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Sacred geography – Picts – Crannogs 01

Identifier

026483

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

 

A crannog is a partially or entirely artificial island, usually built in lakes, rivers and estuarine waters of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Unlike the prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps that were built on the shores and were inundated only later on, crannogs were built in the water, thus forming artificial islands.  Within the sacred geography of the Picts, they are symbolic islands and isthmuses.

Crannogs were used from the European Neolithic Period to as late as the 17th/early 18th century, although over time their spiritual significance was lost and they became refuges or even houses.  The overwhelming majority of crannogs show multiple phases of occupation and re-use, often extending over centuries. Thus the re-occupiers may have viewed crannogs as a legacy that remained alive in local tradition and memory.  Wikipedia says “The earliest radiocarbon determinations obtained from key sites such as Oakbank in Loch Tay and Redcastle, Beauly Firth approach the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age….they fall after around 800 BC and so could be considered Late Bronze Age

 

Depending on the material available, a spiritually significant crannog would have stone as its principle building material, but incorporate timber and revetted with timber piles. There are two small crannogs in the upper end of Loch Rannoch, for example. The east and larger island is wholly artificial, resting upon large beams of wood fixed to each other.

In areas such as the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, completely stone crannogs supporting drystone architecture are common.  Today, crannogs typically appear as small, circular islets, often 10 to 30 metres (30 to 100 ft) in diameter, covered in dense vegetation due to their inaccessibility to grazing livestock.

For those who doubt the statement that a crannog is part of the symbolic architecture, we would simply say why build an island in a loch, surrounded by nothing but mountains and relatively inaccessible, requiring vast amounts of time and labour, when one could build the same on shore? Furthermore, there are many instances of crannogs built near natural islets that were often completely unused, thus the siting with respect to the other sacred sites was important enough for the builders to ignore natural sites.

Crannog Glen Quaich

The source of the experience

Picts

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbols

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References