Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Blogger, Sarah Hoss on The History of the Scottish Quaich

Today, I'd like to welcome a new guest blogger to History Undressed. Sarah Hoss is a member of Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, which is where I met her, and she has just completed her first Scottish Historical. Wishing you much luck with submissions, Sarah! Now onto her interesting post... a little Scottish history for you, dear readers.

The History of the Scottish Quaich
by Sarah Hoss

Have you ever heard of a Quaich? It has a long history in Scotland. It is pronounced quake and comes from the Gaelic word “cuach.” During the Celtic period in ancient times, stories were told of how Druids would fill the Quaich with blood from the heart of their human sacrifices. Surrounded by mystery and myth, it has a colorful history.

A Quaich is a unique Scottish drinking vessel used in offering a drink of welcome or farewell. It is not like any other European drinking vessel. Travelers were known to carry a Quaich with them and the preferred offering was a dram of whisky.

The origin of the Quaich has been traced back to the Highlands. However, towards the end of the 17th century, the unique cup became more popular in the larger towns of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Quaichs were first believed to have been made of scallop shells but traditionally were made of wood. They were single timber, meaning they were made from one piece of wood turned on a lathe (a machine which rotates wood as it sands, cuts, drills or otherwise changes the shape of the object). They were wide, shallow and circular and from the sides of the rim jut small lug handles. The lugs project much of the Quaich’s special uniqueness in their design.

Early quaichs were stave-built, like barrels--meaning several bands of wood, typically held together by bands of willow or silver. To make a Quaich more unique, some would alternate light and dark woods. But they were not only made of wood--staves could be fashioned from stone, brass, pewter, horn, and silver. Silver Quaichs were often engraved with lines and bands in imitation of the staves on wooden Quaichs.

The center of the bowl would hold a silver coin or an engraved disc that would have the clan’s motto, coat of arms, or initials in it. The discs served as a sealant at the bottom where the staves met. A romantic gesture had a Quaich bottom made of two pieces of glass with a lock of the bride’s hair in between and the husband would drink to his lady love. In 1589, it is rumored that King James VI of Scotland, gave Anne of Norway a Quaich or “loving cup” as a wedding gift. It is also said the some Quaichs held glass bottoms to be able to keep an eye on their host.

I haven’t been able to find out if the latter is true or not. Part of me wants to believe that it is not after hearing over and over about hospitality in Scotland and how honor bound the clansmen were to upholding such a thing.

In modern times, the Quaich has been used at baptisms, at births to toast the health of the bairn, and at weddings. The wedding party drinks from a Quaich to show love and support.

Whatever its use, the Quaich has been a symbol of love and friendship. Through more than three hundred years, this tiny cup has brought together clan chiefs, crofters, strangers, and merchants under the banner of unity. The Quaich holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who cherishes Scotland and its history.

Visit Sarah at http://www.heart-of-romance.blogspot.com/


Sarah Hoss said...

Eliza, thank you so much for allowing me to blog here today. It is a real honor. And thanks for the well wishes on my road to publication! I appreciate it.

I hope everyone enjoys the post!

Chicks of Characterization said...

Very interesting post! Thanks so much for sharing!

I love to hear about anything that has to do with the history of Scotland! Though with every single post I get a little more 'homesick' for the home of my heart!

Best wishes Sarah, on your road to publication!!!!


Nancy Lee Badger said...

Great info! I always wanted to know how it was pronounced. My hubby and I have recieved two as gifts, a small and a large one...both silver...and they are prominent decorations on our fireplace mantel.

Renee Vincent said...

Oh what a lovely post! I learned something today. Thanks, Sarah!

And on this: It is also said the some Quaichs held glass bottoms to be able to keep an eye on their host.

I know you'd rather not believe it, but back then, it was a brutal life. And it wouldn't surprise me if that were, indeed, the case.

Everyone, whether Scottish, Irish, Saxon, or Norse, etc...was smart to be wary of their neighboring clan or a visiting foreigner, especially if one wanted to live past the age of 35. Alliances came and went, and most times it varied as often as the changing seasons.

But as for the beauty and sentiment of the Quaich, it's extraordinary! Thanks for sharing this!

Unknown said...

I've never heard of the Quaich. Thanks for enlightening me!

A.W. McQueen said...

Great post Sarah! I first learned about the Quaich years ago when I attended a local highland games festival. And then later Diana Gabaldon had a scene in one of her Outlander books mentioning the Quaich.

For sometime now I have thought of purchasing my one for my dad so he could have a wee dram of whiskey aye?

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I love hering about these wonderful historic customs. Thanks for sharing the Quaich with us, Sarah. Wouldn't it be fun to have one of our own??

Sarah Hoss said...

Paisley, I hope to purchase one soon.

Jena, you are most welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

Chicks, I understand your feeling about "feeling homesick" when you think of Scotland. And thank you for the "good Luck" on getting published.

Renee, It would be silly of me to not realize the way things were back then. One must always protect themselves, especially if they held a set of importance. Thank you for stopping by and for reminding me.

Nancy, I bet they look amazing sitting there on your mantel.

Lizzie- just do it. I am sure he will love it!

Marilyn ~ wiggiemd said...

Great post Sarah! Thanks Eliza for having Sarah as your guest blogger.

I've never heard of the Quaich and I enjoy learning all kinds of new things. Thanks for sharing.

Nicole North said...

Awesome post, Sarah! I enjoyed it!

Nancy Lee Badger said...

I think I will add the use of one to a future novel. Thanks for the info!

rumpel said...

Hi, nice article, but it is NOT pronounced quake it is pronounced quaich with the emphasis on the 'ch' as in 'loch' or 'och aye' :) said at the back of the throat. As its a very Scottish item its a touchy subject where pronunciation is concerned, and by the way the Wikipedia entry is wrong as I'm sure thats where you saw it.