The Scottish Symbols: Integral Part of Scot's Identity
Accessories play a significant role in completing a Highland wear ensemble, and it’s not uncommon for customers to inquire about the symbolic meanings behind our products. Nevertheless, the selection of accessories ultimately boils down to individual preferences and the specific occasion. There is an array of national symbol-adorned items available for those looking to exhibit their Scottish pride. Scotland’s rich history, culture, and traditions are deeply rooted in its use of symbols, from the thistle, which has been the country’s national emblem for centuries, to tartan patterns representing various clans and regions. Scottish symbols are an essential component of the nation’s identity and have adapted over time to contemporary Scottish culture, appearing in fashion and art.
In this article, we delve into the origins, significance, and continued relevance of Scottish symbols, examining their cultural significance and the ways in which they continue to play an integral role in modern-day Scotland.
Continuing Relevance of the Iconic Scottish Symbols
Scotland is full of rich and fascinating symbols that represent its history, culture, and identity. Here are some of the most iconic Scottish symbols that have stood the test of time and continue to hold significant meaning in Scotland.
The Scottish Saltire is a representation of the cross of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, who was crucified on an X-shaped cross in the 1st century AD. According to legend, during a battle between the Scots and Picts against the Angles in 832 A.D., the blue and white saltire shown on the flag appeared as a mystical symbol in a perfectly clear blue sky after King Óengus II prayed to St. Andrew for victory. The Celtic army took it as a sign of divine support and was spurred to victory, and in gratitude, Óengus declared St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. It is perhaps the oldest of the Scottish symbols, with images of St. Andrew with, or on, his cross appearing in Scotland as early as 1180 during the reign of King William I.
Scottish soldiers fighting in France in the 14th century wore a white saltire on their tunics, perhaps the earliest solid use of the symbol in a military context. The earliest print image of a St. Andrew’s cross flag appears in the Vienna Book of Hours in 1503, but in this depiction, the white cross is on a red field. The use of a blue field is also quite old, as Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount’s Register of Scottish Arms depicts such a flag in 1542. One of the most romantic and stirring images of the Saltire is in the form of the bluebonnets worn by Jacobite rebels during the Uprising of 1745-46. The felted wool “scone cap” was actually a popular workingman’s hat for years and was dyed with woad. The Jacobites made it a symbol of affiliation on the field of battle by decorating it with a white ribbon sewn into the shape of St. Andrew’s cross, making it A Wearable Saltire.
Today, the Saltire remains a widely recognized symbol of Scotland, appearing on everything from kilt pins to Belt Buckles, from street signs, and is also used in contemporary art and design, such as in the work of Scottish artist Peter Doig. also they had Sporrans made out with the Saltire Style, and many other accessories, which often incorporates the Saltire into their paintings.
The Scottish Thistle:
The thistle is a significant symbol of Scotland, dating back to the 13th century reign of Alexander III. It first appeared on silver coins issued by James III in 1470 and remains the emblem of Scotland’s high chivalric order, the Order of the Thistle. The thistle is also a part of the Royal Coat of Arms and the origin of one of Scotland’s official mottos, “Nemo me impune lacessit” (“No one harms me with impunity”).
Legend has it that the thistle played a role in the Battle of Largs in 1263, although this is unproven. Regardless, the Thistle reflects the Scots’ defiant attitude towards those who would subdue them.
The Lion Rampant of Scotland:
The rampant lion, a widely recognized and beloved symbol, serves as the central charge on the Royal Banner of Scotland, also known as the Bratach rìoghail na h-Alba in Gaelic or the Ryal banner o Scotland in Scots. Despite its widespread use, this golden flag is technically reserved for the King of Scots and Great Officers of State, who serve as official representatives of the Sovereign. The heraldic description of the banner is “Or, a Lion Rampant Gules armed and langued Azure within a double tressure flory counter-flory of the second,” which translates to a red lion standing upright with blue tongue and claws, surrounded by a two-lined border decorated with opposing pairs of floral icons, all on a yellow or gold background. The banner is typically flown above royal residences in the absence of the Sovereign.
The Lion Rampant has been used as a symbol of Scotland since at least the reign of King William I, who became known as “William the Lion” due to his association with the emblem. Earlier Scottish monarchs had also used various forms of the lion as a symbol dating back to the 11th century. King Alexander II adopted the Lion Rampant around 1222, and it was also used by his successor, Alexander III (1249–1286), who added the double border set with lilies. Since James VI ascended to the thrones of England and Ireland in 1603, this Heraldic Lion has been representative of Scotland in the royal arms and banners of successive British monarchs.
The unicorn holds a significant place in Scottish culture, serving as one of its most recognizable symbols. It first appeared on the coat of arms of King Kenneth MacAlpin, the first Scottish monarch, and was later used by King William I as a symbol of strength, purity, freedom, and protection against evil. Scottish folklore depicts the unicorn as a mystical creature with healing powers, whose horn has the ability to purify water and cure illnesses.
It is the national animal of Scotland and has been featured on the country’s royal coat of arms since the 15th century. The Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh features unicorn statues commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 as a symbol of the country’s unity and independence. Today, the unicorn remains an integral part of Scottish culture and is celebrated in various events and festivals, including the annual Highland Games.
The Honours of Scotland:
The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels, are a collection of royal regalia that include the crown, sceptre, and sword of state. The Honours of Scotland are the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in Europe and have been used in Scottish coronations since the 15th century.
The Honours of Scotland were hidden away during the English Civil War and were not rediscovered until 1818. They are now on display in Edinburgh Castle, where they can be seen by the public.
The National Tartan of Scotland:
Tartan is a unique textile pattern that is intricately woven with intersecting horizontal and vertical stripes of different colors. The origin of tartan can be traced back to the early medieval period in Scotland, where it was used for clothing and other textiles. The significance of tartan in Scottish culture lies in its association with different clans and families, who used specific tartan patterns to identify themselves and their allegiances. Over time, tartan evolved to represent different regions, organizations, and groups in Scottish society. The National Tartan of Scotland is an important symbol of the country’s cultural heritage and identity. While there is no single tartan that represents the entire nation, there are certain tartans that are commonly recognized as being associated with Scotland as a whole. The Scottish Register of Tartans is a public database that maintains a record of all registered tartans, and it serves as a valuable resource for those seeking to explore the history and significance of different tartans.
Tartan holds both cultural and historical significance and has become a popular fashion statement worldwide. It is commonly worn in the form of Tartan kilts, skirts, and scarves as an expression of Scottish heritage and pride. Additionally, tartan patterns have been incorporated into modern fashion designs in innovative ways. Tartan’s appeal extends beyond fashion to areas such as interior design and commercial product design, including its use in upholstery, curtains, whisky bottles, souvenirs, and other Scottish-themed items.
“Frequently Asked Questions”
Celtic symbols are not exclusively Scottish, as they are part of a broader cultural tradition that spans several countries in Europe. However, many Celtic symbols, such as the Scottish thistle and the Celtic knot, have become closely associated with Scotland and its culture.
Some Scottish symbols commonly associated with strength are the Lion Rampant, the Scottish thistle, and the Saltire. These symbols represent different aspects of Scottish identity and heritage, including historical power, resilience, and national pride.
The Scottish symbol for family is the Celtic knot, which is a type of knotwork that features interlacing patterns and has no beginning or end. The Celtic knot is often used to represent the interconnectedness of family and the continuity of life. It is a popular motif in Scottish art, jewelry, and tattoos.
Scotland’s national fruit is the raspberry. The country is known for producing high-quality raspberries, which are used in a variety of dishes and desserts, including the traditional Scottish dessert, cranachan. The raspberry was officially declared as Scotland’s national fruit in 2009.
The traditional symbol of Scotland is the thistle, a prickly purple flower that represents resilience, courage, and loyalty.