Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

[Tidbits] Torc

It is said that the torc was a necklace for women until the 4th
century BC when it suddenly became something only warriors wore. And
why not, I say. For after all… it was a sign of nobility and
elevated social status.

They were also worn in a votive sense… perhaps as an offering to
Odin or Thor or some other god of might and importance who had enough
militant energy to ensure victory over an enemy who was surely not as
worthy and therefore undeserving of any retaliatory conquests. It was
clearly important in those days to ally oneself with a god of the
highest importance for the god of might was always the god of right.
The fact is… even some Celtic gods wore torcs… and if it was good
enough for a god… it was most certainly good enough for a warrior.
We all mimic our icons do we not? Has anything changed?

Which brings us via arcane and mysterious routes to the horse. Does
anybody out there know who invented horse-racing? Hmm. It was
Neptune… or Poseidon… depending on your nationality. They
invented the horse… then ran him till the fans in the stands
screamed in ecstatic frenzy urging their filly of choice to get to
the finish line first. Even back then… with the god of the oceans
overlooking his handiwork… you could hear a warrior yell out: Come
along there Pontius… move your bloody arse. I heard some movie
director used a similar phrase in a later film which spoke only of
his good taste and flair for past phraseologies.

And now we combine the two pertinent pieces of historical knowledge
and we come to a torc of a horse. Actually is a torc of two horses…
one at each end of a neckpiece made of silver and clearly carved with
painstaking care. Ya wanna see Celtic beauty… I’ll show you Celtic
beauty. But first… a small bit of a philosophical addendum. What–I
am sure you are all asking yourselves–what makes you think that a
warriors wearing a torc was wearing said torc as a tribute to a god
or perhaps as a token payment for past favors?

I’ll tell you why. I have a silver Celtic torc to show you. And its
importance is not only due to the fact that it considered to have
socio-religious significance… but there is also the fact to
consider that the bloody thing weighed over 13 pounds.

Anybody ever lift weights out there? A little body-building perhaps?
Using some free weights in an old gym with sweat beadlets trickling
over your forehead and into your eyes and then ever downward? Well…
you get the idea. Do you remember what 13 pounds felt like? Now
imagine wearing that around your neck. 13 pounds folks. Nobody’s doing
that for fun or for show. This was surely a gesture to the
higher-ups. I’ll do this for you if you do that for me. The more
things change and all that.

So. You want to see? Go look. You know where. And tell me this. Would
you wear this just for show and pleasure … or would it have to be
as an offering to someone with divine powers in exchange for a little
favor? Something in return? A little reward for your sacrifice? You
all do know how this works… do you not?

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… click it… and you will see represented on
our pages an image of a Silver Celtic Torc.

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

Nice piece, that torc, and I always enjoy your stories - but those
beasts look more like cows or sheep than horses. Are you certain
they are horses?

Hello Benjamin

Again, thank you for your Tidbits - I do look forward to receiving
your words by email every week. And I read this with great interest.
Now, I come from Celtic stock. And the Torc was discussed muchly -
much of the same discussion that you have here - in the long nights
by the Christmas tree especially at my grandparent’s home. My
grandmother owned a Torc, you see. It was simple, banged up, nicked
and scratched and there was no telling how old it was. It was gold
is all I can tell you of its material and it was relatively soft. It
was said to have been passed down through the family on the mother’s
side always. And I was told that in addition to what you write, the
Torc was the sum value of a family’s bank accounts. If the loan of
something was needed, then the Torc was pledged as security.
Returned when the debt was cancelled. As a family’s material wealth
increased, additional gold was added to the Torc. When in dire
straits, some removed. Sometimes the Torc was recast. I can remember
holding it in my hands, trying to feel the connections to the women
who went before me when I was a little girl. Those were the days of
the matriarchal society - at least the story comes from then, if not
the Torc itself. Isn’t this what makes jewelry so fascinating - the
story it holds? And so many stories are lost to time - pity. Please,
I urge people who make “story” jewelry, to write the story and
enclose it with the piece. Someone would cherish it.

Barbara, on another 94 degree F day on the Island - Chilly Beach or

Mark, as usual, I love your Tidbits, and found the commentary on
this latest piece (silver celtic torc) both interesting and
entertaining. The wonder of these ancient artisans! And the history
behind the piece is no less fascinating.

However, I must respectfully disagree with your indication that the
creature portrayed on the ends is equine. I suspect it is actually
bovine. Two clues lead me to this conclusion: one is the rather
rounded ears. Horses have ears which are considerably more pointed
than those of cattle. But more importantly are the horns, or possibly
horn “buds”, protruding in front of the ears. Portraying a young
bovine, without the long sharp horns characteristic of ancient breeds
(google up Ancient White Park Cattle as an example), would surely
have saved the wearer additional discomfort, as anyone who has worn
pointy jewelry would know. No less beautiful a work of art, no less
historic and significant a figure. But I suspect the only racing
involved with the creature(s) portrayed involved the human racing
away from an angry bovine.


I did some hard looking too, but it looks like they have manes.

Rose Alene

Tend to agree with Linda - look more bovine - and with a more
careful inspection, one appears younger than the other and is showing
teeth in a bit of a challenge. I would be interested to rad what
others see from their chairs and stools.

Barbara on a blue sky day on the island

Which would you rather… be boiled in oil or admit to having been
wrong? For many… like me… this is not an easy decision. I have a
cauldron in the yard–filled to the brim with oil–sitting atop
flaming embers awaiting my immersion. However… there is the
wife… and the kiddies… and the grandkiddies… and so it is for
them and only for them that I will bypass the cauldron this one time
and admit to an error. Oh how to approach this. My head is hung in
abject shame. My face is flaming red with embarrassment. But here it
is. Quite a few of you wrote this past week to advise me that those
warn’t horses on that torc… but sheep… or cows… anything but
horses. Bah, I wrote back. I have it written in my tome, I advised.
This is what my sources said and this is what it is, I said. And so
tonight… whilst preparing for Friday’s Tidbits… I thought I
would take one more look at my source in order to ensure peace of
mind. Alas–oh how do I say this–there is nary a mention of horses.
Where did I get this I wonder. Are the gods trying to
drive me mad. Yarrggghhhhh!

Benjamin Mark

Hi Benjamin, What a great way to come clean. Bravo!


No! Benjamin - a thousand times no! Do not even put a toe into that
boiling oil! It is time to separate the wheat from the chaff! And
raise your head for you will see, the answer’s clear for all to see,
'tis not a cow, 'tis not a horse, look close and you will find of
course, two different heads, both beasts, don’t weep, 'tis but the
head of goat and sheep.

Barbara, on a stormy day on the island

There, Now that wasn’t so hard after all, was it?

For all the precious metals and hard stones we work with, the
hardest material we have to deal with remains our own brains and
their inexhaustible supply of tricks.

Anyway, A story doesn’t have to be true to be a good story - unless
you’re a news reporter.


Dearest Benjamin!

I, for one, am relieved to hear that you chose not to immerse
yourself in boiling oil - not only for the sake of the
"grandkiddies", et al., but for those of us who truly enjoy your
subtle humor and imaginative essays on Orchid. And I do regret, as
well, any distress I may have caused you while pointing out the
anatomical discrepancies between equines and bovines pursuant to this

As for Miss Rose’s observations that the animals are sporting
"manes", and thus must be horses, might I suggest that Scottish
Highlands cattle are known for their very shaggy forelocks, as well
as sufficient neck and body hair to produce an appearance similar to
the heads on this torc? Therefore, while cattle may occasionally have
forelocks and “manes”, I do wish to reiterate that horses (with the
obvious exception of unicorns) never have horns.