In 2008 I wrote Powerstone, which was a novel about stealing the Scottish crown jewels. Although the story was entirely fictional, many of the details were based on either fact or folklore. For example I focussed a lot of attention on the crystal globe that sits on top of the sceptre. In legend, that chunk of crystal was originally owned by the chief druid of Scotland so by possessing it, the Scottish monarchs gained immunity from any harm the druids may do to them. I added the legend of Pontius Pilate being born in Scotland and mixed both into what was in essence an adventure story.
At present I am researching a book on crime in the 19th century Highlands of Scotland and just last week I came across two instances where superstition figured strongly. The first was a case of witchcraft, when a woman was accused of making an effigy of her rival with the intention of causing her harm. The judge threw the case out. The second was a murder in the early 1830s in a remote west Highland area called Assynt. A pedlar had been murdered and his body thrown into a loch. One of the witnesses had Second Sight and he dreamed that the pedlar’s pack would be found under a certain cairn – a pile of stones erected thousands of years ago. The authorities searched under the cairn and although they did not find the pack, they did find some of the possessions of the murdered man.
There was more to that case: as he sat in his jail cell, the accused spoke to his father. His father showed him the grave where he was to be buried. However, the accused father was long dead. Exactly one year later, the man was hanged for the murder. Coincidence? Or are there unknown forces surrounding us, forces of which we are only dimly aware.
I do not know. But the next time I am in Edinburgh Castle and I look at the druid’s stone, the stone of power, at the apex of the sceptre, I will do so with less scepticism and more wonder.
Out of Scotland comes always some new thing.