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A Story of the Wall - The Maetae - 209 AD
By William G. A. Shaw of Easter Lair


Before we of the Maetae armed up for battle, we painted up first.

We dyed our bodies blue, or got painted and tattooed with symbols and animal totems of our families. When we marched from our village, my sword, daggers and spear shone bright like fire. Set off by my grandfather’s golden torc around my neck, my body glowed with the blue and green designs.

The lasses of the village threw flower petals at my companions and I as we left. Although we had all played together as little children, and grew up together, it dawned on me that these were coltish girls no longer. They were young women. Their deep knowing gazes gave us hopes a warmer welcome if, no - When we came home.

I was our war-bands advance Scout. So after a half-day’s march, I shucked and rolled up my checkered trews and cloak. With cousins and my brother and a few sister warriors laughing, I slathered in the mud and muck of a nearby pond. Instead of the golden tattooed warrior, my nude body now matched the color of earth and stone. As a boy, I was always the winner of ‘hide and seek’ games in the village.

So unseen, I crept from tree to bush to rock in a far more dangerous game. I finally crouched against the rough stonework of the hated Vallum Aelium, the Wall of Hadrian. Camouflaged, I watched as the cohort of Romanni clanked along the parapet not thirty feet away – their Centurion calling the marching cadence and berating his troops at the same time. Roman Eagles? Hah! Hardly. All in armor and mail, they looked like red and brown crabs. But in the Winter-time, ….well then they acted like cranky cats. The Romanii hated our gentle mist and soft cool rain.

There was a tiny fort on every mile of the Wall. And the next Watch would be marching along soon. So with a prayer to our Goddess Cluta for protection I imitated a grouse calling for its mate. Like magic, the unseen men and women warriors of our tribe poked their heads up from boulder and bracken, fern and heather. Armed to the teeth, they quietly loped through the open clearing and wet ditches to the base of the wall.

With a whisper like a falling leaf, we tossed a knotted rope around a merlon and climbed up and over. Crossing the seven feet of stone and gravel, we crossed between Slavery and Freedom. Between Our world and Theirs.

We Maetae had done this before, and we knew our Business. The Romans called us Brittunculi ‘Wretched little Brits." But the war drums had been talking north of the wall for days, and there was no moon tonight. The Free Men and Women of the Maetae, Votadani and the Selgovae tribes were in the mood for a little raiding. Even a few of our wild Caledonii friends from up north showed up for a piece of the action.

Come the dawn, there certainly would be no 'Pax' in our little corner of (so-called) 'Romana'!

William G. A. Shaw of Easter Lair
Representer of the Territorial House of Shaw of Easter Lair ~ Glenshee, Perthshire.
Member of Council, Clan Chattan Association, Invernessshire
www.clanchattan.org.uk
Member of Council, Scottish Armigerous Clans and Families
www.clans-families.org
Member, Heraldry Society of Scotland
www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk
www.theclanshaw.org


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