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Celt For A Day

I’ve always wondered what it was like to live in the days of our ancestors. Around the time of the great Irish legends, when the kings and queens of Ulster were around. Now I know!

When we got to the Navan Fort we were met by a Celt from the Iron Age called Finn. He explained that we were about to travel back to 65AD where we would enter a totally different world. There would be no electricity, no toilets or baths or any of the comforts we were used to. This would be exactly how people lived, here in Emain Macha, at that time.

 

First we had to dress up in costume like Finn himself and had our faces painted. It felt and looked odd but it really helped us become part of that world. Then Finn took us to his house nearby. Dad couldn’t believe how real everything was, no cheating at all! This was real history, only the sort you could live, and most of the visitors were adults too.

We could see the smoke billowing over the willow fence and through the gap in the thatched roof before we got to Finn’s dwelling. He was not alone. We met Shannon, who showed us how to make finger pottery. Fiachra the Fearful (also known as ‘scaredy cat’) was the willow weaver. She had made amazing things with strips of willow and showed us to how to make the willow fences that surround the dwelling.

Navan Fort

My favourite though was Fergal the warrior. He made us behave like Celtic warriors preparing for battle. We had to roar as loudly and fiercely as we could and stand with our swords and shields ready for action. He also showed us how to hold a spear and even use a sling like the great Cuchullain when he took on Maeve’s army. Not only did they let out a bloodcurdling roar before going into battle but the Celtic warriors made themselves look as frightening as possible. They bleached their hair with a limewash (better not tell you how it was made), painted themselves blue and some even had the heads of people they had killed on their belts.

We also learned to cook like a Celt, using this fire pit dug into the ground. We tried making nettle soup and sweet breads with hazelnuts and porridge but the real task was to bake meat parcels, like an Iron Age Beef Wellington my mum said. We made a fire in the pit on stones and when it was white hot swept the ashes away. We placed the meat parcels, which were covered in bread dough, on the fire and put hot stones around them so they were surrounded. When they were cooked we scraped off the black crust and they were ready. We also foraged for herbs and ground barley into flour.

Navan Fort

Though the dwelling wasn’t huge it was large enough for a few families. The bed, which was red deer and reindeer skins, slept at least twelve. There were skins on the floor too.

At the end we gathered round the fire and listened to the stories of Sanka the Bard. Bards were the poets, musicians and storytellers of the Celts.

We also learned to cook like a Celt, using this fire pit dug into the ground.

Before things were written down they were very important as they kept all the stories and poems and songs alive from their ancestors. Sanka told us about the most famous warrior ever in Ireland and how he joined the Red Hand Knights here at the Navan Fort, or Emain Macha, as it was known then. Even though this was a legend, Sanka told us, we were in exactly the kind of surroundings Cuchullain himself would have recognised.

This is the story he told…Sean [Aged 12]

Navan Fort