“So…K. L., what’s the story behind that wicked looking piece of jewelry featured on the cover of your book, The Stone of Secrets?”
Glad you asked. Notice the double rings paired in each link of the chain. Have you ever seen anything like it? It’s so insanely cool it blows my mind. In the book it’s called the Chain of the Matriarchs because it symbolized the matrilineal (through the mother) line of authority in the Pictish royal line. Pictish king lists were strange to historians for many years because there was no father/son succession like there is in other cultures. Each new king seemed to come out of nowhere. Then someone postulated that the Pictish royalty derived their authority through the mother and not the father. This simple twist of things explains the weird king lists perfectly. It is the prevailing view to this day.
What does this have to do with a chain? In 1869 someone in Scotland found this chain sitting in the mud on the side of a drainage ditch. The soil had eroded away to uncover the artifact which had been buried there for a thousand years! The clasp was a penannular ring that had Pictish engravings on it. It is believed to have been used in ceremonies by the nobility. The solid silver chain had been meticulously crafted and looked as it must have looked the day it was dropped on the ground. Silver doesn’t rust of course, so the mud was the perfect place to sit protected for ten centuries.
It’s contemporary name is the Whitecleuch Chain, after the farm where it was discovered in 1869. No one knows what the Picts called it. But see those pairs of rings that comprise each link? Would that not symbolize how each succeeding generation is of necessity brought forth by two? A society so focused on matrilineal authority would have sought to symbolize women’s roles in creative ways. What better way to dramatize those roles than the double-linked chain used in the coronation of a new king? That gives me chills. I have no way to verify any of this of course. But it sure sounds right to me. It just fits, does it not? And it plays right into my story perfectly.
No, I did not secure permission to borrow the actual Whitecleuch Chain from the museum to use it as a prop for my book cover. They would have laughed me out of the building. I had to get a little resourceful. What my cover model is wearing is actually made of polished steel, 3/16″ rod to be precise, from my local hardware store. I clamped one end of the rod perpendicular to the end of a piece of pipe and spiraled it around the pipe while heating it with a torch. When I had the entire rod coiled around the pipe, I cut straight down the length of the pipe with a cutoff wheel, dividing the coiled rod into separate rings. Then it was just a matter of hammering the rings together around each other to make the chain. The chain spent some time in the tumbler to get clean, then a lot of time at the buffing wheel to get that silver-like sheen. Looks pretty good, eh?
You can go to wikipedia for the full story on the Whitecleuch Chain. I’m still trying to figure out how to make the penannular ring clasp. Check out the ring online and let me know if you have any ideas. I really need to complete this thing for it to be truly amazing.
And I’m not going to leave mine in the mud for a millennium. Being made of steel, it would be little more than a streak of rust.