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Stone Heads

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore, Irish fairy tales and More Irish Tales and Legends

Stone Heads of Ireland

The enigmatic and strangely haunting stone heads of ancient Ireland are part of a tradition dating back to the Neolithic, althugh most examples we have today are beleived to be from the Iron age. The earliest and perhaps the most beautiful of these objects is the Knowth flint mace head, a magnificent piece of sculpture whose creation would challenge even the best artists today. This also demonstrates the variety of uses to which these objects could have been put - as parts of weapons, symbols of authority, or for ceremonies.

Most of them are thought to be pagan idols however, like the Raphoe group of seven heads found in the north of Ireland, near Beltany stone circle. The Corleck stone head is another stone idol, a single block of limestone shaped by pecking into the form of three conjoined heads. The eerie and unsettling expressions on the faces of each head, closely set eyes and simple line mouths all contribute to give an otherworldy and somewhat menacing impression.

It was part of a larger shrine associated with the Lughnasa harvest festival, and was discovered near to the site of a stone circle and passage tombs which have since been demolished by farmers. The meaning of the three faces, if it had any beyond representing named deities or ancestors, is a matter for speculation - some believe it stands for the past, present and future, others for omniscience, while yet others think it represents a triple-goddess figure.

Attempting to date the original creation of these heads is very difficult - the best anyone can do is approximate their origin by their surroundings. The stone heads might date back into great antiquity, the Mesolithic or even earlier, and were passed down as sacred relics from one generation to the next. Some could have been made in the 1960s. Most of them are believed to have been created towards the middle or end of the Iron age in Ireland, and are often found near holy wells or bodies of water.

Heads were considered "the seat of the soul, the center of the vital essence" by the ancient Irish Celts, who gathered the heads of both enemies and friends. These may have been used for divination or soothsaying, and Irish folklore is full of strange tales of ancient Gaelic necromancy. This may have formed part of a wider tapestry of "head cults" across the Gaelic and Celtic world, which spread across western and northern Europe.

Strange Stone Heads of Ireland


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