A Taste of Ireland.com The Janus Figure, The Bishops Stone & Seamus Heaney’s January God

January God: A short film by A Taste of Ireland.com

January god, Janus Figure Boa Island, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland from Aidan Monaghan on Vimeo.

I have always been fascinated by the Janus figure and Seamus Heaney was moved enough to write his poem January God about it. So here is a short film I have created in tribute to Seamus Heaney and in celebration of Fermanagh’s most famous tourist attraction. The second figure is the Bishop’s stone an equally interesting but less well known stone figure at Killadeas.

Boa Island close to Belleek strangely enough is joined to the mainland via a bridge at either end with a road running through the middle of it, which makes it more convenient for visiting than either White or Devinish Islands on Lower Lough Erne which are all very rich in Celtic spiritual mythology. Follow the signpost for Caldragh Cemetery for here you will find one of the oldest and most famous carved stones in all of Ireland. Known as the Janus Stone which is over 2000 years old and predates Christianity far back into Celtic times. The double sided figure represents the male and female form with a sunken piece in the middle, perhaps for holding antlers and interlacing thought to represent hair, joining them. Nobody knows for certain what its origin or purpose was but it seems highly unlikely that it had anything to do with the Roman God Janus. A more likely suggestion is that it is a representation of the Goddess Babhbha, a Celtic God of war and fertility after which the island is named. Seamus Heaney, our late great poet visited in 2006 and wrote the poem ‘January God’ about it which of course captures the mood and mysticism.


The second stone figure is the Bishop’s Stone at Killadeas

The “Bishop’s Stone” – so-called because of the low relief depiction of a cleric – is 1.05 meters high, o.39 wide and 0.23 thick. Facing the church on the broad side of this stone is a simple depiction of of an elderly ecclesiastic in a short garment, holding a crozier and a bell and wearing pointed slippers. The triangular head with the elongated nose and chin of old age and the hunched back make it easy to imagine the short, halting steps of this cleric. It is blieved to have been carved sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries.  On the narrow edge facing away from the church drive is a grotesque head in relief, and a panel of interlace filling the space below. The head, with the rounded features of youth, stares out with rounded eyes (though it’s left eye is somewhat defaced), well defined nose and slightly open mouth. Along it’s left eye and cheek are striating scars – possibly indicating status or membership in some clan.





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