I spent the last week driving through the Highlands of, Scotland. I should go into detail about the magnificent volcanic mountains, glassy lochs and large longhaired men in kilts. But I won’t. We’ve all watched Braveheart; we’ve all eyed Rob Roy as he scaled crushed velvety peaks. And the green, all the green! I can’t… it’s too beautiful, too epic to put into words. You’ll just have to go and see it for yourself.
I do want to talk about magic. Not hocus pocus, no Hogwarts or Bednobs and Broomsticks. Scottish Magic.
Travelling, I’ve met, Scottish people in various parts of the world. At each encounter, I noticed an oddity that seemed unique to that nationality, a strangeness which gets diluted the longer the Scotsman has been away from his/her homeland. Those fresh off the boat carry this quirk in spades, it’s a garment they unknowingly wear. It is intriguing and the reason I have always longed to set my feet on that land. Scotland is cloaked in paradox.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Giants and Fairies and Kelpies; and science — geology and astronomy, all of it, it’s all equally legitimate in Scotland. Religion, mythology, superstition are not conflicting ideologies. And try to debunk or ignore scientific evidence, you’ll get your ear chewed off. It seems to me to be the very essence of what makes Scotland, Scotland.
In Edinburgh, we walked past multitudes of churches, learning about the battles fought to keep a Catholic King or Queen on the throne. Christianity, in its various flavours, is the mortar between every sandstone brick, the soil beneath every cobblestone. You can’t avoid it.
Crossing over the bridge from the Highlands onto the Isle of Skye, our tour guide, Grant asked us to close our eyes. He then dropped his voice to a hush over his mouthpiece and started, “Dearest Faeries, we ask for your protection while we are on your land…”
The prayer went on about taking nothing from them, leaving only footprints, about learning their history and carrying on the traditions. We all had to agree to honour the land, and then we ended with an, Amen.
Grant was serious. Not an ounce of humour. No embarrassment for having spoken out loud to mythological creatures. Not a wee bit. I asked him later about the prayer, was he in earnest or was it all a bit of showmanship for the tourists in his charge. He looked horrified and simply said, “I hope you were serious, ’cause if not, the faeries will know.” He fears the faeries.
Our tour was equal parts narrative about humans fighting Satan; Giant romances (as in, gargantuan creatures loving other gargantuan creatures) and geological lectures about the peaty earth we were walking on. All completely incongruous, all equally believable.
What I find so sad about coming to ‘newer’ countries is the pragmatism. We only believe one thing. We believe in Jesus or Allah, or Science. Never more than one. Moreover, we look down on and even hate those that believe differently to us. And we lack magic. We’re two-dimensional at best. Flat. Boring. Blah.
The Magic of Scotland is the passion they have for everyone and everything. They don’t need to justify worshiping, Jesus in the morning and then leaving a bowl of fruit out for the faeries on the same day. It all makes complete sense. Or none at all. It’s all so GRAND!
It’s funny to me that as I write this I can hear people hissing. Polytheism! New Age! Uneducated Brainwashing Nonsense…. HISSSSSSSS!
Don’t go to Scotland if you want to eat chicken nuggets and fries. Don’t go if you want bland neutrality. Don’t go if you insist on logic. You’ll miss the beauty if you do. You’ll anger the faeries.