Tag Archives: nationalism

Folk Belief: It’s Good Luck to Kill a Scotsman

Main Piece: 

Informant: “There’s a law in England that in York on Sunday, you’re allowed to kill a Scotsman with a bow and arrow. So- I mean, this was put in place in the 1700s when England was at war with Scotland and it was never repealed, so it still exists. So, apparently, some people think that if you do this— Of course, there are like law kinda hierarchies, so the murder law I think also applies. I mean, it’s apparently supposed to give you luck if you do kill a Scotsman. I mean, I’ve never tried it but…”

Collector: “Is there any like traditions or things that people do on a Sunday to celebrate this law? Besides killing Scotsmen.”

Informant: “Well, you know, I don’t know. I heard, you know, a thing once. This might be one guy. I heard people like treat the Scotsperson as an animal and they left, you know, a bowl of haggis outside as bait. And they would wait in the bushes. I mean, this is England, so…”

Collector: “Do the Scotsmen like this?”

Informant: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they go to York on a Sunday.”


My informant had not personally partaken in any of the rituals surrounding this law. From the way he presented it, it was up to individual interpretation how to personally engage with this law, hence the singular person hiding in the bushes. No set rituals necessarily exist in any official or widely known capacity. My informant said he understands it as the good luck associated with the killing is what is well known. He also made it clear that these efforts were obviously facetious and the repetition of “it’s good luck to kill a Scotsman in York on Sunday with a bow and arrow” is something of a running joke.


There are direct ties between this piece of folklore and intercultural tensions. At the time of the laws establishment, there was an active war between England and Scotland. However, in the modern United Kingdoms, there is a different sort of tension. The Scottish Independence Movement is largely championed by Scots and largely blocked by British government. As such, while the two cultures are within the same nation, there is a tension between the Scots’ desire to leave and the relative power that the British have. I think it’s possible that this folklore is a piece of malevolent humor shared between the Brits. It serves primarily to denigrate the Scots as a group but is obviously facetious enough not to be too egregious for public.

Oh Bella Ciao

“Una mattina mi son svegliato,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!
Una mattina mi son svegliato
e ho trovato l’invasor.

O partigiano portami via,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
o partigiano portami via
che mi sento di morir.

E se io muoio da partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e se io muoio da partigiano
tu mi devi seppellir

Seppellire lassù in montagna,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
seppellire lassù in montagna
sotto l’ombra di un bel fior.

E le genti che passeranno,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
e le genti che passeranno
mi diranno «che bel fior.»

Questo è il fiore del partigiano,
o bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao,
questo è il fiore del partigiano
morto per la libertà”


One morning I awakened,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
One morning I awakened
And I found the invader.

Oh partisan carry me away,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching.

And if I die as a partisan,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
and if I die as a partisan
then you must bury me.

Bury me up in the mountain,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
bury me up in the mountain
under the shade of a beautiful flower.

And all those who shall pass,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
and all those who shall pass
will tell me “what a beautiful flower.”

This is the flower of the partisan,
oh beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodbye, beautiful goodby, bye, bye!
this is the flower of the partisan
who died for freedom


L.S: “This was sang by the partisans during the…the time of victory. When American troops arrived and the German occupation ended, partisans and soldiers and…a bit everyone actually sang this song. It represented liberation.”

My informant was born in the Tosco-Emilian Apennines (Italy) in 1931. While she spent the majority of her childhood there, she moved to Bologna, Italy, when she was about 13, and she has been living there ever since. Because of the time and location of her birth, she fully experienced the years of the Second World War, her town and own house being occupied both by German and American troops. This song recalls to her memory that chaotic and intense age, and especially evokes the sensation of freedom, relief and liberation felt when the end of the conflict was announced. Still today, when she is about to turn 90, she perfectly remembers the lyrics of the song, which remains in the collective imaginary as the emblem of resistance and liberty.


My informant and I were having a tea in her living-room and when I asked her if she knew some folk-songs she immediately started to sing it.


This song is a popular Italian hymn to freedom and liberty, known by everyone for its correlation to partisans and World War 2’s cease-fire. However, not many people know that its musicality, its rhythmic organization of verses, and part of its lyrics were taken by more ancient folk-music of the peninsula. The most glaring similarity can be noticed in a song which carries the same title and which was sang by Mondine, rice weeders, who would perform it as work-song during the long hours spent in paddies. 

This song, because of its evolution and its significance, perfectly reflects the definitions of folklore, that is “artistic communication in small groups” and “multiplicity and variation”. While the latter seems quite self-explanatory -especially considering the previously-mentioned past influences and  the various versions existent-, the first one presents itself as more interesting to analyze. In fact, Bella Ciao was transformed, throughout time, from a form of expression between members of a specific and relatively small community, that is rice weeders, into a chant performed by a wider group of people, joined by the same purpose: fighting for the liberation of their country. Later on, it was translated into an actual nationalistic hymn, in which, for a reason or another, the vast majority of Italians recognized a sense of identity. This last affirmation is further confirmed by a more recent factor, which is due to the mash-ups and remixes done after its usage in the famous tv series Money Heist. As a matter of fact, after its utilization in the television drama, the folk-song began to be played in major clubs, discos and musical events worldwide, being continuously remixed and modified depending on the DJ’s tastes and the audience’s ‘satisfaction index’. 

A question now naturally arises: considering the original meaning, isn’t its usage in a Spanish series a sort of cultural appropriation, or better, distortion?