White Heather has long been known for is lucky properties, perhas due to its relative scarcity in times past. White Heather was believed to only grow where no blood had ever been shed and also where ancient Faeries had been laid to rest. In Scotland, especially, this superstitious attribute to white Heather seems to have originated during periods of war when victorious clans put down their success in battle to wearing the plants on their bonnets.
An offering of Heather on Beltane, the May Day celebration, is said to attract faery visitors into your garden.
Historically, Heather has been utilised to serve many practical purposes. These include thatching rooves with its leggy stems, making brooms (its Latin name 'Calluna' is corrupted from the Greek 'Kalluna', meaning 'to brush'), great lengths of sea-hardy ropes have been twined from it and a strong yellow dye has been extracted from the plant.
Medicinally, infusions made from the tops of Heather have treated coughs and nervous conditions whilst Heather ointments have been used to ease rheumatic/athritic conditions. Dried flowers from the plant have long been known for their sleep inducing quality and were once packed within bed frames to ease their occupiers into a gentle state of slumber.
Heather has also been made into drinks and Robert Burns is believed to have favoured Heather tea as his refreshment of choice. Heather Ale, made by fermenting the flowers from the plant, was enjoyed in Scotland for generations. The populairty and importance of this drink amongst ancient tribes can best be summarised by the telling of an old legend concerning the times when the Vikings first invaded Scotland c. 794 a.d.
Rampaging across the Scottish landscape, the Viking army conquered and slayed all who crossed their path until they cornered the King and his son (the keepers of the Heather Ale recipe) near a cliff edge. The King and his son were tortured for the secret formula and the King finally relented, stating that should his son be spared any further torture and be given a mercifully quick killing, then he would pass the recipe on to the Viking leader. With the Prince quickly despatched to his death from the cliff top, the king then told the Viking leader that he had feared that his son might have given away the secret if he had been tortured further, whereas he knew that he, the King, would keep the secret to the grave. With that, he took hold of the Viking Chieftain and grappled him over the edge of the cliff to follow his son to their doom.