Clava Cairns is a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. For many years, it played second fiddle to its more famous neighbour, Culloden Battlefield. That all changed in 2014, with the release of the TV dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander novel. Clava Cairns became a bucket list destination overnight, after it was suggested that Outlander’s fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site.
As (True) Highlanders we are shaped by many things. Our shared history, traditions and culture have, for better or worse, played a large part in defining who we really are. On the eve of Imbolc as we gaze behind us and consider the rituals of the past, it’s only natural to consider whether these ancient traditions have a place in the modern world. Students of history commonly remark about how they study the past in order to better understand the present, so, if we look at Imbolc, what does it tell us about where we are now?
Scotland has a rich and varied Halloween tradition. Over the years, traditional pagan rituals have largely been forgotten or adapted by the Christian church, into what we are familiar with today. But as this most mysterious of days approaches, there is no better time to have a closer look at what this day used to involve. Some traditions remain remarkably unchanged, some have evolved with the times and under the influence of the church, and some have faded completely from memory.