Monday, June 17, 2002

The poet would have gone on to tell of how Cormac was inaugurated as king of Tara, in a ceremony that symbolized the marriage of the king to the goddess of the land. Such unions were believed to ensure the fertility of the kingdom and its people. According to a later chronicler, there were some kings who took the consummation of these unions all too literally, by mating with a white mare in full view of their subjects. “The mare is then killed immediately,” wrote Gerald of Wales in the late 12th century, “cut up into pieces, and boiled in water.” The new king bathed in this broth, again in front of a crowd, while dining on the horse’s boiled flesh and lapping up the same broth in which he bobbed. “When this unrighteous rite has been carried out,” concluded Gerald, “his kingship and dominion have been conferred.”

Time-Life Books, What Life Was Like Among Druids and High Kings: Celtic Ireland AD 400-1200 (105-106)

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