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Friday the 13th

"🎶 A sprig of white heather brings good luck they say;
My heart goes with this heather I send you today;
My thoughts are always with you, though you're far away;
White heather for love, they say."

~ "White Heather for Luck", Peggy Reid & Robert Wilson, 1953

Ward off any and all ill luck this Friday the 13th with a refreshing view of lucky white heather in tartan form. Designed for a family business, this lovely tartan imbues the viewer with protection from misfortune and sorrow. White heather's reputation as lucky has several origin stories including this one compiled from old folk stories collected and published as "The Ossian Tales" by the Scottish poet James Macpherson in 1760. In this legend, the Celtic Bard Ossian's beautiful and virtuous daughter Malvina, receives the terrible news that her betrothed, Oscar, has been slain in the battle. From Oscar's faithful messenger, Malvina learns that as he lay dying, Oscar had plucked a sprig of purple heather and asked that it be given to Malvina as a token of his eternal love. As she listened, tears fell from Malvina's eyes onto the purple heather transforming it into white! Thereafter, as father and daughter walked over the moors, Malvina's tears occasionally fell upon more patches of purple heather turning them white. Even in the depths of her sadness wishing that other might be happier than she, Malvina prayed thus, "May the White Heather, symbol of my sorrow, bring good fortune to all who find it." 🌿

Calluna vulgaris, common heather, ling, is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the flowering plant family Ericaceae and is found widely in Europe and Asia Minor on acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is the dominant plant in most heathland and moorland in Europe, and in some bog vegetation and acidic pine and oak woodland. It is tolerant of grazing and regenerates following occasional burning, and is often managed in nature reserves and grouse moors by sheep or cattle grazing, and also by light burning.

Despised until the 19th century for its associations with the most rugged rural poverty, heather has always held a special place in the Scottish landscape. 

Heather is an important food source for various sheep and deer which can graze the tips of the plants when snow covers low-growing vegetation. Willow grouse and red grouse feed on the young shoots and seeds of this plant along with the a number of butterflies including the  small emperor moth Saturnia pavonia.

Formerly heather in its various colours (ranging from white, through pink and a wide range of purples, and including reds) was used to dye wool yellow and to tan leather. 

With malt, heather is an ingredient in gruit, a mixture of flavourings used in the brewing of heather-beer during the Middle Ages before the use of hops. 

Thomas Pennant wrote in A Tour in Scotland (1769) that on the Scottish island of Islay "ale is frequently made of the young tops of heath, mixing two thirds of that plant with one of malt, sometimes adding hops".

White heather is regarded in Scotland as being lucky, a tradition said to have been brought from Balmoral to England by Queen Victoria, and sprigs of it are still sold as good luck charms and worked into bridal bouquets.

For more on the symbolism of lucky white heather, click the heathers to visit Darach Croft online, a 12 acre croft located near Strontian, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Western Highlands.

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