Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jacob's Pillow / the "Stone of Destiny"... it's a fake!

ssstone.jpgSo says Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. It's one of the most potent symbols of Scottish Independence, and was the stone that many Scottish Kings were crowned upon. It was nabbed by King Edward I of England in 1296 during one of his many invasions of Scotland, making the crowning of King Robert the Bruce the first one not on the stone. It was kept under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, London, and was returned to Scotland in 1996. It's now on public display in Edinburgh Castle. Salmond says that what was taken in 1296 wasn't the real stone, but a replica. The real stone must therefore still be out there somewhere... (cue Scooby Doo-like suspense music clip) da, da, DAAA!

The timing of Salmond's announcement will be great news for the movie industry with a film about the Stone due to hit cinemas in the Autumn (starring Robert Carlyle and the brilliant but always-typecast-as-the-mysterious-or-enigmatic-scary-old-man, Christopher Lee)

The legends of the stone are many; here's a summary from the article:

According to mythology the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Lia Fail, originated in Palestine and was transported through Egypt, Sicily, Spain and Ireland before arriving in Scone in the 9th century where it was used when Scottish monarchs were crowned.

Legend has it that it was used by Jacob as a pillow in biblical times. According to others, it was used as a coronation stone by early Gaels in Ireland, and as a travelling altar by St Columba. It has even been linked to Robert the Bruce and to the Blarney Stone.

I'm not impressed at all by the veneration of relics like this, it doesn't sit that comfortably with the rural Ulster-Scot evangelical Prod mentality - Old Testament connections or not! It all strays a bit too close to British Israelite theory for me, which some people I know seem to be into, and which some, let's just say, eccentric websites try to explain.

The story goes that the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah left the Holy Land and brought Princess Tea Tephi with him from Jerusalem, fleeing from King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon whose armies had just taken control of the city. Tephi was the daughter of King Zedekiah, the corrupt last King of Judah. Having stopped off at a number of locations en route, they ended up in Ireland - on the 18th June 583 BC to be precise, with a precious cargo that included the Stone and also King David's Harp (which later became one of the national symbols of Ireland). She later married the High King of Ireland, and when she died was buried inside Tara hill. The stone remained in Ireland for about 1000 years before being taken to Scotland around 500AD.

From 1899 - 1902, the British Israelites carried out some excavations at Tara in County Meath, believing that the Ark of the Covenant was buried in there too. There's an excellent book about the whole episode, published by the Royal Irish Academy.

I have a solution to it all:
• A huge 10 year project, seed-funded by the Ulster-Scots Agency (to cover the cost of the taxi fares for kilt-wearers to visit Tara, well it's cheaper than a taxi to Dublin) and submitted as a proposal to INTERREG IV European funders, for
• Alex Salmond to come across with a shovel to personally dig up Tara, leading a workforce of Scottish Nationalists and British Israelites. (First to find the Stone gets to keep it)
• clearing the controversial route for the proposed M3 motorway, thereby improving North/South relations, and
• giving the Orangemen a new place to walk along close to the new Battle of the Boyne visitor centre at Oldbridge...

However these people may not be so happy about that!