Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seamus Heaney

Tis Seamus Heaney birthday today he is 70, earlier on in my blog I collected some of his poetry from the book called North. They are mostly about the bog people, and pretty macabre to boot, but not until you have read Glob's book of the The Bog People, can you understand Heaney's fascination with the lives of these early people who were uncovered from the bog. The following is a muse on a female that is found in the bog and the stories that emerge.


The next few lines from Kinship

Earth-pantry, bone vault,
Sun-bank, embalmer
Of votive good.
And sabred fugitives.

Insatiable bride.
Casket, midden,
Floe of history.

describe the horror of the bog, often depicted in Glob's book in the photographs showing the dessicated remains of the humans that were sacrificed it is thought to the goddess Nerthus (Mother Earth). There is an account by Tacitus in his book Germania....

"In an Island of the ocean is a holy grove, and in it a consecrated chariot, covered in robes. A single priest is permitted to touch it; he interprets the presence if the goddess in her shrine and with deep reverence as she rides away drawn by cows; then come days of rejoicing and all places keep holiday, as many as she may think worthy to receive and entertain her. They make no war, take no arms; every weapon is put away; peace and quiet are then alone, known and loved, until the same priest returns the goddess to her temple, when she has had her fill of the society of mortals. After this the chariot and the robes, and if you will believe it, the goddess herself, are washed in a sequestered lake; slaves are the ministrants and are at the same time swallowed by that lake. Hence a mysterious terror and an ignorance fullof piety as to that that may be which men only behold to die"

This photo shows an image of Nerthus, a crudely carved wooden naturalistic stature, and something like this, a goddess, would have travelled around in a cart drawn by oxen maybe in early spring. The bog sacrifices seem to show, from the contents of the last meal that some of the victims ate that they had eaten plant material from this time of year.
Ann Ross in Death of a Prince which she wrote with Don Robins - a pathologist - also followed the same line of thought for the Lindow Man, in which she speculated that he had been sacrificed in the Lindow Bog by the Iron Age people when the Romans invaded for the gods to intervene with the invasion. Lindow Man's date roughly corresponded with the terrible slaughter at Anglesey of the Druids by the Romans.
Ross and Robins interpreted the death of this particular bog man as a threefold death, by strangulation, blow to the head, and stabbing, though this may be true, another interpretation can easily be found in that the body suffered damage when it was taken from the bog, but she makes an interesting point that the rope used to strangle the sacrifical victims, is very similar to the twisted gold torques worn at this time. The torques themselves symbolically representing the rope.

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