Undeciphered icons in Scotland express culture, not a zodiac. A recurrent but variant set of about 28 Pictish beasts and 16 signs, are carved on about 400 stones in north-eastern Scotland. The characters have been interpreted as totems, names, pictograms, letters, myths, days, hours, months or constellations. Structural analysis of the designs on 20 Pictish stones, reveal them as subconscious expressions of the sixteen archetypes.
The Pictish stones support other cultural media, but are artworks in their own right. Internal comparisons between 20 Pictish stones, and with artworks worldwide, reveal certain recurrent optional variants at standard frequencies; in the standard sequence; with the eyes of the characters on the standard axial grid; and certain polar positions marked by limb joints, often oriented to the horizontal or vertical plain. Thus the orientation of every artwork confirms the Age when the culture was formed. This layered structure, and the conscious variety that camouflages it, indicate that Pictish artists, as in all cultures, were unaware of the universal visual ‘grammar’.
Structural art analysis offers conscious access to the subconscious mechanisms of culture. The analyses incidentally reveal that Pictish beasts and symbols are not zodiacs; and that zodiacs are expressions of archetypal structure, hidden under apparent illustrations of other media such as myth, calendar, ritual and artefacts. Cultural media are now revealed as largely involuntary, but allowing variations, which we perceive as ‘local culture’. Art is probably the most archetypal, and least conventional cultural medium. Yet art allows a thick layer of styling, which cultures use to stake claims to identity and peer pressure. In the power tussle on the fringes of Roman occupation, and after the Roman withdrawal, identity was as keenly contested as economic resources.
Structural analysis of the Elgin cathedral ruin stone, reveals the universal core content of perception, and subconscious expression. The variants on this stone are: 2 Raven (a bird in 10% of art). 3 Dog. 4 Stag (Pegasus). 5 Horse (Pegasus legs). 6 Rider, Dog. 7 Horse. 8/9 Rider, Horse. 10 Rider. 11 Womb of raven (Corvus), and of horse (womb in 90% of Pictish art, and 87% worldwide). 13 Heart (65% of Pictish art, and 85% worldwide). 14 ‘Odin’ (summer). 15 Horse. The axial centre is on a blank area as usual. Polar points, including Gs, C and Cs, are on limb joints as usual. Vertical orientation confirms the solstices on the Cancer-Capricornus axis, placing spring in Age Aries, before about BC 80.
A German zodiac rhyme reveals cultural sets
A German rhyme lists months by hour stars: ‘Pig, giant, cow in winter; Hare, wolf, humans in spring; Rooster, stallion, corn-woman in summer; Swallow, stag, archer in autumn.’ Some seem familiar, but the obscure ones reveal more. Solar zodiacs have only twelve characters, but moon hour ‘stations’, or decans, are 18, 24, 28, 32 or 36. Night watches start from a new marker every ten days. Egyptians had three decanal sets. Each mutates and exchanges attributes internally, and with other sets (Neugebauer 1969). See archaeo astronomical deductions from this folk rhyme below.
The Pictish Beast is one of various expressions of archetype 6, often with a flute, goat legs (as of Pan, Krishna or Kokopelli), long snout, amphibian, two heads, horned, U-shape, volute, or sacrificial lamb. See the ‘storm calf’ on a Babylonian contract boundary stone at Susa; bagpipes on a Hittite stone; Goat-fish as winter host, seen in summer, on a stone of Melishippak; Elephant man or amphibian people in rock art worldwide, some with buzzing bees painted by San in South Africa; Bagpipes, and Pan’s double flute and lilting music; Scythian metal brooches themed on hunt and war, styled on textiles, that influenced Pictish metal workersp; Dacia’s icon, a sea-wolf wind-sock for archers, with shrill metal tongues, on Trajan’s column, bearing in mind that Rome posted out all its Dacian troops, many to Britain; Christian Lamb of God, meek and wounded but militant; Orkney’s North Ronaldsay sheep that eat kelp, a kind of ‘sea goat’. Ewes of the breed have ‘dished’ face. The Pictish Beast is a composite of subconscious expression, legends, and metalwork styling.
Ulster’s dial of Ages
Four beasts and four signs are carved around a symmetrical cross on the Ulster stone in Ireland. The eight characters may loosely signify seasons and cardinal constellations.
Structural analysis of the Ulster stone reveals rigorous subconscious use of the characters, listed here by universal type labels: 2 Taurus; blank, but opposite extra double-horns (twisted 48%, bovid 19%, cluster 14%). 3 Aries; Fish (Cetus, dragon 14%), former spring. 4 Pisces; Pictish Beast, spring. 4p Galactic South Pole; cross ’elbow’ (limb joint 50%). 5 Aquarius; Z-shaped rectangles (Pegasus). 6 Capricornus; Sea-horse, far out (egress /ingress 48%, small 13%, volute, amphibian). 7 Sagittarius; Sea-horse tail curl (unfolding 17%) and sack (bag 13%, juvenile 10%). 9 Scorpius; DiscB. 10 Libra; Discs connection (balance, disc). 11 Virgo; DiscA (womb /interior 87%). 11p Galactic Pole: Cross ‘elbow’ (limb joint 68%). 13 Leo; Dog? chest (heart 85%). 14 Cancer; Dog? (canine), near the centre (ingress /egress 50%). 15 Gemini; Crescent ‘eye’. Axial centre on the cross centre (limb joint 26%. Symmetrical ocular grids are very rare in art). Celestial poles may be on the vertical, placing summer in Gemini-Taurus, thus spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Pisces-Aquarius, prophetic for the work, but typical of ‘curatorial’ works that seek to preserve and perpetuate a culture.
The general theme here includes type 14 Cancer, of time, seasons and calendar. All five layers of structural expression are subconscious to artists, architects, builders and members of any culture. The Ulster stone has fewer than eleven characters, thus it falls outside the structural definition of complex art. It should not be included in art statistics, but adds evidence of how four seasonal beasts and four seasonal signs interchanged in Pictish art.
A note on typology labels
The sixteen archetypes are labelled by numbers and zodiac myths for easy memorisation. Numbers, myths, constellations, and recurrent features in cultural media, all derive from archetype (www.stoneprint.wordpress.com). Seventeen of the 20 Pictish pillars that provided the statistics, are illustrated in the print magazine. The Dunblane stone, Seon stone, and St Andrews sarcophagus are added below.
Old and new heavens
The Shandwick stone back main panel, expresses fourteen of the 16 types: 1 Warrior. 3 Rider looking back (bent neck). 4 Horse (equid). 4p shoulder (limb joint). 5:20 Stag (Pegasus) and Dog. 5:21 Eagle (Aquila). 6c Rider on goat? and Wolf? 6 Stag looking back (sacrifice). (Pig off the grid). 7 Archer (Sagittarius), kneeling (unfolding). 7g eagle upward (Cygnus?). 8 Fox? 10 Bull antithetical. 11 Cow womb and Lion? 12 Axeman’s heart (weapon). 13 Axeman (weapon). 14c Animal? 14 Rider, far out (egress). 15 Rider and Horse. CelPole vulture neck (limb joint). CelSPole tail (limb joint). Age Aries.
The 28 Pictish beasts
Known constellations and decans offer anchor points for matching the main 28 Pictish beasts to icons in other cultures. The moon ranges up to five degrees north and south of the ecliptic, occasionally touching about 36 asterisms, thus marking more than twelve hours. These stars are usually read from east to west, not west to east as the months are. Typological numbers and labels also run east to west (see the archetype list on p15). Here is a potential match, following the German zodiac rhyme animals (see p2) as twelve anchor points, in inverse order. Some mismatches remain.
1 Taurus; Bull, storm? At Burghead
2 Taurus; Wolf. Perseus legs?
3c Cista; Crucifixion. Star Algol? At Calf of Man island
3 Aries; Hare. Moon’s starting point?
3 Aries; Snake. Cetus? Underworld
4 Pisces; Cow. Pegasus?
Pisces: Kelpie horse head. Pegasus head?
5:20 Aquarius; Priest, seat
5:21 Aquarius; Giant, angel or man
6 Capricornus; Pictish Beast, woolly, winter sacrifice. Delphinus?
6 Capricornus; Pig boar
7 Sagittarius; Salmon, spawning, river and sea. Galactic centre?
7 Sagittarius; Archer squatting
8 Scorpius; Tamer, Daniel or Hercules with lions
9 Scorpius; Stag. Star Antares, Y-shaped head.
10c Libra; Jonah in fish mouth, double-tailed, Abraxas
10 Libra; Swift. Corona?
11 Virgo; Woman, wheat. Star Spica
11p Galactic Pole; Centaur, two axes. Virgo, Coma, Crater
12 Leo; Horse. Ursa retro?
13 Leo; Lion, tongue out.Regulus?
13 Leo; Bear. Ursa
14c Cancer; Seals, treasure. Hydra
14 Cancer: Cat. Lynx. Caithness
14 Cancer; Rooster. Pole at Draco
15 Gemini; Eagle. Ursa Minor?
15 Gemini; Dog. Canis Minor
15 Gemini; Twins.
The 16 Pictish objects
1 Taurus; Armlet, three ovals
2 Taurus; Book cover
3c Cista; Dragon-lacing, basket, wall
4 Pisces; Discs & Z-rods. Land survey? Found with ‘footprints’ in Scandinavia
5:20 Aquarius; Priests’ chairs
5:21 Aquarius; S-cloth, or two steps? Cetus? Or Boat with disciples
6 Capricornus; Mirror and Comb, mermaid. Or Horseshoe
7 Sagittarius; Snake & Z-rods. Serpens Cauda? Draco, ecliptic pole?
8 Scorpius; Crook staff
9 Scorpius; Flower bent forward, bronze strips? Ophiuchus?
10 Libra; Hammer, Anvil, metalsmith’s tools, wedding symbols
11 Virgo; Crescent & V-rods, arrow broken on a shield, protection, ancestor? Bootes over Virgo?
12 Leo; Scissors and Razor, or dividers, survey? Ursa?
13 Leo; Cauldron, rod, kitchen?
14 Cancer; Disc on stand, or mirror case. Ursa Minor and pole?
15 Gemini; H-door & Z-rods, tomb, summer?
Cultural artworks reveal universal ‘grammar’
About 16 Pictish objects or abstract shapes appear in 387 known carvings, four with broken V-arrows or Z-spears. These are among the oldest engravings, thus there was no gradual abstraction. Metal items like mirrors, cauldron and the Beast brooch, are among the latest. Pictish silver jewels, as found in Norrie’s Law hoard, were probably re-worked from imported metal. The shapes could be practical, instructional, devotional, survey signs, or of various categories. Rock art worldwide also includes geometric shapes, even in the Ice Age (Furter 2016). The symbols were also carved on bones, in coastal caves in Fife and Moray, and on small stone discs found all over northern Europe. The large shapes usually appear in pairs, such as Crescent with Double-discs, which often appear with Mirror and Comb. The pairs could be names and surnames, or marriages. Irrespective of their once conventional meaning, all clusters of characters also express a specific structure, as a prerequisite for any other functions, like language needs grammar to carry meaning.
Some of the identifications listed may need to interchange, as decans habitually do (Neugebauer 1969). The matches evoke some known asterisms, and omit others, which is typical of decans. Iconic sets larger than sixteen include lower frequency attributes, which are more ambiguous. Sets smaller than sixteen, such as solar zodiacs of twelve characters, contact the four doubled types (Taurus, Leo, Scorpius and Aquarius) into one each, and omit some high frequency archetypal features.
The German folk rhyme demonstrates the optional nature of zodiacs: 10 Libra’s swallow is borrowed from 1 Taurus; 2 Taurus’ Wolf is from 10c Libra-Scorpius; 15 Gemini’s twins are borrowed from 4 Pisces; 5 Aquarius’ giant is sometimes at 15 Gemini. Constellations do not explain why hour decans worldwide are similar (Allen 1899. He remains the leading authority on star lore). The source of culture lies deeper than similarity or ‘correspondence theory’. Artists and storytellers express subconscious inspiration, not merely inventions.
The core archetypal set of sixteen, typical of artworks, is most stable, with standard frequencies of attributes. Most Pictish stones contain fourteen characters, thus a slightly contracted set, but not zodiacs. They tend to split the Leo-Aquarius axes in two, and to combine the Taurus-Scorpius axes into one.
Totals of frequent features in archetypal sequence on 20 stones: AberlemnoA, AberlemnoB, Fowlis, Golspie, Elgin, Meigle, Nigg, Rossie, Seon, Shandwick, Hilton, Inchbraoch, Dunblane, St Andrews, Ship, Drosten, Dunfallandy, Woodwray, Aldbar, and Largo:
|1 /2 Taurus||twisting
|bovid 15%||horse 20%||angel 15%||rider 15%||beast 10%|
|3 Aries||dragon or
|horse 15%||rider 15%||lion 10%||ram|
|horse 20%||rectang 15%||dog 10%||king 10%||twin||deer|
|5:20 /5:21 Aquarius||horse/stag
|angel 20%||rider 15% (Pegas.)||man-dragon 10%||eagle 10% (Aquila)||priest 10%||tailcoat 10%|
|double-headed 15%||bent neck 10%||deer 10%||horse 10%||Ingress
|young 15%||rider 10%||horse 10%||kneel
|arms up10%||tamer (strong)||flower (bent)|
|armsUp 15%||rider 15%||horse 10%||deer 10%||staff 10%|
|woman 20%||horse 20%||dog 20%||rider
|horse 45%||canine 35%||warrior 30%||weapon 20%||monster 15%||bovid 15%|
|rider 25%||horse 20%||deer 10%||canine||Pictish beast|
|man 40%||rampant 10%||snake 10%||canine|
Numbers reveal the bigger ‘picture’ in culture
Several earlier interpretations of the Pictish Beast as constellation Capricornus, and thus the former position of midwinter, are confirmed by structural analysis. Four times in the 20 artworks tested (20% of the sample), the Beast expresses type 6 Capricornus. It appears only twice (10%) as type 2 Taurus, and once (5%) each as type 4 Pisces, 5 Aquarius, 14 Cancer, and 15 Gemini. The Pictish Beast appears much more often on sparse pillars, usually with only two or three other animals or sigils, but without the artistic structure to test its structural role. Cultures formed in transitional eras, as Pictish culture was formed in Age Aries-Pisces, tend to swop the former and new cardinal markers around, thus eight animals, and eight signs, could represent any of the four seasons, a total of 64 options. Pictish artists did not use all these options, but enough to confirm that the Age Aries four, and the Age Pisces four, were looking for a new convention. Four seasonal cardinals are a subconscious compulsion (see an article about Gobekli Tepe’s BC 8000 seasons on www.stoneprint.wordpress.com). Seasonal ‘houses’ are the only changing aspect of archetype. Cultures express them roughly synchronised with seasonal precession.
In Art and Illusion, Ernst Gombrich cited Wolfflin’s principle that “not everything is possible in every period.” Zerner wrote of “cultural pressure that channels individual efforts.” Jung wrote of changes in iconography: “The artist seizes on this image, raises it from deepest unconsciousness, brings it into relation with conscious values, transforming it to be accepted by his contemporaries… a process of self-regulation in the life of nations and epochs.” Tarnas found in Cosmos and Psyche; “Cyclical patterning… is a vast historical development, shaped by archetypal forces in the collective psyche.” Furter (2014: Mindprint) found no ‘evolution’ or ‘development’ in the core content of culture, except “a modest history of subconscious expression, that philosophy recognises as Being or Epoch.”
Every type in the core set of sixteen, has only a few major features, making them readable in the media of every culture that ever lived, migrated, sailed, fought, conquered or assimilated into any other. Cultural typology is as durable as our genes, and also mutate at predictable rates, while remaining robustly the same on averages. Archetype remains outside our conscious control, like the elements, genes, nature and language are. The sample of 20 artworks renders percentages only at intervals of 5% (each occurrence is multiplied by 5 to obtain percentages, to compare to art worldwide). Thus the results are approximate, and should be adjusted to the finer conventional calibration of general art data. Most of the features appearing once among the 20 examples in the relevant ocular position, thus at about 5%, are not listed here; but single occurrences known to be more frequent in larger samples, are noted. Some of the rare features in Pictish art are known from larger samples of artworks worldwide. Like the more frequent features, they are also not random choices: 2 Taurus; bird. 3 Aries; ram (Aries). 4 Pisces; king, twin. 5:20 /5:21 Aquarius; heart (of its opposite type 12/13), lion (of its opposite type 21/13). 7 Sagittarius; priest (robe bag), kneeling (unfolding). 12/13 Leo; lion. 15 Gemini; eagle (Ursa Minor, which it shares with 14 Cancer), cloak (bag), smiting, sceptre. Horses and riders are over-represented on Pictish pillars, thus percentages of equids and men should be adjusted when integrating this data with other art and rock art works.
German zodiac mixed months with hours
The four animals named first in the seasons of the German zodiac rhyme, are cardinal points of Age Aries, before about BC 80. However cultures memorialise the time-frame of their foregoing Age. Most of the animals resemble hour decans, not month constellations. Both sets are equally archetypal, and universal.
|Winter||6 Capricornus; Pig||5 Aquarius; Giant||4 Pisces; Cow
|Spring||3 Aries; Hare
|2 Taurus; Wolf (Pegasus legs)||15 Gemini; Humans|
|Summer||14 Cancer; Rooster (Ursa Minor)||13 Leo; Horse (Ursa Major)||11 Virgo; Corn-woman (star Spica)|
|Autumn||10 Libra; Swallow (Bootes)||9 Scorpius; Stag
|7 Sagittarius; Archer
The Woodwray stone’s version of the standard set of universal archetypes is: 1 Horse, Crescent-V-rods (cluster). 2 (Bishop, off the grid). 3 Dragon. 4B Discs rectangle (Pegasus). 4 Christ (king). 4p elbow (limb). 5 Beast. 6 Dragon. 7 Bishop cloaked (bag). 10 Axe? (staff). 11B Horse womb, anvil. 11 Womb. 11p hand (limb). 12 Horse heart. 14 Tongs (hinged, polar). 15 Beast (rampant). EclPole on an eye (rare). CelPole on a jaw (limb). CelSPole on a foot (limb). Age Pisces. Theme 5 Aquarius, of priests, ordination, rituals, marriage, symbolic smiths when conducting marriage.
Rossie stone version of the standard set of archetypes: 1 Horse. 2 blanked? 3 Rider. 4 Horse, and Rider. 4p jaw (limb). 5:20 Dragon, tailcoat. 5:21 Tailcoat. 6 Beast (sacrifice). 7 Arrow (Sagittarius). 7g crescent. 8 Horse. 9 Tamer (strength). 10c Roundel. 10 Rider. 11 Angel. 11p jaw (limb). 12 Dog. 14 Dog. 15 Rider. CelPole knee (limb). CelSPole knee (limb). Orientation horizontal. Age Pisces. Theme 10 Libra, nature-culture balance.
Five layers of structure in cultural media
Every complex artwork, artefact, building site, pyramid field, or city, expresses five levels of subconscious structure: sixteen types (sometimes combined into fourteen or twelve), each with certain optional features; in sequence near the edge of the work; with their eyes on an axial grid (except type 11 on her womb, and type 12/13 on his heart), invisibly connecting opposite pairs; around five polar features often expressed by limb joints, two of which are on the horizontal or vertical plane.
Type label; features with average frequencies
1 /2 Taurus; twisted 48%, tower 22%, bovid 19%, cluster 14%, pit 13%, bird 10%, book 6%
3c Cista; secret 17%, container 13%, woven texture 13%
3 Aries; long or bent neck 37%, dragon 14%, sacrifice 13%, queen 9%
4 Pisces; squatting 25%, rectangular 20%, twins 11%, king 9%, bird 6%, field 6%, equid
4p Galactic South Pole; limb joint 50%
5:20/5:21 Aquarius; varicoloured 30%, hyperactive 30%, horizontal 30%, priest 15%, water 15%, tailcoat head, heart of 12/13, equid
6 Capricornus; egress /ingress 48%, sacrifice 13%, U-shaped 11%, tree, reptile/amphibian, double-headed
7 Sagittarius; unfolding 17%, bag 13%, rope 12%, juvenile 10%
8/9 Scorpius; pillar 50%, bent forward 30%, healer 11%, strength 9%
10 Libra; arms V/W-posture 50%, staff 17%, guard 15%, metallurgy 8%, crown /disc /wheel 10%, canine, balance
11 Virgo; womb 87%, tomb 13%, wheat 6%, law 6%
11p Galactic Pole; limb joint 68%
12/13 Leo; heart 85%, feline 20%, death 33%, water-work 30%, war 17%, weapon 13%, inverted
14 Cancer; ingress /egress 50%, bird 10%, tree 6%, small canine or feline
15 Gemini; rope 30%, order 25%, bag 10%, doubled 10%, canine 8%, churn, mace, rampant.
The cumulative definition of subconscious expression, or stoneprint, is statistically impossible to derive from learning or conscious intention in design. Cultural behaviour is much more inspired, detailed, and subconscious, than any craft or science had ever consciously known.
A potential Pictish zodiac
|3 Aries||Dragon||Armlet trio||spring^|
|2 Taurus||Bull||Book (Pleiades?)|
|15 Gemini||Eagle (Ursa Min.)||H-door Z-rods||Summer|
|14 Cancer||Sea-horse (Hydra)||Mirror, comb (poles)||summer^|
|13 Leo||Horse (Ursa)||Disc /Case (Regulus?)|
|11 Virgo||Snake (Bootes)||CrescentVrods (equin.)||Autumn|
|10 Libra||Wolf (Lupus)||Cauldron crossbar||autumn^|
|9 Scorpius||Stag /Dog||Flower (bent forward)|
|7 Sagittarius||Pig||Snake Z-rods (winter)||Winter|
|6 Capricor.||Pictish Beast||Horseshoe (U-shape)||winter^|
|5 Aquarius||Angel /Horse||S-cloth /Steps|
|4 Pisces||Kelpie (Pegasus)||Discs Z-rods (equinox)||Spring|
A solar zodiac of twelve Pictish beasts, and/or abstract symbols, has not been found, but may have existed in narrative or ritual form. The archetypes that the 28 beasts and 16 signs express in 20 Pictish engravings, vary as much as the features of decanal asterisms in other cultures. Their artists were in the process of transferring the four seasonal points from the Aries Cardinals, to the Pisces cardinals, adding to the natural mutation in their cultural media. However some Pictish characters match the shapes, and some match the concepts of the twelve solar constellations. Norse culture has somewhat similar sets, and also no known zodiac. Similarities between myths, rituals, calendars, icons, constellations, art, and building sites, result from archetypal structure. Stylistic similarities result from cultural contact, but style does not carry any core meaning.
Hands of time
The subconscious ‘dial’ of Ages among the limb joints, is one of the five layers of the human code. It is natural, compulsive, unknown to artists and viewers, and too complex to fake. Subconscious polar markers on the 20 complex Pictish stones, indicate the transitional time-frame of early Pictish culture:
05% Age Taurus-Aries, BC?-BC1500
15% Age Aries, BC1500-80
45% Age Aries-Pisces, cBC 80
30% Age Pisces, BC80-AD2016
05% Age Pisces-Aquarius, cAD2016
This time-frame is typical of any large sample of artworks, of any culture, made in the first two thirds of Age Pisces, from about BC 80 to AD 1300. The sample of 20 stones may seem small, but is representative of Pictish art. There are only about 30 stones with 11 or more characters. Most of the 400 stones have only two to eight characters. The structural anthropology application named stoneprint, confirms that constellations and myths do not come from the sky. Calendar and constellations are cultural media, just like myth, ritual, art and building sites are. Mayan names and surnames, such as Eight-Deer, were based on a calendar with a basic cycle of 20 days, each with a hieroglyph and sigil. This reading of the Pictish repertoire deserves further testing. The four rodded abstract symbols could be the four seasons.
Hilton of Cadboll ‘Guinevere’ stone in Invernesshire. The version of the standard set of archetypal characters on this stone, is: 2 Horse, Mirror and Book (Pleiades). 3 Rider, perhaps Guinevere (queen), looking back (neck bent). 4 Rider eyeB, sidesaddle. 4p shoulder (limb). 5:20 Wolf? 6 Angel (of 5). 7 Angel (of 5). 9 Rider. 10 Horse. 11 Dog womb. 11p hoof (limb). 13 Deer heart, spear, and Dog. 14 Rider, central (ingress). 15 Horse. Celestial Pole knee (limb). CelSPole hip (limb). Age Pisces. The general theme here is type 5 Aquarius, of assembly, action and judgement.
St Andrews sarcophagus.
- From Stoneprint Journal 1, July 2017. Four Equators Media, Johannesburg. ISBN 978-0-620-69863-4.
- For structural art analysis and anthropology in worldwide multi-disciplinary context, visit www.stoneprint.wordpress.com
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