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Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Picts

Should you ever have to organise a cattle raid, and these days who can tell?  Here is a tip – the best time to do it is when the hoped for cows are on the upland summer pasture.  Why so?  Well, they will be in good condition ideal for a speedy get away.  Far from concentrated human habitation they will only be defended by boys though there will be men about somewhere. 

Get up there early around sun up, after the cattle have dropped their dung, and swoop down, scare off the still sleepy boys and round up the cows and head out at speed. For maximum efficiency you need to be well armed and mounted on a swift horse. 

Once on your way you may come across a band of similar fellows who want their cows back.  If you do there will be killing - unless you can outrun them which you can’t if you want to keep your new cows.

Thus the high status afforded to the horse in all Celtic societies. 

The Picts, an indigenous British people, spoke a variant of ‘P’ Celtic saying “Map” for the modern English word “Son” as opposed to the equally (“Q”) Celtic Irish who pronounced it “Maq”.

It was the Romans who popularised the name Pict with its connotation of painted warriors. It may have been their take on the chosen name of a new confederacy of British peoples who lived in the north of what is now Scotland.  The confederacy had arisen in response to Roman activity and would outlast the Romans.

The painted warrior image seems to have been real enough and has British, woad painted, precedents and Irish Diberg correlations - both pagan.  We might consider this further at a later date.  There were also chariots and Druids.

Coming late to Christianity the Picts seem not to have had an indigenous literary tradition, if there were Pictish texts we do not have them. 

The Romans, British, Irish and English all wrote about the Picts.  For Pictish self - perception we have only the powerfully beautiful images, many of them martial, that they left to posterity.