Tallaght: A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped

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Plague Doctor [Image: maderjanet / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

For anyone unfamiliar with Dublin, the city has a light rail transport system called Luas –  which is Irish for ‘fast’, ‘speed’, ‘velocity’.  All the main signposts in Ireland are bilingual, usually giving the Irish name first in slightly smaller text, which is then followed by the English name. The Luas (tram) station signs are no different.

The suburb/town of Tallaght is at the end of one of the main tram lines from the city centre. It’s a pretty big place, almost a mini city in itself. Tallaght itself is very ancient. It is mentioned in the 12th century Lebor Gabála Érenn (the Book Of Invasions) which contains story’s of several successive mythical invasions of Ireland by various races and supernatural beings. It’s also the location of an important early medieval church site that was founded in and around the eight century AD (of which I will write further one of these days). Continue reading

No Horses for Courses: Christian Horror of Horseflesh in Early Medieval Ireland [Part 3]

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Image: Tatum/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

(Continued from Part 2…)

Straight from the Horses Mouth

Ultimately, what comes across from a (relatively!) brief survey of the range of archaeological, historical and etymological material are the following commonalities:

  • Widespread distribution of archaeological evidence for horse activity, iconography and ritual associated with high status figures and burials in late prehistoric Europe.
  • Widespread attestation of horse motifs, symbolism and metaphor associated with sacral and ancestral kingship/inauguration in late antiquity/early medieval Europe.
  • Widespread ecclesiastical condemnation of horseflesh and equine attributes in later medieval literature
  • Widespread ecclesiastical adaptation and transformation of horse/kingship motifs & traditions in sources pertaining to secular royal authority and legitimacy.

In terms of depicted pre-christian ritual associated with royal inauguration, certain motifs and cultural components appear frequently:

  • Outdoor assembly/meeting/burial locations
  • Public performance & display; power, authority, legitimacy
  • Horse/King sacral & symbolic union; association, attributes, metaphor
  • Horse sacrifice & consumption
  • Communal feasting and drinking
  • Large cauldrons/containers/receptacles to facilitate communal participation
  • Reiteration and renewal of royal/tribal prosperity and fortune

Continue reading