Planning Your Visit to Ireland? Tour 4 Strange and Spooky Sites Associated with #Samhain

Mound of hostages, black and white images, people standing on top of it.

I’m not a fan of Halloween: it’s too commercial, too fake, too big. Samhain seems much simpler and more real to me. And whilst I’m not a pagan, (I’m not any religion, actually, just in case you were wondering, but were too polite to ask ☺) the old festivals seem to me to fit perfectly into the cycle of seasons and the passing of the year. And also with the ebb and flow of my blood, or the beating of my heart, or my body clock, whatever you want to call that natural instinctual internal part of oneself. You may try and suppress it, but it’s always still there.

If you feel the same, here are some places in Ireland that are associated with Samhain which you might like to visit: Tlachtga, the Mound of Hostages at Tara; Magh Slecht, and Oweynagat. I have visited the first three, and will be going to Oweynagat next Sunday, so I will let you know how that goes next week.

tlachtga

The site at The Hill of Ward is named after Tlachtga, deriving 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. Like so many of Ireland’s women of mythology, Tlachtga was a tragic heroine, who suffered and endured, and died for her suffering.

It 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. 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.

From Tlachtga, other famous ancient sites can be seen, such as Tara (19kms), Loughcrew, Slane (23kms) and Teltown (12kms). You can read more about the site, and Tlachtga’s story HERE.

THE MOUND OF HOSTAGES

The Mound of Hostages was constructed over a burial chamber which dates to 3000BC. It stands fifteen metres wide, and three metres high, and the passage extends to four metres long. Excavation was begun in 1952 and completed in 1959.

It is estimated that between 300-500 burials took place there, most of them cremated and their ashes and grave goods placed beneath the passage floor. Burials were also found within the structure of the mound itself, including the body of a teenage boy who was accompanied by some very high status items including a magnificent bead necklace, a bronze knife, and a bronze awl (a pointed tool for making holes in leather).

But the most interesting thing about the mound is that it is aligned so that its passage admits the rays of the rising sun at Imbolc, in spring, and Samhain. What could the significance of this be? Perhaps, if Samhain was thought of as a liminal time, when the veil between the mortal world and the Otherworld was at its thinnest, and the dead walked the Earth to visit their families, the rising sun on the morning of Samhain might awaken them and invite them out. Just my rambling thoughts… 😊

You can read more about Tara HERE.

magh slecht

Magh Slecht (pronounced Moy Shlokht), which means ‘Plain of Prostrations’. Overlooked by the scenic Cuilcagh Mountain and distant rounded shoulders of Sliabh an Iarainn, this panoramic vista of gentle rolling countryside is packed with an unusually dense concentration of megalithic monuments, including cairns, stone rows and circles, standing stones, fort enclosures and burial sites.

The Killycluggin Circle and Stone share a dark and mysterious past, according to Irish mythology, for they have been identified as the site of pagan human sacrifice and the worship of the Sun-God, Crom Cruach. The ancient texts of the Metrical Dindshenchas claim that the people of Ireland worshipped the God by offering up their firstborn child in return for a plentiful harvest in the coming year. The children were killed by smashing their heads on the stone idol representing Crom Cruach, and sprinkling their blood around the base. This stone idol has been identified as the Killycluggin Stone.

The story goes that one Samhain, the High King Tigernmas and all his retinue, amounting to three quarters of the men of Ireland, went from Tara to Magh Slecht to worship. There, St Patrick came upon them as they knelt around the idol with their noses and foreheads pressed to the ground in devotion. They never rose to their feet, for as they prostrated themselves thus, they were, according to Christian observers, slain by their very own God.

You can read more about Magh Slecht HERE.

oweynagat
Entrance to the Cave of cats, Oweynagat. By Davsca at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14608748

Entrance to the Cave of cats, Oweynagat. By Davsca at English Wikipedia.


Oweynagat, or Uaimh na nGat in Irish, means ‘Cave of Cats’. It is located within the Rathcroghan complex, which is a major ancient royal site associated with the infamous Queen Medb.

A souterian leads into the mouth of the cave, which continues deep into the earth as a very narrow fissure… Gulp! And I’m going there next Sunday, and feeling nervous already. Some legends say that Medb was born in there, so I better dig up some courage from somewhere, or she’s not going to think much of me!

Interestingly, the lintel of the souterain is carved with Ogham symbols which are said to be translated as ‘Fraech, son of Medb’. I always thought he was her son-in-law, but maybe in those days, it amounted to much the same thing. Medb would have been around in the third century AD, and the earliest Ogham insciptions don’t date until much later, around the fifth-sixth centuries, so maybe this inscription is some kind of Medieval joke! I’m looking forward to seeing it, anyway.

As I haven’t been yet, I had to grab a pic from wikipedia, which is not the best, but you can see some really great pictures RIGHT HERE, and I hope to bring you some of my own next week, as well as some of the really fascinating myths and legends associated with it too.


Until then…happy halloween sign with a full moon and mist concept


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28 Comments on “Planning Your Visit to Ireland? Tour 4 Strange and Spooky Sites Associated with #Samhain

  1. Pingback: Planning Your Visit to Ireland? Tour 4 Strange and Spooky Sites Associated with #Samhain | homethoughtsfromabroad626

  2. Ali, this is an interesting and informative post. I had never heard of Samhain before this year. The sites didn’t seem spooky at all but were fascinating. Hugs, my sweet friend.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Nope I’m not! I’m a slow writer. I have to edit as I go, so I’d be useless at Nano. Word count doesn’t motivate me either. 80k is a good sized book… wish it would work for me, I’d love to write a first draft in a month!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your theory about the mound and the placement of the entrance. Looking forward to the follow up on the Cave of Cats. The picture gave me the creeps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, archaeology has uncovered evidence of burials, and also of huge bonfires. Antiquarians wrote that peasants still celebrated these festivals into the nineteenth century. And they are mentioned frequently in the folklore and the old Medieval writings, so I guess we have some kind of idea. It’s hard to know for sure though, as there is a period of several centuries before the monks started writing these tales down. For all we know, they could be entirely Medieval fiction! Happy Halloween to you, April! 🎃👻

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating sites.

    The ‘in law’ did not become universal, in ordinary speech at least, until well into the nineteenth century. You will find people referring to their brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, without the added in law.
    Even when it had become general, the wife of the mid Victorian Bishop of Winchester refused to us the term as she felt it showed a lack of affection.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good luck next the weekend at the famous cave, Ali. If you do venture inside, you may get more from the experience by doing so alone. I also think you’d make a good druid. Queen Medb may have had a druid in her court called Fidelma. and there’s a mention on p56 in this book, if you’re interested:
    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=xz6dh-XngnEC&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=fedelma+queen+medb&source=bl&ots=N4ihSP7xEl&sig=e655QOHh8wo814XNCHz3dK0LwJs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiuw_OF2pfXAhWKoJQKHQ30APoQ6AEIRTAJ#v=onepage&q=fedelma%20queen%20medb&f=false

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    • Hi Colin. I watched a video of people going inside the cave, and it fair squeezed the breath out of me just watching! 🤣 I’ve never suffered from a fear of enclosed spaces, but this is certainly going to be a challenge for me. Yes, Fedelma played an important role in the Táin as she forecast Medb’s defeat, but Medb refused to accept it. Wish me luck next week!

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      • I do wish you luck that you will be able to feel something if you go in, Ali. But I believe if you went only to the entrance with someone like Treasa from Tara you would still have an amazing experience. Some things are best left to the imagination and Cave of the Cats could be one of them. 😉
        ádh mór

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know, I’m definitely going to feel fear, if nothing else! 😀 I’m a typical human, I seem immune to picking up on vibes and energy that other people I know can feel. My body is a very effective shield. Even medicines etc don’t really work that well on me. When I was young, some of my friends were having a great time on cannabis. I tried it once and felt nothing. I was disappointed, so never took it again. That’s probably a good thing. I am going to Oweynagat with Treasa, and she is an excellent guide, so it will be an interesting experience in any case. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Good luck next the weekend at the famous cave, Ali. If you do venture inside, you would get more from the experience by doing so alone. I also think you’d make a good druid. Queen Medb may have had a druid in her court called Fidelma. and there’s a mention on p56 in this book, if you’re interested:
    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=xz6dh-XngnEC&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=fedelma+queen+medb&source=bl&ots=N4ihSP7xEl&sig=e655QOHh8wo814XNCHz3dK0LwJs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiuw_OF2pfXAhWKoJQKHQ30APoQ6AEIRTAJ#v=onepage&q=fedelma%20queen%20medb&f=false

    Liked by 1 person

  7. History is fascinating stuff Ali, and you seem to be tripping over it in Ireland. One day I’m going to visit all these places. I always thought your religion was people given that you’re always so nice to them.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

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    • You will David, you’ll be romping all over these hills and fields! I think you would like it here, but there’s no place quite like home. Look at all your incredible Welsh castles, and your Arthurian legends. I’ll take your Gigantic Hugs, and raise you some Gargantuan ones in return! 😁 Happy Halloween! 👻

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