Death of King Conor MacNessa

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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It was usual in those barbarous times, whenever a distinguished enemy was killed in battle, to cleave open his head, and to make a ball of the brains by mixing them with lime, which was then dried, and preserved as a trophy of the warrior's valour. Some of these balls were preserved in the royal palace at Emania. One, that was specially prized, passed accidentally into the hands of a famous Connaught champion, who found a treacherous opportunity of throwing it at Conor, while he was displaying himself, according to the custom of the times, to the ladies of an opposing army, who had followed their lords to the scene of action. The ball lodged in the king's skull, and his physicians declared that an attempt to extract it would prove fatal. Conor was carried home; he soon recovered, but he was strictly forbidden to use any violent exercise, and required to avoid all excitement or anger. The king enjoyed his usual health by observing those directions, until the very day of the Crucifixion. But the fearful phenomena which then occurred diverted his attention, and he inquired if Bacrach, his druid, could divine the cause.

The druid consulted his oracles, and informed the king that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, was, even at that moment, suffering death at the hands of the Jews. "What crime has He committed?" said Conor. "None," replied the druid. "Then are they slaying Him innocently?" said Conor. "They are," replied the druid.

It was too great a sorrow for the noble prince; he could not bear that his God should die unmourned; and rushing wildly from where he sat to a neighbouring forest, he began to hew the young trees down, exclaiming: "Thus would I destroy those who were around my King at putting Him to death." The excitement proved fatal; and the brave and good King Conor Mac Nessa died [9] avenging, in his own wild pagan fashion, the death of his Creator.

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[9] Died.—O'Curry, p. 273.


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