Corleck Head

23 Jul
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Corleck Head (my photograph from the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology)

Corleck Head (image from History of Ireland in 100 Objects)

Corleck Head (image from History of Ireland in 100 Objects)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This stone head with three faces was found in Corleck, Cavan, and is known as the Corleck Head. Art experts date it to the 1st or 2nd Century CE (Iron Age). It now resides in the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology.

There is  a hole on the bottom of the head, which may indicate that it was mounted on a pole or post. The head has three faces carved around it, each with open eyes, nose, and mouth. The faces are quite stylized and not realistic, but are evocative. The three heads are not the same size, either – one is smaller and positioned lower down on the face. Human representations were not common during the Irish Iron Age, but this is an exception.

No other artefacts or writings were left with the head to indicate who it may depict (the earliest Irish writings are the Ogham stones, which start to appear around the 3rd century), so there are several theories. Some sources, like  Finian O’Toole’s History of Ireland in 100 Objects, believe that it may represent Crum Dubh, a pre-Christian fertility god. Other sources, like James MacKillop’s Myths and Legends of the Celts, ascribe it to the pre-Christian Irish fire goddess Brigit, whose dominion included smithing, fertility, cattle, crops and poetry. Brigit is also thought by some scholars to be a predecessor to Saint Brigid. Regardless, the head is generally thought of as being used in worship by pre-Christian pagan Celts.

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Triskele

Celtic myth has a long history of triplism, or themes of three. This can be seen in mythology with gods like Lugh,  who has three names and forms, and in art with the triskele, a Celtic pre-Christian design. There are other heads with three faces that have been uncovered in France, which would have been from Celts living in parts of France. Whether the Corleck Head represents Brigit, Crum Dubh, or someone else altogether, it is an important look inside pre-Christian life and worship.

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