Wednesday, December 12, 2007
End of term madness: Haggis Hunt 2007
The Haggis Hunt is on! The Haggis is a crafty wee beastie. Here's one in disguise and one trying to hide.
The temperature is plummeting. The frosts of winter nestle on the moors. And the steam is rising from massed ranks of the haggis hunters.
Here's how to bag a haggis from the comfort of your armchair.
# Simply browse through ten haggis-cams, which are located in various parts of our beautiful country (and in London and New York, for the benefit of the haggis diaspora).
# If you see a haggis, click on the "I saw a haggis" link displayed under the cam.
It is in the nature of the haggis that it should be a creature shrouded in mystery. Over the years many misconceptions have developed about these reclusive creatures. Here we are happy to debunk the most common myths and set the record straight.
A haggis is just a sheep’s stomach stuffed with meat and oatmeal.
The most common mistaken belief about the haggis is that it is some kind of pudding made from sheep innards. This somewhat macabre idea dates back many centuries. Its origins lie in a Pictish fertility ceremony which featured a parade of creatures known to produce large numbers of offspring. The haggis was one such animal. However, as hunting techniques were not as sophisticated as they were then and - for reasons explained in The Haggis in Scotland’s History - haggis numbers were low, the Pictish priests often had to make do with a model for these ceremonies. Said model haggis was made from an inflated sheep bladder, hence the myth.
They have one leg shorter than another.
This misconception originated with a respected English commentator. However, the haggis’s legs are all the same size. Any apparent difference in length could be due to the haggis’s habit of standing in a bog to confuse predators. Quite why this would confuse a predator is unclear as the haggis would be unable to run away, being as it is stuck in a bog.
Its hurdies are like a distant hill.
A haggis is rarely larger than a foot long. It has a gentle rounded shape and a soft consistency. How it is like a geological feature quite escapes us. Suilven is a distant hill. It is 2,399 feet high and made from unforgiving glacier-scarred rock. Pretty unhaggislike, you would agree. We suspect that this one is down to poetic licence.
Haggii live with the monster in Loch Ness.
This is nonsense. Haggises are not aquatic. They are also extremely wary of any creature larger than them and would not consort with a large carnivore, even one supposed to be mythical. There is also nothing to suggest that there is any truth behind the rumour that swimming with haggises strapped to your feet will prevent monster attacks. There have been no recorded attacks on anyone by the Loch Ness monster, haggis attachments notwithstanding.
Let's suppose you actually see a haggis. Its important to know that one can be transfixed by a reading of Robert Burns' Address to the Haggis:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie (cheerful) face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon (above) them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, (paunch, guts) or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy (worthy) of a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies (buttocks) like a distant hill,
Your pin (skewer) wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching (Digging) your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd (well swollen) kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner (disgust),
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
My esteemed colleagues, Dean Joshua Davis , and Professor Althea Spencer Miller , have made it possible to discuss and record our Podcasts ...