It’s commonly understood that clocks measure time passing, but I happen to think that clocks actually measure our passage through time. In my view, time is a static omnipresence.
The swirling signet carved on the Cadboll stone, and other Pictish stones, is an attempt by a people to represent their existence in time. The symbol they chose is a repetitive pattern that is capable of reproducing itself infinitely outward from a stillpoint. The central form is a blank disk constituting perfect stasis.
Throughout recorded history, every attempt to reach the beginning of something has led back to the ending of something else. And, as we look forward, we see that every ending is leading toward a new beginning. The central unknown from which all this commotion has sprung remains a faceless enigma.
The Pictish symbol for time depicts intertwined spirals, spooling outward in every direction from a centerpoint. They saw their movement through time as a dance with the past, in the present, with a nod to the future. For them, where each step is experienced looks and feels different from every other, but all are part of the same expanding destiny.
The easiest way to experience how the Picts may have developed the signet’s iconography is with a stick and string. A length of string is tied to, and wound around, a stick that is stuck in the ground. The end of the string is then pulled away from the stick. As it unwinds, the string endpoint describes a curve that delineates an ever-expanding spiral. That movement through space captures every moment transpired between past and future.