by Andrew Hennessey


It seems that if life on Earth is anything to go by, the Universe is a place absolutely teeming with life. The early 1990’s DNA-for-nothing models by Stuart Kauffman at the Santa Fe Institute do suggest what the Mayans already had models for in their ‘Loom of Maya’ thousands BC that Life naturally emerges out of chaos.


NASA photographs of forests and lakes on Mars and the discovery of hundreds of other Earth-type worlds that the establishment is prepared to admit to does suggest that the Universe could be full of; dynasties and regiments, merchants and clans who may take a certain amount of pride in their appearance beyond the traditional silvery one-piece suit we all know and love.


In other words, perhaps the real time of tartan is yet to arrive.


In Scotland on planet Earth though tartan can be traced back to the 3rd century, found in an earthenware jar full of coins near the Roman, Antonine Wall.


This tartan is called the Falkirk Sett.


It was a simple design, taking its colours from the variety of natural brown and white colourings from the wool of the indigenous Soay sheep.


The word tartan itself probably derives from the French word tiretaine that refers to a coarse blend of wool and linen, and not to the colourful Assyrian General Tartan mentioned in Isaiah XX, 1.


The Gaelic reality, however, in Scotland is that ‘tuar’ means colour and ‘tan’ means district, and despite the culture of French imports in aristocratic personnel and exotic wines, ‘tuartan’ seems a reasonable description of the regionalisations that tartan actually represented.


The pattern of an individual tartan is usually called a ‘sett’.


The name sett refers to its structure that was originally defined by the measurement of the width of each stripe.


More recently precisely counting the threads and creating a numerical index have replaced this method.


Most setts are symmetrical. Each series of stripes is reversed around a central stripe, known as a pivot. The blocks of pattern are then regularly repeated throughout the entire design.  Sometimes asymmetrical tartans are produced and, also, the sequence of stripes on the loom’s warp threads (lengthwise) and weft (cross threads) can be different and this also affects the symmetrical appearance of the design.


Additionally, tartan colours can be ‘ancient’ i.e. muted and mellow from natural vegetable dyes, or ‘modern’ using chemical dyes available from the 1860’s AD.


Tartan wearing Scots have been found reposing in Stone Age Dolmens from about 2000 BC in Northern China, but that does seem to suggest for men of good taste, that the infamous Scottish diet hasn’t improved over the millennia.


Although China does seem a rather long way to go for some good cuisine.


Although ‘bought and sold for English gold’ because there was; ‘sic a parcel O rogues in the Nation’:  the Scots flew their colours into battle with the sentiments; ‘lay the proud usurper low, tyrants fall in every foe, liberty’s in every blow, let us do or die’ [Burns, R].


Ultimately betrayed by greed and driven off to battle as cannon fodder for their overlords in over three centuries of shepherding the Scots today generally still don’t make NCO when they take the King’s Shilling … that’s another ‘changeless’ tradition.


Tartan therefore has a provenance in Scotland steeped in the ‘Romance’ of endless warfare and bloodshed and was used to signify one’s roots.


It was that splash of individualistic colour that gave the Scots their unique display of pride and made them such a thorn in the side of so many contenders.


Tartan is however, part of the landscape, part of the mountains and glens, part of the waterfalls and the ferns, the bracken and the heather, the deer and the eagle, the salmon and the herring gulls, the spirit of the sea and the solan goose.


The flurry of tartan is like the crash of waves on the shores, an endless song and a whirling reel, an ageless statement from the grandeur of Earth.


Tartan is a resistance to banned surnames such as Macgregor, it is a resistance to banned bagpipes and banned tartan, it is a resistance to oppression, it is a statement of unique identity and a commitment to a family and a commune, it is a social statement, its wearing is to be the custodian of history and heritage, it is of the provenance of protector of the family and the weak.


The ‘children of the mist’ as the outlawed clan Macgregor were then referred to are like everyone who knows how it feels to be oppressed by overwhelming numbers and resources.


The people with no name, the dispossessed the resilient.


Having said that, the MacDonald’s got their revenge after the massacre of Glencoe by the Campbell’s of Argyll because once they were all eventually cleared out to make way for the sheep – they went over to America and invented the Big Mac.


Imperial cuisine has never been the same after that.


Very few younger people today would pass up a Big Mac for a plate of Campbell’s soup.


After the unpopular Act of Union with England in 1707AD which forbade there to be taxes levied unequally in any part of the Union, there was a great ‘wearing of the tartan’ as an act of protest, even in Edinburgh, but by the time Margaret Thatcher had introduced the ‘poll tax’ only in Scotland in the 1980’s, there was only late opening and Tartan Special lager in the National ‘unconsciousness’.


There just never seemed to be any need to take Independent charge of all that oil and wealth in Scottish National waters despite the shortages in hospitals and industry.


Although in the 21st Century Tartan seems to have lost its glamour in Scotland mainly due to the social, political and cultural liquidiser or blender of the new ecumenical world order – in the rest of the world it has risen beyond and perhaps surpassed the fire of its origins.


From hundreds of Highland Games in North America, and National tartan day in the States, and from; Taiwan and South Korea, Japan, to Australia and New Zealand, the glamour and romance of Tartan is alive. e.g. in India, a popular Sikh design, the Singh tartan, was commissioned in 1999 AD.


In these new tartan fusions, there are elements of geography and culture and their components and a celebration of our local origins. These ingredients go to make the act of creating a tartan a display of cultural strength and unity.


e.g. the New York City Tartan took pale blue from the Hudson River, azure from Scotland’s saltire, green to represent the countryside, red for a local charity and black for the 9.11 victims.


Mankind therefore was at perfect liberty to successfully; rationalise, compile, register and present new tartans for a whole new era and global vision of Scotland and mankind.


‘For a’ that and a’ that’, despite the reservations of Dynastic considerations and its attendant ‘dignities and a’ that’, man to man the world o’er could be wearing their own tartans for a’ that …


So much for Mankind therefore, but what if Extra Terrestrial Civilisations wanted their own tartans too ?


It became apparent in North Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland in 1993 AD  during a series of interstellar contacts that Extra Terrestrial Civilisations had a lot in common with what it took to be Scottish.


Time after time they will have encountered; oppressors and tyrants, overlords and traitors, cynicism and greed and will consequently have faced the annihilation of all the things that they thought were beautiful.


Minding the fences and boundaries though, whereas almost a territorial prerogative in common with other, biological creatures, is a necessary part of a home defence process. This enables and perpetuates amongst those who have agreed to be our peers, the facilitation of; creativity, dialogue, tool use, information and data processing and modelling, storage, logistics, government, analysis and intelligence gathering.


On a day to day basis, however, every sunrise by whatever star one steers there is a great need not to merely bear the burden of defence but to find enough people happy to take their turn shouldering that yoke.


Over time therefore, good people and good civilisations can be worn down and fragmented by the dreary vision of endless conflict.


Defending our own therefore has to become more fun, more recreational.


This ET civilisation in 1993AD claimed that it was technologically superior and could do all the usual stuff but was in fact looking for good artistic ideas that would bring a sense of unity and purpose and colour to that endless tedium of dealing with the usual suspects.


They pointed out that the Scots were always celebrating despite their hardships and then I had the idea that perhaps feeling more Scottish was maybe the answer to any interstellar troubles.

How could we reasonably do that they enquired ?


Well, maybe Interstellar Civilisations needed to re-enforce their reason for being by making a statement of social pride and intent, and to make a point of celebrating their identity. Perhaps they needed to incorporate the Scottish tradition of tartan.


We should use some system to analyse an interstellar society, its families and social groups, its geography, its culture and its history and then link the way they have developed and persisted within their solar system geography etc to a colour index we could have the basis for some kind of system. We could allocate numerical and colour judgements about the persistence of what we thought was good and bad. That which had relative social integrity within each social context could be assessed on a numerical scale that was teamed up with a colour palette.


We would use a value system that reflected our highest ideals in each social virtue e.g. democracy, industry, technological evolution, spiritual Christianity, defence  etc and our merits in these things would be our brightest colours.


Where we have failed e.g. in governance or industry or social integration to evolve or adapt for long periods this would add in increasing amounts of black, and lower frequency colours to our tartan.


The central part of the tartan, ‘the pivot’, would be the main theme or keynote of our society and the success with which it has up till now organised its life essences. e.g. a long time immersed in ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ biology before leaping into freely-sustaining mode would give the tartan a darker and more muted feel. The equivalent of the Scottish ‘ancient’.


A relatively uncomplicated progress into freely-sustaining mode, on the other hand,  would give the tartan a brighter theme as that order of beings will have been given another purpose and track to follow.


The colours dark or bright do not though reflect judgements of good and evil, rather, periods of immersion in certain social themes.

There would need to be some ‘absolute’ scale and database by which these relative merits could be calibrated but I’m sure that Extra Terrestrial society has many such assets.


Biology is not the only type of reality in the Cosmos, as was written of by the Reverend Robert Kirk in 1697AD in Aberfoyle, Scotland.


Beings could crystallise bodies from the essence of the air – he wrote in his ‘Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Faeries’.


We hear of Extra Terrestrial civilisations that are stuck in the hellfire of biological metabolism ‘where their worm does not die, nor their fires go out’,  Mark 10:47, 48, and from various abduction stories that there are various races of ET’s looking for spare parts or upgrades.


Beyond that rut and dark vision though there is the True Vine of Christ’s love and an endless supply of the waters of life. John 15.


Beings fed by the true vine are  ‘freely-sustaining’ and they donate the water of life to others in the vine and are supplied in turn.


They love one another as they love God who is the fountain of all essence and because of that love they supply life to their peers. They also love themselves as they love God, and by respecting their own integrity and spiritual worth, they remain healthy components of and within the vine.


Beyond the daily grind of biology, therefore, is a whole Multiverse of happy high-energy life-forms perpetuating social structures.


The central theme colour of the pivot in an interstellar tartan therefore would be arrived at by evaluating our soul group’s performance within some time scale in which we have all agreed to participate, and how much of that timescale we have spent being predominately biological.


The other structural colours of a tartan, are the bands of colour around the central pivot in the tartan design.


These can relate to one or more aspects of social organisation and deployment.


For example the civilisation of our roots may have had many turbulent metamorphoses and transformations, may have experienced periods of warfare and dis-integrity and unspiritual totalitarianism. As a result, this society may have taken a long time to achieve certain benchmarks of spiritual consensus and reality.


On some scale to be supplied by interstellar research, these civilisations could be calibrated as having relative success and bright colours in attaining certain benchmarks in an agreed short time though it is acknowledged that the appearance of relative success of one civilisation may not totally represent the investment in diversity, detail and dialectic of a civilisation with darker colours and hence a more chaotic history.


With the central pivot colours indicative of the history of evolution within biological and spiritual form, and the main structural support colours within that tartan design pertinent to the social reality of  evolution and transformation within the species, the highlight colours of that particular tartan, usually the narrow band of colour that provides a relatively sparse contrasting thread, could pertain to the cultural product of the society and soul group.


The highlight colours would also need some interstellar scholastic thought to assess.


That is, are the tools; artefacts, ideologies, software and cultural objects and processes conducive to love and Catholic virtue, or, have these tools on average, provided more worldly leverage.


Both of these tool creation strategies have great social worth and directly complement the other, thus having dark or light colours here is again not referring to qualities of good and evil, but to relative benefits to the soul and social fabric.


Scottish tartan has bands of colour of various widths and symmetries within its structure.

The width of the various bands of colour within the three part tartan structure of; essence, social structure and tools, can be a reflection of the relative weight or proportion of temporal commitment any society has devoted to any one theme.


The creation of an Interstellar Tartan Database by a think tank of interstellar scholars who could make evaluations about social history relative to some scale may eventually produce a software with which one can calculate and register ones own social tartan for such things as; tribal group or clan or dynasty or species groupings, stellar regions, merchants, regiments and space navies, soul types and cosmic origins etc


There is absolutely no reason therefore for Tartan to ever end in Bonnie Scotland in an era of mankind that may at some point be submerged beneath a deluge of geological cataclysm and a deep cold sea.


Even when the face of Scotland changes forever there will always be a reason to be proud of what it once was, for in its heroic passing was something handed on to our Imperial future that becomes part of our communal destiny.