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The Castle of Heroes

March/April 2020

Ireland Lough Key Rock WideThe modern poet W.B. Yeats (1865–1939) was one in a line of centuries of Irish bards who, like the personal poets of the MacDermot kings, wrote about the Rock of Loch Cé. Yeats called the Rock the “Castle of Heroes” and envisioned it becoming a utopian community that would function as a kind of living shrine to the Irish past and a place to practice what he termed “a ritual system of evocation and meditation to reunite the perception of the spirit of the divine, with natural beauty.” In his description of this ritual system, Yeats combined his worship of the mystical might of Ireland’s past and his belief in the occult with his political agenda—in particular, Irish nationalism and an ardent desire to drive the English from the country.

 

Medieval Irish poets, too, had functions and powers beyond pure entertainment and delved into both religion and politics. “The medieval Irish bards were the tabloid reporters of their day,” says National University of Ireland Galway archaeologist Daniel Curley. In addition to reciting traditional songs, poems, and myths, medieval Irish bards were kingmakers—and breakers. “There were praise poems and satirical poems,” explains James Schryver of the University of Minnesota Morris, “and your greatest fear as a king is that your poet will satirize you and make it clear that you are no longer fit to be king.” Incidentally, adds Schryver, a poet could also raise blisters on the king’s face through his recitations. In the Middle Ages, as for Yeats, there was political power—and magic—in the words of poets.

Main Article:
Sidebar:
Ireland Lough Key
Inside a Medieval Gaelic Castle
Ireland-Manuscript-Cattle
Medieval Cattle Raiders

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