On Tintock Tap – Symbolism in a Traditional Lanarkshire Rhyme

ON TINTOCK TAP

‘On Tintock Tap there is a mist,

And in that mist there is a kist,

And in the kist there is a caup,

And in that caup there is a drap;

Tak’ up the caup, drink aff the drap

And set up camp on Tintock Tap’

 

 

Tinto, 1/1/2018

 

To me the traditional Lanarkshire rhyme, On Tintock Tap, is less a rhyme and more a riddle full of symbolism, though it could of course be suggesting that there is great wealth buried under the 4 metre high Neolithic/Bronze age cairn which, never excavated by archaeologists, is believed to be the biggest in Scotland.

 

Walking up Tinto I started to think about the meaning of the symbolism in the rhyme, much of which is spiritual symbolism that shows up across cultures and traditions. Here are some musings …

 

Tintock/Tinto – meaning fire hill, is an immediately recognisable and identifiable hill seen for miles within this part of Scotland. Fire is associated with the sun and the stars.  Fire symbolises energy, life, courage, determination, action, risk taking.  The inner light, the inner spark, the divine fire burning within. Fire serves as a beacon and messenger, the light can be seen from afar, especially from the top of a hill. It’s fire is an invitation for people to come together.  Warmth, hope, energy, passion and will power, transformation, transmutation, creation and destruction, creativity and dynamism are all part of the symbolism. On top of Tinto is an enormous man made cairn, who created it and why? Fire also represents home – the home fires and dance – the dancing fire, primal energy, sexuality. (Many think Tinto looks like a giant breast the cairn being the nipple). Fire is made from burning wood. The element of wood is represented by the staff or magical wand and the tree of life. The ancient Beltane festival and the Baal Fire are associated with Tinto – traditionally lit across Britain on May 1st, half way between the spring equinox and Midsummer to bring good fortune and show togetherness, Beltane was a time when cattle were driven out to summer pasture. The simultaneous lighting of fires stretching across the landscape to show the unity and connection of people. Tinto has associations with the seasonal clock.

Tintock Tap – climbing to the top of a hill or mountain symbolises the will to succeed, aspiration ambition, success, reaching your highest potential, a challenge needing energy, higher attainment, a bigger perspective, leadership, a vantage point, self control. Climbing to the top of a mountain is the closest we can get to heaven on earth. Mountains symbolise eternity, constancy, stillness and firmness. Traditionally the mountain is earth and female. The sky, clouds,rain, thunder and lightning are male. (The River Clyde can be seen snaking through the landscape below Tinto. The view from the top is truly astonishing.)

Mist – Mist symbolises a veil, the hidden, the ethereal, the mysterious. What is shrouded in mystery? Mists of uncertainty, clouds, doubts, questions and anxieties, blurred vision, lack of clarity. Mist is a slow drizzle that blurs and distorts our vision and perception preventing us from seeing clearly. Mist can hide something that is real and true but is perhaps not meant to be understood or seen right now by our rational minds. Mists will lift in time. An invitation to leave the analytical ‘male’ aspect of the mind and enter the ‘feminine’ intuitive state on the top of the mountain?

Kist –  meaning chest. A treasure chest, secrets, something that you hold very close to your heart and want to keep safe, the body, the home, security, a container. Here is a mystery within a mystery, the mysterious mist contains a treasure chest with hidden things inside. How do you find the treasure and open the chest? The treasures of the heart.

Cup –  The cup is a a container for the spirit to be held as it pours from heaven to earth. Cups symbolise the spirit, receptivity, the heart, love, emotions, water, the holy grail, (Roslyn chapel is within view!?). Suggesting that the top of Tinto is an important spiritual place. As above so below.

Drop – water, a tear, life itself, a drop of blood, the individual, millions of drops of water to make a river, the river of life symbolised by water, the element of life. Purity and fertility. Rain fall. Cleansing. The emotions. The human body is over 60 percent water. Water is linked to the moon, governing tides. Water is symbolised by cups. Water finds a way … Water takes the path of least resistance to find it’s course. Drinking from the cup to quench a thirst, physical or spiritual?

Set up camp – take the path up the hill to set up camp, to stop! A steep path represents a journey that requires the energy to persevere to reach the look out point. To set up camp is an invitation to stop, to meditate, to look, to be and get clarity, take the time out for your self, to be still, to experience a new or different perspective. A high vantage point from which to plan your journey, your next direction.

 

The astrological  elements are represented in this verse – Fire, air, earth, water,. Where better to study the astrological clock than from the top of a hill.

 

So, to conclude – this traditional rhyme seems to be suggesting to me that Tinto is an ancient place of spiritual and physical importance with a profound message for anyone who wants to seek it ….  And perhaps there really is gold hidden under that giant mound of rocks, after all Wanlockhead the source of the pure Scottish gold of Kings is within sight of Tinto. Who knows … a mystery indeed!

7/1/2018 On Tinto Summit

 

8/1/18 Sunrise over Tinto

 

I am looking forward to painting Tinto for

36 Views of Tinto Group Exhibition at the Tolbooth in Lanark – 16 May – 6 June, 2018

check out the Facebook page 36 Views of Tinto, Exhibition here

 

Thanks for reading this blog.

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.com

 

ON TINTOCK TAP

‘On Tintock Tap there is a mist,

And in that mist there is a kist,

And in the kist there is a caup,

And in that caup there is a drap;

Tak’ up the caup, drink aff the drap

And set up camp on Tintock Tap’

 

 

 

 

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