Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 14, 2013

O’Brien Becomes New High King

Tara Hill, one of the most sacred sites in Ireland and the place where at least 142 Kings of Ireland were said to have reigned has crowned a new king.

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As part of the Gathering and with the inspiration of a number of historical societies, a festival and tournament was held to elect a king.  The contestants included a selection of men and women not only from Ireland but a few with Irish heritage from Scotland and Russia.

Physical prowess in the spirit of Na Fianna was one of the main components of the trials the contestants underwent; however, in the tradition of Fionn mac Cumhaill they were also required to be poetic and write a poem. The impressive word-smithing produced was an indication that the contestants were, indeed, worthy to be there.  Russian Vitaliy Negoda even wrote his in Scotts Gaelic.

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A test of delicate balance

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A test of strength

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A test of endurance

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A test of perseverance

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A test of stamina

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A test of accuracy

In addition to the tournament events there were plenty of other things to see and do at the festival.  You could watch traditional craftspeople work their trade in wood, clay, and tin; attend tin whistle and bodhrán lessons; beat the big drum with a dozen or more friends and acquaintances; and play Druid chess on a life-sized board. Several majestic peregrine falcons were also on display.

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Making bows, arrows, and spears

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Community drumming

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Druid chess – can you get the king to one of the corner provinces?

It was a family event so there was plenty to entertain the young ones including an archeological dig, sword and shield making, and face painting.  Of course there was music as well and Brian Dunphy of the group The High Kings acted as MC.

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Medieval dwelling place

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Turning wood

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St. Patrick’s great-great-great….grandson fresh from sword making school

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Archeological dig

Male Falcon

Male Falcon

Female Falcon

Female Falcon

Lots of people were in period dress including some young lads dreaming of their chance to become High King.

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Future High King contestant

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Some of the royalty at the festival

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Young and old getting into the spirit

All of this in the shadow of the sacred Tara monuments including the ancient ring forts and the Lia Fail or stone of destiny which is said to cry out at the touch of the rightful king.  It was a tough battle and the final event between Darren Cawley and Paul O’Brien was won by the latter by the slim margin of only 10 seconds.  What’s more impressive about the runner up is he’s a kidney transplant recipient.

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Finalists Paul O’Brien and Darren Cawley

The actual ceremony was to be held on Tara and I went over whilst they prepared, to walk the sacred space.  Similar to Rathcroghan in Roscommon, I felt a sense of buoyancy in certain places, almost as if the spirits of the Tuatha Dé Danann exhaled their collective breaths from underneath the hill. The deities had blessed the event with sunshine and you could see for miles around.  The organizers chose to perform the ceremony on a fairy mound some distance from the Lia Fail.  Since this kingship is of a symbolic nature, they may not have wanted to risk having the stone stay silent if the Tuatha did not approve.

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Hill of Tara – one of the ring forts

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Hill of Tara ring fort

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Hill of Tara passage tomb

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Hill of Tara passage tomb

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The new King presents one of the contestants with a consolation gift

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The Lia Fail – Stone of Destiny

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The newly elected king contemplates his duties on the way to the ceremony

What a great event for young and old, lovers of history, and those who want to not only keep the old ways alive but pass that knowledge on to future generations.  There was talk of making this an annual event and I hope it does grow and prosper.  I am already looking forward to next year, and since I now know how easy it is to get there from where I am, I may be back even sooner.

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