Religion and mysticism

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A clan parade in Edinburgh.
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  • A tree marks the spot where John Knox performed the first Reformed Communion in Scotland.
    Leading light of the Scottish Reformation, John Knox

The Scottish Reformation in 1561 opened the floodgates to universal education in Scotland. Figures like John Knox, who played a significant role in the Reformation, have left a lasting impression on daily life in Scotland, changing not only perceptions of religion but also education. Mysticism also had its place in a religious Scotland, with several famous soothsayers predicting glorious and calamitous events in Scottish history centuries before they happened.

John Knox c.1510 - 1572

Born in Haddington, he was a key figure in the Reformation in Scotland. Influenced by John Calvin, he often came in to conflict with Mary Queen of Scots who was Catholic. John Knox House on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is open to the public.

Thomas the Rhymer c.1210 - c.1290

Born and lived at Ercildoune (Earlston).  According to Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders, Thomas saw the Queen of the Fairies as she rode out over the Eildon Hills, was captivated by her and returned with her to her kingdom inside the hills. After seven years, he was allowed to return to Earth and, as a keepsake, was given the gift of prophesy. Among his predictions were the death of Alexander III, the defeat of Flodden and the union of the crowns in 1603. He was also one of Scotland's earliest poets. There is sculpture, viewpoint & interpretation boards in his memory at Boglie Burn near Melrose. The ruins of his tower remain just south of Earlston.

Brahan Seer early 17th century

No one can be sure as to the exact birth date of Coinneach Odhar (Kenneth Mackenzie), the Brahan Seer, as records of him are a mystery. It is known that he was born in Uig on the Isle of Skye. He is known as Scotland's Nostradamus, due to his gift of foresight. He made prophecies including the Battle of Culloden, the Highland Clearances, the building of the Caledonian Canal and the coming of the railways, which all came true. He used a round blue stone with a hole in the centre through which he would stare until the vision came to him.

Sir William Alexander Smith 1854 - 1914

Smith was born in Pennyland House in Thurso in the far north of the Scottish mainland. He taught Sunday school at an early age and was an officer in an army unit. He noticed how the army recruits behaved much better when having some form of drill and wanted to apply this to his religious teachings of the Sunday school children. His idea of the Boys’ Brigade was born, which soon caught on and companies were formed throughout Scotland, England and New Zealand.