A few years ago, my husband and I went to the Highland Games in Virginia. A beautiful afternoon filled with kilts, tartans, cabor tosses, hammer throws, Scottish deerhounds, bagpipes, and most importantly, deep fried Mars bars. Those things are deliciousness on a stick!
Seeing all those clan tartans waving proudly in the late October breeze made me really really want to belong to a clan. Lo and behold, several branches back on the old family tree I actually belong to Clan Gordon by way of Aberdeenshire Scotland.
I’m sure you have a notion of what a clan is, but what exactly does it mean? A clan is simply a kinship among Scottish people. Mother, brother, aunt, cousin, etc. It can also include septs which are those related by blood and formed separate divisions, and those who receive protection by the clan. Clans have their own chief, tartan, plaid (yes, there is a difference), coat of arms, motto, and most awesome of all war cry. I really think family war cries should be used more often. Like when someone takes your parking space at the grocery store why not shout out the Armstrong’s words “I remain unvanquished” before speeding off. I may have to do that next time.
Did you know that the idea of clan’s specific tartans with specific lands are a modern notion from Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott? In fact, most of our notions of what a clan looks like is a romanticized version cemented in the Victorian era when Queen Victoria took interest in the land and adopted Balmoral as her Scottish estate for relaxing far from the pressures of London.
If you want to see if your family or clan is registered then go to the Lord Lyon Court which regulates heraldry in Scotland.