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Donald A. Mackenzie 1 (1935) examined the existence of food prohibitions amongst the Scottish. His findings were that: In northeast England (bordering Scotland),
"fishermen dislike reference being made to the pig in connection with their work"

In Scotland an aversion to the pig is deep rooted even now and was much stronger in the past. This aversion exists amongst both Highlanders and Lowlanders.
"There are still thousands of Highlanders and groups of Lowlanders who refuse to keep pigs or to partake of their flesh".

MacKenzie quotes from Sir Walter Scott ("The Fortunes of Nigel"):
"Sir Munko cannot abide pork, no more than the King's most sacred majesty, or my Lord Duke Lennox, nor Lord Dalgarno...But the Scots never eat pork strange that! Some folk think they are a sort of Jews."

"The Scots [i.e. Lowlanders] till within the last generation disliked swine's flesh as an article of food as much as the Highlanders do at present".

Also from Sir Walter ("The Two Drovers") we have an account of execration in Gaelic of a Highlander cursing some Englishmen who had been ridiculing him:
"A hundred curses on the swine eaters, who know neither decency nor civility!"

James-vi of Scotland (who became James-i of Great Britain) "hated pork in all its varieties" 2

In the English Civil War, a song against Scottish partisans of the Rump Parliament (1639-1661) went:
"The Jewish Scots that scorns to eat
The Flesh of Swine, and brewers beat,
'twas the sight of this Hogs head made 'em retreat,
Which nobody can deny."

J.G.Dalyell (1691):
"Why do Scotchmen hate swine's flesh?"....
"They might borrow it of the Jews"..

"The same prejudice, though infinitely abated, still subsists. Yet it is not known that swine have been regarded as mystical animals in Scotland. Early in the seventeenth century the aversion to them by the lower ranks, especially in the north, was so great, and elsewhere, and the flesh was so much undervalued, that, except for those reared at mills, the breed would have been extirpated".

A certain Captain Burt on duty in Scotland in 1730 wrote:
"Pork is not very common with us, but what we have is good. I have often heard that the Scots will not eat it..........It is here a general notion that where the chief declares against pork, his followers affect to show the same dislike..."

Mackenzie says that,
"Burt also refers to the Scottish prejudice against eating eels..." 3

Dr.Johnson (1773):
"The vulgar inhabitants of Skye, I know not whether of the other islands, have not only eels but pork and bacon in abhorrence; and accordingly I never saw a hog in the Hebrides, except one at Dunvegan".

Rev. L. Grant (1793):
"the deep rooted prejudice against swine's flesh is now removed..."

Dean Ramsay (1793-1872):
"The old aversion to the `unclean animal' still lingers in the Highlands....I recollect an old Scottish gentleman who shared this horror, asking very gravely, `Were not swine forbidden under the law and cursed under the gospel'?"

John Toland (1714):
"You know how considerable a part of the British inhabitants are the undoubted offspring of the Jews and how many worthy prelates of this same stock, not to speak of Lords and commoners, may at this time make an illustrious figure among us....A great number of 'em fled to Scotland which is the reason so many in that part of the Island have a remarkable aversion to pork and black puddings to this day, not to insist on some other resemblances easily observable.." 4

     D.A. MacKenzie continued to discuss the swine taboo in chapter ii of his work. He claimed that the taboo preceded Christianity and that the coming of Christian missionaries to Scotland actually weakened the prohibition. Mackenzie stated that after examination it appeared to him that in ancient Scotland there were two different cults or attitudes, one of which regarded the pig with abhorrence while the other revered it. The Picts in northern Scotland had two clans, one called the Clan of Orcs and the other The Clan of Cats. Ancient pictures of wild boars have been found engraved on rocks. A first century BCE grave in Scotland contained what appears to have been a pig offering and other finds indicate the consumption of swine..
     MacKenzie connects the pig taboo with the Galatians in Galatian Anatolia. These were a small group of Galatians (also called "Galli") who had gravitated to Anatolia (modern Turkey), conquered Phrygia and formed their own kingdom called Galatia in which they ruled over the natives. Lucian ("De Dea Syria") wrote concerning the Galli of Galatia:

"They sacrifice bulls and cows alike and goats and sheep; pigs alone which they abominate, are neither sacrificed nor eaten. Others look on swine without disgust, but as holy animals".

      Pausanius drawing upon a source from the 300s b.c.e. said that the Galatae in Anatolia ceased to eat pork because Attis the god of the region had been slain by a boar. Attis is connected with the cult of the Great Mother and MacKenzie supposes that the Galatae adopted this cult. Later, he suggests, mercenaries from the Celtic west who came into contact with the Galatians of Galatia also received the pig taboo and somehow through them it reached Scotland 5. At all events, the ultimate source of this pig taboo came from the Middle East.

     Mackenzie brings numerous sources showing that in Gaul, in Ireland, in other parts of Britain, pigs were both plentiful and respected. The boar was a favourite symbol. Pigs were reared for meat all over the Celtic area and the Continental Celts even had a developed industry curing swine meat which they sold to the Romans and were famous for. Archaeological findings often reveal preserved swine flesh in various receptacles. 6 [Later the Scots-Irish in Ulster and in the USA in the South appear to have put quite an emphasis on pig-raising and to have preferred it in many cases to other occupations]. All of these areas had frequent contact with the region of Scotland and their influence is enough to explain all evidence (which in fact is not so plentiful) of pig meat in ancient Scotland. On the other hand, the suggestion of influence on Scotland from the Galatian area in distant Anatolia is unconvincing. Despite Pausanius we cannot be really sure that the Galatians did not bring their pig taboo with them to Anatolia instead of adopting it there. At all events, why should only far-away Scotland have been influenced by the Galatians of the east?
     Another point is that a good portion of the population of Scotland only arrived there well after ca.200 BCE. They came to Scotland via Ireland or via Spain or via Scythia and the north. Different groups settled in different areas yet the pig taboo was accepted all over Scotland by a good proportion of the populace and the prohibition was deeply entrenched in popular consciousness. Eels, and hare, are also forbidden by the Mosaic code and the Scotts had prejudices against all of these and refused to eat them though they are popular foods amongst the neighbouring English. The obvious place to look for the source of these prohibitions is in a past exposure to and acceptance of the Mosaic Law and this was the source to which observers in the past usually traced them. It is interesting to note that from time to time certain fish and fowl which the Mosaic Code (of Ancient Israel) does permit came under a ban but only in the case of those expressly prohibited by the Law of Moses did the taboo last or become widely accepted.

"Julius Casar found that the ancient Britons tabooed the hare, the domestic fowl and the goose. The hare is still taboo to many Scots".

In Western Brittany the hare was also tabooed. 7

      It should be noted that abstaining from foods prohibited by the Mosaic Law may have physiological advantages conducive to long-term physical and emotional stability.

     Our examination of the religious practices of the early Christian Celts revealed that not only food taboos but also a large number of other practices were taken directly from the Mosaic Law and also that there existed a conscious identification with the Jews and ancient Levis. Some of these practices had proven parallels in ancient Druidical pre-Christian custom which taken together with other facts proves that at least a portion of these people were of Israelite descent. More on this subject is to be discussed elsewhere.
      In general a few pertinent subsidiary points should be made:
What applies to the ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland reflects upon their kin and descendants elsewhere in the British Isles and overseas. These peoples were divided into different Tribal groups at different cultural levels and maybe of differing origin as Irish sources themselves are sometimes at pains to emphasise. Some contemporary reports (such as those of Diodorus 5;32;3, st.Jerome, cf. Strabo) 8 claimed that there were primitive peoples in Ireland who practised cannibalism. Other evidence suggests that different peoples in Ireland maintained different standards and there were those whose cultural developments were of a very high standard maybe in some respects the highest in the world at that time. 9

See also
"Brit-Am Now"-579
#3. Duncan Long: Additional Scottish-Hebrew Food Taboos?


1. Donald A.Mackenzie, in "Scottish Folf Lore and Folk Life. Studies in Race, Culture, and Tradition", U.K., 1935, ch.1. Mackenzie is the main source for this article.
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2. MacKenzie p.43 quotes Grifford.
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3. MacKenzie p.45
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4. Leon Poliakov ("The Aryan Myth", 1974 ch.3 p.44 ) quotes from John Toland, 1714, "Reasons for Naturalising the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland". John Toland also translated Josephus into English.
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5. Mackenzie p.66.
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6. MacKenzie p.81.
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7. MacKenzie p.83.
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8. D.B. GREGOR, "Celtic. A Comparative Study", New York, 1980, p.106
Bernard SERGENT, "Les Premier Celts d'Anatolie", in Revue Des Etudes Anciennes, no.90, 1988, p.331.
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9. Peter Berresford ELLIS, "The Celtic Empire. The First Millenium of Celtic History c.1000 BC-51 AD", London, 1990, p.184.

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