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The Picts are the inhabitants of the Pictish Wilderness of the Hyborian Age.

Robert E. Howard's Picts are a conflation of the historical Picts and American Indians, particularly the Algonquins.

People and culture Edit

The Picts are a Darker skinned race, though swarthy.

The Picts are short, very dark, with black eyes and hair. They are broad-shouldered, deep-chested, lean-hipped, thickly-muscled, naked except for scanty doe-skin loin-clouts.

Their faces are immobile, but their narrow eyes glitter with the fire that burns in the eyes of a stalking tiger. When a Pict stands motionless, the very beasts pass without noticing.

They live in tents of hides and brush-thatched huts of mud and wattle where hang the grinning skulls of men. In mud-walled enclosures fires flicker and drums rumble, and spears are whetted in the hands of silent men in moccasins. Villages are surrounded by a stockade with a broad gate. A low, hideous pyramid of gory human heads can be seen in the middle.

Stakes (for torturing and killing captives) are set before a long building, larger than the other huts, decorated by human skulls dangling from the eaves. Inside is a grim stone altar, five human heads grinning on it. Behind the altar is an idol, dim, indistinct, bestial, yet vaguely man-like in outline. A bull ape. The Picts think they're sacred to gorilla-god Gullah the Hairy One who lives on the moon.

They practice human sacrifice, blood-feud, and the burning alive of captives.

Only one drum in the world makes just that deep, menacing, sullen thunder: the war-drum of the Picts.

Pictish women wail their dead.

They raid into the mountains of Zingara for tin. Ships from Zingara occasionally come and trade weapons and ornaments and wine to the coastal tribes for hides, whale teeth, walrus tusks, copper ore and gold dust. Sometimes they trade ostrich plumes from Kush. The Pictish shamans place great store by them.

They know how to plant grain and do it sketchily, but prefer to steal it from their neighbors the Bossonians and Zingarans.

The clans are generally at feud with each other, and their simple customs are blood-thirsty. Some of their clans:

  • Hawk or Onayaga
  • Wolf
  • Eagle
  • Toucan
  • Cormorant
  • Sea-falcon
  • Wildcat
  • Turtle
  • Panther
  • Alligator
  • Otter
  • Hornbill
  • Raven

There is a difference by clan in the barbaric tribal designs painted on their faces and breasts. There is also difference between warrior's and hunter's marks.

Some common equipment is this. Their tangled manes bound back with bands of copper. A necklace of human teeth. A brass armlet. A toucan feather drooping over left ear. A heavy black bow with white notches for every slain enemy. Short swords and axes. Lower jaws painted white, contrasting vividly with their dark faces. Shark's teeth woven in the tangled locks of the wildest and most barbaric warriors. Shamans are almost hidden in ostrich plumes set on a harness of leather and copper.

They may use their teeth in fight. They slash throats from ear to ear. They are known to scalp enemies.

The worst insult you can give a Pict is to throw him into a cell.

There are huge serpents in that forest which sometimes hang by their tails from branches high above and so snare their prey. They are the only things a Pict fears.

Their shamans can transfer the soul of a captured enemy into a serpent. Then both are beheaded. And his foe should dwell in the body of a serpent throughout his next reincarnation.

The Picts are a ruder, more practical, more prolific race. They left no pictures painted or carved on ivory, as did their enemies, but they left remarkably efficient flint weapons in plenty.

The lands of the Picts are rife with game and fish. Having no need of animal husbandry or agriculture, the Picts have never developed the kind of structured society that other nations have.

Notable Picts Edit

  • Zogar Sag — a shaman/wizard from Gwawela village who united about 16 clans and pushed the border to Thunder River.
  • Old Garogh - a shaman.
  • Gorm — a very successful chief.

Painted people Edit

Popular etymology has long interpreted the name "Pict" as if it derived from the Latin the word picti meaning "painted folk" or possibly "tattooed ones"; and this may relate to the Welsh word pryd meaning "to mark" or "to draw". Julius Caesar, who never went near Pictland, mentions the British Celtic custom of body painting in Book V of his Gallic Wars, stating -

Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem, atque hoc horridiores sunt in pugna aspectu,
- which means -
In fact all Britanni stain themselves with vitrum, which produces a dark blue colour, and by this means they are more terrifying to face in battle.

The phrase vitro inficiunt is traditionally translated as "stain with woad", but could as well have meant “infect with glass”-describing a scarification ritual which left dark blue scars-or “dye with glaze”, forming a direct reference to tattooing. Subsequent commentators may have displaced the 1st-century BC southern practices (of the Brittani, a tribe south of the Thames) to the northern peoples in an attempt to explain the name Picti, which came into use only in the 3rd century AD. Julius Caesar himself, commenting in his Gallic Wars on the tribes from the areas where Picts (later) lived, states that they have “designs carved into their faces by iron”.

Whatever the historical truth, there was in Howard's mind a clear link between these "painted folk" and the American Indians in their warpaint.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Pict. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Conan Wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

References Edit

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