Monday, 6 June 2011


I see this has been doing the rounds in a few places I lurk, and I couldn't not comment:

Clonycavan Man’s hair contains an imported gel. Old Croghan Man has a leather amulet, decorated in the fashionable continental style, on his arm. It represents the sun, with which Irish kingship is closely associated. Both men also had their nipples sliced before they died. Together, these features suggest that the men were kings. The king’s nipples represented the life-giving sun. Their cutting suggests that their power was being ritually decommissioned.

Both men appear to have been “killed” three times: by strangulation, by stabbing and by drowning. However ritualised, Old Croghan Man’s death was garishly violent: he was bound with hazel rods threaded through holes in his upper arms, stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated and cut in half. (All that has been found are his torso and arms.) But the violence was not mere sadism. “This,” says Eamonn Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland, “isn’t done for torture or to inflict pain. It’s a triple killing because the goddess to whom the sacrifice is made has three natures. She’s goddess of sovereignty, of fertility and of war and death. So they’re making sacrifice to her in all her forms, and the king has to die three deaths.”

I can just imagine the pained expression on my old professor's face as he'd say, "Weeeeeell, we shouldn't read too much into these things..."


Saigh said...

Thank you!

I've been meaning to comment on this myself, but just haven't been able to. I think you summed it up perfectly. Speculation is an art, this counts as a stick figure drawing of a talentless 4 year old.

Ancestral Gael said...

Even for this lay person, uneducated to university level and only having read a few history and archaeology books, this comes across as wild speculation.

Fab statement on the nature of the speculation, Saigh.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: I can just imagine the pained expression on my old professor's face as he'd say, "Weeeeeell, we shouldn't read too much into these things..."

I say: ..."But, shouldn't we?"

If there is extravagant ceremony to induct a new king, why shouldn't there be extravagant ceremony to remove one?

My speculation: The king is already dead... he will not attain ancestral deification as a king(like other tribal progenitors) unless the "proper rites" are conducted. So... the king falls in battle; or is poisoned by a rival - or... (speculate, here) ... his physical form must still undergo ritual transformation.

There, I've "read into it" :)

Anonymous said...

You closed with:
I can just imagine the pained expression on my old professor's face as he'd say, "Weeeeeell, we shouldn't read too much into these things..."

But ... shouldn't we? Shouldn't we?

The ceremony for incepting a new king is complex and full of different rites and rituals. Why not his death, or "going out"?

So, the king falls in battle... he is poisoned by a rival for the throne - IDK (we can all speculate) .. the king is dead.

Without the proper ceremony (those torturous and sacrificial deaths) the king cannot take his rightful place among the other venerated kings [ancestors to the tribes / deities].

Is there any proof these men were alive during their kingly "goings-out"? I mean, a contorted face on a fallen warrior will still remain contorted after a week-long viewing... We should speculate more!

Seren said...

There's nothing in the article that's solid - we don't know the victims were kings, we don't know the nipples were cut off because they represent the sun (I mean, really!), and we certainly have no reason to link it to a triple goddess...We can't even say for certain that these are ritual sacrifices.

We could say that the gel is evidence that the victim himself is not local, a spoil of war, a hostage killed for some offence or crime? A sacrifice to the tribe celebrating victory, or a criminal punished...Some academics say that the Irish (like a lot of I-E cultures) performed rituals of nipple-sucking - simulating breastfeeding - as a means of sealing contracts. We could speculate that the nipples were cut off because they broke a contract or even failed to make one, perhaps.

But really? We can't say a damn thing for sure. It's not the speculation that's the problem, it's that the article presents what should be seen as speculation as fact. And then these things get repeated like memes, ad nauseum...

nefaeria said...

Goodie, next thing you know we will have a Llywellyn book about some “new-found ancient tradition” stemming from the Irish nipple king cult. ;)

Seren said...


Bounteous Blessings of the Boobie Buttons on us all!

Tlachtga said...

You'd think no one was ever murdered before the Christian era--every damn body has to be a human sacrifice or something.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that... I tried posting 1x, but, it erased on me (or, so I thought)and I typed a 2nd one (which got posted, too).

OMG. Wouldn't it be a travesty if Llewellyn put out an Irish Nipple Cutting Cult book out?

As far as anything else, I was trying for exhaustively annoying... the "shouldn't we" part truly was intended in jest. The rest of it? *LOL* just "speculation".