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Monday, June 11, 2007

A Weekend in a Kilt

Chasing one's heritage is like chasing a particular cloud in the sky. Always far off and nebulous, when you have locked your eyes on one, it quickly melts into another and then another until you are not really sure which was your cloud to begin with. Our heritage is very much like that…as phantom wisps of the intangible….skirting over us some lost, ambiguous, dream world.

I went to the Scottish Highland Games, not because of an ecstatic desire to commune with the lost relics of my ancestry. –But more for the sake of curiosity, to live as I always tend to, just for the heck and the adventure of it. Now, I do have some Scottish ancestry, flowing, here and there, in these veins, patches of plaid blood. But this root shoot was all a very, very, long time ago. And like a lot of us, I’m an intricate knot of British Isle extraction, with here and there splotches of a Continental European make-up, throw in that tangled tree a Creek or Cherokee Indian or two and you have the gnarly genealogy of a true Southern man.

So I went to this Highland Games up in the mountains of northern Georgia along with two friends of mine Nathan Martin and Matt Hughes, neither one of them of particularly strong Scottish backgrounds as well, but all of us had one in thing in common. We all wanted to wear a kilt. -And that is probably all that matters.

There must be 1,7683 different tartan styles of kilts and only 1 way to wear them.
-That is with both feet on the ground. One leg up and you are promptly displaying more clan heritage than any Scotsman has ever worn on the outside of his kilt. For it is true, as a rule, a man is not supposed to wear anything under his kilt. This makes sitting down much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Women and females, I admire you, I never knew how much of a strategy it was for you to sit down. It was either one of two techniques 1) the Keep Your Legs Glued Together Formation which can become uncomfortable for us males or 2) the Formation, Spread Your Legs So Wide That Your Sporran Pouch and Kilt Censure Any Nudity, which is a formation that is a bit bold in its operation, but oh so very comfortable.

Now, the way most kilts go is that you wear the plaid design (tartan) of your particular clan, but seeing how the 3 of us were of splotchy Scottish lineage we really couldn’t just claim ourselves to be in one clan. As fun as this may be, this may have made some of the real clansmen that were there a bit angry. So we each bought our own separate tartan. I went with the Royal Stewart Tartan, which if you know your history books is the King of Scotland’s very own tartan. If you’re going to buy a kilt you might as well go for the gold, don’t settle for less, shoot for the highest. Nathan wore a hunting tartan of the same lineage. (different colors but same clan; we both were very fortunate that the Stewart clan was not at these Games; they may have been miffed.) And Matt wore a hunting tartan for the ever popular MacLeod clan. (you know the Highlander on TV, his clan.) Later, we soon came to realize how less stringent these clan rules are. The majority of the people there in their clans trace themselves ever so freely, finding great-grandmothers and far-off uncles as links into the clans that they so proudly devote themselves to. The 3 of us, with a lawyer’s mentality, could probably do that as well. But no, we decided to band together and start our own clan. Some of you may laugh, but this can be done. There was one clan there that did that just recently and could historically back themselves up, stating that all the clans were started so. You have a family and then you have devotees to that family…that is the definition of a clan. So on June 10th , 2007, we created the clan MacAwesome. And it is everything that can possibly live up to that name.

The clan MacAwesome did attend the actual athletic events of the Highland Games, but they didn’t participate. Nope, we were too skinny for such burly feats of strength. For that was all the Games were, huge, muscle-bound giants throwing big rocks and large hay bales the highest and the farthest. The most impressive of these feats is the caber toss which is this huge log that the Scottish athlete has to throw making one end fall over the other. I was almost hit in the face with one…that was the extent of my participation. I was really bummed out about the unfairness of it all. I don’t mean to make fun of Scottish tradition, but it seems a bit odd having sports on how far you can toss a rock. Weeks before, I wrote an official of these games showing my concern that it really wasn’t fair for us more slender constitutions. Because what could we participate in? I asked him about wrestling, perhaps, something that involved not only strength but agility and speed and quick-thinking. I also mentioned even fighting with pointed sticks. But his response was curt. He said that Highland Games had always been this way for centuries. So I came to the Games understanding that the fish and chip line was the only competition that I’d be in.

All in all, I learned many things from this past weekend. It is a wonder how far the sound of bagpipes can travel, it is also a wonder how haggis can actually taste good (and it can). It is enlightening to me that actually the idea of a man wearing a skirt is maybe the way it should be. I believe we may have things reversed wrongly nowadays. A girl…skirt, a guy…pants. But I only ask you to contemplate anatomy for a split second and realize that the man should be the one wearing the skirt. It finally makes perfect sense. I also find it intriguing that William Wallace was not even a Highlander but a Lowland Scot who never wore a kilt. It is also an education to me to know that the true Celts (the ancestors of the Scots, Irish, and Welsh) were originally the blondest people to begin with, not the red-haired people we take them for. This was important for me, for walking around these clans I felt more like a Scandinavian invader than a true Scotsman. It is nice to also know, how much a conversation piece a kilt can be when you wear it out in public away from the Highland Games. This was always fun. And I learned so many more things that I don’t even know what to write. So I will leave it at that.


Blogger Damien said...

W. Wallace never wore a kilt & hagus can taste good. I'm sorry, but thats hard to swallow!Welcome to clandom MacAwsome.
Damien Bennati (Henry of the clan McNaughton)

1:24 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

You know...I bet your clan was there. And you could've tried the hagis yourself and found your clan tartan.

10:38 PM  

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