Tynwald: a Manx cult-site and institution of pre-Scandinavian origin?
By George Broderick
Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 46 (Winter 2003)
Abstract: It has long been held that the Isle of Man Government – the Tynwald – has its origins rooted in the Scandinavian period of Manx history (10th-13th centuries AD) and regarded as a product of the Vikings during their sojourn in Man at that time. However, a recent re-assessment of the evidence suggests that Tynwald, though bearing a Scandinavian name, may in fact be much older. This article sets out to examine the available evidence – linguistic, historical, archaeological – and suggests that the roots of Tynwald may be found in early societal practices in the British Isles that may extend as far back as the Bronze Age, or even the Neolithic period, and that the institution of Tynwald may have more in common with such sites as Tara and Emain Macha (Navan) than hitherto acknowledged.
Tynwald is the legislative body and government of the Isle of Man. It comprises the House of Keys, the Legislative Council, and the Lord of Man. Tynwald meets in open-air session once a year on Tynwald Fair Day, held usually on Old Midsummer Day 5 July, on Tynwald Hill at St. John’s, at which (the titles of) laws enacted since the previous 5 July are promulgated in English and Manx Gaelic and any petitions for redress of grievance received. The whole is preceded by a church service in St. John’s Chapel. The proceedings are attended by a fair-like atmosphere, with stall-holders, brass bands, Manx traditional music and dancing, tea and bonnag (Manx soda bread), etc, all of which lend an air of excitement and entertainment to the occasion.