A Congruence of Lives

A Congruence of Lives

This article explores the idea of ritual and custom with reference to the sense in which excavations
from bogs in Denmark prompted Seamus Heaney, a Nobel laureate poet from Northern
Ireland, to respond to the evidence of sacrificial rites and customary punishments which
they revealed in IronAge Denmark. Furthermore Heaney’s poetry draws parallels with similar
punishments and human sacrifices pertinent to contemporary Northern Ireland and its
troubles, and, in doing so, re-imagines the concepts of loyalty, sacrifice and belonging. A selection
of Heaney’s ‘bog poems’were re-enacted through drama, music and speech in a place
of great historic and legendary significance in Northern Ireland, and so, in an important
sense, interesting connections and unusual relationships were made between one place and
another, one era and another and one civilisation and another.As such, a kind of common humanity
emerges in Heaney’s poetry – a humanity which spans time, place and context, which
challenges too narrow a concept of belonging and which invites us to think about the transformative
potential of ritual and sacrifice.


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