Shari A. Cohn-Simmen
Second sight is the name of a special psychic ability which is believed to be an inborn natural faculty of mind. For some it is believed to be a spiritual gift from God, for others, a hereditary gift which runs in particular families. There has been a long tradition of second sight, especially in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, but it is also known to be experienced in other parts of the United Kingdom as well as in other cultures (Martin 1703, Schmëing 1950, Grober-Glück 1973, Shaw 1987, Virtanen 1990). There are many expressions pertaining to the faculty in the Gaelic language spoken by people indigenous to these areas (Maclnnes 1989). The most common is An Dà Shealladh which literally means 'two sights'. One is the normal sight and the other is the ability to have prophetic visions.
Accounts of second sight from the seventeenth century onwards are consistent with modern-day accounts and reflect the cycle of birth, life and death. Though most visions are experienced in an awake state, some are experienced in a hypnagogic or dream state. The prophetic visions are experienced through various forms of imagery and usually concern sad events. Many classical accounts of second sight experiences reflect the burial customs of the time and can take the form of a direct representation of a person's fate. For example, a person literally sees a funeral procession at night and, by recognising the people carrying the coffin, knows who will die. Alternatively, the accounts can take a symbolic form. For example, a death shroud is seen on a person before that person dies. How much of the body is covered may be taken to indicate how soon the person will die. Other visions are of a person before, at the moment, or after they have died. For example, a woman saw a huge wave engulf a fisherman before he and his crew were drowned. In another case a woman had a vision of her neighbour in solid form in front of her house, and only later found he had died many miles away at the same time as she saw him. Some visions can involve people seeing their own doppelgänger, and tradition suggests this means you will soon die. Many accounts concern foreseeing accidents. For example, a man had a vision of his colleague falling off a roof on to spiked railings below. Although the man warned his colleague to be careful, his