Pictish Symbol Stones – Case Studies

Symbol designs and their interpretation are considered in Mithraism and Pictish Symbols with more detail of the designs in Drawn Designs.

These 10 Case Studies (compiled for the initial Pictish-Mithraism website and book) are a feature rich selection of Stones balanced from North and South of The Mounth representing Class 1 (Mithraic) and Class 2 (Mithraic to Christian transition) Stones from single and multiple location sites.

To give a broad representation, selection criteria included research on the original location of each Stone – by the sea, by a river or confluence of rivers; whether discovered under / in / at a church or churchyard; if part of a stone circle, broch or tumulus; erected in a raised or open area maybe with a distant view. Several original locations later became church sites and have an association with a Saint as a founder or dedicated to him or her. The Stones themselves have a range of Symbols from the relatively commonplace to “one-offs”, maybe a biblical story, the complexity of fantastic creatures and monsters, more recognisable animals and people – often on horseback.

As well as highlighting several features at a number of sites, the purpose of this broad set of Case Studies is to further demonstrate that:

  1. The Stones were used for “belief” purposes. Latterly Christian religious belief and formerly for Celtic beliefs or personal attributes then a form of Mithraism.
  2. The initial religious belief comes from Roman Mithraism, the Symbols are representative of that Mystery Cult and can be traced to an interpretation of what is seen in Roman Mithraea.
  3. There was tolerance for specific religious beliefs, adaptation and adoption of pre-existing beliefs and transition to newer beliefs e.g. to Christianity.
  4. Original locations can have particular significance e.g. distant views, closeness to rivers etc.
  5. Some of the locations seem to have had the equivalent of the Christian “cathedral” functionality.

Click here for Case Studies