Hello my lovelies, I’m in the mood to reminisce and since I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I used to be a Scottish history reenactor when I was younger, (ages 8-14 I think) I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into that magical world where I spent my youth. The early exposure to history left me with a lasting love of times gone by and wonderful memories of that magical time in my life. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, but more importantly I hope it inspires you to take a closer look at the living history that’s all around you! (Note: There won’t be any pictures other than the tartan below because I want you guys to imagine the beauty and magic for yourselves, but here is a lovely Loreena McKennitt song to listen to while you read to help set the mood!)
Let’s see, where to begin…
Once upon a time…my family traveled the vast southern states, going were we could and where we were wanted – be it Highland Games or just simple re-enactments. I delight in seeing all the lovely new places, taking in the sights, breathing in the smells, learning the secrets, but in my heart, every new place was always deemed “Scotland”, it was always home. During the week I was a normal girl living a normal life in the modern world (we weren’t crazies who shunned technology or anything I assure you!), but on the weekends I was more often than not, transported to a world that most think was lost long ago. I wore beautiful costumes that were handmade by my grandparents using only materials that were present in the time we were representing. I had an entire outfit: a soft white blouse, a long fluid forest-green skirt and matching vest, leather hair adornments, a creamy-colored bead necklace, and simple little slipper/shoe things, all of which was made to allow for me to continue to wear it as I grew over the years. I spent my weekends happily running through enormous green fields lined with white traveling tents, winding my way through labyrinthine corridors of once-grand forts, and learning the tricks of the secret pathways and tunnels underneath them – where most weren’t allowed to venture.
Everywhere I looked were men in their colorful, distinctive kilts wearing the traditional animal skin sporrans around their waist and half-concealed sgian-dubh (small knives) tucked discreetly, but noticeably, in their knee-length socks. They looked so menacing or jolly (depending on what they were doing I suppose) as they prowled around the grounds, doing whatever it was the men did, from sword-fighting to leather-working to wood carving. My grandfather was one of the jolly ones, he was a walking-stick carver – among myriad other things – and he crafted some of the most intricate, beautiful walking-sticks that have ever been crafted by human hands (in my humble, completely unbiased opinion). He was an amazing man, it was because of him that we all fell in love with our Scottish culture. He loved to teach and pass on his knowledge and it is only now that I realize how much more I could have learned from him if I had only spent more time listening and less time thinking I had all the answers…
Meanwhile, the women gossiped good-naturedly as they went about their own work, clothed in beautiful gem-colored skirts or gowns with coronets of fresh flowers or skillfully worked precious metal crowning their brows. A stripe of plaid was usually draped over their shoulders, or around their waists, telling the world what family claimed them, whose ancient blood ran through their veins. I wanted to be one of these women when I grew up, wanted to be admitted into their world as an equal, though I was loved by them all anyway and thought of them all as family. They spoke warmly and laughed prettily as they cared for their makeshift homes and watched over the children as we ran wild through a secret world we knew to be our own.
This world we visited was magical, it was beautiful, and above all it felt wrapped in a sense of warmth and safety. It was here that I learned to ask questions, listen carefully (when I had the patience to), and learn about the wondrous things around me. Here I laughed freely and knew all of nature rejoiced in my good humor. And it was here where I was given my first taste of independence, I was permitted to ramble anywhere my heart took me, so long as one of my cousins went with me (at least when I was younger anyway). For an eight year old, this independence, this trust, was empowering and it emboldened me to know that I was free to conduct myself as I chose. I ran, played, laughed, danced with abandon, and sought knowledge from those who knew more than I did. I dressed the part, acted the part, and was the part. I was a young girl excited and enthralled by the beauty and the secret magic of the world around me. And as I grew, I became a young woman who still felt the thrill of power and joy knowing that there was a world out there where I could be free, where I felt powerful, special, and welcome.
To say I miss that time of my youth would be a gross understatement, but I know that none of what I experienced then has been lost, it’s everywhere I am and in everything that I do especially when I write. When I want to describe a world long ago and a place lost to time, I just close my eyes and remember my youth. I know what it feels like to slip into a beautiful dress and put flowers in my hair, excited at the prospect of going to a festival; the smell of the air tinged with ash and smoke, and the way fire dances in people’s eyes. I understand the feel of muscles straining when pulling back the string of a bow, or lifting a sword, heaving an ax or whittling wood into something usable because there was a time when I did those things myself. I remember the feeling of family, of safety, trust, and of freedom, but perhaps most importantly, I know the feeling of magic and of having the entire natural world listen when I laugh, because laughter is a sacred thing. I hold these precious memories close to my heart and let them live again when I write. And through this writing, I have discovered a new place to call home, to be everything that “Scotland” was for me in my youth. And again I feel safe, protected, powerful, and loved. I close my eyes and I am free…I am home.
*Note: Click here to see a list of the 2013 Scottish Highland Games, it lists the dates and locations (though I advise checking to make sure the info is accurate!) I hope you guys check one out and let me know what you think!