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Observations placeholder

Symbols – Picts – Constellation - Harp or Lyre [Lyra]



Type of Spiritual Experience



A description of the experience


The symbolism for the Harp or lyre is described in the entry in the symbol section found by using the link. 

Pictish stones were used as signposts.  They described in pictures the sacred site to which the pilgrim was being directed, they gave directions in which it was to be found and they gave the constellations that could be used for navigation by the stars.  Every constellation has a symbol and each picture of the symbol then maps onto the constellation.  

Nigg stone reverse

The Nigg Stone is an incomplete Class II Pictish cross-slab, perhaps dating to the end of the 8th century.  The stone was originally located at the gateway to the grounds of the parish church of Nigg, Easter Ross. It is one of the finest surviving Pictish carved stones, and one of the most elaborate carved stones surviving from early medieval Europe. It is now displayed, restored to its original proportions, in a room inside the parish church (open in summer; key kept locally). It bears an elaborately decorated cross in high relief on the 'front' and a figural scene on the reverse. This scene is extremely complicated and made more difficult to interpret by deliberate defacement. Among the depictions are: an eagle above a Pictish Beast, a sheep, the oldest evidence of a European triangular harp, and ‘hunting scenes’.

Lyra (from Greek λύρα) is a small constellation. It is one of 48 listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and is one of the 88 constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union. Lyra was often represented on star maps as a vulture or an eagle carrying a lyre, and hence is sometimes referred to as Vultur Cadens or Aquila Cadens, respectively. Beginning at the north, Lyra is bordered by Draco, Hercules, Vulpecula, and Cygnus. Lyra is visible from the northern hemisphere from spring through autumn, and nearly overhead, in temperate latitudes, during the summer months. From the southern hemisphere, it is visible low in the northern sky during the winter months.


Vega, Lyra's brightest star, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, and forms a corner of the famed Summer Triangle asterism.

Beta Lyrae is the prototype of a class of stars known as Beta Lyrae variables.

These binary stars are so close to each other that they become egg-shaped and material flows from one to the other.

Epsilon Lyrae, known informally as the Double Double, is a complex multiple star system.

Lyra also hosts the Ring Nebula, the second-discovered and best-known planetary nebula.



The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps




Lethendy Tower in Perthshire shows Pictish harp, Irish pipes and drum