Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave

Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave

Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave

Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave

Synopsis

Tape-recorded interviews from the 20th and 21st centuries give voice to tradition-bearers from all walks of life adding color to this comprehensive picture of social behavior. The most up-to-date, authoritative work on the subject, this collection spans several centuries and, in three sections, deals with Childbirth and Infancy; Love, Courtship and Marriage; and Death and Burial.

Excerpt

Folklore-customs and beliefs were no idle play, but
earnest attempts to safeguard vital human interests.’

At every stage of life from birth until death there are innumerable customs which have been handed down from generation to generation. We take most of them for granted, and very often it is not until there is a sudden or dramatic breach of established custom that we actually recognise their importance. If, for example, a bride and her bridesmaids all appeared dressed in black at a wedding in any Scottish village or town, there would be more than a few raised eyebrows. Such a wedding party might, however, ‘get away with it’ in one of our cities at the marriage of two members of the modern ‘Gothic cult’, for it would be in keeping with that particular group’s accepted style.

Nowadays, established ‘businesses’ take over many of the responsibilities and decisions that are concerned with life and death. To cite three basic examples: the highly trained staff at maternity hospitals deliver most babies, and the ‘Hurry-hurry! Boil-the-water’ routine is mainly a feature of old movies; wedding preparations and ceremonies are usually performed as prescribed by an elaborate range of ‘brides’ magazines’, which not only inform the participants about general etiquette but also threaten to standardise the whole procedure from John o’ Groats (or indeed Baltasound in Unst) to Land’s End; and top-hatted undertakers not only remove the body of the newly-deceased from a house but also relieve the bereaved of all duties attached to the disposal of it.

Despite the fact that custom is rapidly becoming etiquette in today’s terms, Scodand still has an enormous range of traditional customs which have survived for countless generations and are still flourishing. Certain customs appear to have been adapted over the years; others seem to have disappeared, then at a later date resurfaced stronger than ever; while others

* Reidar Th. Christiansen, ‘The Dead and the Living’, Studio Norvegica, No. 2, 1946, p. 4.

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