Ever since I found out that my paternal lineage goes back to the 12th century Clan Mackenzie, I dreamed of following their trail from Eilean Donan Castle on the west coast across the Scottish Highlands and the Kintail mountains to Castle Leod on the eastern shores.
The tale of the rise and fall of Clan Mackenzie, filled with the supernatural, cunning power, and vicious clan battles, makes a great story. Diane Gabaldon’s historical time travel book series, inspiring the popular Outlander TV series set in the Scottish Highlands, includes a part of the Mackenzie history and the Jacobite Rebellion.
The Mackenzie’s, once the strongest clan in the north of Scotland, reigned for centuries. From rich, warlords to cash strapped landlords, their story portrays the end of the clan system as fortunes changed hands after the Highland Clearances. Their lives were as rugged as the lands they ruled. Filled with craggy inlets, mist-covered mountains, and broody glens, their land lends way to legends.
The name of Clan Mackenzie dates back to the 13th century when Coinneach MacCoinneach (Kenneth son of Kenneth) gave his name to the Mackenzie’s at Eilean Donan Castle at the junction of Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. The surname Mackenzie, MacCoinneach in Scottish Gaelic, means ‘son of the fair bright one’.
The Mackenzie chiefs’ clever battle tactics and manipulative relations with royalty helped them obtain land. Scottish Kings, considering the Highland Clans unruly, used clans’ chiefs to gain control. The Mackenzie’s served as royal agents and strongmen for the King.
To further their profits, the Mackenzie’s once took on the royal enemy Satan. In the late 16th century when Scotland’s King James VI obsession with the supernatural reached a fevered pitch, the Clan used witch-hunting as a way to ensure the King’s favor.
The Mackenzie’s power often came at expense of other clans especially MacLeod’s. In the early 17th century they took advantage of MacLeod’s feuds to acquire the Isle of Lewis. As Earls of Seaforth, they earned rights to valuable fishing grounds.
In the end according to legends, one of their own mystics, the Brahan Seer, in his final prophecy, predicted the doom of House of Seaforth and Brahan Castle.
Factor or fable?
Either way the clan system fell apart after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
How much of any history is biased by hearsay, rumor and boasts of conquests to perpetuate power and control?
This I do know. I hail from shrewd leaders, mighty warriors, and strong survivors. I too am a storyteller, truth seeker, adventuresome traveler filled with mysticism.
How about you? Where do you come from?
Even without Scottish ancestry, you will enjoy upcoming articles about my time travel tale back to the bewitching Clan Mackenzie of the Scottish Highlands.