- Who were the Picts? The mystical Picts were iron-age Caledonians, the indigenous people of Scotland. Labeled barbarous, the tribes were never conquered by the Romans; instead, they were eventually isolated by Hadrian's Wall. Picts consistently influence fantasy tales, including many Arthurian legends, Howard's Bran Mak Morn, Arthur Machen's Litte People, and Kuttner's Pikht's of Atlantis. This alone makes their aura sufficient to work with, but my fascination lies with their name since Picti means 'colored people' in Latin. Julius Caeser's documentation (de Bello Gallico ~ 45AD) indicates that the local Picts marked their bodies with vitrum before going to battle, though many think they were painted with woad (a blue dying plant akin to indigo). The Legio_IX_Hispana is a roman legion that mysteriously disappeared ~120 AD.
- The Pict are appearing in films more frequently, though not in a mystical context:
- In 2004, they appeared in the Historical-Fiction-Action movie King Arthur in which Guinevere is portrayed as a Pict (played by Kiera Knightley); I recommend the Director's cut which includes short, but worthy extra scenes fleshing out Arthur's motivations.
- The Centurion 2010: This movie explicitly tackles the mystery of the missing IX Legion, and also blames the Picts. Olga Kurylenko
- The Eagle (2011): Obviously, I haven't seen this yet, but the trailers indicate a slant toward another pseudo-historical/non-sorcery representation of the Picts.
- Hammer of the Gods (2013): This brutal Viking movie depicts the Picts as cannibalistic.
- For the mystical “Sorcery” representation of the Picts, you will either:
- Need to pick up R.E.Howard's stories (short pulp stories written ~1930 and compiled in 1969) or Karl Wagner’s Legion From the Shadows (1988)
- ...or hope that the forthcoming Bran Mak Morn movie actually is produced ...and remains "true" to Howard's depiction
|R E Howard's Brank Mak Morn|
|Wagner's Legion from the Shadows|
•I needed to populate Lords of Dyscrasia, and what better civilization to extrapolate from than the Picts, the 'colored' aborigines of the haunted isles of England? There is a subtle reason Picts appeal to me: their evolution in fiction and myth has paralleled that of the artistic dwarf culture. The subterranean and artistic nature of the stereotypical dwarf has always appealed to me. Dwarves are the fantastical representation of demiurges, workers of the chaos of the universe, transmuting the nothingness and divinity of ether in material substance. In Norse tradition, the dwarves of Nidavellir lived in caverns working magical forges. These Norse myths mingled their way into the fairy tradition of the England, in which elves, dwarves, and fairies seem to descend from outcast natives that sought refuge underground. The precise cultural identity of the Picti is quite complicated, and Lovecraft influenced Howard's writing by educating him on the influence of Mongoloid cultures.i
•i Howard, R. E. (2005). Bran Mak Morn The Last King. New York, N.Y., Del Rey Ballantine Books. p327
•ii Howard, R. E. (1996). Introduction, Bran Mak Morn. Riverdale, NY, BAEN. p ix
•iii Howard, R. E. (1931). The Dark Man. Weird Tales, Popular Fiction Publishing