The Heather Plant and its Legends


Heather is the second most recognizable floral symbol of Scotland, after the thistle. This plant had many practical uses such as for thatching, dyes, ropes, brooms and more. It also was used to treat cough, consumption, anxiety, arthritis, and rheumatism.

Another use for heather was to make Heather Ale. The Picts made it for centuries with a secret recipe that did not require the use of malt, hops, or sweeteners. Archaeologists have found traces of a fermented drink containing heather on a 3000 year old pottery shard.

Legend states that in the 4th century, Vikings defeated the Pictish army and cornered the King and his son on a cliff. The Viking Chieftain wanted the secret recipe for the heather ale. The King knew that the secret was safe with him, but was unsure if his son would be able to keep it safe. Fearing that his son would give up the secret under torture, the Pictish King "agreed" to give up the recipe, only if his son died a quick death.  His son was quickly killed and thrown from the cliff. The King then grabbed the Viking Chieftain and hurled them both off the cliff, keeping the recipe secret forever.

Most Heather is purple in color, but there is also rare white heather. Rumored to grow over the final resting places of fairies and only where no blood has been shed, the plant is said to be extremely lucky. Queen Victoria introduced carrying white heather at weddings for luck. Some Clans have attributed victory to wearing white heather sprays, or evading capture by hiding in patches of white heather.

According to myth, the Celtic Bard Ossian's beautiful daughter, Malvina, was betrothed to a gallant warrior named Oscar. One day, Malvina was awaiting Oscar's return from war, when she was approached by a messenger. Oscar had died in battle and sent the messenger with a spray of heather to give to Malvina as a final token of his love. Malvina began to cry and her tears fell on the heather, which immediately turned white. She wandered the moors sobbing, her tears turning every heather plant they touched to white. She said "although it is the symbol of my sorrow, may the white heather bring good fortune to all who find it."

Take a look at our Heather Gems jewellery and gifts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover tips on playing, event information, and great offers!