Tlachtga, Goddess of Earth and Fire www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Tlachtga, Goddess of Earth and Fire
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com

“My name is Tlachtga, daughter of Mog Ruith. This hill is my place, my heart’s home. Only a few bones remain of what once stood here, for mankind has wrought his destruction upon it, as he did also upon my flesh. In those days, I rode the skies with my father in the great wheel of light, a rare magic known only to few, and folk would watch and fall to their knees in fearful prayer, claiming we commanded the sun. For long years after my suffering, great fires were lit in my honour. But time eroded understanding, and the people forgot why. The priests of the new religion came and wrote me out of history, for they were not fond of powerful women, and my name drifted like a lost whisper on the breeze. I have been grievously wronged, but should you come to me, I will receive you gladly. You will not feel my pain. You will see what I saw when I walked this earth, Eire’s green and fertile beauty. You will feel my power throb beneath your feet, for it is my heart still beating. And you will feel my peace, despite what happened here, for I am at rest now in my hollow hill piled with stones.”

When I go somewhere I know violence has taken place in the dim and distant past, I always expect to get some sense of darkness, or brooding, as if the memory of such awfulness remains etched into the very fabric of place, the stones, the earth, the grass, the trees, all these are witnesses of what once occurred.

At Tlachtga, I felt a great sense of peace. I know you will say it’s because it all happened so long ago, in fact, probably never happened at all, because these are just ancient stories. But I think forgiveness washes a place clean, floods it with peacefulness and makes it wholesome again.

It didn’t even feel like a hill, but as I walked out onto the summit, I was amazed at the wide open 360* panorama which unfolded around me. From here, other famous ancient sites can be seen, if you know where to look, such as Tara (19kms), Loughcrew, Slane (23kms) and Teltown (12kms).

Google Earth view of Tlachtga.
Google Earth view of Tlachtga.

In terms of archaeology, the site consists of the remains of a quadrivallate ring fort, which means it has four banks with a diameter of roughly 140m, and ditches between them. This is highly unusual, signifying a site of great importance. Sadly, there is severe damage, for which much of the blame is levelled at Oliver Cromwell, who camped his army there for a while in 1649. I suspect farming has had a large part to play too; on the day I visited, fields in the area were being ploughed.

Recent archaeological work is discovering a large complex of other monuments in the area, almost erased from the landscape, but still visible using technology such as LIDAR (“remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analysing the reflected light” according to Wikipedia). It was clearly a busy and thriving area in ancient times.

The fort was quite overgrown on the day I visited. It was difficult to get any meaningful pictures. The banks did not appear as high in the images as they did when I stood beneath them, nor the ditches as deep as when I stood in them. Interestingly, the fort looks most impressive from the air. So I grabbed a screenshot from Google Earth to show you.

I found myself walking the ditches as if drawn along them, almost as if they were processional walkways, rather than defensive structures. The experience left me feeling dizzy and head-achy. It was much like walking through a maze. In the ditches, the banks are still high enough that the view is completely obliterated. There was nothing to do save look at one’s feet and think. Or meditate. Or contemplate. Until one gravitated to the top of the central mound and was smacked in the chops with that view over the land.

So who was Tlachtga, and what is her association with the hill? Her name derives from the old Irish tlacht, meaning ‘earth’ and gae, meaning ‘spear’. This could imply a mother earth type deity, but it has also been surmised that the spear could represent lightning being hurled at the earth. She could possibly have been an ancient fertility Goddess local to the hill. Some think she may have been one of the Tuatha de Danann, others that she was a solar deity on account of her connection with Mogh Ruith. She is mentioned in two poems in different Irish texts, the Banshenchas, or ‘Lore of Women’ (must get my hands on a copy of that one!), and the Dinsenchas, the ‘Lore of Places’.

Her father was Mogh Ruith, a powerful blind Druid and possible sun god, whose name means ‘devotee of the wheel’. There is some debate over timescales here; some stories associate him with Cormac the Wise, High King of Ireland, and Fionn mac Cumhall, c. C3rd AD. The Lebor Gabála Érenn, an ancient Irish text, claims he died in the reign of Conmael, nearly two thousand years before Cormac.

However, both he and his daughter were also said to have travelled together to Italy, where they studied with Simon Magus, a sorcerer and heretic who lived during the time of Jesus. Simon Magus was said to have the ability to levitate and fly. It was he who helped them build their flying machine known as the Roth Rámach, which means the ‘rowing wheel’. And it was his three sons who raped Tlachtga.

She fled back to Ireland, where in time she gave birth to three sons on the Hill of Tlachtga. It was a long and difficult delivery during which all her energy ebbed. She was buried where she died, and the area took her name. Her sons were Doirb, Cuma and Muach, and one of the older versions of the story says they went on to rule the provinces of Munster, Leinster and Connacht, and that while their names were remembered, no harm would ever come to Eire.

It is interesting to note that a burial mound is indeed located at Tlachtga, but it is unknown who was lies within it. It is also interesting that the complete skeleton of a baby aged between seven and ten months and found to be 3000 years old was discovered there. It is not thought by archaeologists to be the victim of ritual death or sacrifice.

Like so many of Ireland’s women of mythology, Tlachtga was a tragic heroine, who suffered and endured, and died for her suffering. Some say her rape and death were later Christian inventions, an example of the kind of punishment women could expect if they did not keep to their proper station in life. But I prefer to remember her as an icon of female success, a mother, and a woman of strength, power and magic so revered, that her name has endured in the very shape of the landscape, thousands of years beyond her death.

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62 thoughts on “Tlachtga, Goddess of Earth and Fire

  1. When you were our tour guide for Tara, you opened me up to a whole new world. Tara was boring until you came with my group and explained it all. Then it cam alive. Perhaps next time, I can hire you to take us to Tlachtga!

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  2. You have drawn out an extraordinary story Ali, such experiences dig deep into your ancestors past… and paying them such a lovely tribute is remarkable.
    As you said, when you look closer to the archeological sites in Irland, you may be scared… especially when you are up to give a try to visit “just” some of them.. which is a difficult choice.
    The best way is to live there or to have a sabbatic year to spend on your island. All Saints for us is the occasion to remember our dead ancestors, bring them to the cemetery some Chrysanthemums flowers and pray… but so much has been changed over the millennia. The catholic religion has much erased putting new names and reasons for many feasts. You have to go way back in time to realize that the previous religions had such deep roots and connection with Mother Gea for paying her great respect and many of these celebrations were made just to venerate her in the most beautiful ways. Nowadays everything has more or less lost his real meaning, all became an economic exploitation and Halloween is all about a “trick or treat”… Thank you for sharing dear Ali :-)claudine

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    1. Thank you, Claudine, for such a lovely comment. And yes, everything has lost its real meaning, and somehow acquired new ones, but I have mixed feelings about that… it doesn’t often seem to be for the better.

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  3. I might be a year late reading this but what fascinating stuff – you really bring it all alive and it’s amazing how much can still be felt from magical sites such as this. I’d love to know the correct way to pronounce her name!

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    1. Thank you! It certainly is an amazing place. And little visited, from the looks of it. I think the story of Tlachtga is a mysterious one, and so is her father. They don’t seem to quite fit into the Danann picture. I love that her memory has been preserved in the landscape still to this day.

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  4. I have got to talk to you more about this when I see you next. Just reading this post sent shivers up my spine and the fact that you could sense certain things whilst walking around that old fort (alone?) makes me want to find out a lot more. I love the aerial photo – reminds me a little of the crop circles we often get to see from time to time.

    A great read Ali, with lots of beautiful photos (which you should watermark).

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    1. Thank you, Hugh! Ive never thought about watermarking pictures… I’ve never ever thought them good enough to be worth doing. How do you even do that? I would love to talk your ears off about these places… you’ll be sorry you asked! Hehe! 😀

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      1. I would if I were you, Ali, otherwise anybody can use them and claim that they are their own work. There’s lots of free apps and software out there that you can use to watermark photos. The one I use is called Photobulk and I found it very easy to use.

        No, I look forward to talking to you about it. I’ll even buy the drinks 🙂

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  5. A lovely post, Ali – I really enjoyed your description of the ring fort, what a fascinating place! And the legend attached to it – I like how you remember her, and the feeling of forgiveness in the landscape. 🙂

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  6. Very moving post, Ali! Tlachtga certainly surrounded you with the peace you so beautifully shared in her words. 🙂 Also how exciting that you took the reiki course. I’d so love to hear about your experience sometime. I haven’t been able to take a class yet myself, but I agree the ancient Irish practiced something similar to reiki. I’ve experienced it, but haven’t quite been able to direct the energy myself.

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    1. I love the Reiki, Éilis. Havent had much chance to practice it as yet, but have had some good experiences with Carys. A lot of archaelogy has been done at Tlachtga recently, and more is planned, I believe. They have found that, much like Teltown and Uisneach and many other places, it was only a part of a much larger busy and thriving community. I think the prehistoric world was actually far different than anything we have been brought up to believe. And although the work archaeologists do is essential, it involves ripping up sections of earth and monument, which I dont imagine the guardians of these places would be too happy about. If I was someone like Tlachtga I think Id be very pleased if someone remembered my name and took the time and trouble to visit, walk and pay their respects without any expectations or causing any damage. I hope so, anyway. 😊

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  7. What a great post and another fascinating place Ali. I have to say I didn’t realise just how plentiful ancient places, remains and artefacts are in Ireland. Isn’t it great when you get that sense of the past from a site?

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    1. Thanks Roy. Yes, I live when that happens. Its a wonderful feeling. But if you enjoy history and all the myths, you will always experience that because you are so tuned in, I think. I once clicked onto an archaeological database which had a map showing all Irelands known monuments, and I was actually shocked at how many there were. The map was literally a mass of red dots, I couldnt believe it. There is no way a small population could have created so many, even over centuries of activity.

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    1. Hi Lorinda! Great to see you here. Haha! I just read a lot! Most of it doesnt lodge in this pitiful leaky excuse for a brain, which is why I have to regurgitate it onto my blog before I forget lol!

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    1. Thank you Michelle. I love how so many of our ancient places still have characters and myths atatched to them. Sometimes you have to dig around a bit to find it. Tlachtga, for example, is such a fascinating place purely on its archaeological terms. Also because of the fires of Samhain which are known to have been lit there. But to know the story of the woman who it was named after, whether true, partly, or not at all, adds an extra dimension which is to me quite beguiling! 😊

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  8. Ali, That was beautiful, brought a tear to my eye. And that does not happen too often. Glad you made the trip to experience this wonderful place. Their is a special magic in that hill that still emits its energy after all these years. Perhaps that dizzy spell you encountered was a result of this energy. As you walked the ditches you were passing through the energy which can have an effect like this on you if you are not acustomed to it.
    I had a similar experience many years ago up on the hill of Slane which knocked me for six. The trick is to keep at it, absorb only as much as you are comfortable with and enjoy the experience.
    Your opening verse was truley moving and should be cherished 🙂

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    1. Thank you Ed. I did a reiki course the other week, and I wonder if its made me more aware of the energy in these places. I think you are right. I was fine when I left the site, although the feeling remained. Im really grateful for the essy access too. No one else was there. Im sure it will be busy next weekend though. Have you ever been there for the samhain celebration? Do you know I have never yet been on the hill of Slane and again its not so far from me. I think an excursion is soon required.

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      1. Ah so you did the atunement, very good. That should get everything flowing. I havent done the courses but a friend of mine had and of course I was the guinea pig. Have to say it is quite good. I see Reiki as life force energy which exists in everything. My friend used to refer to it as the Force, like in Star wars. 🙂
        I was up there two years ago for a Dark Moon Celebration, we went to Tara and brought the flame we made in Tlacghta with us. It was an amazing experience.
        https://edmooneyphoto.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/dark-moon-samhain/

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        1. Reiki is amazing! And I believe the ancient Irish knew about it too. It was only when I took the course that I realised one of the hand positions is exactly the same as described in Cormacs Glossary when he was writing about the ritual for Imbas Forosnai! I was very excited about that! Atunement was a surprisingly emotional experience. As with all things, now the real training begins. 😊 What is a Dark Moon celebration, and how did you get the flame from one place to the other?

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          1. We created a brand new flame at Tlacghta with a spark, then when we finished we used an old lamp to transport the flame to Tara just like the old days. Dark Moon Samhain is a ritual held by the Druids at the start of Samhain which is signaled by the Dark phase of the moon. We were a lunar race, our days begun at night as did our festivals and celebrations.

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            1. Its all part of the circle of life Ed. And part of your growth. It may have been a shit year that youre glad to put behind you but you probably learned a lot. Ive had years like that too. This one hasnt been awful but itsnot been wonderful either…. never grateful lol! Its nice to look forward to better stuff to come. 😊

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        1. Most people do because theres not much to see but bumps and hollows in the ground. Its hard to visualise if you dont know much about it. So yes, imagination definitely helps… not much of a problem for author types like us!

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  9. So difficult to get a grip on things when a new ( read powerful) religion comes along and transforms by assimilation all the old stories. There’s nothing to say the Druids didn’t have the right of it before they were slaughtered or converted at the point of a sword.
    Maybe the Tuatha de Danann really were visitors from space as so many other countries seem to record in one way or another.They’d have been pretty disgusted with our ways no doubt and gone home again saying there’s no chance for us.
    xxx Massive Hugs Ali xxx

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    1. Lol! That’s for sure! But I’m not so sure they gave up on us completely. They might still be out there, watching and waiting for their chance to show us the error of our ways…

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