Shine, not burn.

Image from wikipedia

Luceo non uro means I shine, not burn. To me, though, it means that I have a choice. I need to balance the bad with the good, make sure to avoid the things that could burn or scar me but get close enough to the heat that I feel life and really experience it. – Elle Casey

I think that is quite a cool motto when applied to life. We need to balance the hardships and heat in our lives so that we continue to grow and to shine, but we also need to make sure we don’t let life burn and scar us. The motto reads like it is a choice, which I think it often is. We do choose how we react to circumstances. – James Brunskill

My family is Mackinney (later McKinney)*, of Mackenzie clan. Mackinney was a sept, a loyal family, to the Mackenzies. Once at the Highland Games, some guy tried to tell me that we are instead a sept of Clan Mackinnon. I did the research and no, we aren’t. In fact, since the letter Z (“zed” to the Scots) wasn’t introduced for a long time it’s quite possible that “Mackinney” is an original pronunciation of “Mackenzie.”

At the height of their influence, the chiefs of the Mackenzie clan led the fourth most powerful clan in Scotland. They got to the top by acting as royal agents for a succession of Scottish kings – being in effect the monarchy’s strong men in the north. Their lands extended from the Island of Lewis in the west, though to Ross on the east coast of the mainland.

So my people were a supporting cast, a special team to the King’s strong men. I’m not surprised that multiple clans claim the Mackinneys, though. We were badass.

( *-  Mc is an abbreviation of Mac, and the people recording family surnames back then were often in a rush and not always fluent in penmanship. The same person often had his surname recorded using both Mac and Mc on separate occasions.)

Image from

There are two crests for Clan Mackenzie. The original features a stag’s head with the motto Cuidich ‘N Righ, meaning “Help the King.” Royal agents, after all. The more modern one features “a mount in flames proper.” Francis Mackenzie was the first Baron of Seaforth Island in the Outer Hebrides, which are famous for mountains and craggy hills. So the mountain is an appropriate symbol.

Apparently the saying came from blacksmithing (or smithing in general) where one had to make sure that metal being worked with didn’t get burned, but shone in the heat. The whole motto is virtute et valare luceo non uro, which means “by virtue and valor, I shine, not burn.”

It’s a great motto. My ancestors believed that whatever happens to them, whatever challenge or adversity they faced, they would rise above it and succeed. They would always overcome.

Luceo non uro. It means that the Mackenzies try to do their very best in everything they do – to shine, but not to burn out or be consumed. – Belinda Murrell

I shine, not burn! What a beautiful way to see the world! To choose to be a part of light, instead of destruction. – Jenna

Are you going to allow yourself to burn or to shine?

3 Comments on “Shine, not burn.”

  1. Wayne R. McKinney says:

    McKinney is not a sept of anything. It is just a modernization of the original Gaidhlig of Mac Coinnich. In fact, it is light years closer to the original Gaidhlig than is MacKenzie. You are correct though that you are very likely a MacKenzie. It is a statistical thing. They were a large clan, with lots of land. Only exacting research and DNA can prove anything for sure. Mutterings about Mac or Mc, being a MacKenzie, MacKinnon, McInnish etc., do not amount to much per se. That said, the McKinney surname can arise in several different ways. Study the original language, and stay away from famous books on surnames……..

  2. My take on the “shine not burn” is that English kings were fond of giving a commission of “fire and sword” on a clan that did not suck up to them properly to a clan that did. Fire and sword provided cover for all kinds of atrocity done in the name of the English king. Burning dwellings and crops, murder, you name it.

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