Women

Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854
Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854

This group of shawled mourners gathered around the burial of a warrior are known as keeners. The term is taken from the Irish word caoin (to weep or cry).  The keeners would wail, lament, sing and chant over the dead at funerals. Giraldus Cambrensis describes this custom in his Topography of Ireland (c.1188).

 

 

Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854
Detail of Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', c.1854

The bridesmaids' expressions display feelings of apprehension and curiosity; this is not an ordinary wedding ceremony. They are dressed in luxurious textiles and gold ornament, and carry exquisite jewelled caskets. In Maclise's watercolour painting of the marriage they are dressed in white and carry palm fronds, the traditional symbol of martyrdom.