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Ra Pictsies

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:24 pm    Post subject: Ra Pictsies  Reply with quote

The Picts are often referred to as “The Painted People” this is debatable to say the least. This description comes from a third-century Roman commentator named Eumenius in 297CE and is taken to mean "painted or tattooed people" (from the Latin pingere "to paint"). . However, there little or no evidence for this contention.  For a start Isatis tinctoria (Woad), the plant which provided the dyes the  Romans saw on the tribes in southern Britannia doesn't grow well in Scotland. While there are other plants which could be utilised for this purpose, they aren't very common. So, painted? I doubt it.

While there isn't any doubt that woad could have been - and probably was – imported from England or Ireland, the fact that it was imported is likely to indicate that was a high-status item. This being the case it was probably reserved for the local king and his personal warband.

I'm inclined to give more credence to the Irish Annals. These describe the Cruithne as being tattooed. In the Annals of Tighearnach, a description of a visitor from Alba said that he “was tattooed on the face” - this in itself suggests that the Irish version of the Picts (the Cruithne) did not tattoo their faces or maybe just that one Pictish visitor did.

Woad has an eerie, almost translucent appearance when applied to the skin. The bright blue seen on the completely historically inaccurate (and really bloody irritating) portrayal of the Scots in Braveheart does not come from a naturally occurring vegetative dye, it's nothing but modern make-up perpetuating the usual Hollywood bullshit (and as for the rest of the film – calling it crap would be flattering).

Lets  have a look at the nonsensical statement that the Picts fought naked, I have never found any evidence to support this claim. While it is true that the warriors of a certain Celtic tribe actually did fight in the buff, that tribe was the Gaesatae who lived in the foothills of Transalpine (it was Transalpins - I checked) Gaul. The climate of Scotland is not all that conducive to running around bare-arse naked. There are, naturally, reputable authorities who buy into this theory, but as the reason behind this behaviour is reputedly to show the opposition that after their defeat, the women of the losers would become (very) intimate with the winners (who were advertising their goods). Come on, fighting? In Scotland? In the scud? In our climate? Very much not happening...

I'll grant that fighting in Scotland did happen on the odd occasion, but nakedness was never part of it. Incidentally, the Viking berserkers didn't fight naked either. The term berserk (which can be rendered as either bear-shirt or bare-shirt in English) means they fought without armour. It's possible that the berserks were acquainted with the “magic mushroom”, but this doesn't explain the records of workers in the fields performing exceptional feats. I can however readily accept that they ingested some form of happy-juice before battle.

Anyways, back to the Picts. The Picts were the successor state to the Caledonian tribes who had been so successful at resisting the Roman advances. I said successor state, but both Caledonians and Picts were tribal federations. While not a lot is known about the organisation of the Pictish state, even less is known about that of the Caledonians. This isn't too surprising as both were pre-literate societies. The Picts, however, left a good few hundred symbol stones (which haven't been deciphered).

The Pictish state comprised most of that area of present-day Scotland which lies to the north of the Forth-Clyde axis. The Irish (or Scottish if you prefer) realm of Dalriada - I'm using that spelling to distinguish Dalriada from Dal Riata which was in Ireland. Pictland was divided into seven divisions, each with it's own king.

Kingship in Pictland was distinguished by a practice which appears strange to other forms of monarchy. This was that the king had an acknowledged successor known as a tanist. The office of tanistry was a sort of apprentice king. The tanist was not, however, guaranteed to be the next king. The king was elected by a derbhfinne (a sort of parliament made up of relations). Many people including myself  believe that kingship descended through the female line and that women had  a more active role in Pictish life than in the Roman, and later Saxon south.

The Pictish language, which was in all probability, a Brythonic tongue, has disappeared except for wide-spread place-name evidence and a few personal names (usually attached to saints). The same thing happened to the Celtic languages in England – possibly for the same reason – that reason possibly being that it could not be used to communicate with the new rulers (who thought themselves too civilised to speak the local vernacular?). In Scotland, for some reason, this is usually used as evidence to prove that the Picts were exterminated.

I disagree with the proponents of the “Pictish extermination” theory. Why? Simply because it's untenable. After all, who did the exterminating? The Picts were far more numerous than the Scots, and were a notable warrior society who preferred deception and sneakiness to just standing there and copping it (ask the Northumbrians about Nechtansmere), both far out-numbered the Vikings (who were just beginning to be problematic at the time the Picts vanish from history).
Pòg mo thòn

Last edited by Chookie on Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could be right about the role of women among the Picts Chooks. It might explain one or two things I've come across. First, the fact that the concept of illegitimacy has no legal standing in Scotland (see what happened when Nicky Fairbairn rewrote his will excluding the daughters he had by his mistress, the will was overturned after he died.

Second, the old North Eastern custom of handfasting where a couple would live as man and wife for a year and a day before deciding whether or not to marry. If at the end of that time they decided not to continue they could part with no ill reflection on either and any child born to them was regarded as legitimate for the purposes of inheritance. This practice only died out when the kirk started actively humiliating folk for engaging in what seems to me an emminently sensible idea.

And lastly, the still common practice for a woman in the Highlands to keep her own name after marriage.

Another grand effort Chooks. I always look forward to reading your efforts.
I'm looking for a job with a sky high pay,
A four day week and a two hour day

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Boudleaux C Merkin

Joined: 07 May 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting stuff, Chookie. Weel dun.
It's no good to go back to where you already been. It ain't the same. Other people own it, and it ain't yours no more.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As regards the Picts fighting naked; the Highland charge is often depicted as the Highlanders throwing off their heavy kilts and charging into battle naked, but in reality they fought in the shirts they wore under their kilts. Might it not be the same for the Picts? Maybe they threw off their heavy outer garments (necessary for the climate but a hindrance in battle) and fought in their underwear? The heat of battle would be enough to keep them warm.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
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Fey Hag

Joined: 29 Apr 2009
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Location: Sealainn Nuadh Dawn's Birth Place

PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Braw stuff Chookie; kin we impose on yea fer a wee bit moar?
Jist when yea have tyme yea ken.
An that goes fer awl ra insight fra ra rest uv ewes anawl.  

This Bothy's Clachan a Choin
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