a stage whereon some of the major dramas of the Irish heroic age wereplayed out, when Irish men and women sparred with the gods andtouched immortality” and as a result it was seen as a “bastion of humankingship.”
As this location was the “focus” for so many of the conflictswith the otherworld in ancient Irish saga, it has been argued by somehistorians, like Carey, that the Hill of Tara “could be taken to representIreland as a whole.”
This could be the root of the perceived synonymitybetween the titles ‘King of Tara’ and ‘High-King of Ireland.’ In a land and atime where symbolism was of immense political importance this cannot beunderestimated. There was an inherent spiritual element to Tara and its kingship. The divine right to rule has been a universal trait in legitimisingmonarchies throughout history. Considering this, the sacred statusafforded to Tara by the pagan gods would have been eminentlyadvantageous to its occupiers. This religious side of Tara can be seen inthe tales of the legendary ‘priest kings’, the divine intervention of godssuch as Lug in the appointment of monarchs as well as the role of Medbthe sovereignty goddess in validating them.
To be king of Tara was tohave a sacredly ordained right to rule. Again, the importance of thiscannot be underestimated. The vital role of divine approval is highlightedstrikingly in the accounts of Gormfhlaith of Leinster. Gormfhlaith was a
Tara: An Archaeological Survey
(Dublin, 1997), xi.John Carey, ‘Tara and the Supernatural’, in
The Kingship and Landscape of Tara
, ed. EdelBhreathnach (Dublin, 2005), 48.
Carey, ‘Tara and the Supernatural’, 35.