21 August 2012

Warriors: Conaire Mor, Connery the Great

By J.S. Dunn

Warriors must have the tools to make war. Human use of fire with stone ores to make copper, then bronze, brought the long knife. Copper daggers and long bronze knives enabled the close-range attack and killing of other humans, made it more efficient. With metal use, ancient cultures saw the rise of warrior societies and fortified dwellings, which contrasted with earlier burial practices and settlement patterns and housing. From Turkey and the Near East, to the Iberian peninsula, and up to the Isles, this pattern holds though making metals developed at different points in time in each region.

The long bronze knife elaborated into bronze dirks, rapiers, and swords. After over a millennium, iron with its superior properties replaced bronze.

At its earliest stages, the privilege of being the people’s warrior-lord carried heavy responsibilities. A layered tale with multiple recensions, The Destruction of Derg’s Hostel relates how Connery the Great ( Ir. Conaire Mor) met his doom. Young Connery walked naked and alone to the Hill of Tara to accept the role of warrior-champion. The story describes many obligations and bans on him, what he must and must not do. See Togail Bruidne da Derga.

Bizarre rituals in the Bronze Age can be heard under the gloss laid on by medieval monks. Connery probably had to touch the Lia Fail, the stone of destiny, said to cry out only at the rightful ruler’s touch.

It is no accident that Tara’s famed Lia Fail has an obvious phallic shape. Earlier megaliths in southern Portugal’s metal-working areas are even taller ( over 5 meters) and more phallic in appearance.  Part of the initiation ritual on Tara involved merging with the land-goddess, a symbol of sovereignty, which in early centuries was a white horse. Yes, you read that right. Writing accurately about the Bronze Age can be tricky. The shining knight’s white horse will never be the same. However, many modern day religious practices could be seen as equally bizarre.

Connery managed to violate all of the rules. Yet the myth states that his reign at Tara brought gladness and prosperity the likes of which were never again seen in the northern isles. His murder was a great misdeed of which people still speak.

J.S. Dunn is the award-wining author of Bending the Boyne, which took first place in the Next generation Indie Book Awards 2011