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Symbols – Picts – Sacred site - Crosses in Eggs [citadels]



Type of Spiritual Experience


Brodie stone


A description of the experience


The Pictish stone cross which is often assumed to be Christian, has its origins going back to the mists of time.

Practically all symbolism related to the cross of this shape is based on the body and the idea of man being bound to the body.  In effect the soul is tied to [see laces, ties and knots]  or nailed [see Nails] to the physical.  Thus by ‘suffering’ on the cross, one suffers because one has acquired a body and is as a consequence no longer just the Higher spirit.  The main axis is the spine and by extension the celestial pole.

The horizontal arms act as dividers between the area of the Higher spirit and the lower world of the Conscious, subconscious, 5 senses, nervous system and autonomic system.  To be symbolically crucified is to be made physical and human, to enter the world of the physical from the world of spirit. Symbolically all of us have been ‘crucified’ in that sense.

If however we have managed to attain some kind of union with our Higher spirit a whole new set of symbols come into play.  When ecstasy occurs it is common for the person to involuntarily raise their hands and their heads in a process called ‘the orans’.

What you have gained by the process is enlightenment and you have a different kind of cross –the St Andrew’s cross. 

The many shapes of the Christian cross


The Gospels do not describe the shape of Jesus' cross.  The numerous depictions of this cross outside the UK, include a T-shaped cross (crux commissa), an X-shaped cross (crux decussata), and a Y-shaped cross (crux furca).   The possibility of the use of a Y shaped cross was recently deliberated in the article in the New Scientist by Linda Geddes, 2 April 2014 entitled: "Shroud of Turin depicts Y-shaped crucifixion". 

The 16th-17th century Belgian-Dutch scholar, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) depicted an X-shaped cross (crux decussata or St. Andrew's cross), which given the timing [1600 years after the event] implies that Justus may not have known the actual design, but he knew his symbolism.

Pictish stones

Let us now suppose that as the missionaries swept forward, allied to the king, the king ordered the Pictish craftsmen to carve a cross depicting the crucifixion.  No one knew the actual shape of the cross, so the craftsmen were allowed to choose their own designs.  For this Church that had been thrust in an unwelcome fashion upon them they carved the sign depicting the sign for an unenlightened being. - In the shape of the conventional cross, man is of the Earth. This is reinforced by the use of the square in the design which is a symbol of the earth.  Again, not enlightened, not spiritual and certainly not holy.

But for their flag the Pictish people retained the symbol for enlightenment.

Crosses in Eggs

But there is more to this than meets the eye.  None of the crosses shown here - Pictish crosses - are stand-alone, all are carved into an Egg shaped stone and by doing this the craftsmen have imbued a different meaning to these stones.  Many of the standing stones now found in churchyards and re-used as grave markers may once have been signposts to the citadels.  Practically all the standing stones are like our motorway signposts - 'go this way for x miles and you will find a broch or a barrow or a round tower'.  The cross is no exception especially when it is carved into an egg shaped stone [see Mither Tap for an example]

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps