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Old 6th January 2008, 07:22 PM   #14
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,694

In discussion on the thread on psychological weapons, the subject of the bagpipes arose, and reminded me that the Scottish basket hilt sword and the often intricate designs in the hilts might serve as a good example of our topic here.

As is well known, the blades on the Scottish basket hilt swords of the 17th and 18th centuries were almost universally produced in Germany. The blades, when they arrived in Scotland, where then mounted locally with the now distinctly recognized basket hilts.

While our discussion concerns the applying of markings to weapons, I think the topic actually expands to the symbolism imbued in the design and motif of the weapon overall and its components.

Some years ago I became interested in the intricate piercings in the panels that are part of the construction of the Scottish basket hilt. One of the most consistant and intriguing designs was that of the heart, often appearing in systemic pattern in the panels. I had read in Whitelaw ("Scottish Arms Makers") that in many cases, the secret symbols of the Jacobites were added in the motif of the hilts of these swords. While I discovered some of the symbols did indeed appear, I could not find any Jacobite application that used the heart as a symbol.
Thinking that perhaps the symbolism for this often used motif in these hilts might be found elsewhere, I began more research. I recalled that the Scots were of course mercenaries, and often fought abroad, in many cases in Eastern Europe. I noticed that the heart shape often occurred in the arms and armor of Poland, and thought that possibly the Scots might have observed the heart used there and that I would pursue that course. Many ,if not most, of the Jacobites of course shared the Roman Catholic faith predominant in Poland or at least supported the Roman Catholic Stuarts. I contacted the well known and brilliant authority Professor Zygulsky, who thought my theory most interesting, but could not confirm nor support the idea. I contacted Claude Blair, who also thought the idea intriguing, but admitted there was little concrete material concerning the symbolism in these hilts. I contacted Dr. C. Mazansky, who was writing a book on basket hilt swords at the time, and he conceded that his efforts were confined to studying the typology of the swords.

The topic has remained with me for many years unresolved, and I thought this might be a good opportunity to bring it out here. I would very much appreciate the thoughts and observations of the readers and members concerning the significance of the heart design in these hilts.

With all best regards,
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