The Picts were a tribal people who lived in Northern Britain and Scotland until about a thousand years ago. Their language has been lost, except for fragments, although they left behind a wealth of “picture stones,” large monoliths carved with mysterious symbols whose meanings are mostly unknown.
There are about fifty major Pictish picture-symbols. Some are easily identified as animals or mythical creatures; others are completely mysterious, such as the “crescent and V-rod” and the “double disk” emblems. They may have originated as tattoos or amulets. After the fifth century, most Picts converted to Christianity, and most of their carvings reflect this change; many of the so-called “Celtic crosses” dotting England and Scotland are in fact Pictish stones. Below, you can view some of the more common Pictish signs.
Pictish animal signs may have been related to Gods and Goddesses, and included typical Celtic themes of boars, salmon, wolves, and birds:
For insight into the meanings of the animals, see: Celtic animal symbols
Some of the most famous Pictish carvings are of monsters, mermaids, and other sea creatures:
Most unusual, and most identifiably Pictish are the enigmatic symbols known as the “V-rod,” “Z-rod,” and “double disks,” all named for their unusual shapes. The V-rod appears to be a bent arrow superimposed on a crescent; it is assumed to be a symbol of death:
The so-called z-rod is found in combination with a serpent, a tomb/doorway, or a double-sun (double disk), all possibly symbols of the solar cycle and the afterlife:
Another object commonly inscribed on Pictish stones is the mirror, often paired with a comb. The comb and mirror are symbols of female wealth and prestige, and usually denote a woman’s memorial, although they are also heavily associated with mermaids:
To view some examples pf Pictish symbols, see the Pictish Stones Gallery.
|Stone with carvings of V-rod and fantasy creature||Fred Sandys, image of Morgan le Fey with Pict emblems, perhaps to underscore her relation to the goddess Morrigan.|