Edinburgh Truly Madly Deeply

Give it a hearty spit: How do you distinguish a tourist from a local? – A local wouldn’t walk over the Heart of Midlothian, but instead walk around it and give it a hearty spit. You might now think “uuuuuhhhh, how disgusting”, but it is tradition, even if everyone has another reason for doing it.

The stony heart we are talking about is located close to the West entrance of St. Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile (High Street). Named after Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Heart of Midlothian refers to the Old Tolbooth, the city’s former administrative centre and prison, which once stood in that place. Spitting on the heart shaped mosaic is supposed to prevent you from ever getting arrested.

Furthermore, since the heart marks the old doorway of the prison where the executions took place, you can thus show your sympathy for the convicted or your disagreement with the death penalty. But these are not the only reasons for people to spit on it.

In modern times, it also symbolises something more up-to-date: Football. The two local clubs’ arch-rivalry is the trigger for hundreds of fans to leave their “mark” on the mosaic. If you are a supporter of the Heart of Midlothian Football Club you obviously spit on it for luck. If you are a fan of the rivalling Hibernian Edinburgh, you give all your saliva for the enemy’s defeat.

So basically, if you can find a reason for yourself to do it – Go for it! There
is nothing wrong with it. No one will give you a funny look, except for the tourists, and you will all of a sudden feel a bit more personally connected to Edinburgh.

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CTR Travel Writing Team Edinburgh 2011

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