When It Was Easy to Turn Your Back on Marriage!

Article excerpt

QUESTION What was unusual about the marriage ceremonies at Teltown, Co. Meath? AT Teltown, just outside Kells in north Co. Meath, you won't see much today except the remains of a large prehistoric ringfort and some great views of the nearby River Blackwater.

But in early Ireland, this site had great importance as the setting of the Tailtiu Fair - one of three great fairs held here in prehistoric times.

The characters mostly associated with the event were Eochaid mac Eirc, the last king of the Fir Bolgs, and his wife, Queen Tailte.

Also known as either Tailitiu or Tailte, Tailtiu became the place for an important assembly of elders. Games were also staged there.

On her deathbed, Queen Tailte asked that the Tailteann Games be staged every year in her honour.

Starting in 1829 BC, competitors came from all over Ireland and Scotland to the event.

The kings of Tara ran both the fair and the games at Teltown, which took place annually for the month of August.

When Christianity arrived, it became quite common for couples to announce their marriage at Teltown on St Brigid's Day, February 1. No formal ceremony was involved.

These announcements then extended to other times during the year at the site.

And if the couple wanted to end their marriage, they could return to Teltown a year and a day after their original ceremony to break up.

To dissolve the partnership, they stood back-to-back - one person facing north, the other south. They then walked away from each other.

Before the arrival of Christianity, divorce was common in ancient Ireland and therefore attracted no social stigma.

Teltown merely became the most famous place for getting a divorce.

The tradition continued until about 1770, when the last of the great annual fairs took place.

The Tailteann Games had ended long before this, in 1180 AD, immediately after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.

In 1924, the games were revived and they took place on a lesser scale until 1932. …