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OLD-IRISH-L  August 2011

OLD-IRISH-L August 2011

Subject:

Re: periodic king killing?

From:

Helen McKay <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Aug 2011 08:08:14 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (80 lines)

The issue at core of Prof Kelly's statement seems to be as it has been 
since the start, that he really wants to claim that the two bog bodies 
found a few years back were evidence of ritual sacrifice.  Now I've got 
no idea why some people find this topic so attractive, but it is one 
example as per normal in anything 'celtic' - you have to understand 
where your author is coming from philosophically and religiously before 
you can begin to assess the statement for any validity beyond that. 

Lenore, you did make me smile, and I think you and I should book a 
nice fireside for a month or two, in order to swap stories of crazy sad 
and funny things said.  After all, my love is the Pictish stuff, and if you 
ever want to read a stack of mad-hatter nonsense, then that is the 
place to be!  OK, one story.  One book on Pictish matters that shall 
remain nameless but is famous, is quite strange in that it is beautifully 
presented and bound, and for a casual reader or tourist, this is the one 
you pick off the shelf as the most attractive.  But omg the text!  it is a 
scream a line.  I was determined not to waste my money on this book, 
but it seemed that everytime I was in a book store in Scotland I would 
inevitably pick up this book, open at a random page and start reading, 
and the sight of an not-too-young woman heaving with mirth sinking 
into a corner on the floor was really too embarassing, so I ended up 
buying the thing and I leave it in my toilet so that whenever I'm 
passing and feel the need for a laugh, there is one ready to hand.  (oh 
dear why do I make dreadful puns...cant seem to help myself even when 
I'm not trying... oh dear there goes another one... )

OK, back to sacrifices.  The problem as I see it is that both bog bodies 
are easily ruled out from the notion of sacrifice.  I notice that Prof Kelly 
has changed his tune a little, originally he wanted to make these 
enemies sacrificed to the cause of fertility, but as I said then, you dont 
get your enemies to guard or fertilise your territory, because the Celts 
always do in death as they do in life.  Now he's trying out the notion 
that they are the local kings, which is a little better (although I'm going 
to ignore the crazy 'sun' stuff as I'm going to assume that all linguists 
here are squirming at the thought...).   We do have a number of stories 
both in Irish myths and the British (think Arthur and Bran), where a king-
warrior is buried, sometimes standing up, on a significant boundary, 
seemingly to do in death as they've done in life, to guard their land and 
people.  So this is an easy and fundamental answer that is *possible* 
to explain these high-status, male warrior on boundaries scenario for 
the bog bodies.   But, in all the stories, the king-warrior 'dies' first, 
usually in battle, before he is buried by his grieving people.

But why not sacrifices?  well, no evidence anywhere to start with - no 
archaeology, no mythology.  Just a couple of statements by classical 
commentators whose political motives are highly suspect.

In this Irish bog body case, the first one appears to be a large high-
status male killed by a knife to the heart.  But, he also has a defence 
wound on his arm - and what is the very first rule of doing a ritual 
sacrifice?  Tie your victim up! especially when he's a very large warrior 
type and will fight back.  I was casually watching something the other 
day on TV, cant even remember what now, but the first thing the 
investigator looked for was defence wounds.  So this is just basic stuff 
and rules out sacrifice. 

The second bog body is another high status male, but this chap was 
killed by an axe blow down through the front of his face.  The thing 
about 'sacrifice' is that it is 'ritualistic', we know this from cultures 
where such things are on record.  The killing is performed to a specific 
set of rules, designed for symbolic representation, and the killing is 
performed by someone else fairly normal in life, like a priest or warrior, 
not some mad axe murderer.  Can you imagine asking your local priest 
to suddenly smash an axe through someone's face?!  its not a real 
expectation.  But, on the other hand, severe axe and sword blows to the 
head are extremely typical of battle injuries, there are fields of battle 
burials known in archaeology that look just like this.    So again, no 
evidence of sacrifice, and evidence to the contrary. 

Well that's my take on it.  But I'm not really even convinced that these 
are kingly type of burials.  I suspect the first chap fell foul of some 
notion and was murdered and casually thrown into the bog down the 
road, can happen.  Sometimes we can over-think the situation.   

As for periodic king killing, well Charles has already said what needs to 
be said about this.  Oh btw, if anyone wants a good crac, go back to the 
original blog that Dennis sent through, it seems that black humour is 
still the favoured Irish tool for raising blemishes...  
Helen

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