In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. His most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January.
The Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney celebrated the enigmatic Boa Island bilateral figure’s similarity to the Roman deity Janus in his poem “January God”. The Enniskillen-born poet Francis Harvey published a collection of poems called The Boa Island Janus in 1996. Similar statues appear outside the cave of Crom Cruach in The Secret of Kells.
by Seamus Heaney
Then I found a two faced stone
On burial ground,
God-eyed, sex-mouthed, it’s brain
A watery wound.
In the wet gap of the year,
Daubed with fresh lake mud,
I faltered near his power —-
Who broke the water, the hymen
With his great antlers —-
There reigned upon each ghost tine
The mothering earth, the stones
Taken by each wave,
The fleshy aftergrass, the bones
Subsoil in each grave.
Photo: Janus Figure, Boa Island, Eniskillin, Co Fermanagh