Monday, August 29, 2011

Cannabalism in Scotland: the legend of Sawney Bean

The soccer team that once crashed on the mountaintop in South America. The American Donner Party. Dickens' Sweeny Todd.

The fine art of chowing down on one's fellows.

Well, it seems in 15th century Scotland, one Alexander Bean (or "Beane") was executed for "mass murder" when he and his 48-member clan took a fancy to human pancreas and the like, precursing Hannibal Lecter, and put the bite on over 1000 people. (Other clans, of course.)

His father, an educated INTP, I think, was a ditch digger and part-time hedge trimmer who tried to pass the family trade, shovel and all, down to his son, but Alexander (Called "Sawney" for some inexplicable reason fathomable only to Scots) would have no truck with honest labor; not with so many delectable upright rump roasts walking around, free for the frying. As it were.

Now, your normal everyday ne'er-do-well who has just turned down a steady hedge trimming gig would probably just look for some other line of work. But Sawney? Goes to his state of mind, your honor.

To this day, the hedges of Scotland are only sporadically and crookedly trimmed. I'm sure you've noticed, though probably you haven't made the connection between this and chewing one's fellow-traveler's fingernails and more. If you get my drift.

Incest? Those Scots had a a patent on it. Jesus. Well, there were only 48 people in the whole clan, so that DOES make one's eye wander to one's sister. Sawney, though, hooked up with an outsider - a vicious woman, they say - who shared his inclinations. And I'm not talking about ditch-digging inclinations.

Most young couples would be looking to build a modest home and start a family, but these two beauties found them a cave on the coast. The cave was fine enough as caves go, some 200 yards deep. Fine enough if you overlook the fact the entrance disappeared at high tide. They had to make allowances for that in their Daily Planners. The cave is still there today. Well, duh.

As you probably know, quirky Relax Max is the kind of little doggie who always reads between the lines, so I was wondering how the interior of that cave smelled (smelt to you) when one was trapped inside on a hot summer's day at high tide with a pile of human feet and viscera. Did I mention she was a vicious woman?

History tells us, if you are one of the 8 or 10 people in the world who believes Scots oral history, that the lovely couple's many children and grandchildren were "the products of incest and lawlessness." Even Relax Max can't quite conjure up how one has children by "lawlessness" (or doesn't want to even try to conjure it up) but the incest part is another duh.

"Lacking the gumption for honest labor, the clan thrived by laying careful ambushes at night to rob and murder individuals and small groups. The bodies were brought back to the cave where they were dismembered and cannibalized. "Leftovers" were pickled. Discarded body parts would wash up on nearby beaches." — Wikipedia

So we can deduce from this they didn't have regular trash pickup in those days.

Pardon me while I retch on my keyboard.

Ok, I'm back now.

You will note in the picture at the top of this post that the woman in the background is carrying legs into the cave. In case you missed the details.

You may be wondering why the neighbors didn't notice the parts on the beach or the stench in the air - at least Max wondered - but the Scots tend to mind their own business unless situations become intolerable.

The situation did become intolerable.

Not ones to bother with serious criminal investigations, the local townspeople first lynched several innocents. (History doesn't tell us whether these unfortunates were simply left hung out for the birds to peck, or whether the clan munched them. Max, of course, thinks of things like that.)

To make a long story short... well, I suppose it is already too late for that, but nevertheless... King James VI of Scotland finally got wind of the carnage and sent down 400 searchers and a bunch of bloodhounds. It didn't take the bloodhounds long to find the stinking cave the neighbors had missed, which, the narrative says, was "rife" with human remains. Rife. Holy Macaroni, how does one SLEEP in such a cave?

Relax Max is always reluctant to mention King James VI of Scotland, because there is an unwritten law (or maybe it IS written) that one must always obligatorily add "Later King James I of England" to the mix. I don't know why. It just has to be done, and I've done it.

The clan was captured and taken (in chains - Wikipedia states the obvious) to Jail in Edinburgh, then later transferred to Leith or Glasgow where they were executed without trial. Never one to complain, Relax Max nevertheless cannot help but wonder if you are going to execute people without trial (Even Florida and Texas give trials) then why not just off the crud right next to the cave and be done with it? Let the bloodhounds have a go at them? I suppose there would be more of an audience in Glasgow, though.

But a nice show it was, well worthy of any admission that may have been charged. May I describe it to you? Yes? Then I shall.

The men had their genitalia cut off, hands and feet cut off, and left to bleed to death. The women and children were given the pleasure of watching this, then they were burned to death. (James was Catholic, remember.)

Ayrshire is noted for its dark folklore, so none of this may be true. Let's hope.

Have you ever tasted "Vienna Sausages" - those little mushy weiner-like things in little cans at your grocer's, next to the deviled ham? Those are reportedly what pickled pancreas tastes like.

Just saying. Max likes to finish the job properly.

To Americans, smelt is just a little fish.

In accordance with the rules set forth by the Oxford Croquet Union and international dog of mystery, Relax Max, readers are reminded that any blog post over 1 year old may be republished in the event said Max can't be arsed with thinking up original stories that contain something British in them within a reasonable amount of time.

By the same stated above rules, certain commentors to the original post are immune to obligatory recomments to THIS post, although, frankly, Soubriquet's original comment was witty enough to make me read it almost halfway through. Something about finger food in Ayershire. Go read it.

DISCLAIMER: I know James VI & I was not Catholic. I know he wasn't around when this story says he possibly was in the 15th century. Blame Wikipedia and their sucky fact-checking.


  1. Hmmm, interesting. I really am lost for words after reading that.

  2. You lost for words? I find that a bit hard to swallow.

  3. "Hard to swallow". Get it? Get it?

    Never mind. :)

  4. I did... but like I said, lost for words, so I had no come back.

  5. Did you have to 'bring that up again?'
    Ayrshire is spelled (or spelt) Ayrshire by the way.
    I do not believe their bits were cut of as described. Hung or burnt yes, but not the rest. Although in Ayrshire that cutting bits of still happens at local football matches today.

  6. If you'd left a link to the earlier post I wouldn't have had such trouble discovering whether or not I commented earlier to be excused this time around. I did, so I am, so I won't.

  7. @Adullamite - I am sorry to regurgitate an old post.

    How did I spell it? Don't make me go look.

    @A. I did leave a link to the original post. The title is a permalink, isn't it? Anyway, I didn't think anyone would go to find it. :)

    @Stephanie Barr - and another hell gone to snack. Or something. What a woos. I'll bet you can't even eat and clean up cat puke at the same time. :)



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