Tag Archives: Hill of Tara

Samhain/Halloween

Samhain, pronounced SAH-win, (Irish for ‘Summer’s End’) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset. Samhain is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. At this time of the year, the veil between the worlds is thin. Like indigenous shamans all over the world, Celtic druids and seers were believed to enter the darkness to contact the spirits who dwelled in the hidden realms and brought back wisdom for their people.

Two hills in the Boyne Valley were associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, Tlachtga and Tara. Tlachtga was the location of the Great Fire Festival which begun on the eve of Samhain (Halloween). Tara was also associated with Samhain, however it was secondary to Tlachtga in this respect. The entrance passage to the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain. The Mound of the Hostages is 4,500 to 5000 years old, suggesting that Samhain was celebrated long before the first Celts arrived in Ireland about 2,500 years ago.

Mound of Hostages

According to Wikipedia, Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into our world. It was believed that the fairies needed to be appeased to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the fairies.

In the 9th century, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween. Historians have used the name ‘Samhain’ to refer to Gaelic ‘Halloween’ customs up until the 19th century.

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Hill of Tara and back to Dublin for my birthday

What a spectacular day in Ireland. I spent the morning with the Lia Fail (the Stone of Destiny). The sun was shining and at the Hill of Tara I could see not quite all of Ireland.

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Here are some Celtic Crosses at the church that is part of the hill.

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Look who joined me at Lia Fail

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And I’ll leave you with one more-a worthy quote for all writers.

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July 22, 2014 · 11:49 am

May 12 to 14, 2011

As you guessed, I have been without Internet access for several days. Here’s a rundown.

May 12: I left Ballynahinch Lake and County Galway, passed through County Mayo and stopped in County Sligo. The setting for the fourth murder, Mary and her dragon, is here in Carrowmore-a bronze age cemetery. This is a cairn-the only one in the cemetary, inside is a dolmen.

The cemetary also has a stone circle. This is the location on Mary’s murder, within the circle, near the Whitethorn-or-Hawthorne tree.

Since Sligotown was hours away from County Meath and my final few locations, I decided to push onward and made it into Kells for the night. Yes, Kells, where the monks wrote the Book of Kells (currently on display in Trinity College, Dublin).

May 13: Today I toured Newgrange-where all my murder victims’ bodies have been placed. This site and Knowth and Dowth are along the River Boyne and are over 5000 years old. That’s 500 years older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt and 1000 years older than Stonehenge in Great Britain (which I will see next week).

Entrance Stone

I drove back north somewhat to Loughcrew Cairn. The general area here is another Tuatha Dragon Clan compound in the book. This cairn is at the top of a hill (don’t know the height, but it’s quite a hike) overlooking many valleys with farms and forests.

Cairn at Loughcrew, County Meath

May 14: Today is my last day touring with the car. I toured the Hill of Tara, the legendary seat of Irish Kings. In ‘The Keepers of Eire’, the Tuatha Dragon Clan celebrate Beltaine here and hopefully the partnering of Devan and Christian with their respective dragons. But will the ceremony proceed, or will the murderer be victorious?

The Stone of Destiny is prominately featured on the mound next to the Mound of the Hostages. On a clear day (which I did not have) you can see more than half of Ireland from atop the Mound of the Hostages.

Back into Dublin and I finally got to tour the Guinness Storehouse (remember on 4 May I tried, but was thwarted due to a bomb threat). The tour was interesting and I sat with my pint in the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse. There guests have a 360 degree view of Dublin. This view shows maybe 1/10 of the room.

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