Boa Island - Carved figures - Lower Lough Erne

Boa Island can be reached by car and is on the north shore of the Lough on the A47. At the west end of the Island is Caldragh, an ancient Christian churchyard. In this graveyard stands what are generally accepted as pagan idols. The largest stands 72.5cms high. It is a strange two sided Janus figure. Janus literally means two-faced and does not mean that this particular figure is representational of the Roman God Janus.

The two faces are back to back with what may represent hair carved on the joining stone face. The faces are large with bulging eyes, an open mouth with protruding tongue. The heads are large with the limbs crossed the front of the body. These are usually taken to represent arms, although some suggest that one side is arms and the other side are legs as the end of one limb could be a foot.

The head was of great importance in Celtic culture. Heads were thought to contain a spirit after death. Severed heads were carried away in triumph after battle.

The smaller stone is similar and comes originally again from an early Christian graveyard on Lusty more Island near by.

Christianity came to Ireland slowly, and whether these strange stone figures with their unusually big heads represent an earlier pre-Christian religious site or whether they represent early Christians edging their bets by including older beliefs in the grave sites of the ‘new religion’ is unsure. Several other examples of what are considered to be pagan sculptures have been found on early Christian sites e.g. The Tandragee Idol and other sculptures in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.

T.B. Cunningham - Mysterious Boa Island - Booklet Fermanagh Historical Society.

Hickey, H. - Images of Stone - Blackstaff Press : 1976

Lesley Garvin: Archaeology of Historic Ireland Module, The Queen’s University at Armagh 1999