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
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
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 ~
Member of Council, Clan Chattan Association, Invernessshire
Member of Council, Scottish Armigerous Clans and Families
Member, Heraldry Society of Scotland