Destiny Defined

Destiny Armory Defined entry for 09.12.2019

"A hidden blade. A hospitable smile."

Sgian Dubh

Basic Information

Released: Destiny 2 (Season of the Drifter)

Rarity: Legendary

Category: Sparrow

Additional / Expanded Information

The term “black knife” can be argued as a reference to the material used for the blade’s handle. The bog oak, jet black in appearance, was a very hard wood suitable for the purpose of a skinning knife. The handles on the stag knives simulate horn which was also traditionally used.

Definition Summary

Sgian-dubh (skee-ən-DOO): a small, single-edged knife worn as a part of traditional Scottish Highland dress along with the kilt. Originally used for eating and preparing fruit, meat, and cutting bread and cheese, as well as serving for other more general day-to-day uses such as cutting material and protection, it is now worn as part of traditional Scottish dress tucked into the top of the kilt hose with only the upper portion of the hilt visible. The sgian-dubh is normally worn on the same side as the dominant hand.

Historical stories and theories around the knife’s origin vary, but often focus on the Highland custom of depositing weapons at the entrance to houses prior to entering as a guest. One idea suggests that the sgian-dubh, in addition to the mattucashlass (a small twin edged dagger concealed under the armpit), was believed to be common, despite the custom – the weapons offering the guest an element of defense or surprise if attacked while visiting. Another theory points to the possibility that the sgian-dubh as an evolution of the sgian-achlais, which was a dagger that was concealed under the armpit predominately in 17th and 18th century. Following the above mentioned custom, this could offer an explanation of the wearing of the sgian-dubh on the leg, where it could be worn in sight after entering the home of a friend. When the Highlander visited a house on his travels having deposited all his other weapons at the front door he did not divest himself of his concealed dagger, not because he feared his host but rather because he feared intrusions from outside. Accordingly, although retaining the dagger; out of courtesy to his host he removed it from its place of concealment and put it somewhere where his host could see it, invariably in his stocking on the side of his hand (right- or left-handed).

 

The sgian-dubh has great importance as part of the legacy and history of the Scottish Highlanders and their way of life. The single edged knife is used mainly as a decorative item whilst wearing traditional Scottish dress, taking on the role of a symbol or an ornamental piece, usually created with many embellishments, carvings and symbols. Those wearing kilts to weddings, celebrations, and formals make sure to adorn their kilts with the knife on elaborate display.

 

In Gaelic, sgian-dubh translates into “black blade”, possibly pertaining to the material used to craft the handle of the knife, which was a dark wood. Yet, the secondary meaning of dubh  is “hidden”, and many compare other Gaelic word-formations such as dubh-sgeir “underwater skerry” (lit. black skerry), dubh-fhacal “riddle” (lit. hidden word), or dubh-cheist “enigma” (lit. hidden question) when arguing this to be a more accurate translation. 

 

The first sgian-dubhs were originally used for protection, hunting and cutting materials, meaning the design would have been much more pragmatic. The style of blade varied, from the recognizable “clipped” style (similar to that of the Bowie knife) to a “drop” point – though eventually the more universal “spear-point” tip became the norm. Many of these early designs were constructed from German or Scandinavian steel, a material highly prized by the Highlanders, and bore scalloped filework on the back of the blade. The length of the blade typically ranged from 3 to 3.5 inches and was traditionally held in a scabbard made of leather with silver or other metal decorations. Designs of these decorative embellishments ranged from Scottish thistles, Celtic knotwork, or heraldic elements.

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