The whorling pattern of convoluted forms in the signet carved on the Cadboll Stone has a deep history. Before the pattern became emblematic of Picts culture, the earlier Celts employed a similar iconography in what is understood to be their graphic representation of time. If I think of the signet in terms of time, I see that for the Picts time was not linear. Time pulsed in a rhythm. Time unfolded and turned back on itself. The Cadboll signet lays out all of time’s manifestations in one picture. The concealed is present with the revealed.
If the two lobes in a single form on the signet are recognized as a bulb and a bud at opposite ends of a lily stem then the full, curvilinear pictograph of the signet can be seen as a lily field. In the symbolic field, time is represented as the regenerative interplay between past and present. From one springtime to the next, nothing changes, yet everything changes. The flowers reappear as before but they are completely different blooms. After reaching for the sun, stems gracefully bow to the the earth. Hidden below the surface of the ground, bulbs split and separate, invisibly expanding the lily field’s range.
As Picts absorbed the Christian religion into their faith, the worship of nature included the worship of Christ. The modern celebration of Easter, in which the lily plays a central role, has roots in the abstract graphic pattern of the signet, making the holiday a classic example of life imitating art.