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Observations placeholder

Symbols – Picts – Sacred site - Trefoiled cross [Wheelhouse]



Type of Spiritual Experience




A description of the experience


The Wheelhouses – built of stone and circular in shape, wheelhouses were a place of initiation. 

Their shape was that of the cosmic egg, but they represented the stages of the spiritual path, the little cells were the places where the initiates prepared before they were tested to become an adept.

We have more explanation on the symbolism of the wheelhouses themselves within the sacred geography section, but the links below to the Spiritual path and the Four seasons and the Hours may also be of help. 

There are known wheelhouses in the Shetlands and Orkneys, but T C Lethbridge believed that many more existed in South Uist, North Uist, Harris, Benbecula and Barra covered in sand and abandoned as the sand blew inland and the sea levels rose.

from St Ninians cave Isle of Whithorn

The Pictish stone symbol used to indicate where they were and hence where to go is a cross with trefoil like patterns in it.  The symbol, though marvellously accurate as a plan view, is most unfortunate, as of all the symbols it was most useful as a ready formed cross for later Christian graveyards.  As such few of these signposts as they actually are remain in situ, most have been removed and used to mark graves, often with their 'extraneous detail' - the very detail that is needed by an archaeologist, - sawn off.

In search of the Picts – Elizabeth Sutherland

Roundish or trefoil shaped with stone partitions that radiated from a central hearth like the spokes of a wheel, these are seen as developments of the brochs and belong to the period immediately after the broch era



The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps