Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Thistle: A National Symbol of Scotland

One of Scotland's national symbols is the thistle. (As I mentioned previously, Scotland's national animal is apparently the unicorn, because that makes sense.) They've been in bloom the last few weeks, and I've had opportunities to take some snapshots of a few of them. (This picture was taken on North Street, below Greyfriars House.) According to Wikipedia, the infallible and undisputed source of all knowledge: "In the language of flowers, the thistle (like the burr) is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character as well as of birth, for the wounding or provocation of a thistle yields punishment." This fits with a post I made on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:
One of Scotland's national symbols is the thistle, and for good reason: the Scots are a slightly prickly, but otherwise lovely folk.
Some readers may remember a truly awful movie called Braveheart, in which Mel Gibson plays a tragically inaccurate interpretation of William Wallace. In that film, Wallace's eventual bride, Murron, gives him a gift of a thistle at the funeral of Wallace's father. He keeps it throughout the years, and it comes to represent their love, or his love of Scotland, or irony, or tragedy, or some other such nonsense. It's said that the rise in Scottish secessionist sentiment is largely attributable to the popularity of the film, though if it's true, then that's tragic; then again, I've found that a number of secessionists (and even some bona fide Scots nationalists) have a love/hate relationship with historical accuracy. (That second picture was taken near here, while I was riding the Aberdeenshire Circuit.)

At any rate, it's been great to see thistles (silybum marianum or "milk thistles", apparently) over the past few weeks. As my time in Scotland wanes, it's nice to see at least one symbol of Scotland - and trust me, if I catch a glimpse of a unicorn, I'll get a picture of it and post it on the blog. At the moment, the only horse pictures I've gotten have been of Shetland ponies, right after my ill-fated geocaching adventure; but those are a symbol of Shetland, whose history is distinct from that of Scotland proper.

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