Pictish beasts zodiac?

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.

Elgin stone (after RCAHMS. Atandard archetypal labels, and axial grid between the characters’ eyes, after Furter 2017).

Structuralist analysis of the Elgin  cathedral ruin stone, reveals the universal core content of perception, and subconscious expression. The variants on this stone are (noting archetypal features):

2 Builder or Taurus; Raven (bird).

3 Queen or Aries; Dog (more often a griffin or dragon).

4 King or Pisces; Stag (similar to decan Pegasus, which also expresses archetype).

5 Priest or Aquarius; Horse (equid).

6 Exile or Capricornus; A Rider. And a Dog.

7 Child or Sagittarius; A Horse.

8/9 Healer or Scorpius; A Rider. And a Horse.

10 Teacher or Libra; A Rider.

11 Womb or Virgo; Midriff (womb) of raven (decan Corvus also expresses this feature); and midriff (womb) of a horse. Type 11 is a womb in 90% of Pictish art, and 87% in all art worldwide.

13 Heart or Leo; A Chest (heart).

14 Mixer or Cancer; ‘Odin’ (perhaps also a summer marker).

15 Maker or Gemini; A Horse.

Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.

4p, 11p, Midsummer, Midwinter; On limb joints, as usual. These markers, and the vertical plane, place midsummer on the 14-6 or Cancer-Capricornus axis; implying spring and the time-frame as Age Aries, before about BC 80, in the eara before the work, as usual.

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, total 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 Exile or Capricornus, often with a flute or long snout, goat legs (as of Pan, Krishna or Kokopelli), amphibian, horned, sometimes two heads, U-shaped, volute, or sacrificial lamb (which feature is ambiguous with type 3). See a ‘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 workers; Dacian sea-wolf wind-sock for archers, with shrill metal tongue, as on Trajan’s column (noting that Rome posted out 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 this breed have a concave or ‘dished’ face. The Pictish Beast is a composite of subconscious expression, legends, and metalwork styling, as all icons are.

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.

Ulster stone, Ireland, with the standard set of structural typology labels, and axial grid after Furter 2017.

Structural analysis of the Ulster stone reveals rigorous subconscious use of the characters, listed here by universal type labels:

2 Builder or Taurus; Blank, but opposite extra double-horns (twisted, bovid, cluster).

3 Queen or Aries; Fish (decan Cetus also expresses the dragon feature of this type).

4 King or Pisces; Pictish Beast (more often at 6 or winter, here moved to the subconscious spring position).

4p Galactic South Pole; Cross ’elbow’ (limb joint).

5 Priest or Aquarius; Z-shaped rectangles (decan Pegasus also expresses this archetypal shape).

6 Exile or Capricornus; Sea-horse (amphibian), far from the centre (egress).

7 Child or Sagittarius; Sea-horse tail curl (unfolding) and sack (bag, juvenile).

9 Healer or Scorpius; Disc B (also typical at 9c and 10).

10 Teacher or Libra; Discs connected (disc, balance).

11 Womb or Virgo; Disc A (here expressing a kind of interior or ‘womb’).

11p Galactic Pole: Cross (juncture) ‘elbow’ (limb joint).

13 Heart or Leo; Dog? (more often felid), its axis on its chest (heart).

14 Mixer or Cancer; Dog? (canid), near the centre (ingress).

15 Maker or Gemini; Crescent.

Axial centre; Cross centre (juncture. Symmetrical ocular grids are very rare in art).

Midsummer, midwinter; Unmarked, perhaps on the vertical plane, placing summer between axes 15-1 or Gemini-Taurus; implying spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Pisces-Aquarius. This framework would be prophetic for the work, but typical of ‘curatorial’ works that seek to preserve and perpetuate a culture.

The general theme here includes type 14 Mixer or Cancer, typical of time, seasons, calendar, transformation and summer. 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. (See a study on how Babylonian, Indian and Greek artists expressed archetype in minimalist works, in Stoneprint Journal 5; Culture code in seals and ring stamps. Available on Lulu.com).

A note on typology labels

The sixteen archetypes are labelled by numbers, as well as zodiac or month myths for easy memorisation. Numbers, myths, constellations, and recurrent features in cultural media, all express archetype. Seventeen of the 20 Pictish pillars that provided the data, are illustrated in the print magazine. The Dunblane stone, Seon stone, and St Andrews sarcophagus are added below.

Old and new heavens

Shandwick stone rear, main panel.

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). 5a Stag (Pegasus) and Dog. 5b Eagle (Aquila). 5c Rider on goat? and Wolf? 6 Stag looking back (sacrifice). (Pig off the grid, perhaps a type 7 ‘determinant’). 7 Archer (as in Sagittarius), kneeling (unfolding). 7g eagle upward (Cygnus?). 8 Fox? (canid). 10 Bull antithetical. 11 Cow womb (womb) and Lion? (felid). 12 Axeman’s heart (weapon, heart). 13 Axeman (weapon). 13c Animal? 14 Rider, far out (egress). 15 Rider and Horse.

Midsummer; A vulture neck (limb joint). Midwinter; A tail (limb joint). These markers place ‘spring’ and the cultural time-frame in Age Aries, at the perceived formation of Pictish culture.

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 in the magazine). Here is a potential match, following the German zodiac rhyme animals (see p2 in the magazine) as twelve anchor points, in inverse order. Some mismatches remain.

Some of the main Pictish beasts, and Pictish devices.

1 Builder or Taurus; Bull, storm? Notably at Burghead.

2 Builder or Taurus; Wolf. Analogous to Perseus legs.

2c Basket; Crucifixion. As star Algol also expresses. notably at Calf of Man island.

3 Queen or Aries; Hare. Moon’s starting point.

3 Queen or Aries; Snake. As decan Cetus also expresses. Underworld.

4 King or Pisces; Cow. As decan Pegasus also expresses.

4 King or Pisces; Kelpie horse head. as decan Pegasus head also exrpesses.

5a Priest or Aquarius; Clergyman (priest), seat.

5b Priest or Aquarius; Giant, angel or man.

6 Exile or Capricornus; Pictish Beast, woolly, winter sacrifice. As decan Delphinus also expresses.

6 Exile or Capricornus; Pig boar [or type 7?].

7 Child or Sagittarius; Salmon, spawning, river and sea.

7 Child or Sagittarius; Archer squatting (as constellation myth Sagittarius also expresses).

8 Healer or Scorpius; Tamer, Daniel or Hercules with lions.

9 Healer or Scorpius; Stag. Star Antares, Y-shaped head.

9c Basket Lid; Jonah in fish mouth, double-tailed, as Abraxas also expresses.

10 Teacher or Libra; Swift or swallow. As decan Corona also expresses.

11 Womb or Virgo; Woman, wheat (crops). As star Spica lore also expresses.

11p Galactic Pole; Centaur, two axes. Decans Coma and Crater express other features of this juncture.

12 Heart or Leo; Horse. As decan Ursa retro also expresses.

13 Heart or Leo; Lion (felid), tongue out. As star Regulus also expresses.

13 Heart or Leo; Bear. As decan Ursa lore also expresses.

13c Basket Head; Seals (weave), treasure (container, secret). Decan Hydra expresses similar features.

14 Mixer or Cancer: Cat (more often canid). As decan Lynx also expresses. This beast is notable at Caithness.

14 Mixer or Cancer; Rooster. This type has a polar function, as decan Draco also expresses (statistical evidence of feature of the ecliptic pole is still lacking).

15 Maker or Gemini; Eagle. As decan Ursa Minor expresses in some lore.

15 Maker or Gemini; Dog (canid). As decans Canis Minor and Canis also express.

15 Maker or Gemini; Twins (doubled).

The 16 Pictish objects

1 Builder or Taurus; Armlet, three ovals.

2 Builder or Taurus; Book (book) cover.

2c Basket; Dragon-lacing (weave), basket, wall.

4 King or Pisces; Discs & Z-rods. Device for survey? (field). Also found with engraved ‘footprints’ (survey?) in Scandinavia.

5a Priest or Aquarius; Chairs (for priests).

5b Priest or Aquarius; S-cloth, or two steps. As decan Cetus also expresses. Or Boat with disciples (priests, assembly). This device may express the half-type 5c instead.

6 Exile or Capricornus; Mirror and Comb (perhaps of 14 opposite), Mermaid (amphibian), or Horseshoe (U-shaped).

7 Child or Sagittarius; Snake & Z-rods. As either decan Serpens Cauda, or decan Draco, also expresses.

8 Healer or Scorpius; Crook (bent forward) staff.

9 Healer or Scorpius; Flower bent (bent forward), or bronze strips. Decan Ophiuchus expresses similar features.

10 Teacher or Libra; Hammer, Anvil, metalsmith’s tools (metal, smith), wedding symbols (typical of 11 adjacent. 10 and 11 share some features). This device may express the half-type 9c instead.

11 Womb or Virgo; Crescent & V-rods, arrow broken on a shield, protection, family. As decans Bootes over Virgo also express. This device may express type 10 and 11.

12 Heart or Leo; Scissors and Razor (weapons), or dividers for survey (contract). As decan Ursa also expresses.

13 Heart or Leo; Cauldron (rounded, interior), and rod.

14 Mixer or Cancer; Disc (more typical of 10) on a stand, or mirror case (more frequent at 13c Head, typical of containers and codes). Decans Ursa Minor and celestial pole also express similar features.

15 Maker or Gemini; H-door & Z-rods, tomb door, perhaps an aspect of summer. This device may express type 14 instead, while the armlet listed as type, may express type 15. The devices may all be transitional half-types, an aspect of cultural media requiring more research.

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 Teacher or Libra’s swallow is borrowed from 1 Builder /Tower or Taurus; 2 Builder or Taurus’ Wolf is from 9c Basket Lid; 15 Maker or Gemini’s twins are borrowed from 4 King or Pisces; 5 Priest or Aquarius’ giant is sometimes at 15 Maker or Gemini. Constellations do not explain why hour decans worldwide are similar (Allen 1899, who is still the leading reference 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 Build




bovid 15% horse 20% angel 15% rider 15% beast 10%
3 Queen /Aries dragon or

griffin 40%



horse 15% rider 15% lion 10% ram
4 King /Pisces rider


horse 20% rectang 15% dog 10% king 10% twin deer
5a/5b Priest /Aquarius horse/stag



angel 20% rider 15% (Pegas.) man-dragon 10% eagle 10% (Aquila) priest 10% tailcoat 10%
6 Exile /Capric. Pictish





double-headed 15% bent neck 10% deer 10% horse 10% Ingress


7 Child /Sagitt. bag


archer, arrow



stag 15%

young 15% rider 10% horse 10% kneel

(unfold) 10%

8/9 Healer /Scorp. canine






arms up10% tamer (strong) flower (bent)
10 Teach /Libra balance


armsUp 15% rider 15% horse 10% deer 10% staff 10%
11 Womb /Virgo womb


woman 20% horse 20% dog 20% rider




bovid 10%
12/13 Heart /Leo heart


horse 45% canine 35% warrior 30% weapon 20% monster 15% bovid 15%
14 Mixer /Cancer ingress


rider 25% horse 20% deer 10% canine Pictish beast
15 Maker /Gemini horse




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 Exile or Capricornus. It appears only twice (10%) as type 2 Builder or Taurus, and once (5%) each as type 4 King or Pisces, 5 Priest or Aquarius, 14 Mixer or Cancer, and 15 Maker or 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 Builder or Taurus; bird.

3 Queen or Aries; ram (Aries).

4 King or Pisces; king, twin.

5a/5b Priest or Aquarius; heart (of its opposite type 12/13), lion (of its opposite type 12/13).

7 Child or Sagittarius; priest (robe bag), kneeling (unfolding).

12/13 Heart or Leo; lion (felid).

15 Maker or 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

(Cetus tail)

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

(Scorpius head)

7 Sagittarius; Archer


Woodwray stone with archetypal structural analysis (Furter 2017).

The Woodwray stone’s character sequence is (noting archetypal features):

1 Builder or Taurus; Horse, Crescent-V-rods (cluster).

2 Builder or Taurus; (Bishop, OFF THE AXIAL GRID).

3 Queen or Aries; Dragon (dragon).

4 King or Pisces; Discs (spring?) rectangle (rectangle).

4 King or Pisces B; Christ (king).

4p Gal.S.Pole; Elbow (limb-joint).

5 Priest or Aquarius; Pictish Beast (more usual at 6, but see 15 below).

6 Exile or Capricornus; Dragon (sacrifice).

7 Child or Sagittarius; Bishop, cloaked (bag).

10 Teacher or Libra; Axe? (staff).

11 Womb or Virgo B; Horse womb, anvil (metal, of 10).

11 Womb or Virgo; Womb (womb).

11p Galactic Pole; Hand (limb-joint).

12 Heart or Leo; Horse (equid) heart (heart).

14 Mixer or Cancer; Tongs (hinged, polar).

15 Maker or Gemini; Pictish beast (rampant). More usual at 6, but see 5 above.

The axial centre is on an eye (rare). The Celestial Pole on a jaw (limb-joint). the Celestial South Pole is on a foot (limb-joint). Theses markers place the time-frame and the culture in Age Pisces, contemporary with the work. The general theme in this design includes type 5 Priest or Aquarius; of priests, ordination, rituals, marriage. Priests act as symbolic smiths when conducting marriage.

Rossie stone with archetypal structural analysis (Furter 2017).

Rossie stone characters (noting archetypal features):

1 Builder or Taurus; Horse.

2 Builder or Taurus; blanked out?

3 Queen or Aries; Rider.

4 King or Pisces; Horse (equid, not counted here due to abundance), and Rider (king?).

4p Gal.S.Pole; Jaw (limb-joint).

5a Priest or Aquarius; Dragon (more usual at 3) with tailcoat.

5b Priest or Aquarius; Tailcoat (tailcoat).

6 Exile or Capricornus; Beast (sacrifice).

7 Child or Sagittarius; Arrow (archer).

7g Galactic Centre; Crescent.

8 Healer or Scorpius; Horse.

9 Healer or Scorpius; Tamer (strength).

9c Basket Lid; Roundel (disc).

10 Teacher or Libra; Rider.

11 Womb or Virgo; Angel.

11p Galactic Pole; Jaw (limb-joint).

12 Heart or Lion; Dog.

14 Mixer or Cancer; Dog (rarely canid).

15 Maker or Gemini; Rider.

The Celestial Pole is on a knee (limb-joint). The Celestial South Pole is on a knee (limb-joint). The polar orientation is horizontal. These markers place spring and the time-frame in Age Pisces, contemporary with the work. The general theme here is type 10 Teacher or Libra, or nature-culture balance and metallurgy.

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

Note that more archetypal featrues, and more exact average frequencies, have since been isolated. Here is the list used in Stoneprint Journal 1;

1 /2 twisted 48%, tower 22%, bovid 19%, cluster 14%, pit 13%, bird 10%, book 6%

2c secret 17%, container 13%, woven texture 13%

3 long or bent neck 37%, dragon 14%, sacrifice 13%, queen 9%

4 squatting 25%, rectangular 20%, twins 11%, king 9%, bird 6%, field 6%, equid

4p Galactic South Pole; limb joint 50%

5a/5b varicoloured 30%, hyperactive 30%, horizontal 30%, priest 15%, water 15%, tailcoat head, heart of 12/13, equid

6 egress /ingress 48%, sacrifice 13%, U-shaped 11%, tree, reptile/amphibian, double-headed

7 unfolding 17%, bag 13%, rope 12%, juvenile 10%

8/9 pillar 50%, bent forward 30%, healer 11%, strength 9%

10 arms V/W-posture 50%, staff 17%, guard 15%, metallurgy 8%, crown /disc /wheel 10%, canine, balance

11 womb 87%, tomb 13%, wheat 6%, law 6%

11p Galactic Pole; limb joint 68%

12/13 heart 85%, feline 20%, death 33%, water-work 30%, war 17%, weapon 13%, inverted

14 ingress /egress 50%, bird 10%, tree 6%, small canine or feline

15 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 QueenAries Dragon Armlet trio spring^
2 BuildTaurus Bull Book (Pleiades?)
15 Make/Ge Eagle (Ursa Min.) H-door Z-rods Summer
14 Mix/Canc SeaHorse (Hydra) Mirror, comb (poles) summer^
13 Heart/Leo Horse (Ursa) Disc /Case (Regulus?)
11 Womb/Vir Snake (Bootes) CrescentVrods (equin.) Autumn
10 Teach/Lib Wolf (Lupus) Cauldron crossbar autumn^
9 Heal/Scorp Stag /Dog Flower (bent forward)
7 Child/Sagit Pig Snake Z-rods (winter) Winter
6 Exile/Capric Pictish Beast Horseshoe (U-shape) winter^
5 Priest/Aqu Angel /Horse S-cloth /Steps
4 King/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 limb joints near the centre of artworks and building sites, 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, with archetypal anslysis (Furter 2017).

Hilton of Cadboll ‘Guinevere’ stone in Invernesshire. The version of the standard set of archetypal characters on this stone is: 2 Horse, Mirror, Book (book). 3 Rider, perhaps Guinevere (queen), looking back (neck bent). 4 Rider’s eyeB, sidesaddle (king or queen?). 4p shoulder (limb-joint). 5a Wolf? 6 Angel (of 5). 7 Angel (of 5). 9 Rider. 10 Horse. 11 Dog’s womb (womb). 11p hoof (limb-joint). 13 Deer heart (heart), spear (weapon), and Dog. 14 Rider, central (ingress). 15 Horse.

The Celestial Pole is on a knee (limb-joint). Celestial South Pole on a hip (limb-joint). These markers place the time-frame of the work an culture in Age Pisces. The general theme here is type 5 Priest or Aquarius, of assembly, action and judgement.


St Andrews sarcophagus front panel, with archetypal structural analysis (Furter 2017). A Scottish royal christian burial, themed on king David.

St Andrews sarcophagus,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,…. see the print publication

  • Extract from Stoneprint Journal 1; Pictish beasts, 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
  • To receive an update on new editions, or to order the book Stoneprint, or to book slide show talks, or to contribute articles, email edmondfurter at gmail dot com with the subject ‘stoneprint journal’, or call +27 (0)11 955 6732.



2 thoughts on “Pictish beasts zodiac?

Add yours

    1. Paul, the short answer is consciously No, but subconsciously Yes. There are no conscious, systematic, cultural links between the Pictish beasts and the Tarot trumps. But the link is in variant expressions of archetypal structure. Culture is universal, and uses several media. Visible similarities between the Pictish sets, and the Tarot trump set, are due to archetypal inspiration.
      We have to account for media differences. The Pictish pictures never appear as a complete set, and their sequence has to be inferred from seasonal links (as I did above). There are also apparently variants of low frequency (as among Tarot decks).

      The apparent Pictish beasts and trumps links are (using the provisional identifications in the article above, and noting archetypal features);
      3 Queen or Aries; Dragon (dragon) coiled (trump 3:18 dragons were rationalised into moon dogs)
      4 King or Pisces; Kelpie (trump 4:19 has a horse in some decks)
      5 Priest or Aquarius; Priest (trump 5 POPE)
      9 Healer or Scorpius; Stag (trump 9 Hermit in sometimes next to a STAG)
      13 Heart or Leo; Horse (trump 13 rides a HORSE)
      15 Maker or Gemini; Dog (trump 0:15 Fool has a DOG).

      The apparent Pictish symbolic items and trumps links are;
      2 Builder or Taurus; Book cover or Bible (trump 2 Priestess has a BOOK)
      4 King or Pisces; Discs and Z-rods (trump 4 Emperor holds a ROD)
      5 Priest or Aquarius; S-cloth (trump 5:21 wears a SASH)
      10 Teacher or Libra; round Cauldron under rod (trump 10 has a Wheel turned by a rod).

      This order of about four or five visible similarities between sets, is typical of archetypal options at work in consciously unrelated sets, not influenced by one another. But many invisible links emerge when both sets are compared to the archetypal typology or ‘gearbox’, that I named mindprint.
      Pictish beasts and symbols subconsciously express two archetypal sets, with some mutations probably due to the transitional Age Aries-Pisces of the time when these symbols gained currency, later used in legend cycles in Age Pisces, with some Celtic Christian influences, separate from the Roman Church until late medieval times (Phillips 2001). The beasts may have been consciously intended as clan emblems, and the items perhaps as months and weeks.
      The beasts and items could be two zodiac versions, but they were not used as such, and were not standardised.

      Tarot trumps subconsciously express an archetypal set, with some conscious calendric and astrological elements (comprehensively identified for the first time in 2014 in Mindprint, see p72, and in media tables, and among the image captions, arranged by number, equal to Tarot numbers.
      And see the Physics section in Stoneprint, since the number sequence relate to atomic numbers of chemical elements, obviously from inspiration, since there was no periodic table to consult in the 1300s.
      Tarot trumps express the sixteen types, not the minimum twelve (the four large beasts have two decans each); and these types have higher magnitudes: 0:15, 1:16, 2:17, 3:18, 4:19, 5:20 and 5:21, that overlap.
      Types 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 do not have higher magnitudes among the trumps, but do so in other sets (periodic table, etc).
      These quirks are among the reasons that the zodiac links to the trumps have always been variously misidentified. The link was, and is, subconscious.

      Thank you for the question. Your surname, McKenna, indicates a clan that had absorbed some of the Pictish remnants in Ireland. The McKenna coat of arms has three leopard heads, or lion heads in some versions (if the tongues are out, they are leopards, probably expressing type 8 Scorpius, as in trump 8, Strength, a Virtue finding a key in the jaws). The McKenna motto cites Prudence and Honour, but virtues are as mutable in heraldry as they are among trumps. The crest is a salmon, one of the Pictish beasts (see the article above). Salmon and its life cycle invite symbolic use, and need not derive from the Picts. But here it probably does.
      There seems to be an alternative McKenna coat of arms that is certainly Pictish; including a stag (type 9 Healer or Scorpius); two hounds, over two nested crescent necklaces; all over a lance (one of the four seasons) of a knight equestrian (type 12 Heart or Leo?). See the article above.
      This coat adds to the evidence that the beasts and items are genealogical records drafted at marriages or births. Pictish stones have two levels of meaning, as dates do. The more arbitrary part is mainly due to the time of events (which are not entirely arbitrary, but events apparently do not follow an archetypal sequence). The more structured part is the calendar itself, a fixed cycle that usually expresses an archetypal set. However a Pictish calendar or zodiac sequence has not been found. My identifications could be seen as a neo-Celtic calendar.
      All meaningful sets derive their meaning structurally, from their inter-relationships; more than they do from correspondences, or from supposed illustration of other sets in other media (myth, ritual, calendar, art, building sites; or natural sets such as species). Human sciences and popular culture should recognise that correspondence theories camouflage the real source and mechanism of culture, perception, and meaning itself; from archetype, which also enables natural structure. Diffusion is an arrogant paradigm, almost like believing that we invented the elements.
      In a paper on semiotics in the anthropology journal Expression (also posted on Academia.edu or Researchgate, I forget which), I demonstrate that we did not, and never will invent meaning, we merely re-use natural meaning, bounded by archetype.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: