In Northern Ireland, atop Binegenagh Mountain and overlooking Lough Foyle, there sat a statue of the sea god Manannán mac Lir (below). The statue, created by artist John Darren Sutton (some of whose work can also be seen in HBO’s Game of Thrones), was one of several sculptures to be found along the Limavady Sculpture Trail. The trail was designed with visitors in mind, as a way of sharing and commemorating the area’s “most notable myths and legends.”
I say the statue of Manannán mac Lir “sat,” in the past tense, because, some time prior to Wednesday morning of last week, it was cut from its base and removed. The BBC quotes Sutton as saying the statue’s removal would have required hours of work even from multiple people:
“I made it out of clay first and then a silicone mould, before I cast it. It took me months and months to make and five or six men to carry it up there and install it.“It was very heavy and would have taken a long time to remove.”
What motivated such herculean efforts? If the thieves’ calling card is anything to go by, it might have been a detestation of perceived idol worship:
People in the Limavady area tell of the presence of a sea god in Lough Foyle, County Londonderry, and the widespread practice of making offerings to deities in Celtic times.
Those who made off with the sea god left a wooden cross with the words ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ in its place.
Until those responsible are apprehended and questioned, it’s impossible to know if the statue was actually removed for religious reasons, or if the cross was simply placed there to misdirect attention from the thieves. All the same, the amount of commitment necessary to pull this peculiar heist off seems to indicate something more than petty vandalism as the cause.