Continuity, cult and contest
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John Waddell, Continuity, cult and contest, in Landscapes of Cult and Kingship, edited by Roseanne Schot, Conor Newman and Edel Bhreathnach, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2011, 192-212.
The degree to which pagan traditions influenced early medieval Irish literature has been the subject of some debate. The phrase a window on the Iron Age once encapsulated a view that epic tales in particular depicted a real prehistoric past. The general rejection of this thesis has accentuated a perception of a wide gulf between pagan and Christian Ireland. Archaeology now offers considerable evidence for continuity in funerary ritual, art and monument usage between pagan pre-Christian times and the early Medieval era. This is especially evident at archaeological complexes such as Teltown (Tailtiu), Rathcroghan (Cruachain) and Tara and in a number of literary references to pagan prophetic or divinatory practices at prehistoric burial mounds in Medieval times. The process of the Christianization of Ireland is often seen as an instance of religious syncreticism, a fusion of the old and the new, but the ready acceptance of a syncretic model obscures how complex, prolonged and contested this process may have been. Proof copy of article.