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Picts and Pictish influence

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  • John
    Does anybody know how much of the culture of the highland Scots were influenced by the Picts? I have never heard anybody mention Picts and I know they had to
    Message 1 of 9 , Oct 9, 2002
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      Does anybody know how much of the culture of the highland Scots were
      influenced by the Picts? I have never heard anybody mention Picts and
      I know they had to have had some influence on highland culture other
      than the art.
      I know that most highland tribes were not ethnic Irish but were
      ethnic Picts and that when Kenneth MacAlpin became king he need
      translators to talk to his subjects, because they did not speak a
      Gaelic or Celtic language, which simply means they were not a Celtic
      people, and were not part of the early Celtic migrations.
      This is a subject that seems to make everyone uneasy, because it goes
      against what is the popular opinion, but I feel that the Pictish
      influence had more to do with the highland culture than what most
      people believe. Any help spreading light on this subject would be of
      great help.
      If you have opinions that differ from mine please be civil and act
      like adults, we are all here to learn and if you refuse to listen to
      views other than your own then you are refusing to learn.

      Iain
    • Muirghein
      ... We have a gentle here in Caid who has been studying the Picts, and has taught Collegium classes on them. I m bcc-ing him on this, but would be surprised if
      Message 2 of 9 , Oct 9, 2002
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        At 01:24 PM 10/9/02, Iain wrote:
        >Does anybody know how much of the culture of the highland Scots were
        >influenced by the Picts? I have never heard anybody mention Picts and
        >I know they had to have had some influence on highland culture other
        >than the art.
        >I know that most highland tribes were not ethnic Irish but were
        >ethnic Picts and that when Kenneth MacAlpin became king he need
        >translators to talk to his subjects, because they did not speak a
        >Gaelic or Celtic language, which simply means they were not a Celtic
        >people, and were not part of the early Celtic migrations.
        >This is a subject that seems to make everyone uneasy, because it goes
        >against what is the popular opinion, but I feel that the Pictish
        >influence had more to do with the highland culture than what most
        >people believe. Any help spreading light on this subject would be of
        >great help.
        >If you have opinions that differ from mine please be civil and act
        >like adults, we are all here to learn and if you refuse to listen to
        >views other than your own then you are refusing to learn.

        We have a gentle here in Caid who has been studying the Picts, and has
        taught Collegium classes on them. I'm bcc-ing him on this, but would be
        surprised if he responds before early next week. Caid's Great Western War
        opens tomorrow, and I think he's onsite helping :-).

        Meanwhile, they may be something of use on his web site,
        http://www.pictavia.org/

        In Service,
        Baintighearna Muirghein Dhaire Faoilciarach /|\
        Dreiburgen Web Minister http://www.dreiburgen.org
        (any posts to e-mail lists do not reflect official
        opinions unless specifically stated otherwise)
      • little wing
        When you say how much are you asking for a percentage? I know the Picts are an enigma, though most serious scholars agree they are a huge influence. The
        Message 3 of 9 , Oct 9, 2002
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          When you say "how much" are you asking for a percentage? I know the Picts are an enigma, though most serious scholars agree they are a huge influence. The problem is where they actually came from and what their culture was like as a seperate cultural entity apart from the Gaelic culture that came from the Scots clan (originally from Ireland). There are place names that are Pictish in origin, and of course the pictish symbols on the stones, but as far as how much culture filtered down through the ages in terms of folk stories, beliefs, etc., it is difficult to decifer.
          John wrote:Does anybody know how much of the culture of the highland Scots were
          influenced by the Picts? I have never heard anybody mention Picts and
          I know they had to have had some influence on highland culture other
          than the art.
          I know that most highland tribes were not ethnic Irish but were
          ethnic Picts and that when Kenneth MacAlpin became king he need
          translators to talk to his subjects, because they did not speak a
          Gaelic or Celtic language, which simply means they were not a Celtic
          people, and were not part of the early Celtic migrations.
          This is a subject that seems to make everyone uneasy, because it goes
          against what is the popular opinion, but I feel that the Pictish
          influence had more to do with the highland culture than what most
          people believe. Any help spreading light on this subject would be of
          great help.
          If you have opinions that differ from mine please be civil and act
          like adults, we are all here to learn and if you refuse to listen to
          views other than your own then you are refusing to learn.

          Iain


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        • Sharon L. Krossa
          ... No, not really. This is for several reasons, including that we don t know much about the culture of the Picts in the first place, so it s hard to say what
          Message 4 of 9 , Oct 9, 2002
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            At 8:24 PM +0000 10/9/02, John wrote:
            >Does anybody know how much of the culture of the highland Scots were
            >influenced by the Picts?

            No, not really. This is for several reasons, including that we don't
            know much about the culture of the Picts in the first place, so it's
            hard to say what if anything is due to their influence. Also, by the
            time we have more information about Scottish Gaelic culture itself,
            we also have many more cultural influences on that culture (Norse,
            Anglo-Norman, etc.).

            Not to mention that by the time Scotland was culturally divided into
            Highlands and Lowlands (late 14th century), it was at least a few
            hundred years after the Pictish language disappeared, etc., and there
            had been quite a number of other strong influences on Scottish Gaelic
            culture in the mean time.

            >I have never heard anybody mention Picts and
            >I know they had to have had some influence on highland culture other
            >than the art.

            Well, I don't know that they "had to have had" much influence. When
            two cultures meet (or even clash), it is not always the case that one
            culture must have been significantly influenced by the other. And, of
            course, several hundred years later whatever influence their may have
            been could quite easily have disappeared in turn.

            >I know that most highland tribes were not ethnic Irish but were
            >ethnic Picts

            Even accepting this is true (and I'm not even going to get into it
            either way) ancestry does not determine culture.

            >and that when Kenneth MacAlpin became king he need
            >translators to talk to his subjects,

            What is the basis for this? (I am honestly asking -- I don't know
            whether he did or not, but if he did I'd like to know what the source
            of the information is.)

            >because they did not speak a
            >Gaelic or Celtic language, which simply means they were not a Celtic
            >people, and were not part of the early Celtic migrations.

            You sound much more confident about who the Picts were and what
            language they spoke than are the Pictish experts ;-)

            There are some misconceptions above.

            First, whether or not Kenneth MacAlpin required a translator to talk
            to Picts tells us nothing whatsoever about whether the Picts spoke a
            Celtic language or not. Kenneth likely would have required a
            translator to speak to the Welsh (who spoke a Celtic language) and to
            the Norse (who spoke a non-Celtic language). "Celtic" is not a
            synonym for Gaelic. Rather, Celtic refers to a language family, like
            Germanic (which language family includes German, English, Norse,
            etc.) or Romance (which language family includes Italian, Spanish,
            French, etc.). Gaelic, Cumbric, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton are all
            Celtic languages, and they were not mutually intelligible. (Gaelic is
            from the Goidelic branch of the Insular Celtic branch of the Celtic
            language family, while Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, and Breton are from
            the Brythonic branch of the Insular Celtic branch of the Celtic
            language family.)

            Second, language is independent from ancestry. (USAmericans and most
            Canadians should be more aware of this than most -- we speak English
            but most of our ancestors did not.) Whether or not the Picts spoke a
            Celtic language at the time of Kenneth MacAlpin does not in and of
            itself tell us anything about whether they were part of any earlier
            Celtic migrations. Consider, you yourself indicate that you believe
            that the Scottish Highlanders were ancestrally descended from Picts
            -- yet they spoke Gaelic.

            Finally, last I heard, modern scholars believe that Pictish was
            probably a Brythonic language, and at any rate some kind of Celtic
            language. But they aren't sure whether the Picts spoke something else
            earlier than Pictish, and if so, what it was. There isn't a lot of
            information to go on for the Picts or Pictish, so there are many
            questions about them that currently just can't be answered or can
            only be answered tentatively. As a result, the learned opinion of the
            Pictish scholars tends to be a moving target -- I don't even know
            what the current theory is regarding with what wave of migration the
            Picts arrived in Scotland.

            For people who are interested in the Picts, I recommend keeping up
            with the latest scholarship by historians, linguists, and
            archealogists who study the Picts, and noting even more carefully
            than usual the date and basis of any opinion expressed by said
            scholars. Even more than usual, older publications will not be as
            reliable. (And, likewise, more than usual you will want academic
            books rather than popular ones -- popular history books tend to be
            out of date in their information even as they are being written.)

            >This is a subject that seems to make everyone uneasy, because it goes
            >against what is the popular opinion,

            I don't think it has anything much to do with going against popular
            opinion (even assuming for the sake of argument that it does go
            against popular opinion), it has to do with not having much evidence
            to go on. One should be uneasy drawing conclusions from such limited
            evidence.

            >but I feel that the Pictish
            >influence had more to do with the highland culture than what most
            >people believe.

            Based on what?

            (Note that I'm not saying there definitely wasn't much Pictish
            influence -- I'm saying that we need to work from actual evidence
            before deciding that some aspect of Highland culture is due to
            Pictish influence, let alone deciding relatively how much or how
            little of Highland culture in any time was/is due to Pictish
            influence.)

            >Any help spreading light on this subject would be of
            >great help.
            >If you have opinions that differ from mine please be civil and act
            >like adults, we are all here to learn and if you refuse to listen to
            >views other than your own then you are refusing to learn.

            You know, if you want to encourage civil discussion, it isn't a good
            idea to start out insulting people with the assumption that the
            discussion will not be civil or adult without prompting to behave
            from you, nor with the assumption that people who disagree with you
            are refusing to listen rather than disagreeing for cause.

            Sharon, ska Africa
            --
            Sharon L. Krossa, krossa@...
          • Matthew A. C. Newsome
            ... While I can t really comment on what influence the Picts may have had on later Scottish Gaelic culture, simply because I don t think enough is known (at
            Message 5 of 9 , Oct 10, 2002
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              John wrote:

              > they did not speak a Gaelic or Celtic language, which simply means
              > they were not a Celtic people, and were not part of the early Celtic
              > migrations.

              While I can't really comment on what influence the Picts may have had on
              later Scottish Gaelic culture, simply because I don't think enough is
              known (at least known by me!), I do want to make a minor correction to
              the above.

              From what the best scholars in the field are willing to propose, the
              Pictish language (about which very little is actually known) was related
              to Welsh and therefore would be a Celtic language. All I have read has
              shown the Picts most definitely to be a Celtic culture, albiet just not
              a Gaelic one. But in the grand scheme of things, the Gaelic culture is
              but a small slice of what we would consider "Celtic," although the most
              popular and well known today, due to the popularity of the Scots and
              Irish.

              Aye,
              Eogan
            • Muirghein
              ... I have to wonder, are you saying Celtic when you mean Gaelic ? Because Welsh is also a Celtic language, but I don t think speakers of Gaelic and
              Message 6 of 9 , Oct 11, 2002
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                At 10:25 AM 10/11/02, you wrote:
                > >and that when Kenneth MacAlpin became king he need
                > >translators to talk to his subjects,
                >
                >What is the basis for this? (I am honestly asking -- I don't know
                >whether he did or not, but if he did I'd like to know what the source
                >of the information.
                >----------------------------------------------------------------------
                >--------------------------------------
                >I made a mistake; it was Saint Columba, 1.) We do know that the Picts
                >spoke a non-Celtic language, as St. Columba's biographer, St.Adamnan
                >clearly stated that the Irish saint needed a translator to preach to
                >the Pictish King Brude. If Pictish was a Celtic language then it
                >would be similar to Celtic Irish, why did he need a translator?
                <snip>

                I have to wonder, are you saying "Celtic" when you mean "Gaelic"? Because
                Welsh is also a Celtic language, but I don't think speakers of Gaelic and
                Welsh can understand each other, even in the 6th c.

                Just wondering,
                Baintighearna Muirghein Dhaire Faoilciarach /|\
                Dreiburgen Web Minister http://www.dreiburgen.org
                (any posts to e-mail lists do not reflect official
                opinions unless specifically stated otherwise)
              • John
                ... Because ... Gaelic and ... A current theory is Gaelic survives from an earlier form of the Q- Celtic language spoken during the Hallstatt period in Celtic
                Message 7 of 9 , Oct 11, 2002
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                  >
                  > I have to wonder, are you saying "Celtic" when you mean "Gaelic"?
                  Because
                  > Welsh is also a Celtic language, but I don't think speakers of
                  Gaelic and
                  > Welsh can understand each other, even in the 6th c.
                  >
                  > Just wondering,
                  > Baintighearna Muirghein Dhaire Faoilciarach /|\
                  > Dreiburgen Web Minister http://www.dreiburgen.org
                  > (any posts to e-mail lists do not reflect official
                  > opinions unless specifically stated otherwise)

                  A current theory is Gaelic survives from an earlier form of the Q-
                  Celtic language spoken during the Hallstatt period in Celtic culture
                  while, P-Celtic languages were of a form more in line with later
                  developments in the Culture of the Celts in the later La Tene period.
                  P-Celtic group later evolved into the Brythonic language group and
                  became the modern languages of Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx, while
                  the Q-Celtic group evolved into the Goidelic language group, which
                  evolved into the modern language of Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. I
                  don't think that the modern language you call Welsh existed in the
                  6th century. I do know that people that speak modern Gaelic can
                  communicate with people that speak modern Welsh, and probably could
                  in the 6th century
                • Matthew A. C. Newsome
                  ... Really? I had it in my head somehow that Manx was part of the Q-Celtic group, along with Gaelic. Perhaps I was mistaken. ... Really? I don t speak
                  Message 8 of 9 , Oct 11, 2002
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                    John wrote:

                    > P-Celtic group later evolved into the Brythonic language group and
                    > became the modern languages of Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx

                    Really? I had it in my head somehow that Manx was part of the Q-Celtic
                    group, along with Gaelic. Perhaps I was mistaken.


                    > I do know that people that speak modern Gaelic can
                    > communicate with people that speak modern Welsh, and probably could in
                    > the 6th century

                    Really? I don't speak either language, but I know a few native Gaelic
                    speakers, and no one has ever suggested to me that Gaelic and Welsh are
                    interintelligble. (People from Liverpool have a hard enough time
                    understanding people from Newcastle, and they are both speaking
                    English! I find it hard to beleive that Welsh and Irish speakers,
                    speaking two completely different languages, could understand each
                    other).
                    Aye,
                    Eogan
                  • Matthew A. C. Newsome
                    ... Not all Celtic languages are similar enough to be understood by speakers of other Celtic languages. The Gaelic language is very different from the
                    Message 9 of 9 , Oct 11, 2002
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                      John wrote:

                      > I made a mistake; it was Saint Columba, 1.) We do know that the Picts
                      > spoke a non-Celtic language, as St. Columba's biographer, St.Adamnan
                      > clearly stated that the Irish saint needed a translator to preach to
                      > the Pictish King Brude. If Pictish was a Celtic language then it would
                      > be similar to Celtic Irish, why did he need a translator?

                      Not all Celtic languages are similar enough to be understood by speakers
                      of other Celtic languages. The Gaelic language is very different from
                      the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages that most people say
                      Pictish was related to. A Gaelic speaker would need a translator to
                      understand someone speaking Welsh, but they are both Celtic languages.

                      All the above evidence tells us is that the Pictish people did not speak
                      Gaelic. But we knew that already. It doesn't tell us anything at all
                      about what they did speak.

                      Think of it this way -- I, as an English speaking American would need a
                      translator to understand someone speaking German. Yet, it would be
                      wrong to say that English is not a Germanic languages based on this
                      evidence. Linguists know that it is. All this means is that English is
                      not German.


                      > Why is it so hard to say, "Just maybe the Picts were a aboriginal
                      > people that were there when the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures came to
                      > the British Isles."

                      Just maybe they were. That's not hard. But Maybe they weren't,
                      either. We'd need to see evidence.


                      > From what I understand to state "Pictish was probably a Brythonic
                      > language " is what can only be called a guess,
                      > without evidence, but there has been evidence to show the contrary.

                      Every reference I have read to Pictish language has stated two facts: 1)
                      we don't really know enough about it to make any certain statements, 2)
                      but from what we do know it is more than likely a Brythonic Celtic
                      language.

                      I haven't read any evidence that has said is probably was not a Celtic
                      language. Share your sources with us. No one here is claiming to be a
                      Pictish expert -- just that what you are saying is contrary to what most
                      of us have been reading. Naturally, we want to know where it's coming
                      from. So just share your research, let us know what your sources are,
                      and we can talk about it.

                      > I have found in the SCA we have what can only be called a party line,
                      > it is what I call "History as according to the SCA", which means that
                      > someone wrote a paper describing in his or her opinions of history and
                      > it has been accepted as doctrine and is not to be questioned.

                      Whoa hoss! Don't know where you are getting that from. When I first
                      got into the SCA I got some very *bad* lessons in Scottish history, and
                      cosequently did an exhausitve amount of outside research that had
                      nothing to do whatsoever with the SCA. Apart from that, I make my
                      living in the Real World (tm) as a Scottish historian (albiet a low-paid
                      one), and haven't used a single SCA source in my line or work. And,
                      speaking as a mundane Scottish historian, there really isn't anything on
                      this list that any secular Scottish historian would object to.

                      I really don't see where you get this "blame the SCA" attitude.
                      Although I have encountered various people before who fall back on this
                      line when people disagree with them. Including one fellow who stated on
                      his household's web page that the belted plaid was being worn in the
                      13th century by Robert the Bruce's men. I emailed him, just asking for
                      his source, and he told me that he didn't know the book it came from but
                      the "curator of the Scottish Tartans Museum" told him that. I responded
                      that I was the curator of said museum and no source I knew of could
                      place that garment any earlier than the very late sixteenth century, so
                      I was pretty sure his facts were incorrect. He proceeded to send me a
                      very nasty email telling me that I represented all that was wrong in the
                      SCA, basically saying the same thing you have.

                      I was closed minded about "historic dogma" and could not open my eyes to
                      other interpretations of history. In reality, it was he who was not
                      willing to look at the evidence that we have and available and come to
                      an objective decision.

                      When people ask you for your evidence for something on a list like this,
                      it's not to be rude or challenge you -- it's so that they can examine
                      the evidence objectively and come to a rational decision.


                      > Well I have small amounts of evidence that most people refuse to even
                      > look at because it goes against the "History as according to the SCA".

                      Then by all means share with us!


                      > Well I can only say that many people state that "Highland Scots shared
                      > the same culture as the Irish" is a prime example of speculation.

                      Thei culture was very similar, though not identical. However, I have no
                      doubt that the context that people say this in is from a far later time
                      period than the Pictish culture that you are talking about.


                      > St. Adamnan clearly stated that the Irish saint needed a translator to
                      > preach to the Pictish King Brude, whish shows that they spoke a
                      > different language and were pagan, which clearly shows a different
                      > culture.

                      Again, I think it would be clear from the context that anyone who speaks
                      of the similarities between the Irish and the Scottish Highland culture
                      would be speaking of a time after Gaelic was the predominany language in
                      the Highlands and most of what we cann Scotland was united under one
                      Gaelic monarch.


                      > "They (the Scottish) were recognized among the Irish Soldiers by the
                      > distinction of their arms and clothing, their habits and
                      > language."(McClintock, Old Highland Dress)
                      > This is a description in 1594 by members of the Irish culture
                      > describing what can only be a different culture.

                      Again, we are talking about different time periods here. This reference
                      is a cool thousand years after St. Columba, whom you were just referring
                      to. McClintock here is quoting from the Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell,
                      talking about Hebridean mercenaries in Ireland, and how their clothing
                      differed from the Irish. This is the first mention in historic record
                      of the belted plaid.

                      But have you taken a look at *everything else* that McClintock has shown
                      us about Highland Scottish dress prior to this date. From what little
                      evidence we have their clothing seems to be near identical to the
                      contemporary Irish dress of the time. It is not utill the late
                      sixteenth century, with the advent of the belted plaid, that we begin to
                      see a marked difference.

                      So I can't see how this has any bearing on Pictish influnce on Highland
                      culture, as any remnants of a Pictish culture was near a thousand years
                      gone.

                      Aye,
                      Eogan
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