Many of the Pictish Symbol Stones have more than the well-known “symbols” on their surfaces – variously Christian Crosses, biblical stories, Celtic animal, bird and fish objects, battle scenes, Ogham writing and more. So what is actually defined as Pictish and as Symbols?
“Pict” is a label given apparently by Roman invaders in the 3rd century CE to the people who lived, broadly, in “Pictland” – mainly the area we now know as North East Scotland.
The word “Pictish” suggests some sort of ownership or association such as Pictish person, Pictish place, Pictish time period or era, Pictish country, Pictish Symbol Stones ………etc.
Typically described as “enigmatic” the most numerous (mainly geometric) Symbols are the V-Rod & Crescent, Mirror, Z-Rod & Double Disc, Pictish Beast and Comb. Together these account for two thirds of the Symbols.
By putting the words “Pictish” and “Symbols” together perhaps they can be interpreted as the set of coded carvings on Stones, mainly in Pictland, created around the Pictish era.
In the time of the Roman Empire’s presence in Britannia a form of Mithraism was practiced (particularly in the military). When investigating Mithraism in depth it became clear that Pictish Symbols might represent aspects of this type of religious belief – such as the V in the V-Rod & Crescent being two separate but connected directional arrows so tying in with the travel of the soul on birth and death.
This author considered that the mainly geometric objects carved on initial examples of Pictish Symbol Stones represented a version of a Mithraic religious belief developed after the Roman withdrawal from Caledonia in the early 200s CE. The result was a breakthrough in decoding the Symbols and the discovery of a previously unknown religious belief which the author has called Pictish-Mithraism. A summary of the discovery of Pictish-Mithraism is at the page Mithraism and Pictish Symbols.
An explanation of the approach that led to the Symbols being decoded, and their interpretation is detailed at Carvings on the Stones – Research Approach
Click Pictish Symbols Decoded – Highlights for a summary of the main discovery and Mithraic Symbols – Identified and Decoded for the detail which includes decodes for all the Mithraic symbols complete with historic background and Mithraic belief context, analyses and interpretations.