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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IV. The Kingdom of the Picts: Christianity, Paganism and the Making of Gaelic Scotland


Before there was Scotland, four separate kingdoms existed. The time was the beginning of the seventh century A.D. The kingdom of the Northumbrian Angles occupied the eastern Lowlands southwards starting with Edinburgh: Its northern half was the sub-kingdom of Beornicia. Just west of Beornicia was the British kingdom of Strathclyde, a tribal kingdom of post—Roman genesis, which filled the void left in the northwest of Roman Britain when the Roman legions departed in A.D. 410. Always on the fringe of Romano-Celtic Britain, Strathclyde was further isolated by the Northumbrian conquest of the neighboring British kingdoms of Rheged and Gododdin early in the seventh century. Just north of Strathclyde, in the region now known as Argyle, lay the kingdom of the Scots of Dal Riada, Scots being a generic term for these recent Erainnian immigrants. Dominating the whole region was the kingdom of the Cruithne of Alba. Also known as the Picts, or Caledonians, their kingdom covered the bulk of what is now Scotland.

Society in the north of Britain was tribal. It emphasized kinship bonds and the generosity of the lord as the patron and leader of a band of armed retainers, usually kinsmen, who manned his shield wall in war and his mead bench in peace. The British of Strathclyde and the Scots were Christian, the Picts and the Northumbrians just becoming so. Beyond such differences in religious development, the basic pattern of life appears to have been surprisingly similar: The social fabric, economy, technology and material culture were largely the same between the four Northern "Heroic" kingdoms. But the old pagan institutions were at once a justification for, and a formative influence on, the fabric of Heroic society itself. Because of the interrelationship of these pagan institutions with other aspects of society, their continuation in some form was inevitable unless the society itself was destroyed. Yet because their missionary work was not in the nature of a military conquest, the Christian church was not in a position to alter the basic fabric of society in the Celtic North until


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