Tlachtga - Hill of Ward

Tlachtga where the Great Fire Festival at Samhain was celebrated

Tlachtga (Hill of Ward) near Athboy, Co Meath is 12 miles from the Hill of Tara. The earthworks which are about 150 metres in diameter are most impressive from the air. Tlachtga dates from approximately 200 AD and was the location of the Great Fire Festival begun on the eve of Samhain (eve of the 1st November).

The festival probably lasted for least several days and centred on the god Lugh. The site takes it name from Tlachtga the daughter of the Druid Mug Ruith who died there giving birth to triplets. Tlachtga is clearly visible from Tara and the fire lit on the eve of Samhain was a prelude to the Samhain Festival at Tara.

With the coming of Christianity the festival was incorporated into the Christian calendar as a time of remembrance for the holy souls, so the Samhain festival of the ancestors retained its relevance. The customs of Samhain that didn't fit into Christianity survived as Halloween. Irish immigrants carried the Halloween tradition to North America in the 19th century.

Tlachtga - Hill of Ward The Festival of Samhain was the great festival of the dead. It also marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The Winter fires were lighted when the sun went down on the eve of Samhain.

Hill of Ward - Tlachtga The earthworks seen on the Hill of Ward today represent the last phase of development about 2000 years ago. The remains of an older barrow burial have been incorporated in the earthworks. It is likely that the hill was the centre of ritual activity long before the Celtic period.

Tlachtga - Aerial View Loughcrew is clearly visible from Tlachtga, the cairns at Loughcrew are about 5000 years old. At Cairn L the Samhain sunrise illuminates a standing stone in the chamber of the cairn.

How the groves of Tlachtga may have looked in Celtic times
How Tlachtga may have looked in Celtic times from John Gilroy's book
Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival.

Tara is also clearly visible from Tlachtga and Tara is also associated with the celebration of Samhain. The Stone Age Mound of the Hostages is also aligned with the Samhain sun rise. The following image was photographed by Martin Dier, it shows the sunbeam illuminating the back of the chamber. The illumination is impaired by the modern gate at the entrance of the passage.

Samhain Sunrise illuminates the back of the Mound of the Hostages
Samhain Sunrise illuminates the back of the Mound of the Hostages - Hill of Tara.

Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival by John Gilroy.

Tlachtga was the centre of the Great Fire Festival that signalled the onset of winter. The rituals and ceremonies carried out here by the pre-Christian Irish, offered assurances to the people that the powers of darkness would be overcome, and the powers of light and life would, once again, be in the ascendancy. This was the place where the Celtic sungod was celebrated at the year's end.  More ...


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