The “Pictish” Open-Air Mithraeum – Concept to Reality

Having overcome any practical barriers to construction and location a design is needed to emulate the components that usually would be seen in an Indoor Mithraeum – some sort of template. Inspiration to cause this reality would need to come from someone. We need to decide who that someone is. But first with the earlier connection made between Pictish Symbols and Mithras we need to see if there is evidence of Open-Air Mithraea.

Hadrian crossed from Germania to Britannia building and using his wall between 122 and 138. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume Mithraea in that vicinity did not exist before 121. Generally “late 2nd early 3rd century” is quoted as the time of construction and this would tie in with the later re-use of Hadrian’s Wall in, for example, the reign of Septimius Severus. With the popularity of Roman Mithraism increasing towards the latter part of the 2nd century perhaps Mithraea were not built on Hadrian’s Wall when it first was constructed. In fact, Carrawburgh Mithraeum is considered to be early 3rd century.

Here is a view of the Mithraeum under the Basilica San Clemente, Rome – the ground plan of Carrawburgh is similar:-

With the Open-Air Mithraeum being a derivation from the Indoor one, it would be reasonable to expect to find representations of the Mystery aspects of Roman Mithraism and probably the structure of the Mithraeum itself. The elements are the Stone – with some form of encoding – and the Skywards view – towards the Planets, stars and Celestial Sphere that otherwise would have been in or on the Indoors structure. Mithraea contained statues – the Tauroctony, Mithras, Cautes and Cautopates – these would also need to be represented. All of these components could be taken together to form a template to give some form of standardisation of content for the Open-Air Mithraeum and an expectation of repetition.

The Stone then becomes the terrestrial part of the Open-Air Mithraeum.

The inspiration to create these small structures with a big view would have been the desire to continue to practice the Mysteries of Mithras but in a different environmental sense. The first is simply outside rather than inside the second is in a location other than where the Indoor version is located.

As this website is concerned with Stones that are predominantly in Pictland and that their Symbols are Mithraic the author has coined the term “Pictish-Mithraism” for this derived version of Roman Mithraism. However, “Pictish” is in the context of being in Pictland rather than being associated directly with the Picts.

Here are two examples of the terrestrial parts of “Open-Air” Mithraea:-

These photographs are not to the same scale.

Broomend of Crichie, Inverurie  

Attribution – Debra Burris                              


Aberlemno 2, Angus

                                         Attribution – Catfish Jim en.wikipedia

Here is a selection of daytime skyward views:-

On a clear, frosty night the skywards view would have contained Planets and stars. To those “in the know” it would have been possible to identify specific Planets, Constellations and the Milky Way.