Vandal Strikes at Lia Fáil, Ireland’s Ancient Spiritual Heart
Ireland’s “Stone of Destiny” - the Lia Fáil - or Stone that Roared, has been defaced by a mindless vandal. Although mindless isn’t quite right, at they actually seem to have thought about what they were doing, but got it wrong.
The Hill of Tara is located amidst a grassy otherworld, near Skryne in County Meath, Ireland. Known as an ancient spiritual hub with significant modern, cultural and religious importance, not only was this 100-acre site where the Ancient High Kings of Ireland were crowned, but a network of Neolithic and Iron Age passage tombs and burial mounds establish this as a deeply-ancient threshold between this world and the next.
However, towering above all other features at this ceremonial site, where death rites were once performed, is a stone lined avenue leading to a solitary standing stone known as the Lia Fáil or "Stone of Destiny." Myths say the stone roared the name of the rightful king of Ireland, and it was this ancient, and indescribably sacred omphalos, that a so-called “mindless” vandal struck earlier this week.
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Just leave the artworks and other cultural symbols out of it please (I know you have influence). Such strategically ill-judged targets are having a spillover effect, including desceration of the 5,000-year-old Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on the Hill of Tara. Yes, it is connected. pic.twitter.com/mKQNjmkoHc
A Mindless Act of Vandalism at Lia Fáil
A report about the incident in Irish Examiner explains that the Hill of Tara is one of Ireland’s “most important and significant tourist locations.” Last year alone this timeworn liminal space attracted around 118,000 visitors. Earlier this week the Stone of Destiny was sprayed with the word ‘Fake.’ Nick Killian, the Independent councillor and Cathoirleach of Meath County Council, described the occurrence as a “mindless act of vandalism.”
Ian Lumley of the heritage organisation “An Taisce,” explained that once a stone monument, such as granite, is sprayed with aerosols “it becomes much harder to remove, and expensive and elaborate chemical treatment may be required to restore it to its original condition.” Lumley referred to the incident as “probably the worst” example he has seen of vandalism, which he says is on the increase across Ireland.
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Staff from the office of Public works us a steam cleaner to Remove graffiti from 5000 year old Lia Fáil standing stone at the Hill of Tara in Co Meath. #HillofTara @opwireland pic.twitter.com/KXUtvTPdho
— Niall Carson (@niallcarsonpa) February 8, 2023
Increasing Mindlessness On The Emerald Isle
Recently, vandals have been popping up in both rural towns and in cities across Ireland, where they ‘seem’ to specifically attack monuments of significant historical and mythological importance, and often closely associated with national identity. For example, the 2019 theft of the head of an 800-year-old mummy from the crypt of St Michan's Church in Dublin.
Unfortunately, this most recent act of cultural abuse flies in the face of the “Tara Conservation Management Plan” that was aimed at reducing such behaviour at the unprotected open-air site.
The Irish Gardaí (police) are currently investigating the case and Mr. Killian said that whoever is responsible for the vandalism should “feel shame” for their actions. The Hill of Tara is utilized by a wide range of the community, including visitors, walkers, sports teams, and pet owners, and Mr. Lumley called for more vigilance from these communities.
The 5,000-year-old Stone of Destiny at the Hill of Tara, County Meath, Ireland. (Kyle Tunis/Adobe Stock)
What Does The Word “Fake” Tell Us?
Even though the Stone of Destiny has been desecrated, the Hill of Tara remains open for visitors, and until the culprit is caught the media has little more to report. However, probing a little deeper it might be short-sighted for Irish officials to assume the vandal was “mindless.” According to an entirely unrelated but relevant BBC report: “there are an estimated 171,146 words currently in use in the English language.” With this in mind, the person at large in Ireland could have sprayed any of these words, but they chose one: “Fake”.
What does the word “Fake” tell us about the criminal? In relation to the Stone of Destiny the word “Fake” aligns with the popular theory that the original coronation stone was transported from Tara to Scotland in the early medieval period, where it was kept and used at Moot Hill beside Scone by monarchs of the ancient Bruce dynasty. A believer in this theory would regard the Irish Lia Fail as “Fake,” for in their eyes, the real Lia Fail was secreted to Scotland, where royal Scottish mythology picks up the story.
Perhaps another sanctified rock called the Stone of Destiny existed at Tara in prehistory, and that was later transported to Scotland? But the particular Stone of Destiny that was vandalized this week, the one standing sentinel on the Hill of Tara today, has been in situ since around 5,000 BC and it has never been moved since the priestly classes of Neolithic farmers installed it at the end of their ceremonial walkway.
Top image: Stone of Destiny, also known as Lia Fail. Hill of Tara. County Meath. Source: jamegaw/Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie