The PIcts

The Picts of the Scottish Highlands are the most mysterious of all the people of Scotland. Some believe the Picts are descended from the ancient people who came to Britain and Scotland and built the stone faery folk. Here is one account of the arrival of the Picts in the Book of Invasions:

200 years after arrival of the Danaans in Ireland, people sailing from Thrace through the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic, landed in Wexford Bay where they came into conflict with Danaans, but were persuaded to pass out into Northern Britain, then called Albany. They were known as Picts, or Painted Ones.

They are described as tattooed men with odd social habits like exogamy, totemism, public coition, cannibalism, tattooing and having women warriors.

There is another account told by the Venerable Bede in Ecclesiastical History that the Picts came from Scythia to North Ireland where a king advised them to go east to Britain and then north, which advice they took. Since they had no women with them, the Irish king agreed to give them wives provided they henceforth chose their rulers by the female rather than the male ancestry of their kings. ‘And all know,’ wrote Bede, ‘that this custom is still maintained among the Picts.’

Another account tells about a king called Cruithne whose seven sons each ruled a portion of Alba (Scotland).

The Picts (from the Latin Picti, the painted ones) were first mentioned in a Roman source in AD 297.

The main reason so little is known about these people is that their culture was pretty much wiped out. Their surviving metalwork shows them to be artistically sophisticated and their amazing stone sculptures reveal they were an accomplished people.

Pictish kings were known to have druids as advisors.

The Picts spoke two languages—a dialect of British Celtic (similar to Welsh and Cornish languages, which may indicate they were related) and a second, non-Indo-European language of unknown origin. By the sixth century they had formed a powerful kingdom, but they eventually succumbed to the Scots. The Viking invasions of the late 8th century may have been what weakened them and left them vulnerable to the Scots.

The Picts probably called themselves Priteni.

In a lot of ways they were similar to the Celts, and the two nations joined as one to fight against the Roman legions.

Stay Updated

Get the latest news. Sign up for my newsletter. :)