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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
VI. The Cruithne


The Cruithne were the first Celtic racio-tribal group to come to the British Isles, appearing between about 800 and 500 B.C., and coming from the European continent. They were a matrilineal people, tracing royal lineage and inheritance through the female line, and in pagan times had worshiped the mother-goddess of fertility. By historical times they had come to reckon descent patrilineally, by the male line, hence their traditional descent from Conall Cearnach ("Conall of the Victories"), one of the legendary heroes from early Irish literature. Such Gaelic ancestral heroes, being the ultimate ancestors of all the ethnic groups of Gaeldom, are euhemerized deities ("gods made flesh") from the ancient Celtic "Otherworld" of pre—Christian times. Conall Cearnach is ultimately a male-manifestation of Brigid (later St. Brigid), the original mother-goddess of the Cruithne (see Part I, Chapter IV).

The Cruithne of Scotland are the original Albans, or natives of Albany (Scotland north of the Firth of Forth), and are commonly referred to as Picts. The Picts were an equestrian warrior aristocracy of the classic early Celtic type, in overlord status over a more numerous pre—Celtic population (see Part I, Chapter III). They were the last of the Cruithne to lose their matrilineality. This happened during the ninth and tenth centuries (the Cruithne of Ireland had lost theirs centuries earlier), and came as a result of the merger of the Pictish kingdom with that of the patrilineal Erainnian tribe of Dal Riada. This mixing resulted in kin groups being equally of two ethnic groups, one Erainnian and tracing itself in the male line, the other Pictish and at the point of transition from the female line to the male line descent system. The Gaelic-speaking Erainnian half became linguistically dominant at the official level, if only because, in the event of cultural influence from the rest of Gaeldom to the south and west, the Gaelic language was more useful, as a matter of choice, over the relatively isolated P—Celtic tongue of the Picts, especially where bardic literary sharing and political negotiations were concerned (the P—Celtic speech of the Strathclyde British was destined to undergo a similar decline concomitant with the loss of Strathclyde autonomy in the eleventh century).

Gaelic also had obvious cultural advantages and prestige, for it was Gaelicspeakers who first brought Christianity, Latin learning and, significantly,


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