The motto is the trademark of the clan, very much like what businesses, associations, schools and so on use nowadays to introduce themselves to the world. It’s like the “given”name of the clan.
What language can we use for our motto? How can we express our truth and mission in a nutshell? Since it will run in our clan forever, we need to choose with care, wit and wisdom.
Now that sounds already like one, doesn’t it?
Care, wit and wisdom.
Some of the many things to be considered, when choosing a motto, are:
Clan mottos have used numerous different languages. Gaelic, of course, is one, Scots is naturally the other. The MacLaren “Bi ‘se Mac-an-t-slaurie” (be thou the son of the crook) is an example of Gaidhlig motto.
Latin, the language of the church and the educated, has been often chosen for Scottish clan mottos.
The MacDonald’s motto “Per mare per terras” (by sea and by land) sounds like the ultimate power phrase.
French, introduced in Scotland by the Norman gentry and the Auld Alliance and spoken at court until the 17th century, was very popular as well. The Livingstone “Si je puis” (if I can) is a fine example of French used for a motto and refers to the 5th Lord Livingstone, who was guardian of young Mary, the Queen of Scots.
Mottos often describe in a nutshell the origins of the clan and its history. Sometimes, they denote a particular land as well.
Often, though, they are catchy affirmation of power. Some of the many examples of empowering mottos are “Toujours prest” (always ready) of Clan Carmichael, or even more to the point the MacNeills “Vincere vel mori” (conquer or die).
What to express with a motto: belief, truth, or irony even. The Burns’ clan motto “Better a wee bush than nae bield” (bield meaning shelter) or the MacGillivrays “Touch not the cat bot a glove” (bot meaning without) sound quite ironic, whereas the MacDonnell of Keppoch motto “My hope is constant in thee” sounds so serious.
A favorite is the romantic sounding motto “Super sidera votum” (a desire beyond the stars) of the Rattray clan.
Badges are very much part of a clan’s history: cats, boars, stags, lions, a wild man holding a tree (Middleton), a phoenix (MacIan).
Since our clan has no history yet, we either need to choose something contemporary or wait until we have a story that can be told with a symbol.
No wild boars and battle axes for us. Maybe a book, a flower or a plant, native to the Island of Skye or the five elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Ether.