These pages are based on a book "Scottish Witchcraft, The History & Magick of the Picts" by Raymond Buckland. Many things were reworded and omitted because of space on the web site. My personal comments are usually in brackets.
The Highlands of what is now Scotland were earlier inhabited by people known as the Picts, or Pechts. In fact, this area was then known as "Pictland" and did not become "Scotland" until as late as the eleventh century. A second century Roman geographer, Ptolemy, drew the earliest map of the region. On it he showed four tribes: the Venicones, Tazali, Vacomagi and Caledoni. By the third century these four had become two tribes, the Caledoni and the Maeatae, and by the end of the third century merged as one nation, the Picts.
These people have long been a mystery, partly because they spoke a language that is now lost. When the Scots became a dominant force in the welding together of medieval Scotland, it was not in their interests to keep alive any Pictish traditions.
The Scots, incidentally, were immigrants from Ireland who, having come first as raiders, by the fifth century had settled in the under-populated areas of the west. By the seventh century they were virtually masters of the lowlands.
The right of succession to the throne was matrilinear-in other words, reckoned through the mother. This practice was in existence for well over three hundred years, that we know of, and probably much longer.
Most of what was learned about the Picts was through their art. They used powerful animal symbols and geometric forms. Jewelry, metalwork, stone carvings: all show the same highly skilled craftsmanship.
The form of Witchcraft that we shall be dealing with is that which stems from the time of the Picts. The late Aidan Breac, a respected teacher and practitioner, termed it "PectiWita", or "Pictish Witchcraft." From just how far back it comes it is impossible to say, but it is certain that it differs in many ways from the Wicca of England; of the Gardnerian, Keltic, Saxon, Alexandrian and other varieties. This is of the old Scotland.
Witchcraft was practised in Scotland from earliest times. During the reign of Natholocus, in the second century, there was a famous Witch living on the island of Iona (a tiny island off the coast of the large island of Mull, in the Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.) Such was her renown that the king sent a trusted messenger to her to find out what was going to be the result of a rebellion then building in him kingdom. The Witch said that the king would soon be murdered, not by an enemy, but by one of his most trusted friends. When the messenger demanded who it was, she said it was him. After thinking it over, not wanting to report what the Witch had said, and perhaps be killed by the king in anticipation, the messenger did stab the king to death.
There are many cases of Witchcraft throughout Scottish history, reflecting the bitter crusade pursued by Protestants and Catholics alike, in their paranoia over possible "servants of the devil." The vast majority of Scottish Witches, like their Pictish forebears, practiced as Solitaries, only occasionally coming together for special celebrations. Witchcraft was first made legally punishable, in Scotland, by an Act passed by the Scottish Parliament, in the reign of Mary, in 1563.
HISTORIC SCOTTISH MAGICK
Scottish history and legend is replete with stories of magickal workings, spells and charms. A lot of this reflects the very forms of the "airt" used by the "PectiWita", or Pict Witches.
In Orkney, there is a charm performed to bring a good supply of butter. To ensure a favourable breeze, fishermen and seamen at Gourock Bay would pace seven times around a large monolith standing on the cliffs. Some still do it today. In Moray, Pechts would cut down woodbine in the waxing of the March moon. These they would twist into wreaths and preserve for a year and a day. After that time young children suffering from fever could be passed through three times and be cured. Even today, throughout the highlands many people carry a lucky penny or "peighinn pisich". This has to be turned over three times, at the first glimpse of the full moon. These go on and on, and as mentioned earlier, many are still practised today.
GODS OF THE PICTS
Traces of the old Druidic reverence for the sun still linger throughout Scotland. It was believed that both the sun and moon could exert strong magickal influences. In this respect the moon was more powerful than the sun.
The "Mother of All" was CAILLEACH: an old "hag" often depicted with the teeth of a wild bear, or with boar's tusks. She was reputed to be a great worker of spells. Cailleach has also been identifies with Scotia, after whom Scotland was named.
If there was a male deity who was especially acknowledged it was GRUAGACH. This name means "the long-haired one." In the western highlands he was placated by oblations of milk, which were poured into a hollow stone. He was looked upon as the guardian of cattle and as a valiant warrior and a sorcerer.
TARANIS A thunder god.
SHONEY Ensured good fishing.
MUIREARTACH "the hag of the sea." She was the mother of the western storms.
FIONN A warrior, magician and poet. He destroyed giants and monsters.
SLUAG (Slooa) the Host of the Unforgiven Dead. He was the inventor of the Ogham writing.
There was a strong belief in the earth and water spirits, of various types. Earth worship was a prominent feature of Scottish paganism. Children would often be concieved on a special piece of earth or earthen mound. Offerings would be made at standing stones and sacred areas.
GIANTS, supposed to have been scattered generally across Scotland.
KELPIES, especially found in the Hebrides, had human appearance but may take the form of horses. They tempt humans to ride them, then plunge into the water to drown them.
BROWNIES, usually in pairs, look after boats. They seem to like to argue.
MERMAIDS, found scattered along the northern coasts. They are the lovely daughters of the Fin Folk: tall dark men who wear close-fitting silver scales. They live under the sea, although they also cultivated farms on the dry land.
TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES
STAFF The first tool is the staff. If you need to compare it to tools of other traditions, it is the Sword and the Magick Wand rolled into one. This tool has many uses from traveling staff, to weapon and even to consecrate a ritual circle. It is a personal item and is called "an luirgean" or "an lorg ohn" in Gaelic.
DIRK Second working tool. This is a long-bladed knife that often have engraved or etched Scottish motifs.
KEEK-STANE Third and last is the main tool. In effect, this is like a scrying stone, or the equivalent of a crystal ball. It can be made of glass, concave on one side and convex on the other. The convex side is painted black. It is usually held in a box.
MOOL Usually an earthenware bowl. It represents earth.
QUAICH A cup. Some are made of horns that can be hung from a belt. Usually saved for ritual purposes.
INCENSE Favourites were Sweet Flag, Scotch Heather, Catnip, Milfoil, and resin from Scotch pine trees.
BELL Not used by everyone. Used to achieve the right "vibrations". Choose one that sounds "right" to you.
FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS