Would the Picts Ban Abortion?
Abortion in Pictland isn’t a topic I come across too often, but regardless, I’m feeling this uneasiness inside my chest which I always feel when a spirit wants to talk through me. The words are still mine, of course, for I am translating what I “feel”. We talk through feelings and our communication is non-verbal for the most part (more on that in a future blog post). Most often, when I speak in public under influence of a spirit, it’s Talorc* speaking, the king who guides me – so you may consider him my “muse” for today’s very overdue and very important blog post. Come join me in the hut, find a comfy spot and make yourself at home. The following are the words of my spirit guide, translated by me the best I could:
Bureaucracy vs Freedom
Pictland was a very unusual place, even for its time period. I wouldn’t say “progressive” – please don’t look at it with rose-tinted glasses, the problems were plenty – but I think I can consider Pictland a place where freedom was valued and bureaucracy was minimum. I often contrast it to today’s mainstream western society where we overthink and overregulate so many things that I think we aren’t too different from the Victorians and their ridiculous rules of etiquette. We joke about them and think of how overwhelming these rules were, dictating how everyone should look, act and behave at all times… But are we any better now?
Some social issues are very complex. I get it. It’s very hard to legislate on them and end up with a fair result. But here is the thing: the law isn’t at all a measure of morality. Law exists in an attempt at organising, standardising, controlling certain mechanisms of a kingdom – or democracy or whatever – and providing easy pathways to settle disputes. Morality is too complex to fit into legislation, as it depends on each person’s circumstances, and there always will be special cases regardless of how many bills you sign. So from a strictly technical standpoint, I don’t even know why we are legislating on abortion – either to ban it or to explicitly allow it… But I guess the Romans ultimately regained control of the west and we are using their system now, delegating as a society all critical thinking to the judges and legislators. (No sarcasm intended. This is serious – but you’re welcome to laugh).
A Difficult Family Structure
Now from a moral, more nuanced and dare I say more “human” standpoint… I’m not a fan of abortion, but I can see why it happens. It ties into the issue of trying to standardise things that were never meant to be standard in the first place. Even if we do not get into the intricacies of law, this is clearly a case of imposing ONE model of family as the “correct and desirable” when in fact we shouldn’t even be overthinking it. I know it sounds like I’m going on a tangent here, but I’m not. This is when examples help to make my point very clear, so here we go: let’s say a woman fell pregnant but isn’t fit for the job of caretaker, for whatever reason. The logical thing to do would be to look for another caretaker, if the child does come into the world. If things get complicated and it won’t be possible for the child to come – say they’re gonna die before birth, or put the mother’s health in risk, or some other reason – the logical thing to do is consider it unfeasible. Taking it to term would create more problems than advantages for all parties involved – child included.
Of course there can be exceptional cases. Of course I’m not thinking of *all* cases. This is my point. Legislating on it is pointless. We’re only doing it in a desperate attempt to enforce one model of family which is essentially excluding and isolating for the [potential] child. Would we even think of “abortion laws”, whatever that means, if we had a more collectivist view of society? Unlikely. But we aren’t collectivistic, we have become very individualistic. We “own” things and we “own” people. When you see people as a property – “MY child, MY mother, MY father – loads of egos involved” – you isolate who is yours from everyone else around and you only think of yourself. What if there are enough children in the community in need of a caretaker already? No, you want your own child and you aren’t sharing them. If you’re infertile and want a child, you might consider looking around, but always from an egotistic point of view, because you felt like it in the first place, and feck the community’s needs. There’s a lot of tunnel vision at play here.
Is Adoption really an Option?
So far, so “good” (I guess? Help me understand your reasoning, modern people). The problem is that isolationism is a two-way road. You cannot easily adopt someone else’s child because guess what, this other person also sees their own child as a property and wants to make full sure you’ll take good care of them before handing them to you. (And when I say person, I include institutions. Everyone belongs to someone or something today, isn’t it? Even orphans). So there goes another bunch of complicated legislation… I don’t blame it. I can see the need for it – the adoptive parents will be the primary caretakers of a child and no-one else can go near the child as often as they can. Today’s society is isolationist, you see. We place full ownership of a person in the hands of a couple of people, in their own premises which are closed to the world most of the time… But with full ownership comes full responsibility as well. Very little help is received from this “scary” outside world and we often see sleepless overworked parents trying to juggle everything at once.
What if a baby is born, but the parents are unable to nurture and take care of them? Well, this inability to provide care better be very obvious and easy to prove under the law, or else you’ll be forced to raise the kid regardless. Mentally unfit for the job? You better be seriously psychotic, or no judge will believe you. There is a lot of nuance and a lot of “invisible” factors that can make a person unfit for the job of caretaker… And of course it is very hard to predict them all through legislation. In practice, how is it solved? Well, people don’t even bother to tell the State. The rich pay full-time third parties to be caretakers, the middle class might look for a relative who could help. The poor often abandon these unwanted babies in a desperate attempt to run away from an issue they couldn’t possibly deal with – or you know, try to abort in a very risky environment. I don’t think any of these 3 children will lead fulfilling lives – the rich, the poor or the middle class. There is a common theme: parents unfit for the job but unable to delegate it properly because the system makes it too difficult. And at the same time, kids who grow up believing that only one pair of people [at a time] can fulfill the role of “parent”.
So, did Pictish women abort?
Abortion wasn’t unheard of, sometimes it was performed for medical or emergency reasons; In rare cases, for different reasons. I don’t think I have ever seen or heard of a late abortion – well, medical care wasn’t great back then. I don’t think it would be even achievable – but regardless, it wasn’t a “trending topic” of debate nearly as much as it is today. And we had no way to tell when exactly life begins – you have trouble deciding it now with modern technology, so imagine the situation thousands of years ago.
Motherhood wasn’t a social status – it seems to me that today it is. You guys even throw parties to announce pregnancies to friends and relations. We lived in huts, you know, similar to the one we’re in now, and they were pretty much a collective property.
There is no word for “family” in our language in the modern sense of the word – we use “household” and “offspring” depending on the context, and never even felt a need to divide the tribe into families. Surnames, if any, were the caretakers’ names (regardless of the percent of shared blood). It was very common for many different caretakers and kids to share the same household, though, without legal intricacies. Women feeding random Pictish kids were a common sight, even when it came to milk. So when a baby was born, it was one more kid in the community, not this specific woman’s kid who only she is allowed (or forced) to raise. Of course this was a unique Pictish thing – women having many partners and so on… So it’s only logical that everyone would feel at least a wee bit responsible for joining under the same roof to bring up the next generations.
The Real Villain
If you’re old enough to make kids, you’re old enough to raise kids… But I wouldn’t ever say it outside a Pictish context. In Pictland kids would have multiple “parents”, it just wasn’t a thing to only raise “your own” or completely trust them to someone else forever – so it makes sense in this context to remind people of their duty to bring children up when it’s a shared duty and no-one burns out on it. Today, however, we have a situation where it is utterly insensitive to suggest that someone should be forced to raise a kid regardless of their circumstances – because ultimately they’re alone. They don’t have the same luxury we Picts had.
I bow to you, single mothers. I may be a leader, but I’m nothing in comparison to you in terms of hard work to keep a group of people together (a family). You may be amused to know that the likes of you did not exist in my time – whereas I’m disappointed to see that. Today, despite all the resources we have available to lead comfortable lives, the levels of stress seem to be so much higher, and we expect single people (or at best, a pair of people) to maintain a whole house. It is insane.
It is sad to let the “unborn” go, even if they had a chance to develop. I see where the concern is coming from. I honestly do not have an answer to the problem – not only because everything today seems so alien, but also because it is a multifaceted problem. We cannot simply look at mothers-to-be and demonise them, but we cannot disregard the fact that aborting is an imperfect solution to a social problem either. All I can say is that we are now facing an either/or scenario. Either we start embracing all the different configurations of nuclear family (not only husband and wife as the primary caretakers of kids), or we stop trying to turn abortion into a crime. It is clearly a symptom of a way bigger, more complex, problem. Banning it under the law will not make it go away. Allowing it completely will not address the root of the problem either.
Above all else, I wish you good luck in dealing with this tricky problem – but my advice is to try and see the issue from different angles. I know it’s something that people can get very passionate about, but is all the passion and tunnel vision helping? This is a question for you to answer in your own time.
*Talorc [Mac Achiuir] is one of the few spirits who allow me to disclose his discourse in full. He is one of my spirit guides and often deals with interpersonal relations and topics of leadership.