Last weekend I was fortunate enough to take a trip over to Tory Island as part of the first ever ‘Evil Eye Festival’. This folklore festival was based around the legend of Balor of the Evil Eye, the King of the Fomorians, a semi-divine ancient race that lived on Tory Island. I will be covering one or two other places from that trip to Tory at a later date but what I wish to focus on now is the unusual Tau Cross.
A one hour ferry ride took us to Tory and one of the first sights that would capture anyone’s attention upon arrival has to be the Tau Cross standing overlooking the dock. In the shape of the letter T this interpretation of the crucifix was prominently used in early christian Egypt, the cross measures 1.9metres in height by 1.1metres in width. As mica slate is not to be found on the island it is safe to assume the cross was made elsewhere and brought to the Island during the 12th century.
An island legend mentions a Cromwellian soldier who tried to destroy the Tau with his sword but despite his best efforts was unable to break it, due to this Tory’s fishermen believe it to have powers of protection and it has become custom to pray to it before going out to sea.
The Tau Cross at Tory is one of only two in Ireland, the other being situated in Kilnaboy, Co. Clare.
There has been some debate recently about the dating of the cross with one or two researchers starting to believe that it may predate Christianity altogether, as the symbol was used by Pagans in Egypt. The seafaring history of Ireland and how it connected this small island to the rest of the world – allowing for trade of goods and ideas – may have been underplayed by historians to date, in regard to this I wholly recommend that anyone interested in Ireland’s early maritime history reads ‘The Atlantean Irish’ by Bob Quinn – as I have over the past month – it certainly gives a different perspective to the ‘culturally isolated island on the edge of Europe’ idea of Ireland that seems to be more commonly concluded.
GPS: 55.26466, -8.22687