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Few problems in British history have proved as intractable as that of the origin and ethnic associations of the Picts. For although we may find numerous references to them within Roman and Celtic sources they have left us no historical texts of their own. So often we find the early Picts mentioned within histories of Roman Britain as mere opponents of Roman arms -- but who these tattooed barbarians were remains a mystery. Modern opinion holds that the Picts were Celts, like the Scots and Welsh. This book seeks to demonstrate the scarcity of evidence for this common assumption and follows instead the evidence of native tradition. In a stimulating new study the author offers a view of the Picts that is certainly not the current text book standard. It concentrates on the very oldest traditions of Pictish origins, which together with early historical sources, would suggest that the Picts were not Celts at all, but ‘Scythians’. It will put an alternative case that the Picts were Finno-Ugrian immigrants from the Baltic coast. The author provides an investigation which subjects the traditions of Pictish origin to thorough scrutiny and by offering a viewpoint that does not commence from a Celtic bias, thereby offers some new ideas on a much neglected subject. Originally published in 1998 and for some years out of physical print, this new edition will make this unique research available once again to researchers who are looking both for a source book of the earliest literary references to the people of Scotland and wish to take the research further. Equally interesting to Scots who just want to understand their own past.
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'The Pagan Religion of the Picts'
Such positive details that we have of the Pictish religion come to us from the biased viewpoint of the early Christian saints and their later biographers; who were of course, most scathing of the old religion. The conversion of the northern Picts to Christianity is attributed to Saint Columba and later Saint Kentigern. Bede records that the southern Picts, or Miathi, had been converted rather earlier by the British monk Ninian, probably during the early fifth century.
The Scotichronicon records that the Picts, when first they came to this island, sacrificed to demons before they would engage in any action. The Pictish worship of demons, or disembodied spirits, is apparent in Adamnan's version of Columba’s exorcism of a malevolent demon from a well or fountain, which the local Picts worshipped as a god. The cult of wells was well established elsewhere in Britain. Solinus records the dedication of hot springs to the goddess Minerva; although he does not positively associate this cult with those barbarians who tattooed themselves with animals, whom he describes a little further on in his narrative. A symbol stone with the crescent and V-rod symbols was found at a well near Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, which may indicate some pagan cult significance.
The Irish traditions of the origin of the Cruithni reveal a Druid named Drostan, who ordered them to bathe in cows milk as a form of magical protection. Saint Columba also encountered ‘Druids’ in the territory of the northern Picts, who appeared to believe that their magical powers exceeded his own. His biographer Adamnan clearly did not differentiate them from Irish Druids, as he understood them.
St Ninian’s biographer, Ailred, records that the Picts worshipped "deaf and dumb idols". Ninian operated from Whithorn, in Galloway, when it was still part of the independent north British kingdom. His see extended from Cumbria up to the Antonine wall, which was still the boundary of the Picts in his day. He evidently made an attempt to convert the southern Picts; Bede certainly accepted this, and an eighth century poem describes Ninian as visiting Picts who were called Naturae. Bede, in his Life of Saint Cuthbert, speaks of that saint’s visit to "the land of the Picts who are called Niduari". The date of Cuthbert’s visit falls in the period before the battle of Nechtansmere (Dunnichen) in 685 after which the Northumbrian Angles lost control of the southern Pictish province and the Bishop of the Picts fled from Abercorn (Peanfahel). The erection of the symbol stones dates from this period of renewed independence and may indicate a reassertion of northern Pictish culture!
at this era.
The assumption, certainly as far back as Bede and his anonymous source, has always been that these Niduari were a tribe or province of the southern Picts. Taken together with Bede's assertion that Ninian converted only the southern Picts, this assumption would place them somewhere between the central lowlands and the Mounth, but no tribe of this name is attested from any other source. Skene, in his Celtic Scotland believed the Niuduera region to be the Picts of Galloway.
However, following the hypothesis that the Picts were Finnic, we may immediately see what is intended here. The Niduari, or Niuduera, were not a tribe of the Picts -- but their Druids, who at that era may have been converted or lapsed Christians; and what is more likely than that a priest should visit the priests of the Picts? The word is clearly related to Finnish noita (Lappish: noaida, Estonian: noid) which means ‘magician’ or ‘witch’; or more likely from noitua (Estonian: noiduma) meaning ‘to use magic’ or ‘to bewitch’. It seems that we have here preserved the Pictish word for a druid or a shaman, which may also have been retained as their name for a Christian priest.
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Book Description Third Millennium Pub, 1998. Condition: Good. Ships from the UK. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Seller Inventory # GRP111179597
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