A wee bit of Scotland

I’m excited to be heading to Scotland this summer, if only for a short visit, so I thought it was a good excuse to revisit some of their wedding traditions. I’m familiar with some, but there is always more to learn.

I consider myself well versed in many Celtic rituals, which would encompass Scotland. Among my favorites are: ‘tying-the-knot’, ‘the make-up bell’ (which goes by many names) and a more obscure ‘jumping the oak branch.’ I’ve performed all of them, and written about them, too. But in this quest I have discovered a few more. Now that I have, I hope I will get to use in them in the future. And I’ll endeavor to check out their authenticity when I get there.

I am somewhat familiar with the Oathing Stone, Pinning the Tartan, and the Quaich (aka: the Loving Cup) but haven’t used them much. Two of the new-to-me Scottish traditions are the Caim, and the Groom’s Siller.

The Caim is a prayer done in a sacred circle at the altar. The circle symbolizes the element of protection, with the couple safely inside. Circles are always strong symbols and I could write at length solely about the circle (and I have) but suffice it to say, it represents wholeness, community and a connection to the universe. To do this ritual a circle is drawn on the ground in some way. I would suggest petals.  To create a variation on this with, I might suggest having attendants or close family members forming the circle around the couple. I have, in fact, done this, but never thought of it as the Caim.

Traditional Celtic words for the prayer are as follows, but I think any prayer would work.

The Mighty Three, my protection be, encircle me.
You are around my life, my love, my home.
Encircle me. O sacred three, the Mighty Thee.

The Siller – These are silver coins, which the groom gives to the priest or minister. Guess what? This is exactly like the 13 coins, or arras, sometimes done in Hispanic weddings! I just love how different cultures have developed similar customs. It works like this: the officiant pours the coins into the groom’s hand and then the groom pours them into the bride’s hands, and she then pours them back. The groom then drops the coins into a plate – the sounds it makes is also part of the deal. The symbolism is clear, they are promising to support one another, but additionally the noise of the coins is meant to remind them of their pledge that all wealth should be shared, and there is a duty to manage, save and invest money with wisdom. Good advice.

The Oathing Stone – This is another ritual signifying the pledge to provide and protect, where traditionally, the groom is promising to protect the bride, but in our modern world I would make it a mutual promise between the two people, regardless of their gender. When an oath was taken holding a stone, it was considered extra binding. Some say this is the origin of the phrase ‘set in stone,’ which makes sense. Any stone will work, simply hold the stone, or place your hand on a large rock, when taking your vows. You can get as simple or fancy as you wish. Some people use a specially engraved or painted stone, and then have it as a keepsake.

Pinning the Tartan – This really is old school, and it has to do with which clan the family comes from, signifying the clan’s acceptance of the newlywed into their family. To enact this, the fabric (meaning the specific tartan pattern of the clan) can be made into a sash or even a rosette, and pinned by a family member onto their son or daughter-in-law. It’s considered especially beautiful when the groom’s mother pins the tartan onto her son’s bride. If you don’t have your own family tartan, this isn’t for you.


Photo Credit: C. Rielly

The Quaich – This two-handled cup is used at the wedding feast (aka: the reception) but I’ve used this type of ritual as part of the ceremony itself. In the Scottish tradition, the couple takes their first communion together as a married couple, but you could use the cup for a wine sharing ceremony. The vessel began as a wooden cup, then silver was added, and today the Quaich is usually made of pewter or silver. Some good whiskey was used (hey, it is Scottish) but I feel any beverage can be used. Sharing food and drink between families is always a bonding experience.


Silver Quaich

If you have even a wee bit of Scottish or Celtic heritage, or you simply like these rituals, I hope you will consider incorporating one of them into your ceremony. I often say: ritual is the language or ceremony! So find your voice and speak out in the way that most pleases you.


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