culture with them, that’s just the reality. Of course languages are living things that change with the times, but that applies not only to decline – it also applies to development, even revival, if that’s what enough people want & choose 🙂

🗃Additional suggested reading for those interested in the history of:

🐍 See also: the Language Page of the Resources section

📸 Featured Photo credit: Me, Boreraig – ruins of cleared township with the sheep that replaced the people in the background, Isle of Skye

Happy St Bride’s Day/Là Fhèill Brìghde or Imbolc/Imbolg to those celebrating 🔥

Read about various traditions associated with this day regarding St Brìde, animals such as the adder & charms to be performed here in this brilliant article in the West Highland Free Press 📰 – track IDs are also provided if you want to have a listen you can click/tap the links in the article ☺️

You can also have a listen to a story about St Brìde in Scottish Gaelic &/or read the English translation here 🎧 See a picture associated with the story below that I shared last year:

For various designs of St Bride’s crosses used in Scotland, Ireland & the Isle of Man watch here – I’m a fan of the 3 armed version myself. These crosses are often made the night before so they can be blessed by Brìde during the night before being hung in the home, usually above the door, for protection ✨

Since St Bride is associated with healing & holy wells, why not read a wee bit about clootie wells in particular plus helpful guidelines for visiting here – it’s up to all of us to do our bit to protect these ancient, sacred sites 💧

Lastly, some brilliant thoughts on the complex figure of Brìde/Brigid from Monumental Ireland that are well worth the read here ⬅️

📚 If you want to read or watch more in relation to this day or Brìde in general, see related posts such as this post on seasonal Adder Folklore & more, as well as this post featuring a fascinating talk that mentions Brìde towards the end in relation to magical practice, & how stories change with time & culture

📸 Featured photo credit: Pexel

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran

Just a wee post to highlight this amazing woman – she was a brilliant Gaelic poet who used her talent to speak out against the injustices being done to her fellow Gaels:

“…Màiri was born Mary MacDonald in 1821 and left Skye for Inverness in 1847 to marry Isaac Macpherson. When he died in 1871, she was left with four children to care for alone. It was during a short imprisonment in 1872 on a charge of theft that she first turned to poetry, protesting her innocence and expressing her anger through Gaelic verse.

Shortly after her release, Mary moved to Glasgow where she trained as a nurse and worked until 1882. While living there, she regularly attended Highland Society ceilidhs and met leading advocates of Highland land reform. She became well known in these circles for her poetry and songs. When she returned to Skye, she was Bard of the Land League agitation of the 1880s. Her personal sense of injustice and empathy with the sufferings of her people gave a unique force to her poetry…”

💪🏻 Read the full Am Baile record for the incredible Màiri Mhòr nan Òran here – if you search her name on the site you can also view the collection of photos they have of her 📸

🎧 Listen to John MacDonald sing one of Màiri’s songs about wanting to return to Skye & the suffering caused by the Highland Clearances here

📚 Màiri & another one of her famous compositions – Òran Beinn Lì, about the Battle of the Braes – are featured in this free online course on Clans & Gaelic culture from University of Glasgow through Future Learn

📸 Featured Photo credit: Me, Boreraig – cleared township on the Isle of Skye

Old Year out, New Year in

📖 In relation to yesterday’s post linking Scottish Gaelic & Scottish Lowland New Year traditions, here’s another wee one:

When the hands of the clock are almost on the hour, the head of the house rises, goes to the main door, opens it wide and holds it thus until the last stroke of the hour has died away.

“Welcome in, New Year! When ye come, bring good cheer!”

Then he shuts the door quietly and returns to the family circle. He has let the Old Year out and the New Year in. Instead of, or simultaneously with the opening of the house door, there is often a rush to the windows, and the pealing of the domestic bells (where they hung in a row in the kitchen, they were swept with a broom) and the beating of trays mingle with the clamour of church and town bells, the tooting of horns, the whistling of sirens, and the shouting of exuberant throats, borne in from the streets. (Originally this was no mere welcome; it was a solemn rite designed, like the beating of the house walls by the Hogmanay Lads of the Highlands and Islands, to exorcise all the demonic or malign influences that had accumulated in the home or in the community throughout the past year.) The hullabaloo subsides; the windows are shut; Auld Lang Syne is sung; greetings and small gifts or “hogmanays” are exchanged; glasses are filled- and already the first-footers are on them.

A Calendar of Scottish Customs: Hallowe’en to Yule by F. Marian McNeill

🪟 As can be seen from the above quote there are quite a few variations of this tradition re: if it’s windows &/or doors, who does the opening etc – which ones have you heard about or done yourself? For me it’s open the back door to let the old year out & front door to let the new year in 🚪

🐍 If you’re interested in reading more, have a wee look at the related articles linked below under the Share buttons etc if you haven’t already ⬇️

📸 Featured Photo Credit: Me – cat peering out of an open window, Glasgow