Interpreting Prehistoric Ritual: The Balregan Henge

In the absence of testimonial evidence, mythological tales provide a suggestion for the use of a henge.

Throughout Europe similar sites hosted large communal gatherings. In this instance thousands of people could fit into the Balregan henge for the main event. Henges form an 'enclosing element' to focus on events inside the monument. The event could be a huge, ritualised dance, possibly ending in a sacrifice.

The Balregan Henge

Myths thought to originate during the Neolithic Period are dominated by the 'Sacred King'.  The King could be a real person but is more often a substitute (such as the wild goat at Kerry's Puck Fair). Sacred Kings are spirits connected with farming and nature and most ended their short reigns under the knife. They were ritually thrashed, torn to shreds, cut up, thrown off cliffs or into deep pits, cooked into stews, burnt, boiled and buried alive.  These deaths are thought to reflect the processing of crops and animals, which pass through death to provide life for the community.  

Typical candidates for animal sacrifice were bulls; the staple for the economy and representing virility, power and strength. When the strongest are killed, their spirits, when re-born will be more powerful.

QUESTION ASI: What's the evidence for ritual sacrifice?
A small henge At Kilshane Co. Meath contained the remains of at least 50 cattle. A large herd of cattle present a problem in winter. With no grass growing how are they to be fed? The answer is to slaughter some of them, have a huge feast and store any remaining meat.


  • Balregan 2 (coming soon)