Sucking the King's nipples as a sign of subservience was a revelation for me....anyone ever encounter this in the tales...maybe in a tapestry or something?
Most sources of this practice seem to come back to Ned Kelly, keeper of antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland. He’s a learned and respected man, appearing on many television programmes as an authority. The only reference I could find to the practice in the older Irish texts is in the Confession of St. Patrick
“And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them; and the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: ‘By no means attempt to go with us.’ Hearing this I left them to go to the hut where I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and before the prayer was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly after me: ‘Come quickly because the men are calling you.’ And immediately I went back to them and they started to say to me: ‘Come, because we are admitting you out of good faith; make friendship with us in any way you wish.’ (And so, on that day, I refused to suck the breasts of these men from fear of God
, but nevertheless I had hopes that they would come to faith in Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.) And for this I continued with them, and forthwith we put to sea.”
It is relatively well known that any major disfigurement or amputation disbarred an Iron Age/ Bronze Age warrior from kingship from the story of Nuada Airgetlám, first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann (Bronze Age), who lost his arm in battle but had it replaced by his physician, Dian Cecht, with one of silver, to preserve Nuada’s right to kingship. The legend has its Welsh equivalent in the figure of Lludd Llaw Eraint (Lludd of the Silver Hand).
It seems likely that most ‘bog bodies’ are those of captured warriors, chieftains or kings as the natural thing to do after winning a great battle or war would be to gift high tributes to the war gods. Swords – bent beyond use or broken are regular votive finds – why not the more significant captured owners? (Trophy heads seem to be of those slain during battle rather than after.) J. Caesar stated that, “the gods prefer the execution of men taken in the act of theft or brigandage, or guilty of some offence” (Conquest of Gaul
, vi, 16), and Tacitus, “They deemed it, indeed, a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities” (Annals
, xiv, 30).
Water has always been the conduit between this world and the Otherworld, and ‘black pools’ and ‘black water’ were important places for transitioning offerings or receiving guidance and prophecy. Places were named for their ‘black pools’ to flag their importance:
(Dubh Linn) is derived from the Irish for “black pool”; the remnant of this pool is within the Sean Walsh Memorial Park at the end of the River Poddle.
The Irish towns of Dowling, Doolin, Ballindoolin and the 8 Devlins have identical Dubh Linn origins.
, County Cork. The surrounding land once belonged to the legendary chief druid Mog Roith (“Servant of the Wheel”), payment for magically winning a great war in C3rd, and where he raised his daughter, Tlachtga, the powerful druidess. Fermoy (Irish: Fhear Maí, meaning “Men of the Plain”, originally Fir Maige Féne), County Cork, is the main town and the people there claim descent from him.
(“black pool” in Cornish) Point and Cove, on The Lizard, Cornwall, are close to the village of Mullion, which is surrounded by Bronze and Iron Age barrows and was an important centre of copper mining. The main fishing and cargo bay is Mullion Bay with a small high stone-built harbour wall to protect from storms. Poldhu Cove is hidden from view by steeply rising granite cliffs and has a flat sandy beach perfect for fires and rituals.
The River Blackwater, Hampshire,
is a tributary of the River Test and is very acid, passing through much gravel and peat. A dig at Nursling revealed extensive Iron Age ritual activity with flat graves and barrows, ritual depositions, charred bone and grain. This site was used from circa 1000BC to AD C1st (arrival of the Romans) (M Leivers and C Gibson, Bronze Age and Iron Age Excavations at Adanac Park, Nursling, Hampshire
, 2008). Just over the marsh land in Totton, extensive 3,500-year-old Middle Bronze Age jetties into the wetland have been found, dubbed ‘the oldest bridges in England’ (A. Fitzpatrick, Wessex Archaeology
, October 2003). Many bronze objects have been discovered – swords, axes, bracelets and small boats – all cast in as offerings. These seem to be similar to the votive trackway complexes found in the Somerset levels, Fiskerton, Lincolnshire and Ireland.
The Lindow Moss
(= Llŷn Dow = Black Lake) was once a sacred hub for druidic worship. The high-ranking druid, ‘Lindow Man’, brought from Ireland, chosen to plead to the gods to intervene against the Romans, was willingly sacrificed here.
The city of Lincoln
is derived from the Roman Lindum Colonia or ‘colony of Lindum,’ a Latin rendition of ‘Lindo’, being a version of ‘Lindow’ = Llŷn Dow or “Black Lake”. The “Black Lake” is now called ‘Brayford Pool’.
In the Blakewater
(=Black Water) Valley, Blackburn
, Lancashire, refers to the ‘black brook’ at All Hallows Spring on Railway Road. The modern name confirms it is still considered a holy place today.
The River Douglas
, formerly Dubglas (“black water”), a tributary of the Ribble, Lancashire (of more, see following).
. Lancashire was an area covered by oak forests and peat bog, populated by the Setantii (“Dwellers in the Water”) - see following - a sub-tribe of the Brigantes (“Brighid’s People”). The much-drained ‘black pool’ is now in Stanley Park and in the middle of the reclaimed area stands the town zoo.
The Setantii were considered so ritually dangerous that, during the occupation, they had their own 6,000-strong Roman garrison posted on the banks of the Ribble at Ribchester. Five and a half thousand of them were imported Sarmatians from modern day Iran so that neither culture nor kinship could cause an alliance or sympathy. Likewise, most of the 13 British regiments were stationed on the Danube, suppressing the Dacians (L Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire
, 1998). The Sarmatian speciality was cavalry for a speedy and deadly response to insurrection. (Ptolemy, Geographia
, and letters from the Roman commander of the garrison, “blue-painted savages… worship the sun… and Druids were their priests…”).
The Setantii are implied in Nennius the monk’s account of the Twelve Battles of King Arthur. A Welsh Briton among the Saxons, he states that four of these battles took place on the banks of the River Dubglas (“black water”), now known as the Douglas, a tributary of the Ribble, which flows through Preston, Lancashire, close to Blackpool. The connotations of the divinely-linked “River of Black Water” in supplying spiritual aid to Arthur, now-sleeping King of the Britons, would not have been lost on the original readers (Nennius, Historia Brittonum