History

Mound of the Young Warriors

Recently, I visited the Tullyhogue Fort in Tullyhogue, Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. For any etymology buffs out there, the term Tullyhogue is an Irish word, Tulach Óc, meaning ‘hill of youth’ or ‘mound of the young warriors’.

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Tullyhogue Fort, Northern Ireland, ceremonial crowning mound of the Kings of Ulster.

The Fort is a chillingly ethereal, ancient Celtic ceremonial mound where the Kings of Ulster, and Lords of Tyrone, where inaugurated. Over time, these Kings were specifically taken from the O’Neill dynasty.

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Family crest of the O’Neills of Tyrone, Ulster.

In the centre of this ancient ring stood a stone throne, called Leac na Rí (meaning ‘the flagstone of the kings’) which was not entirely dissimilar from the Scottish Stone of Destiny now used in English coronations. This stone throne was vital in the crowning ceremony. The ceremony involved fitting a shoe onto an O’Neill by a member of the O’Hagan family, as May Cassidy records:

“Bending down before him in a mark of respect he placed the gold sandal firmly upon his foot. The coronation rite over, he was turned three times left then in the opposite direction so as to be recognised as the chieftain of his people”.

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Richard Bartlett’s 1602 map of Ulster shows an O’Neill inauguration at Tullyhogue Fort, including the instrumental stone throne and shoe.

Disastrously to historical interest, the stone throne, Leac na Rí, fell into legend after being destroyed c. 1602 by Lord Mountjoy who was, at that time, embroiled in a war with the incumbent Gaelic lord of Tyrone, Hugh O’Neill. The stone was broken by Mountjoy to highlight the destruction of O’Neill rule and the symbolical wearing-away of Gaelic chieftain-ship in the North of Ireland, during the Tudor conquest.

Fortunately, the ancient site itself is beautifully preserved today.

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Dan Ó Néill, a surviving member of the O’Neill family, said of the fort:

“When they came up here to be inaugurated it was actually a marriage between the chief and the land”. 

The area is surrounded by trees with a clearing in the centre, which the sun shines down upon in the daytime and the moon and stars illuminate at night. This emphasises the sacred nature of the middle space of this ancient, sovereign mound. It is a spine-tingling experience to stand within and around the Fort.

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Central clearing in the Fort, where Leac Na Rí stood.

No picture can do this place justice or accurately emphasise the vast historical importance, and beauty, of this Celtic site!

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Opinion

They never ask me

I am sad.

I am sad because it seems no matter how much I try with you guys it’s just not enough. I always seem to be not important enough as someone’s girlfriend to merit being included or invited, or at least being included more than other people. It’s just sad after all this time.

It’s saddening and disrespectful.

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Admission

Quoth the Raven

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” – T. H. White, The Once and Future King

A tale:

“There are no stunning words, no eloquent phrases and no grand explanations for what exactly happened this summer or what it did to me as a person. There are certainly no explanations for my mood now either.

I begin so dramatically.

I confirm that no awful event took place to precipitate such a melancholic beginning, rather it was a slow decline of smiles, a series of mood changers and lifestyle adjustments which brought about one feeling and one feeling only: lifelessness.

I have no right to associate myself with that word, I know. I live in a peaceful and monotonous existence with everything I could ever dream of. Food, water, shelter, a caring family. The lot. So lifelessness, indeed unhappiness, is hardly a feeling I should dare entertain.

I have no notion of when it started, no notion at all.

But life unravelled concretely in June. The man I utterly loved, the man who only days before had finally admitted that he loved me, the man I could not be without, left. Emotionally, the relationship continued but, physically, we separated. I was not made to handle things like that. The emotional and psychological pressure built. It had already been building for weeks before but not to the levels it would reach over summer.

Missing him began. Then uncontrollable sadness. Then feelings of self-worthlessness. Pathetic creature that I am. But my life does not orbit his. That was only one piece of the jigsaw.

I quickly became proactive. Some days were rather good. I even went on a holiday and a brief trip. I got into full time employment on top of my Saturday job. But working six days a week quickly added to the pressure.

Life as I knew it involved work, six days a week, from first eye-opening to late night. Nothing else. Just work.

Friends disappeared. It certainly was a measure of self exile; I could not handle a busy social life and six days of working. But still, it felt as though they did not need me anyway. Their life was none-the-less without me. And so I missed out this summer, I missed out on the fun and the frolicking and the happiness and the gaiety and the adventures. I was not there and I did not feel like I was a part of anything or anyone’s story.

Worse than that, it felt like no one had understood how much I missed HIM. How I missed someone who was so largely a part of me. They did not understand. When I had asked for help little came.

And now, after a summer of work, supressed emotions, feelings of unease and inadequacy, rejection and loneliness, disassociation and abandonment, tears and emptiness, a summer of not being there – now it feels as though I am friendless for good. No one understood. No one really knew.

I do not look at people in the same way anymore. I trust less if barely at all. I guard myself strongly to stop from crumbling.

No one knows now either. Apart from all that happened this summer I feel odd now. Summer ended and I was presented with hope. I felt better, I felt somewhat refreshed, I felt happy even.

But now, right now, I am afraid of working and large groups of unfamiliar people. I sometimes cry for no apparent reason. I feel lost or sad or scared or attacked or vacant or nonexistent. I feel left behind, even betrayed by a few. HE is back and it is better than ever at least. HE is at no fault. This is MY problem. I have gained well over a stone in weight, and it happened rather quickly. Sometimes I sleep for hours. Sometimes I have bouts of insomnia leading to daytime sleep. Sometimes I cannot bare to do work at all, a luxury I cannot allow. I feel trapped in stale air. I have to force myself often to talk or communicate or smile.

Many days, although, I am perfectly normal. I just keep to myself. I still laugh, I still smile, I still feel. But feelings are duller and cloudier, cries careless and soft.

This is a broken diatribe, a barely audible whisper. Did I worry for my health this summer? I just worried. Do I worry about my health now? More than ever.”

FIN.

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Music

Kiss, While Your Lips Are Still Red

Nightwish

I cannot accurately describe, or do justice to, the majesty of Nightwish’s song writing skills. Between the members of this group, and especially through the lyrical and creative genius of Tuomas Holopainen, poetry is created album through album and song by song.

It is evident that each word is carefully and meticulously chosen; stories are created and tales woven. Every song is an experience. The stylish and often tortured lyrics are utterly breathtaking. Remove the music from a song and the words resonate just as loudly.

These guys just nail lyric-writing. I would highly recommend this band to any music lover. Music is not just a genre; it’s an expression.

Seriously, check Nighwish OUT. Listen to every lyric. Listen to every story.

‘While Your Lips Are Still Red’ is a personal favourite of mine, musically but especially lyrically. It is poetically superior, furiously haunting and elegantly inspiring. Breathe in every word, every pause and every command from the chorus:

“Kiss, while your lips are still red.

While he’s still silent, Rest.

While bosom is still untouched, unveiled.

Hold another hand, while the hand’s still without a tool.

Drown into eyes, while they’re still blind.

Love, while the night still hides the withering dawn.”

Here’s the song in all it’s glory:

 

NB: Their new album Imaginaerum is a WORK OF ART.

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Writing

In the Garden there are ashes

They left in the end. Like they always would. They left to retreat back into themselves and their own hatred.

It made no sense for them to stay. Their betrayal was complete. The years of loyal servitude, the jovial friendships and the benign moments of sincerity were all reduced to ashes the moment they walked away.

They were expelled from the Garden by their own shortcomings. They had watched it deteriorate, witnessed the luminous sheen’s reduction to a dowdy echo of its former regality.

Gone was the familiarity, the scent of lush imaginings, and gone too was the hope that relationships could ever be forged again. The broken amaranth was forgotten in the grey.

They were selfish. They did not care for others. They did not care for one intricate petal. They did not ask after the lilies’ thoughts or opinions, the roses’ struggles or triumphs, the marigolds’ mundane experiences or magnificent achievements.

Now they tear down other gardens; it is all they have left to do. They dismissed all that had come before, all that ever was – and for what? To assert their own dominance over those who had stood beside them, those who had never faltered? To stand amongst the leaves and cry God?

They ignorantly clawed at an already overworked creation. Every flower and every leaf, every growth and every soil, rendered useless because of their arrogance.

They abandoned them. Coldly and cruelly.

They abandoned the Garden. Never to look back.

And the Garden saw everything, felt everything, witnessed every slight and endured every dominating gesture.

It lies in ashes. It lies in ruins. It lies alone.

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Anglo-Saxon, Christianity

“They prostrated themselves in prayer, the two of them together, each morning and prayed the mighty God that he, God almighty, should not forget them and that the virtuous Ruler should show them how they were to survive henceforth in that existence.”

Even from a 9th century Anglo-Saxon poem, it is taught that we should lean on God rather than ourselves.

Genesis B

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Essay, History, Hungarian History, Matthias Corvinus

The Raven King

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This past month, I journeyed to Budapest, Hungary. I freshly discovered many intriguing historical titbits on my travels. One such titbit, however, resonated the most. I thirsted on a dear king of Hungary’s, King Matthias I of the Hunyadi family, elected King of Hungary, from the Renaissance period (reign 1458 – 1490). (Bonus fact: he’s the one on the 1000 Forint note!)

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Matthias Corvinus

Of course I had previously knew of Matthias’ career, but not the incarnation “Matthias Hunyadi” which Budapest now presented to me. Rather, the king I was acquainted with had a different name altogether, “Matthias Corvinus”.

Matthias Corvinus, born a second son of John Hunyadi, a prominent Hungarian military commander, was never intended to rule. The circumstances leading up to his coronation, therefore, are quite extraordinary. Against all odds this second son would become King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Duke of Austria.

Matthias was educated finely and spoke many languages, including Hungarian, Latin, Polish, Czech and German. The family to which he was born would precipitate Matthias’ future greatness. His father, John, boasted the most powerful position in Hungary for a time, being proclaimed regent on behalf of King Ladislaus V. John enjoyed massive power, military prowess and a substantial fortune to top it all off. Following his death, John’s first son and heir, and Matthias’ elder brother, Ladislaus became head of this noble family. Matthias was once again eclipsed.

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The powerful John Hunyadi, father of Matthias

Ladislaus V feared the progeny of the great John Hunyadi and had both sons imprisoned in 1457. But while fortune was on Matthias’ side, it abandoned his brother who was beheaded by Ladislaus V not long after. The power of the Hunyadi appeared to be waning. Matthias, under house arrest in Buda and in fear of his life, seemed unlikely to survive.

The Hunyadi were far from broken, however. A rebellion forced the king to leave Buda and flee with Matthias. Fortuitously, Ladislaus V died suddenly in 1457.

To avoid civil war, a Diet in Buda and Pest in 1458 proclaimed the capable and brilliant Matthias, head of the Hunyadi family, as the new King of Hungary. A noble, rather than a member of the royal family, secured his crown. This is when the Matthias of legend comes to the fore. From this point on, history, as well as myself, remembers him as Matthias Corvinus, rather than Matthias Hunyadi.

I had learned something on my Hungarian trip, Matthias Corvinus and Matthias Hunyadi were one and the same. But where, I said to myself, did this Corvinus title originate? Matthias’ father was a Hunyadi, his brother a Hunyadi and Matthias himself head of the great Hungarian Hunyadi dynasty.

Budapest gave me the most delectable answer.

Legend has it that Matthias’ mother, as a sign that all was safe and the boy was free to return, sent out a raven with a ring in its beak. This raven, so it is said, flew from Transylvania to Prague to present the jewel to the boy who would be king. Following his coronation, the raven with the ring in its beak became the personal sigil of Matthias and the quintessential emblem of his rule. The blessed raven, the creature which had sought out its king, became permanently attached to Matthias. 

Corvinus was the new family name and it is the Latin for ‘RAVEN’.

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Raven with a ring in its beak

The Raven King, like many Renaissance kings of his generation, consolidated and centralised power in Hungary, created Europe’s first standing army, patronised Renaissance art and conquered many outlying areas. He’s impressive to say the least.

I was utterly stunned that this great king, this legendary figure, was Matthias ‘The Raven’.

From the Writing Desk of this Raven, I present the Raven King.

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