PICTS? Who the hell were they? Good question. Nobody knows. And that is weird. How come we know about every other ancient people? Goths, Vikings, Gaels, Anglo-Saxons, Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, even Incas?

One answer is that the Picts didn’t write things doon. But the same could be said of some of these other fellows, who used hieroglyphs. The Picts left designs. And, frankly, these – crescents, Z-rods, V-rods and “combs” – are rather irritating. Even top experts possess absolutely no scoobies as to what they mean.

It doesn’t mean that these folks were daft. Just that they were pretty rubbish at non-verbal communication. Today, they’d be writing mission statements.

Pict should really come from pictures, since that’s what they used instead of words, but the hitherto unrevised consensus is that it comes from Picti, the Roman word for “painted people”.

In Victorian literature, they were illustrated as tattooed savages, but at least one of these ascriptions is wrong. 

They were handy dudes militarily, which takes organisation. They had forts and strongholds, implying they were decent brickies. And they co-operated together, under strong, authoritarian leadership, suggesting that they were Marxist-Leninists.

As for tattoos, I know not if they had that technology, needles and whatnot, never mind parlours where they could get this work done. Quite possibly, they used transfers. What kind of nutter tattoos their own face? Oh, you do, sir? My apologies. Sure you’re reading the right paper?

The Picts lived in the east of Scotland, north of the Firth of Forth, during what is now called the Early Medieval period in preference to the politically incorrect Dark Ages, which had to be removed as it was a telling, succinct, atmospheric, interesting and accurate description of times when folk were by and large dense and violent. 

Rather like today.

The Herald:

One Eck of an origin tale
The Pictish kingdom merged with the Gaelic realm of Dál Riata, named after a side dish for curry, to form the Kingdom of Alba, led by Alex Salmond. The old Welsh for the Picts was Prydyn, related to Britain, just as Alba was Albion.

At the next independence referendum, therefore, we urge you to vote for Britain to break away from England.

Assuming they spoke to each other at all, the Picts’ language is thought to have been some kind of Celtic related to Brittonic. 

If that’s wrong, don’t write in. Nobody cares.

When the Anglians of Northumbria (then extending to the southern shores of the Firth of Forth) tried invading Fife, they were blootered by Bridei mac Beli.

By the 11th century, the inhabitants of northern Alba had become Gaelicised Scots, and Pictishness faded from the Picture. Later chronicles descried seven defunct Pictish kingdoms, including Cat for Caithness and Orc for Orkney, as described authoritatively in The Lord Of The Rings.

Subsistence-wise, it’s thought these people, like others of the time, were omnivorous i.e. they’d eat anything. Quite possibly, they raided along the coasts, though that particular activity may have been confided to the psychopathic (see also Vikings).

The Herald:

Skin deep loch
WHEN they became more united, it’s thought that their HQ became Inverness, where some people are still tattooed and will eat anything. 

At some point, shortly before they disappeared, they became Christianised, which started off as a good thing, given the immoral anarchy that predominated beforehand, but soon got out of hand, with its inquisitions and witch burnings paving the way for today’s woke.

As for their daft “art”, often appearing on large, flat, stone slabs, the point is that it must have meant something, even if it was just “Golf Sale”. Some heavy silver bling has also been found, sometimes worn as “choker” necklaces instead of a shirt and tie.

In popular – as in pea-brained – culture, Picts often suffered the fate of other indigenous folk: they were cast as dwarves or fairies. 

Folklorist David MacRitchie believed fairies were based on an ancient memory of Picts as diminutive or pygmy-statured peeps peeping out from bushes and whatnot. 
As this is now deemed offensive, the theory has our full support.

MacRitchie partly based his weeness thesis on the work of early German ethnographer Adam of Bremen, another heid-the-baw postulating tiddly stature for the indigenous people of Orkney, based on extensive research in his imagination.

The ancient Welsh described the Picts as “giants”, and the Romans described the Caledonians as being “large-limbed”, though they tended to describe many of their enemies thus, to make victories by their bijou but better organised soldiery appear all the more admirable. 

Ruddy fascists that they were.

Little known history
IN his Conan The Barbarian series, Robert E Howard featured “Picts” as being like native American tribes. In A Pict Song from Puck of Pook Hill, leading English philosopher Rudyard Kipling wrote: “We are the Little Folk—we!/Too little to love or to hate./Leave us alone and you’ll see/How we can drag down the State!” State o’ that.

It’s a statement of fact that only a few known individuals stand out in their history, most notably Robbie the Pict, the doughty campaigner against tolls on the Skye Bridge.

The Herald: Robbie the Pict. Magnificent hair model's own.

Meanwhile, Pictish doodahs keep popping up out of the soil. Last month, work began on fully excavating a stone discovered in a cemetery near Doune, on the southern fringe of the Pictish kingdom, in 2019. 

It has been dated to the 7th century and appears to feature Ogham script, a form of Irish writing rarely found in Scotland. Here’s hoping it doesn’t say: “This way up.”

Further up the road, the Northern Picts Project at Aberdeen Yoonie carried out excavations at Mither Tap, a summit on Bennachie, near Inverurie, confirming Pictish occupation there in the 7th and 8th centuries.

A book, Picts: Scourge Of Rome, Rulers Of The North, by Yoonie historians Gordon Noble and Nicholas Evans, clears up many myths about the Picts, without stooping to the depths of dubious historical revisionists today, who present the Vikings as pioneers in social work.

All that said and written, the Picts remain an enigma wrapped in a V-rod inside a comb. 

And maybe that’s as it should be. Barring a few Irish monks, all peoples in the Dark Ages were awful. And there’s no reason to suggest that the Picts would have been any different.