legio

sonnetscrewdriver  asked:

Am I right in thinking some Celtic peoples practiced something akin to tattooing? I'm sure I've read stuff by Roman historians about it, so obviously grain of salt and all that.

They did, yes. Most likely body painting rather than tattooing, but then, it might have been tattooed in.

The common misconception is that they used woad, which, unusually, isn’t actually Caesar’s fault for once. Instead, it’s the fucking English, of all people. In the 1600s there was obviously that big mad scramble to colonnise the “New World” i.e. cyfe everything not nailed down, and England wanted to justify why it should get the indigo plantations instead of the Spanish on Moral Grounds (OH MY GOD I KNOW). So, Queen Lizzie One went ‘Hey, my granddad was Slightly Welsh, and that’s Celtic, and they used woad and also did tattooing, maybe that’ll work.” And so, they put about that woad - a relative of indigo - was what her ancestors had used culturally, and therefore indgo was part of her heritage.

It was not true.

The Insular Celts did use woad, that much is true, but they used it as an antiseptic, mostly. While it is a relative of indigo, it doesn’t produce anything close to the dyes you get from that one; the colour is similar, but not remotely as strong, and even with the best mordants it washes easily out of cloth. It was a medicinal plant, basically. There’s a theory that they would bathe in the stuff before battle as part of a ritual, but that was probably because it you’ve basted yourself in Savlon before running at swords and other pointy things, you’re much less likely to die of secondary infection (or, as you might perceive it, it means the gods have lent you protection.) And, of course, woad is an astringent. If you tried tattooing in an astringent, the best you could ever really hope for was semi-permanent bruising.

But, there are accounts of Pretty Blue Patterns on the skin, so PREPARE FOR TEDIOUS HISTORICAL CITATIONS

So first up we’ve got our boy Caesar, of course. Exhibit A, taken from De Bellum Gallico:

Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem/All the British colour themselves with {glass}, which produces a blue colour.

More on that in a bit. Next, Exhibit B, Claudius Claudianus:

Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis, Quae Scotto dat frena truci ferronque notatas/[This legion], which curbs the savage Scot and studies designs marked in iron on the face of the dying Pict.

Again, I’ll come back to that. Exhibit C is this sexy motherfucker:

Lindow Man! The most complete bog body found in Britain. I shan’t go into the debate surrounding how he died. That’s a rant for another time. The important thing here is the copper found on his skin.

So, let’s kick off. Caesar there is doing some Classic Caesar Bullshit, look - the only time the man ever came to Britain was to briefly do a meet-and-greet with a single south-eastern tribe in, like, Kent, before fucking off back to Rome, but he always was very good at ascribing the actions of one person to an entire people because Caesar was a massive fucking tool; so yeah, grain-of-salt. But it’s probably fair to say he was giving a good overview of a common practice in the south-east of Britain, at least.

And what’s interesting is the word he used for the colouring substance, which I have here translated as ‘glass’; but the word was ‘vitro’. Vitro was a contemporary-to-Caesar Roman blue-green glass, ver’ ver pretty:

- and, crucially, the major additive to create that colour was, in fact, iron(II) oxide. Let’s revisit Exhibit B: Claudianus’ Picts, who ‘marked their faces with iron’. For ages, historians interpretted that very literally, and thought they were practising facial scarification; but there’s a whole host of reasons why that’s unlikely, not limited to the potential to kill yourself with sepsis when you live in an arse-frozen Scottish highland with no NHS.

What seems more likely, it seems to me (and others, this isn’t just my theory)… Is that the Picts, much like the Insular Celts, were of course highly skilled metal workers, and therefore produced a lot of useful compounds in their forges that they realised could be used for pigments. Because these people were incredible metal workers, as we know:

If you’re that good, you have an extensive and highly skilled cultural knowledge bank around the raw materials you’re using, you know? You know what iron and copper and tin can do, though admittedly, I don’t think they worked out that copper poisoning was a thing.

We’ve found Romano-British cosmetics, incidentally, that back this up. In 2004, they found a villa that contained a half-used pot of Romano-British foundation made of animal fat, starch and, crucially, tin oxide. When rubbed onto the skin it makes you pale while leaving a light, powdery texture. It also, unlike the lead-based continental equivalents, didn’t corrode the skin like wax under a fucking candle.

So, step in Lindow Man! Copper deposits were found on his skin, and although decomposition has meant it’s not possible to see them exactly, they did tests to see it the copper was in the places you’d expect painting vs places you wouldn’t, and the results certainly supported the theory. I believe other bog bodies have just about had visible blue swirls, too.

And, unlike woad, you can tattoo iron oxides into the skin without issue. Technically you can tattoo copper in, but Lindow Man was most likely painted. I’d say that was just as well, since tattooing copper would kill you - but Lindow Man died horribly and violently and got chucked in a bog for two millennia, so ultimately, I doubt it made much difference to him. Though, a bonus fact: he had excellent white teeth, perfectly manicured nails, and his hair and beard had been trimmed with scissors, giving us concrete evidence of hygiene practices and tools among the Celts.

To round off: it seems likely they did something, though whether it was painting or tattooing, we don’t really know. It was probably done with metal compounds, and certainly not with woad. Queen Lizzie One lost the indigo plantations to the Spanish anyway. Lindow Man’s life was fabulous if riddled with parasites, right up to the point it very abruptly wasn’t, somewhere in his 20s.

And the Celts made exquisite metal stuff.

3

Unconventional Ordnance

The Type 9 Configurable Grenade is a ‘stick’ grenade with an interchangeable frag/krak warhead. An antiquated design even before the Great Crusade due to the needless complexities of making a grenade with swappable heads - though ironically incredibly simple to operate (simply pull the pin and lob) - the Type 9 only saw service in great use in the XIV and IV Legions, limited in the latter to obscure armouries and Lyssatran gun-cults. Much beloved by its users - though perhaps this particular user’s stock of 'regular’ krak grenades tells of a certain reluctance to use the Type 9 exclusively even amongst its primary wielders - the 'Multi-Stick’ was never truly a popular weapon, and resupplies are few and far between.

10

Iron Within

Progress made on the Prospero box! In order of appearance:

- Warsmith Altarn Garrick Vrull, 117th Grand Battalion (Kyr Vhalen)

- Techmarine and Siege Breaker

- Tactical Sergeant and Veteran Sergeant

- Veteran Meltagunners

- Veteran Nuncio-Vox and Veteran

- Veterans

- Sapper (Power Armoured Recon Marine)

- Primus Medicae and Siege Breaker

- Librarian

These are, by far, some of the most characterful miniatures I’ve ever made. Seeing Warsmith Vrull ‘in the flesh’ after literal years of fluff and planning made me immensely happy, though top marks to the Artificer Armour Siege Breaker and the Nuncio-Vox.

3

Commander-Tribune Arlette Amon Rakaposhi Gorro

“Let it be known that Terra does not forget her allies. Nor do I forget mine, Branwen. I cannot be away from the Throneworld for long, but I promise you that we shall make Lupercal’s forces bleed.”

Shield-Captain model for my Talons of the Emperor detachment, based on @sisterofsilence‘s OC. Still needs some basing work, but I was super happy with a lot of this paint job so it’s getting an early share. :D

Tried a new shading method on the sword and I’m so-so on it… Under certain light it looks great, but I may go back and do more touch-ups.

In terms of kitbash bitz, the head is from Statuesque Miniatures (I’m assbutts at sculpting, otherwise would have attempted hair closer to illustrations), Force Gladius is a pair of Elf Phoenix Guard swords glued back-to-back, and the sheathed blade at her hip is from the Dragon Princes kit.