Cashel Man

Cashel, Ireland, 2,000 B.C.

In ancient Ireland, bogs were sacred
areas; a cool wetland mirage meters 
deep of peat during demoralizing 
drought. Greenish-brown landscape 
of mystery, insufferably slow plant 
growth. What must a farmer have
thought as his wife offered a vessel
of golden butter to appease a merciless 
deity? He plunges his hand deep into
the bog, brings a handful of drenched
soil to his eyes, squeezes and watches
as his hairy forearms stain a deep rust.

At home, he listens to the tink tink
of his wife’s dull bronze bracelets
against her wan wrists. He thinks 
about the young King’s wife in all 
her finery. Would this Queen of hope 
sacrifice her coveted amulets to bring 
good rain? No, he turns his attention
to the King’s body; of average height,
imperially slim, easy to force him back
to the russet hill of his kingship initiation,
bludgeon him, revel in his failure to defend
himself, break at least two limbs, watch 

him writhe, listen as he squeaks for help, 
twist his limp, clothed body into the fetal 
position, cradle his offering with bloodied, 
bruised hands, trusting this delicate flesh
will nourish the goddess’s appetite.

Copyright © 2014 by Sean Frederick Forbes. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 17, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

“This poem is about Cashel man, a bog body of a young male around 20-25 years of age found in Cashel, Ireland dating back to 2,000 B.C. His body was intentionally covered with peat in order to preserve the body. One theory suggests that he could have been the young king of this region that was suffering a devastating drought and that his body was a sacrificial offering to a female deity. This poem is my imagining of the motive behind this sacrificial death.”
— Sean Frederick Forbes