Or, Facts and My Fictions
Alas, Catherine, Maureen and Margaret – and Sean and Dubh – had little immediate impact on the history and much of the history referenced within the book actually happened, with the exception of the Selgovae attack on Low Glen and the allied campaign from Fortriu to Eidyn – in 668, at least.
While Dunn Ussie does exist in a way – Loch Ussie is an actual location, said to be the home of a mystic – but the ridge, the estate, Cloak Tower, and the rest are a complete fabrication. Maureen gave a rather succinct rundown of the Battle of Dun Nechtain as well as a fairly accurate appraisal of broch culture – particularly as it was believed to be in the late 1960s – within the story, but if you are interested in more, check out The Caithness Broch Project is an archaeological charity (SC046307) which promotes and develops the archaeology of Caithness. The initial history and draft of this book owes much to The Picts and the Scots by Lloyd and Jenny Laing (Sutton Publishing, 1993).
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Early Medieval European Religion
- Music & Musicians
- Myths & Legends
- Native Scottish Plants and their uses
- War Cry
Dungeons & Dragons
From the Dungeons & Dragons Website: The first Dungeons & Dragons game was played back when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson chose to personalize the massive battles of their fantasy wargames with the exploits of individual heroes. This inspiration became the first fantasy roleplaying game, in which players are characters in an ongoing fantasy story. This new kind of game has become immensely popular over the years, and D&D has grown to include many new ways to vividly experience worlds of heroic fantasy. In January 1974, Dungeons & Dragons was first published in January as three booklets shipping in a woodgrain-coloured cardboard box: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. All 1,000 sold out within eleven months.
Catherine would have first been playing D&D with her parents in 1981. That edition of the game was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Early Medieval European Religion
Abbey of Lure
Founded by Saint Domgall, or Deicolus, an Irish apostle of Columbanus (himself an Irish saint who is credited with establishing numerous monastaries in Frankish and Lombardian France), on a tract of land given to the monk by Berthelde, the widow of the lord of Lure. The monastery, as well as the acres of woods, fisheries, and town around it, were further recognized by the King of Burgundy, Clothaire II as the Abbey of Lure.
The connection to Ireland, and St. Columbanus’ monastic rules, which were very much prevalent at the Abbey, made it an ideal location for a young Frankish noblewoman betrothed to an up-and-coming Pict clan.
Celtic Monasticism vs. Roman Catholicism
Much is made of Caitríona’s monastic upbringing as opposed to Hilde’s far more rigorous Roman Catholicism. I amplified the schism between the two religious practices, but that is not to say that there were not conflicts between them. Add the intersection of the disparate practices to a culture labelled apostate – having been brought Christian ideology and potentially baptised, but reverting to pagan practices – and add a dash of over-zealotry and ambition, and the combination made for an interesting backdrop for the family drama.
The main points of contention between what is sometimes called the Celtic Church, or Insualr Christianity and Roman Catholicism was the calculation of Easter Sunday, the tonsure, and monastic permeability – allowing the pursuit of study, and the use of the vernacular, which in the case of Dunn Ussie, allowed the monastery to become part of the education of the stronghold’s young, and become a part of the fabric of their lives, which Father Maurus used to his advantage.
In Northumbria, these matters were settled in 664, at the Synod of Whitby, but it wasn’t until 710 AD that the Picts agreed to the same terms.
By 668, Liturgical hours were fairly standardized, having grown from the traditional Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times during the day. Given the remote nature of the stronghold, the liturgical hours seemed the most logical – and uniform – method of time keeping for the story.
The full list of hours are as follows:
Matins – during the night, around 2:00 AM. Matins is also called Vigil/sometimes considered a later, second Vigil.
Lauds, or Dawn Prayer – at dawn, around 5:00 AM, but earlier in summer and later in winter
Prime, or Early Morning Prayer – first hour; approximately 6:00 AM
Terce, or Mid-Morning Prayer – third hour; approximately 9:00 AM
Sext, or Midday Prayer – sixth hour; approximately noon
None, or Mid-Afternoon Prayer – ninth hour; approximately 3:00 PM
Vespers, or Evening Prayer – At the lighting of the lamps; approximately 6:00 PM
Compline, or Night Prayer – before retiring; approximately 7:00 PM
The prayer uttered by Brother Galen was an amalgamation of early seventh century prayers for guidance and protection compiled in the book, Prayers of the Middle Ages, edited by James Manning Potts (The Upper Room, 1954).
Reading and writing
It was not uncommon for members of the upper classes to read – and women who could read were indeed encouraged to read religious texts, so Hilde’s love for the small book of psalms Caitríona brought with her was not unusual. “Read assiduously; learn many things. Let sleep come upon thee book in hand,” wrote St Jerome to the virgin Eustochium in 384.
Music and Musicians
The Beatles’ first official single, “Love me Do” debuted in England in October, 1962, but they did have a residency in Hamburg, Germany for two years prior to that, which is why Maureen calls them that German band Robbie likes to listen to. Robbie, being a music enthusiast, would have had the records put out in Germany during their residency.
Myths and Legends
In Changelings: The Rise of Kings, Dubh took on the guise of Cathbad to watch over and recruit Cuchulainn to the cause of the Sleeping Kings. His vision of his sister Orla’s fate was also reminiscent of the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows.
Deirdre was the daughter of the royal storyteller Fedlimid mac Daill. Before she was born, Cathbad the Chief Druid at the court of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, prophesied Dierdre would grow up to be very beautiful. Kings would go to war over her, and as a result, three of Ulster’s greatest warriors would be forced into exile.
Native Scottish Plants and their uses
All the remedies mentioned in the book come from traditional medicine as would have been available in the seventh century:
Bog Myrtle was used in bedding and in floor rushes to repel insects and pests. Medicinally, it was also used as a skin wash to repel bugs, and to reduce bleeding.
Bracken was used for numerous purposes – within the household, and without: Bracken fronds were used for bedding and thatching. In addition, its ash was often mixed in with soil as a fertilizer, mixed with water for soap and in glassmaking. The roots made a yellow dye, while the fronds were used to make bright green. As a medicine, the root treated worms and ailments of the spleen.
Heather, another quintessentially Scottish plant, was also used as animal and human bedding. Nails were made from the roots, and the bare branches and stems were used for everything from simple strainers and baskets to thatching, brushes, brooms and insulation. The flowers were made into beer, and medicinally, used as a tonic for lung complaints, depression and arthritis.
Lavender, brought to the British Isles by the Romans, served multiple purposes as well. It was a useful insecticide and was used to repel fleas, nits, midges and other biting insects. Medicinally, it helps wounds heal and was used to treat insomnia and restlessness.
Eidyn – Edinburgh, and at that time, under Northumbrian control
Laudian – Lothian, where Hilde is from, and the location of her home, Low Glen.
Peit Fithichidh – Raven’s Farm
Rubha Nòis – Seafield – or literally, field at the mouth of the river
Urchard – Woodside – name of the Druid Grove. Also, the home of the Urquhart in the 1700s
Peit Chàrdainn – Farm by the Thicket
Móirl – Clearfield “The big clearing”
Srath Pheofhair – The strath of the bright river – Strathpeffer
The Picts did have slaves, and indeed, I am sure the sons of Alasdair did as well, but I chose to focus instead on the immediate family. Many slaves were from southern England and Ireland, obtained either via raiding or purchased. Generally, the slaves would have stayed within the family or clan, and become free homesteaders themselves – client families loyal to the clan.
I borrowed Ciniod’s war cry, Buaidh no Bàs – Victory or death – from the Macneils of Scotland. The clan was infamous for their piracy and seamanship. Recent research on DNA of clan members found that they descended not from Ireland’s “greatest” King, Niall of the Nine Hostages, but from the Vikings.