*Note: because this article touches on topics that I have expanded on in great detail in other articles, I have linked to related articles throughout the text so you can read more.
Our modern conventions tend to view the realms of fairies and witches separately. Witches have been viewed as evil, while fairies are seen as benevolent, cute, and kind. As scholars reevaluate witch trials and the confessions of those accused, we are coming to new conclusions on accused witches. One subject that has been discussed in the academic field of folklore, but has seemingly not seeped into the popular consciousness, is the connection between fairies and witches.
Trows are fascinating creatures found only in the folklore of the Orkney and Shetland islands. But, describing them accurately is difficult because sources are not clear. Folklorists have long insisted that the word “trow” is a corruption of “troll,” and that Orkney’s Trows descend from their Viking ancestors’ stories of Trolls.
Sigurd Towrie, author of the comprehensive website covering all things Orkney, disagrees with this assessment. He believes there may be a connection with a different creature from Norse mythology, the Draugr. This connection stems from both creatures’ affiliation with burial mounds.
Scotland is a nation rich in folkloric tradition. Both the highlands and the lowlands preserved distinct cultural folk tradition with influences from Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences. These cultures, along with the unique landscape and climate of this hilly northern country, fused to give Scottish folklore a unique flavor. Stories of ghosts and spirits are one common feature of Scottish lore.
Halloween is a fun and festive time of year with roots going back to Old World tradition. While some traditions have faded away, others survived and are still practiced today. In the old days, both October 31s and November 1st were considered special days. Often the eve before a holiday was the time for raucous revelry while the next morning was the time for solemn church going. Thus, All Hallows Eve (or evening) became Hallowe’en, and then simply Halloween. Of course we know that before it was All Hallows, the celebration was called Samhain (pronounced sow-en), a Celtic pagan high day. For this edition of The Archivist’s Corner, your archivist has uncovered some antiquated accounts of Celtic Halloween customs for your reading pleasure.
Scottish traditional dress is admired the world round. Indeed, Tartan Day celebrates Scottish heritage each year in April in the U.S. and Canada, while Australia and New Zealand celebrate it in July. Individual tartans are identified with different Scottish clans, and we when we hear the word “tartan,” the first image that comes to mind is the famed Scottish kilt. Perhaps it is because the kilt is so unique among modern men’s clothing that it has been the object of such fascination while traditional Scottish women’s clothing is often marginalized as a footnote. Well, this edition of the Archivist’s Corner is turning the tables! Kilt, step aside! Your Archivist has dug through the annals of time to uncover paintings, drawing, and written observations of traditional Scottish women’s apparel from roughly the 18th through the early 20th centuries.
For this edition, being the month of February, I’d like to share some old Scottish love ballads with you. However, these are not the epitome of what we would consider romantic today! But, they depict true emotion, and maybe a strong dose of heartache, while also giving a glimpse of a world gone by.
The Fairy Flag is an heirloom passed down in the McLeods of Dunvegan family for generations. It is held in the Clan’s ancestral home, Dunvegan Castle. This castle has been in the possession of Clan McLeod for over 800 years, making it Scotland’s oldest castle continuously inhabited by the same family.