It was 1977, I held tightly to my mothers hand, the trace of perfume, white gardenia, slipped into the air every time our hands caught the edges of her coat as she hastened me up the Royal Mile. The cobbles of Edinburgh’s old town were already dusted with the first breath from the snow storm, waiting in the blanket of cloud over our heads.
I remember the old woman’s face, lined, smiling as she tried to press tin foil wrapped bundles into passing peoples hands. I held out my hand as we passed, intrigued, wanting to know what they were, wanting to know why people shook their heads at her and refused the gift.
I remember the tiny white bell like flowers poking from the foil wrapped posy and my mother turning to look askingly at the woman who just smiled shook her head and said:
‘be lucky little girl’,
Our pathway continued across the road.
Steps tracing the edge of the pattern of cobbles my mum told me was called the heart of Mid-Lothian and marked the site of a former prison.
I shuddered and carefully avoided treading on the heart, my 8 year old imagination ran riot with visions of prisoners hearts buried beneath and I clutched my lucky heather and imagined myself protected.
I don’t remember now where we were going or what happened to my lucky heather, but I do remember the legend my mother told me when I asked how come this heather wasn’t purple like the flowers gracing the mountain near my Grandparents home.
And I’d love to share it with you.
Once upon a time before the mountains were carved through for roads and messages had to travel for days held in the heart of a song. There lived a kind hearted, thoughtful girl her mother had named Malvina.
She lived and breathed the messages held in a song or a story, for her father was Ossian the bard, a man whose fame as relater of legend and song travelled further then the birds in the air.
By the time Malvina was 20 she had started to write her own song from the heart and was betrothed to a heroic and just warrior named Oscar.
But times were hard, the weather harsh and survival meant fighting, fighting for food, fighting for land and battles were long and fraught with danger.
Each time she watched her beloved ride out she ached, not knowing if he would return.
Then the day came when he did not.
A messenger arrived at her fathers door, his ice cold fingers held out a brittle sprig of purple heather.
Oscar had died in battle, the flowers the messenger brought had been given to him as her man had lain broken on the battle field.
A last token of his undying love for her.
It's said that when Malvinas' tears fell onto the flowers in her hand, the Ling or Heather turned white as the snow, a final moment of love’s magic and she gifted the heather this wish: 'although it is the symbol of my sorrow, may the white heather bring good fortune to all who find it’.
Now many years later I still walk up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on occasion, now clutching my own daughters hand.
The combination of stories and luck that I was given that evening many years ago seems to have left it’s touch because I shall be walking that way next week, with the bundles of plants that I carry as props, on my way to share my own stories: stories of love, danger, heart-strong women and magical plants.
If you’re walking that way I’d love you to join me. (c) Amanda Edmiston 2016
Amanda Edmiston is a writer and professional storyteller with a background in herbal medicine living in Perthshire in Scotland.
She will be sharing her Gothic Fairy tales for grown-ups at The Guid Crack Club at The Circus Cafe on St. Mary’s Street, Edinburgh from 7.30pm on Friday the 26th February 2016