Thursday, May 28, 2009

Time Travel in Scotland

I am currently reading the novel Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. To give a brief overview without revealing too much, it basically tells the story of a woman from the 1940s who travels back in time to medieval Scotland. I'm a sucker for anything relating to history, especially when written in a fictional style. Because let's face it, it's a daunting task to get through those historical textbooks, no matter how much you enjoy the information. However, the book has yet to provide me with a great deal of historical fact, and rather focuses on this woman's struggle to fit in with the culture she has so spontaneously and eradically been thrown into.

But as I was reading a couple chapters last night--it's a slow process due to a busy schedule and a 700+ page novel--I was pleased to finally read a sample of typical events of the set period: witch trials. Now, being the pop culture enthusiast that I am, my mind immediately jumped to that infamous scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where the men bring the alleged witch forward to be tried and burned.

Sir Bedevere: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
Peasant 1: Are there? Oh well, tell us.
Sir Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
Peasant 1: Burn them.
Sir Bedevere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?
Peasant 1: More witches.
Peasant 2: Wood.
Sir Bedevere: Good. Now, why do witches burn?
Peasant 3: ...because they're made of... wood?
Needless to say I was playing the whole scene in my head as I was reading the book, and had to go back through a few pages to re-establish myself with the story. The chapter from Outlander, being slightly less humorous, was interesting to me. I have always assumed witch trials were pretty biased and unfair in those days, and the book seems to support that theory. But what ultimately teased my curiosity was a reference to the place where the people kept the women who were being tried as witches: These muddy, damp, dark holes in the ground. I wondered if those were still around today, possibly in some of the old villages and towns around Scotland. The whole book, in fact, has increased my desire to visit the country. I have always wanted to go and have missed a couple opportunities in the past. But I'm hoping to add it to the list of places I have had the chance to visit. From the green countryside, to old ruins of castles and towns, from traditional Scottish clothing and food, to the tales of fantasy, Scotland is a country worth venturing to for a trip. And if the picture to the right doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.

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