Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

Second Sight

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I think everyone knows what it means when someone has the second sight. Collins Dictionary says, “If you say that someone has second sight, you mean that they seem to have the ability to know or see things that are going to happen in the future, or are happening in a different place.

A cool thing to have. It’s also very Scots Irish. Not that there aren’t analogs in other cultures but in our American culture the idea is most common among the Scots Irish. It was an important part of our ancestors’ culture back in Scotland. In Gaelic, it’s called An Da Shealladh, the two sights.

I get just the briefest glimmer of it in my ancestry. My grandmother Vivian (Luce) Swanstrom remembered some childhood trips from Wyoming back to visit Elizabeth (Mallory) Wilson, her mother’s mother in Illinois. Grandma was only 8 when her grandmother died, but she remembered some bits and pieces. For example, she knew her grandmother was “Scotch-Irish”, and that she was a small woman, very short, with black hair and “snappy” black eyes. I don’t know what short means in this context. Grandma was 4’10” and her mother was 5’0″, so I’m thinking somewhere in that range.

Something else Grandma mentioned, just in passing, is that her grandmother had the Second Sight. If Grandma told me any stories, I don’t remember them. The only thing I remember is that she joked it skips a generation, so she might have gotten it, but if so she never noticed it. And now I might get it from her, but I shouldn’t count on it.

Barry McCain has an interesting article about the Second Sight in his family (The Second Sight among the Scots Irish). They have a very similar background to my own ancestors. “Several of them were in Daniel Boone’s party that crossed the Cumberland Gap in the 1770s. Their history is one of trailblazing adventures, ferocious battles with Indians, and eventually settling in southern Illinois by 1805.

Great great grandma Wilson who had the Second Sight came from a family of Boonesborough pioneers, her mother’s first husband was killed in a skirmish with Indians, and the family were ultimately Illinois pioneers.

We don’t need to read too much into the similarities. It’s just the general story of this branch of the Scots Irish, including the Second Sight.

One little piece that intrigues me. McCain says one manifestation of the Second Sight is “knowing things about a person just by meeting them, such as their true nature and history“. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that, but if it’s truly part of the Second Sight, then I did indeed get it.

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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