Traditionalism and Reconstructionism

To begin explaining the difference between these two approaches within modern paganism, I wish to share my own personal experience which led to my current understanding of Wotanism and of modern paganism in general. I have always had an interest in the occult as well as history and philosophy, but it was only as a teenager that I began to search for my own spiritual path. I trawled through various belief systems that interested me (Wicca, Norse paganism, Satanism etc.) before settling on an entirely atheistic and fatalistic perspective which was rooted in a materialist understanding of the world that came from my adherence to Marxism. It was only after going through the worst year of my life that I began to lose faith in such a hopeless and destructive way of thinking and once again became interested in something that appealed to my own tastes from a cultural perspective. Listening to a lot of pagan black metal music, I started to wonder about the pagan past of my own country, and looked to history to discover what was most relevant for my time and place. The part of Scotland that I live in was inhabited by the Picts in Pre-Christian times, and it was my research about this people in particular that informed my understanding of paganism (with an emphasis on the Brittonic tradition). My interest continued through to university (which provided much more free time for study than high school) and I learned more and more about the period preceding the Picts’ conversion to Christianity, namely the Late Iron Age and Post-Roman Scotland. It was what we know about this period in history that shaped my religious and spiritual beliefs and was the period I wanted to recapture through re-enactment.

However, I began to discover that it was a tricky business to try and retrace the steps of my Pictish ancestors. This mainly has to do with the lack of historical and archaeological information regarding the Picts and how they actually lived. While Germanic lore is fragmentary at best, Celtic mythology is very disconnected in time from the period that I was most interested in. Most of the tales that we know today were not written down until the Late Middle Ages (13th and 14th Centuries) and survive in heavily Christianized forms. This is especially true for Welsh mythology (as there is evidence that some parts of Irish mythology were written down as early as the 8th Century), and so what we know of the Brittonic tradition is noticeably lacking in authentic pagan lore. As for the Picts, no records of mythology or Pre-Christian beliefs survive, except from the very biased and fanciful descriptions by Christian missionaries, such as Adomnán (Ath-ov-nawn) of Iona. This is also where I encountered another problem with being focused on ‘Pictish Reconstructionism’, which was the fact that, as a nation, we retain almost no linguistic and cultural continuity with the Picts. The Picts were closely related to the Britons of Southern Scotland, and it appears that they also spoke a Brittonic language. This means that though they shared many aspects of Brittonic culture, they were considered a distinct ethnic group and likely had their own version of now lost lore. It is not that the Christian Picts were illiterate, their monks were probably also producing as much literature as their contemporaries in England and Ireland. However, it is very likely that all such evidence has been lost or destroyed following the campaigns of Edward I of England and the Protestant Reformation in particular, where monasteries were looted and burned in an effort to undermine their religious authority.

Aside from the loss of almost all literary records of their language (we know that they probably spoke a Brittonic language because of place-names and the names of Pictish kings written in Gaelic records), Pictish became extinct in the centuries following the ascension of the Gaelic aristocracy in Scotland. After the defeat of the high kings of Fortriu (Moray and Ross) by the Vikings, the Pictish kingdoms became dominated by the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riada (which was previously tributary to the kings of Fortriu). The new mormaers intermingled with the Pictish commoners and their language probably replaced Pictish alongside the cultural interactions following Christianization. As the missionaries who converted the Picts were Gaelic, it is likely that it was an important ecclesiastical language alongside Latin (most Ogham stone inscriptions from Scotland are written in Old Irish). And so, Pictish came to be replaced by Gaelic (and was also replaced by Old Norse in the Isles) and does not survive, although modern Scottish Gaelic does retain some features from Pictish that make it distinct from Irish and Manx. Now, even Gaelic is no longer spoken in most of Scotland, as the Lowlanders came to speak Scots (a language descended from Northumbrian Old English) and following the Highland Clearances and dissemination of British mass media, the vast majority of our countrymen speak English as their first language.

And so, it is clear what is problematic when it comes to ‘Celtic Reconstructionism’, which is that you cannot authentically reconstruct traditions in a culture that no longer has a linguistic connection to their pagan forebears. There are those that consider themselves ‘Gaelic Traditionalists’ who claim that they practice the most authentic expression of Gaelic culture, as they are native Gaelic-speakers and usually live in areas where Gaelic is still spoken, such as the Western Isles. One criticism levelled against traditionalists is that they are usually Catholic and therefore do not represent the most accurate practices of the Ancient Celts. However, this is where traditionalism differs from reconstructionism; it is the acknowledgement that the past has gone and that we can never return to Pre-Christian times. ‘Paganism’ is not about recreating the past of our folk, but rather creating a future for our folk. The syncretic mixture between Gaelic culture and Catholicism is a memory of more ancient traditions, but retains the innovations from under the influence of the Church.This reflects the methods used by the Catholic Church to convert people, as they preferred to simply modify existing pagan shrines and customs within a Christian context rather than through forceful conversion that was carried out by the Romans (and later the Franks) on the Continent. This innovation was, in fact, a result of the efforts attributed to Saint Patrick and his disciples; so Catholicism would not have reached the Picts and many other peoples around the world if not for this change of tactic on the part of Irish missionaries, which was subsequently adopted by the Catholic Church at large (such ideas included the concept of Purgatory, which was based on the Celtic belief in reincarnation).

This is typical of Catholic countries around the world, where ancient traditions survive in the veneer of Christianity. This syncretic path is the most authentic traditional expression of the cultures that have been converted to Catholicism, as they retain much of the pagan traditions from their past and continue to practice them today in that form. However, I was raised a nominal Protestant, and such is not the case when it comes to the cultures of Protestant countries. The Reformation was a largely left-brained (skeptical) reaction against the centralized hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and so religion to those who became Protestant was secularized. Rationalism and reductionism are the result of Protestant thinking, and so such cultures are largely devoid of tradition and have become some of the most materialistic in the world. This is largely because, in attempting to throw off the yoke of popery, we cast away what was left of our ancient customs and were left with a hollow, Germanic version of Judaism (which is only tolerable to us in the present because it is so superfluous as a part of our daily lives). However, because of the promotion of liberalism and critical thinking in Protestant lands, we are able to use what was saved from ancient times (such as the Icelandic Eddas and Sagas) and work with existing traditions to perfect our own path. The ways of our ancestors are so irrelevant to most people that they can be practised without fear. It is typical of our secular society that we would try to ‘recreate’ the past because we see it as separate from our own, as their philosophies were not based in liberalism or egalitarianism, and so they cannot truly be practised by those in a Modern mindset. The reason that I began to feel a loss of purpose with reconstructionism was that there was a sense of distance between myself and my ancestors, and I realized that I could not live and breathe as a ‘real’ pagan if I did not carry on their traditions for the sake of my descendants.

Our heritage is not something that we should simply stroll out once in a while as an accessory to our involvement in Modern society, it is a living and continuous flow of energy from our ancestors that works through us for the sake of our peoples’ survival. The interactions with each other and with our native land are what bring forth our customs and traditions. The cycle of the year and the flora and fauna of our environment are the basis of our lore, and it is to ensure the prosperity of our kind that we remember our ancient traditions in order to understand our place in the world and our unique relationship with Nature. We have lost our roots, and so we have been left to fall as a race. However, what has not been destroyed is again being found, as we now have access to more information than ever that can help us rediscover our relationship with the Earth. It is also important to be true to your own heritage and to be honest about who you are. Language is one of the most fundamental connections to our culture that we have, and the acknowledgement of our ancestors’ ethnicities should be a part of one’s self-perception. My own Germanic heritage has led me down the path of Wotanism, though some of my countrymen may prefer the Gaelic Traditionalist or Druidic traditions. Both of these contain more integration with Christianity, though many of our modern, Protestant customs still retain the bare framework of our ancient traditions that can be charged with new spiritual energy from our own personal practice and knowledge of lore.

The old divide between Catholic and Protestant has tended to run along the cultural differences between Celtic and Germanic folk in Western Europe (although the Isle of Lewis, where Gaelic is most heavily spoken, is traditionally Presbyterian, possibly due to their Norse ancestry). However, both of our cultures have been paralyzed by secularism, and even these distinctions are beginning to pass into the morass of multiculturalism. I feel rather estranged from ‘Scottish Nationalism’ because of the strong emphasis on our Gaelic heritage (which I appreciate but it is something which I consider only one part of my heritage), though I can understand those who view ‘British Nationalism’ with suspicion because of its emphasis on the dominant, Germanic culture of our Isles if they feel more inclined towards Catholicism or Druidism. Both paths are meant to exist side-by-side, their engagement does not need to express itself through either religious sectarianism, or by being partitioned into the ‘right-wing/left-wing’ dichotomy politically. It does not matter which one is more prevalent or ‘politically convenient’, what matters is that they form masculine and feminine counterparts intended to guide our folk depending on their personal inclinations (Celtic tradition emphasizes the role of the Goddess, while the Germanic is more of a path to God). Much of this discord is expressed by the friction between many modern men and women, through the disregarding of both divine masculinity and divine femininity. Peoples are not one unified mass, they consist of distinct parts which in turn are parts of the larger human species. When we attempt to reconstruct paganism, we are simply imitating a previous incarnation of our folk. However, when we attempt to recognise our present day plight and the need for spiritual fulfilment, we must learn from all that has happened since the rule of Christianity and its replacement by secularism, and move forward in continuing our traditions through cultural memory and awareness of our ethnic identity.

Wulf Willelmson

An ethnohraphic history of Scotland, Part III: Highlander and Lowlander

Within the endless romanticism of Scotland’s past, the conflict between the Gaelic Highlanders, representing ancient traditions, pastoralism and a ‘noble savage’ mythos; and the Germanic Lowlanders, representing the ruthless expansion of modern ideals from the towns and cities of Scotland into her countryside, has been a recurring theme. While these notions are based on historical reality, the idea that the ways of the Highlanders (as portrayed by the modern tourist industry and false nationalists) represent authentic Scottish culture, while the Lowlanders embody an invasive imitation of English culture (or, at the very least, is largely ignored in romanticism) is as absurd as it is false. Much of the animosity surrounding the Jacobite Wars and the later Highland Clearances has more to do with the increasing domination of British state authority on all the peoples of our island than on the desire for Germanic Lowland culture to become dominant (though, realistically, this has become the case). They both represent two sides of our overall culture that are suited to folk in different parts of the country.

At the dawn of the 12th Century, this division did not exist; at this time, Brittonic culture had been extinguished in Scotland with the annexing of Strathclyde and Gaelic was the predominant language spoken in Scotland (with the exceptions of the Borders and the Northern Isles). This began to change with the reforms of David I, whose establishment of the burghs and invitations to entrepreneurs (mainly from Flanders) to settle them marked the beginning of what would become Lowland culture. This process had already begun beforehand, as English refugees fleeing the Norman invasion settled mostly in Southern Scotland and had influenced the local culture since the 11th Century. While throughout the Wars of Independence from England, the Middle English (French influenced) tongue was restricted mainly to the South-East and the areas surrounding the burghs, there was a definite preference for this language among the Scottish nobles (as well as, of course, French).

It is at this point that I wish to clear up a misconception about one of our national heroes from the Wars of Independence: William Wallace. Though sometimes portrayed as a son of the Highlands, he was from Strathclyde, a place geographically part of the Lowlands. As a member of the nobility, he was taught how to read French and Latin, but probably conversed in English on a day-to-day basis. His comrade, Andrew Moray, was also a nobleman (of a higher rank than Wallace) and would have also been immersed in the culture of the burghs. Yet many of the common soldiers and clansmen that fought for Scotland’s freedom were Gaels, as they all fought against the tyranny of Edward the Hammer of Scots, despite their linguistic differences. Though Robert the Bruce was of a French-speaking Norman family, as King of Scots he would also needed to have been able to read Latin, and probably also knew at least some Gaelic (which would have been handy during his campaigns in Ireland). This began to change, however, in the Late Middle Ages. As the Norman influence began to wane among the nobility, both the nobles and the common folk in the South-East, the Central Belt and the North-East coast adopted English almost exclusively. Conversely, the inhabitants of the rest of the kingdom would have spoken Gaelic on a daily basis.

This linguistic separation continued right through the 15th Century, as the Scottish form of English diverged from that spoken in England. This language came to be known as ‘Scots’ (known to Scots speakers as ‘Lallans’) and its distinct literature became a feature of Scottish culture during the reign of the Stewart dynasty in the 15th and 16th Centuries. In this period, Scots and English became mutually unintelligible; as English underwent significant changes, Scots retained more features of Middle English and displayed considerably more influence from Norse and Latin. Scots wasn’t the only new language to have emerged in Scotland during the Middle Ages. The variety of Norse spoken in the Northern Isles was known as ‘Norn’ and was distinct from Norwegian. However, with the granting of sovereignty over Orkney and Shetland to Scotland by the King of Scandinavia, Eric of Pomerania (who, apparently, needed the money), Norn came to be replaced by Scots, though it was not extinct until the 19th Century.

Gradually, throughout the Early Modern Period, Lowland culture expanded in Southern and Eastern Scotland and Scots became the language of the folk in the hills and on the plans, while Gaelic was retained by those in the mountainous regions (with the exception of Galloway), creating the Highland/Lowland dichotomy we know today. While at the beginning of the Stewart’s reign, the whole of Scotland was Catholic, this was to change in the 16th Century during the reign of the first (and, arguably, last) Scottish queen: Mary Queen of Scots. Though she herself was a Catholic raised in France, many folk in Scotland became disillusioned with the corruption and dominance of the Catholic Church and sought to emulate those in England and elsewhere in Europe who had challenged its power and established Protestant churches. Protestantism appealed more to the Lowlanders, whose lives in the burghs and more densely populated communities felt the need for change, as many could not reconcile the poverty among their folk with the power of the fabulously wealthy Catholic Church. The Highlanders, on the other hand, saw less need for reform as their own pastoral traditions had continued from heathen times and the issues surrounding wealth distribution had less impact on their largely tribal way of life.

The Protestant Reformation in Scotland was spearheaded by a fiery preacher named John Knox, who preached a deterministic Protestant doctrine known as ‘Calvinism’, which maintained that only those chosen by God can attain ‘Salvation’ and that God is the supreme authority. Calvinism also made allowances for usury, which facilitated the beginning of banking and capitalism in Scotland, and so was favoured by the merchant class. Eventually, he and his followers persuaded many Lowlanders with his teachings and an orgy of destruction of all that was ‘popish’ ensued, resulting in a loss of literature and damage of architecture not seen since Edward’s invasion. The Church of Scotland was reformed with English support, and the new doctrine was known as ‘Presbyterianism’, which came to distinguish the Lowlanders from the still largely Catholic Highlanders, whom this cultural revolution did not affect. Now a sectarian divide reinforced the linguistic and cultural differences between the Highlanders and Lowlanders, and relations between the two deteriorated over time.

With the ascendancy of James VI of Scotland (who was our first Protestant king) to the English throne to form the United Kingdom, the 17th Century marked the beginning of the end of Gaelic Highland culture. By now, the Lowlanders referred to the Highlanders as ‘Erse’ (‘Irish’), while the Highlanders used the term ‘Sassenach’ (‘Saxon’) to describe the Lowlanders. This reflected the mutual animosity between the two and their desire to cast the other as foreign and not ‘true Scots’. This situation wasn’t helped by the fact that James VI settled Presbyterian Lowlanders in Northern Ireland to ‘de-Gaelify’ Ulster, introducing Lowland culture there and setting the stage for future sectarian troubles.With the outbreak of the civil war in Britain and Ireland in 1642, most Highlanders rallied behind the king, while many Lowlanders considered themselves ‘Covenanters’ and resented Charles I’s attempts to impose Anglican liturgy on their Presbyterian services. Despite the fact that Cromwell’s victorious regime was overthrown and Charles II restored as king, this was not the end of the struggle.

His successor, James VII, was an open Catholic, which proved to be enough reason for the English parliament to force him to abdicate in favour of the bankers’ choice, William of Orange from Holland (who was married to James’ sister, Mary II). The ensuing struggle came to be known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 by Protestants and continues to represent the bitter hatred between Catholics and Protestants over the next few centuries. The men that supported James VII came to be known as ‘Jacobites’ (after the Latin ‘Jacobus’ for ‘James’) and became synonymous with the Highlanders, despite the fact that this was a political rather than cultural affiliation. The Jacobites were successful at first, routing their enemies at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. However, their subsequent defeats at the Haughs of Cromdale in Scotland and the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland (both in 1690) saw the end of the revolution and victory for William.

The following uprisings occurred several times in the early 18th Century in response to a new monarchy beginning with George I of Hanover. The ‘Hanoverians’ represented the dominance of a degenerated Germanic culture characterized by capitalism and secularism, which was encroaching on peoples all over Northern Europe and other parts of the world. The most notable Jacobite uprising was that of the ‘Young Pretender’, Bonnie Prince Charlie, in 1745, as this time they were more successful and briefly managed to gain control of Scotland. Unfortunately, the Jacobite army was unsuccessful in taking England and they were driven back to the Highlands, where they were defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to France, and the retribution against the Highlanders was that their clan system was dismantled and their way of life degraded.

Many clan chieftains were replaced and the system of landownership was reorganized so as to make the chieftain the landowner rather than the clan using the land communally. This eventually resulted in what became known as the ‘Highland Clearances’, a painful memory for our folk as much of Highland culture was destroyed following the displacement of folk from their ancestral lands that were now tenants rather than clansmen in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. This happened because the traditional practice of cattle droving was unprofitable and the lairds struggled to receive enough rent from their tenants. An available alternative was to invest in the wool industry by replacing cattle droving with sheep farming. However, because sheep farmers were of a different occupation than the cattle drovers, they had to be imported from other parts of Scotland, so many of the previous tenants were evicted and had to move either to other parts of Scotland, or to British colonies like Canada or New Zealand. A similar process also occurred in the Lowlands, however, this mainly had to do with land reorganization, so most of the affected simply moved into the cities or other parts of the Lowlands, and so many Lowland communities remained intact. Highland society, on the other hand, was drastically altered (along with the Highland environment, which has been largely made barren by extensive sheep farming) and English replaced Gaelic all over the Highlands with the introduction of standardized education. Again, the same thing happened in the Lowlands, but with less vigour and likely with less ethnic hostility involved.

What was it that made the Highland and Lowland cultures seem to incompatible over the last few centuries? The answer has to do with long-standing cultural differences between the Celtic and Germanic peoples in addition to the division and strife that has characterized the most recent phase of Kali Yuga. In my last post, I described some of the differences between Celtic and Germanic culture, and these differences still applied in this period. Cattle-raiding was not a feature of Germanic culture, a fact which became bothersome to Lowland cattle-farmers who saw the Highlanders cattle-rustling as mere thievery, rather than a time-honoured tradition of proving their manhood and leadership capabilities to their folk. There were also noticeable differences in fashion; for example, trousers were ubiquitous to all of the Germanic peoples and remain a feature of their culture even in modern times.

In contrast, the Celtic peoples (beginning in the Dark Ages) saw trousers as the mark of a peasant and so most Highlanders went bare-legged in accordance with this custom. It is from their cloak and knee-length tunic combination without trousers that the modern kilt derives. The weaving of ‘tartan’ was not exclusive to the Highlands, but it was certainly the norm there, in contrast to the Lowlands where clothes were more likely to be of one colour. Unlike in modern times, a particular tartan was the mark of a local weaver rather than a particular clan and did not have this significance as it does today. Highland culture was also exclusively rural and pastoral, while Lowlanders could be found in urban or rural places. This led to the perception of the Gaelic Highlanders as ‘country bumpkins’, whole uncivilized lifestyles conflicted with those of folk in Lowland Scotland and England.

The organization of each society also differed; whereas Highland society retained the tribal bond between kinsmen as the basic structure of a clan, the Lowlands were centred on the burghs, which acted as redistribution centres for the surrounding countryside and worked on a financial rather than familial model. However, despite these differences, one area where they shared many similarities (especially towards the end of this era) was warfare. Despite the fact that most of the king’s army was drawn up from Lowland knights and commoners, while the Gaelic clansmen were used more like mercenaries, their weapons and tactics in battle were very similar. Both consisted of elite, armoured skirmisher cavalry supported by lightly or unarmoured infantry (though the Highlanders were less likely to be armoured) consisting of spearmen and archers. During the Wars of Independence, the ‘schiltron’ came into use, a tactic where pikemen were arranged in an oval formation similar to a phalanx. This tactic was used unsuccessfully as a defensive formation by William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, only to be successfully utilized by Robert the Bruce to push the offensive at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

From this point on, Medieval European warfare came to be dominated by infantry, as innovation in creating new types of pole-arms resulted in a wider range of weapons that could be used against cavalry (including glaives, bill-hooks and war axes) in addition to pikes. In the Late Middle Ages, this necessitated the use of larger swords that could only be wielded with two hands, which paved the way for the creation of the weapon that signifies the Highland warrior: the claymore. ‘Claidheamh-Mor’ means ‘great sword’ and, despite its unique association with the Highlands, ‘great swords’ could be found all over Europe, even the Lowlanders had their own design. However, the style of the claymore was exclusive to the Highlanders, who were famed for their skills with the sword, which has come to represent strength and masculinity.

As firearms came to dominate the battlefield, armour became gradually obsolete, as it was more useful to be mobile than heavily protected in an age of long-range combat. The Highlanders never seriously lagged behind their Lowland counterparts and in the Early Modern Period, they used a combination of targe (shield with straps) and broadsword with pistol and musket. The fearsome ‘Highland charge’ gave the Jacobites many of their victories, but could be outmanoeuvred by cavalry. It was this factor that led to the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden rather than inferior military tactics or equipment. New research suggests that the Jacobites were as well trained as the British army, but that their lack of cavalry proved decisive in their defeat. The differences between Highlanders and Lowlanders were never so wide as so clearly show one society as superior to the other, and the perspective of Gaelic inferiority was simply used as propaganda by the British establishment to justify the suppression of the Jacobites and Highland culture.

Today, Scotland is somewhat more uniform in her culture; mass media and standardized education has made us more similar to the English and, more recently, to the Americans. The English tongue reigns supreme, as Scottish Gaelic is only spoken by a small minority of the population (mostly in the Western Isles), while Scots is still spoken interchangeably with Scottish English mostly in the North-East and Shetland. Yet, in addition to this, there are also immigrants from England and Ireland as well as other parts of Europe and the world. The large influx of Polish folk in particular is beginning to add a Slavic element to our culture. As the dichotomy between the Highlands and Lowlands now exists largely within geography rather than society, this current cultural climate will also change. What will the future of Scottish culture be? Hopefully it will incorporate our historical Celtic and Germanic traditions and help to reconnect our folk to their heritage in addition to borrowing customs from other Aryan brothers and sisters living on our land.

Wulf Willelmson

An ethnographic history of Scotland, Part I: The Celtic tribes

To have an understanding of one’s heritage, you must recognise the struggles of the tribes and nations that came before you so that you can appreciate the cultures that your ancestors fought to preserve and how you can hopefully avoid being wiped off the map as a distinct group of people. That said, the folk that make up ethnic groups tend not to truly disappear (except in the case of deliberate genocide by a hostile invader), but rather live on in in the blood of people who may have adopted the culture of their ancestors’ enemies. Such is the course of history, and being able to recognise who is truly your racial enemy and who is simply another ethnic group living in the vicinity is essential to the survival of a folk. Some ethnic groups live side-by-side in a country, others come to dominate the whole country, while the unfortunate or weak-willed are trampled underfoot and forgotten. We must have an understanding of where we have come from if we want to know where to go as a folk.

Our country has a long history of human occupation stretching back at least 10,000 years to the Mesolithic, though earlier settlement will have become obscured by the devastating force of the glaciers during each Ice Age. Though the ways of these early prehistoric folk have long since faded, our Aryan heritage stretches at least back to the Bronze Age (around 4,000 years ago) with the introduction of metallurgy and pastoralism (although whether the Aryans were also responsible for the introduction of agriculture around 5,000 years ago is not entirely clear). Nevertheless, despite the many interesting things that could be said about our prehistory, for the sake of conciseness I am going to focus specifically on the history of the last 2,000 years, since our ancestral memory of earlier times has been clouded and also because it is in this period that the various peoples who form the basis of the European nations today emerge. Maybe another time we can focus on the truly ancient past.

For now we must do with what, unfortunately, other civilisations have had to say about our ancestors. The Classical Greeks knew of Britain and Ireland and even sailed there a few times. The name they gave for Britain was ‘Albion’, an ancient term possibly meaning ‘white’ and related to the name of the Alps. However, it is the Romans who give us the first true glimpses of our country’s ethnography, specifically because they were attempting to conquer it. The impression that they give us is that our ancestors were naked savages that knew nothing of civilisation and lived like animals, and that the only reason that the Romans couldn’t conquer their land was because it was so dreary and the climate so awful that no sane person would ever want to live there. Archaeology has shown this blatant propaganda to be false, as of course, our ancestors were engaged in agriculture for thousands of years and in fact, the area of Strathmore on the east coast has long been acknowledged as highly productive for growing grain. Therefore, the Romans have contributed nothing to our heritage aside form their ‘historical’ records and archaeological remains. Yet their accounts are still valuable, as they provide us with the earliest tribal and ethnic names that our ancestors may have used to refer to themselves.

The Roman historian Tacitus gives us some interesting details about the natives of this land in the eulogy to his father-in-law, British governor and general, Agricola, and his attempt to conquer Scotland. He refers to her inhabitans as ‘Britons’ and more specifically to the tribes north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus as ‘Caledonians’ (from whom our kindred takes it’s name). While it is tempting to presume that the folk of Northern Scotland were ethnically identical to those in the rest of Britain on this basis, there is evidence that this was not necessarily the case. In the Welsh Triads, Britain (known as ‘Prydein’) is split into three parts: Lloegyr (what is now Southern and Eastern England), Cymru (pronounced ‘cum-ree’ and consisted of Wales, Northern and Western England and Southern Scotland) and the area in question as Alban or Prydyn. While the Welsh refer to themselves as ‘Cymraeg’, they referred to the inhabitants of Prydyn as ‘Brithwyr’, which is very confusing considering that later on the Romans referred to the former as ‘Britons’ and the latter as ‘Picts’. Nevertheless, it has been proven through the analysis of place-names and Pictish personal names that the Picts spoke a Brittonic language in the same family as Modern Welsh, Cornish and Breton.

Another group that appear to have been present in Scotland at this time are the Gaels. Though they have come to be seen by some as synonymous with Scottish identity, originally they seem to have had a fairly minor presence in Scotland, inhabiting what is now Argyll (which means ‘coast of the Gael’). It has been generally assumed that the Scottish Gaels originally came from Ireland, although the lack of Brittonic place-names in Argyll that would suggest the presence of an earlier Pictish population makes this unlikely. Thus, by the time the Romans arrive (and for that matter, by the time they leave) Scotland consisted of three distinct ethnic groups: Britons in the South, Gaels in the West and Picts in the rest (the Northern and Western Isles were probably Pictish too but it’s harder to be sure). They all spoke Celtic languages and had similar Iron Age cultures, but each group consisted of different tribes with their own traditions and ties to the land.

Their way of life most likely depended on what sort of land they lived on. Tribes that inhabited the low-lying plains (yes, they do exist in Scotland) would have focused more on agriculture and may have had more settled lives, growing grains like barley, oats and spelt wheat as well as vegetables such as leeks, kale and turnips. Those tribes that lived on the hills would have practised pastoralism and moved up or down from the hills depending on the season. Though they would have herded sheep, goats and pigs (chickens being relatively rare in this period), their main focus was on cattle, who were considered so valuable that cattle-raiding has been a long-standing tradition in Celtic culture. This usually took place during Autumn and was a chance for young warriors to prove their worth among their tribe through acts of bravery. As you would expect, these folk survived on a diet mainly consisting of meat and dairy, although they would also have grown crops, the emphasis here being that these differences in lifestyle between tribes were not necessarily exclusive, more the predominance of agriculture or pastoralism in a particular area. The tribes that lived on the coast or on islands would have relied more on wild sources of food, such as fishing and whaling as well as hunting for seabirds and their eggs. They were the ones who best preserved the ancient ways of the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic (as reflected by the lack of archaeological finds from Scottish islands in this period), although they also practised what agriculture and animal husbandry they could.

The style of warfare among Iron Age tribes in Scotland was fairly primitive, there is little evidence for armour and what armour there was (chainmail and possibly bronze helmets) would have only been worn by the chieftains or champions who were given lavish weapons and armour as gifts. Spears, javelins or darts (which may have been tipped with iron or bone) and small shields would have been the mainstay of warriors at this time, with a focus on light, mobile warfare consisting of hit-and-run tactics and ambushing. Though they seem to have reserved this style of warfare for the Romans, who could not be defeated in a pitched battle (as evidenced by their defeat at the hands of Agricola at the Battle of Mons Graupius according to Tacitus) and had to be dealt with through guerilla warfare; attacking and then retreating into the mountains and forests to wear them down through attrition (which seemed to do the trick given that the Romans basically gave up on conquering Scotland, if not for want of trying). They used light cavalry but they also had chariots, which were more suited to the smaller ponies native to Britain and had gone out of fashion in the rest of Eurasia. It is unclear what their swords were like, Tacitus says that the Caledonians used ‘huge swords’, but all of the archaeological evidence from Northern Britain (albeit, none has been found in the region of Alban) suggests that swords weren’t much longer than the average gladius, which is more likely considering that iron isn’t particularly abundant in Scotland, and the style of warfare in Northern Britain and Ireland suggests the use of short swords.

Amongst themselves battles were probably more ritualized, with an emphasis on display through both ostentatious torques and tattoos as well as taunts, songs and chants as a prelude to combat. The battle may have begun with an exchange of javelins from skirmishers and charioteers (as suggested from Tacitus account of Mons Graupius) before the more experienced warriors would charge at each other. Battles in this era were probably rather short, and would have depended on the performance of the most skilled warriors, with the lighter armed and less experienced warriors providing support through missile-fire and shouting. Given what Tacitus says about the amount of warriors that fled Mons Graupius (most of them) we can assume that these warriors were used to breaking once the better warriors began to rout and so while the losing army returned to their wives and mothers in shame, they at least lived to fight and maybe win again another day. The winners celebrated their victories in the mead hall (probably the house of their chieftain) and feasted, drank and sung of great deeds on the battlefield and heroes of the past. Battles would have usually taken place in the Summer (it was a separate sort of engagement from the cattle-raiding), and could have occurred for all manner of reasons, vendettas and slanders by a member of one tribe against another were likely reasons. Single-combat between champions was also aspect of Iron Age warfare, since this emphasizes the conflict between individuals rather than whole tribes and could have been used to resolve disputes without a battle taking place.

To be continued…

Wulf Willelmson

A new beginning…

Greetings,

The Creed of Caledon has been established as a response to the alienation and dissatisfaction felt by white Scots in modern society. Our institutions no longer serve our best interests, our communities have become fragmented and our nation is without direction as to how to benefit our folk. Our politicians seem to think that we are incapable of ruling ourselves, and must either be governed by the old imperial ruin that is the UK, or by the new corporate mega-state, the EU.

We can no longer look to external institutions to ensure what is best for our people, and so the Creed of Caledon focuses our efforts inward to grow morally and spiritually, as well as outward towards building new communities and establishing bonds of friendship between our folk. Our nation is not based on borders or flags, but is within our blood, and our ancestral memories are written on the very land that we live on. We now have the choice to become free folk, through reclaiming our heritage and by practicing the traditions of our forebears and adjusting them to the perilous times in which we live. We have no interest in being a political movement, as all attempts to change the broken system that have governed our lives within the past century have failed.

Our philosophy is known as ‘Wotanism’ and is based on the teachings of David Lane and Ron McVan, through we make no pretence to see men as gods or even holy in their own right, simply messengers who set an example for the rest of us through their words. Our specific practice is based on the surviving traditions and lore of the Germanic peoples, though unlike many ‘neopagan’ groups, we do not seek to relive the past or focus on a specific cultural group (such as Norse or Anglo-Saxon), but rather incorporate all of the cultures that have played a role in our history.

While our cultural outlook is predominantly Germanic, we acknowledge the importance of Gaelic culture in our past and present, as well as the vanished Picts and Britons whose memory still survives in our history and local place-names. Because of this, our particular strand of Wotanism is a syncretic mixture between Germanic and ‘Celtic’ elements, although the Germanic element is stronger simply to reflect the cultural reality that most of us speak a Germanic language and have done for hundreds of years. We feel that this will allow us to make our connection to the past more relevant to future generations.

We are at the dawn of a new age, the races of the world will be tested for their fitness to survive the coming storms. Only those who are determined enough in their will to carry on their seed for generations to come will pass the tests, and to do so we must do our utmost to improve ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. The gods are there to offer us a hand, but they will not do the work for us. We must strive to strengthen our bonds not just with them, but with the spirits of our ancestors, the wights that inhabit the land and the plants and animals that will be our fellow survivors who emerge from the wreckage of the old world. The internet has allowed us access to the information that we need to endure the coming struggle, now we can work to lay the foundations of a new society that is based on the Aryan ethics of trust, honesty and loyalty. I look forward to writing many posts for this website.

Wulf Willelmson