Saturday, January 07, 2006

Bodies in the bog

From the Daily Mirror, headlined "Murdered 2,500 Years Ago":

Tortured, maimed and disembowelled, the two savagely slaughtered bodies were a grisly sight for the Irish peat bog workers who unearthed them.

One of the dead men was found in County Meath, Ireland. The other was discovered three months later, just 25 miles away in Co. Offaly.

With soft flesh, fingernails, masses of red hair, teeth and eyeballs still intact, it seemed that the corpses had been freshly buried. And detectives thought they had stumbled across IRA victims. But when state pathologist Marie Cassidy saw the water-logged graves, she suspected the remains were much older than they seemed.

Archaeologist Ned Kelly thinks that they were sacred victims:

"My belief is that these burials are offerings to the gods of fertility by kings, to ensure a successful reign," says Ned. "And that bodies are placed in the borders surrounding royal land or on tribal boundaries to ensure a good yield of corn [small grain--CSC] and milk.

More from the Irish Times here and from the BBC here.

It's just one more piece of their tradition that today's Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans have thrown overboard.

(Thanks to



Blogger Dave H said...

Have they? Have we as a society? Ask Tookie Williams. You can bet he had priestly assistance and guidance on his journey to the Otherworld.

It never ceases to amaze me when archaeologists leap to such "obvious" conclusions about our ancestors as to assume that any bodies showing signs of deliberate murder were perfectly healthy, functioning members of civil society before the evil pagan Druids decided to do them in. Some could be the victims of entirely private murders - more likely the victims were either criminals or POW's, with the occasional king thrown in for good measure. But to place the sole blame on "savage religion" for these atrocities, as this article implies, seems to me to be somewhat misplaced.

There is no doubt that pre-Christian religions were responsible for murders in the form of blatant human sacrifice - but I would suggest that the crimes of Christianity and Islam would force one to concede by way of comparison that our barbarian ancestors were far more "civilized" before the advent of Holy Mother Church. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the number of victims of the major monotheist religions so far outweighs the number "sacrificed" by the pagans/heathens of the past as to make such a comparison laughable, if not entirely meaningless.

My point is not that the ancients weren't bloodthirsty maniacs: they probably were. So are we. And I'd lay even money that we humans will continue these habits, to some degree or the other, regardless of religion, until the Ragnarok.

Be well,
Dave H.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, you're right that these may well be simply murder victims, and that anthropologists have a bad habit of seeing religious behaviour where there probably isn't any. However, I think the rest of your argument misses the point. First of all, Kelley is the only one suggesting these may have had anything to do with religion - everyone else is calling it either murder or execution. Second, even Kelley doesn't pass moral judgement on sacrifice. Terms like 'savage religion' and 'evil pagan' appear nowhere, and Druids aren't even mentioned. Third, your comparisons to Christian and Islamic activites don't hold. Killing someone you consider an enemy of your religion, or someone you believe has committed offences against your religion, isn't the same thing as sacrificing them to the gods for the prosperity of your society. Fourth, whether or not human sacrifice is the act of a 'bloodthirsty maniac' is arguable.

I think Chas was just using all this to get in a little dig at Recons who insist what they do is exactly like what their ancestors did. It's not, and sometimes with good reason, is his point.

3:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home