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OurStory Scotland

... recording the stories of the LGBT community in Scotland

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Original Painting of Rainbow Thistle by Ruth Waterhouse

Original Painting of
Rainbow Thistle
by Ruth Waterhouse

The Legend of the Rainbow Thistle

The 'original' legend of the Scottish thistle tells that the Scottish army was warned of the presence of the enemy by their exclamations as they attempted to approach through a field of thistles. The thistle acted beautifully for Scotland.

LGBT people in Scotland also celebrate the thistle - from a rainbow perspective. Why not write your own legend of the rainbow thistle? Here is a possible beginning:

They said we were a thorn in their side. It was then that we remembered the thistle - the Rainbow Thistle. According to legend...

Here's Ruth's version in 2006:

They said we were a thorn in their side. It was then that we remembered the thistle - the Rainbow Thistle. According to legend, a brigade of renegade lovers took up their space to live and love by challenging their adversaries to walk through a field of thistles. Undaunted, the marauders tramped barefoot through the prickles. The pain did not stop them. They were accustomed to pain. But the Rainbow colours disarmed them. Each colour its own colour. Each colour part of the band.

Here's a version from EMC in 2008:

The star-crossed lovers in fair Glasgow did question each other . what is in a name, a thistle by any other name would prickle just as harshly. 'Look closer,' the girl said. And there, blooming in amongst the purple and green was every colour of the rainbow. 'This must be an act of magic,' said the other, 'surely.' As the girls held each other, entwined, a rush of colour spilled forth from the thistle. Swirling high into the sky, colours darting everywhere, this was a signal, an unspoken declaration, bright and warm for all to see, that their love was true, and unhidden. And it was then that the legend of the Rainbow Thistle was born.

Here's a version from Tartan Outlaw in 2018:

Rising high, Scotland's fine thistles,
Tough, hardy, fierce, warriors of prickles.
Flowers of purple, stems of green,
Reflecting a multi-colour sheen.

As moon declines and daytime reigns,
Unwinding leaves stretch out and strain.
Roots break free, shaking loose,
From soil that held them like a noose.

Sunshine rays fracture apart,
To reveal a spectrum of welcoming heart.
Minds are opened, enveloped by light,
Marauders disarmed without a fight.

The story has changed but the legend is true,
Brave Scotlandís amalgamation of hues.
No longer considered a thorn in the side,
The rainbow thistle emanates pride.

If you would like to contribute your own Legend of the Rainbow Thistle to our collection, contact us!

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Glass Sculpture of Rainbow Thistle by Alan Robinson

Glass Sculpture of
Rainbow Thistle
by Alan Robinson

The Rainbow Thistle was designed by Ruth Waterhouse, and was exhibited at the OurStory Ceilidh in 2006. A glass sculpture based on Ruth's design was commissioned from Alan Robinson. At the OurStory Ceilidh Ruth told her version of the Legend of the Rainbow Thistle.