The Irish Sacred King

Presented by Kirk Thomas.

The office of the sacred king in late prehistoric and early medieval Ireland carried great significance in a religiously cosmological sense both for his people and his kingdom. Such a king would be considered sacred because he would be 'set apart' from all others. He would be seen as having both special powers and obligations, all of which determined the fate of his reign as an ideal and fruitful one, or as one marked by disaster, starvation, and death. Before a man could become a sacred king he had to prove his worthiness and be accepted by Sovereignty, usually personified as a goddess or lady, who would only mate with the rightful king. He must be perfect in mind and body, uphold truth through justice, and be constrained by both taboos and prescriptions, for any deviations from these ideals would lead to his destruction. This workshop will explore these themes through the folklore, tales, and selected monastic writings of early medieval Ireland, often contrasted with similar works from related Indo-European cultures.

















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