Tlachtga, The Forgotten Goddess
When our tours arrive at Tara Hill I always hope that we also include Loughcrew, better named as Slieve Bearra, and Ward Hill, better named as Hill of Tlachtga.
Slieve Bearra hosts two of the most interesting passage cairns in Ireland, Cairn L and Cairn T. I find these cairns are far more interesting than Newgrange. Cairn T is also home of the Hag’s Chair that I feel is the true “Lia Fail” stone that was brought to Carnbane East, of the Loughcrew complex, by high king Ollamh Fodhla around 900 BC.
Hill of Tlachtga has an exceptional heritage in the druid tradition with stories and presence that are worth sharing.
Unfortunately, Slieve Bearra is usually skipped through concerns for the hill climb, but Hill of Tlachtga is skipped through lack of time as there is so much on Tara Hill that our groups become very involved with.
Co. Meath really deserves a two day visit, and that’s before even considering the very busy Newgrange and Knowth.
About Mug Ruith, father of Tlachtga
Tlachtga was the daughter of druid priest and teacher Mug Ruith who was quite a world traveller in his quest to learn and receive the wisdoms of the world and of its flow of life. Mug Ruith deserves a separate article because like Brighid there seems to be several incarnations of him. Stories of him are so similar to those of the later Arthur’s Merlin.
Perhaps the best known story incarnation of Mug Ruith was when he became a student of Simon Magus around 40 AD. Simon Magus was later known by Christians as the “first heretic”. Simon Magus, by legend, is said to have understood the flight of birds and learned how to fly himself. From the knowledge of Simon Magus it is said that Mug Ruith built a flying machine near Jerusalem. It was called “roth ramach” and said to be shaped like a wheel and was powered by lightning.
I feel that that most important legacy of Mug Ruith was his wisdom and power of “laying of hands” healing that was inspired by and taught to him by Simon Magus. Simon claimed that his teachings of healing were taught to him by Christ, but by proclaiming he had greater powers than Christ led him to be recognized at the “first heretic.”
Tlachtga receives wisdom and gives life
While Mug Ruith was travelling the world, and particularly during his time in Jerusalem, he was accompanied by his daughter, Tlachtga, who quietly learned and developed the same wisdoms as her father.
It is said that while in Jerusalem, Tlachtga was raped by Simon’s three sons. She returned to Ireland and at the site of the Hill of Tlachtga she gave birth to triplet sons, Doirb, Cumma and Muach, who grew to become arch druids of what is now Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Their druidism became a merging of the newly arriving Christianity and became the earliest of what is now known as “Celtic Christianity”.
Tlachtga died on the hill, during their birth. Where she was buried, a temple was built and the exchange of fires at Samhain are still honoured by some today around November 5th.
Who was the real Mug Ruith?
The name of Tlachtga’s father, Mug Ruith, means “devotee of the wheel” but this “wheel” may have been a reference to the sun and “devotee” referring to his path as a druid. The tale of Mug Ruith being a student of Simon Magus and building a flying machine under the direction of Simon Magus was spread, possibly invented, by the medieval bards through their stories, poems and songs.
There was a Munster druid, at the time of Cormac mac Airt in the third century, called Mog Roith. When Cormac chose druids for each region of Ireland, Mog Roith, an established druid of Munster, created an army to defend the advance of Cormac’s druids. This led to a battle called the “Siege of Druim Damhgaire” where Mog Roith won. After the battle Mog not only became recognized as arch druid of Munster but arch druid of all of Ireland. Thereafter Mog Roith’s tales with Cormac mac Airt were similar to the better known tales of Merlin and King Arthur.
Was Tlachtga really a goddess?
Tlachtga’s name means “earth spear” and was a term given to lightning. The story of triplet childbirth, her death during childbirth and her burial on the “hill” are likely to have been symbolic of a sacred ceremony. This is likely to have been a ceremony that had taken place there for 1000s of years before the stories of Mug Ruith and Tlachtga were created and spread by the medieval bards of Ireland.
The ceremony is said to have started at Lambay Island, and island of a dead volcano that became a very important stone age axe making quarry. Somehow fires were lit on this island and then the flame was brought by boat up the River Boyne and then up the Yellowford River, that meets the Boyne, to what is now the small town of Athboy as the base of the Hill Of Tlachtga. A preserved henge still remains in a park near the Yellowford River and I wonder if this henge was used as part of the ceremony.
The Yellowford River is also sourced from Carbane West at Slieve Bearra, Loughcrew, and there is a mysterious stone circle by its source. At the time of Samhain, and Imbolc, the moonrise and the sunrise lift behind the Lambay Island and align with a remarkable quartz standing stone in Cairn L that shines like a lit torch for a few minutes. I tend to believe that the ceremony was really a lighting of a fire at Carnbane West and then travelling with it to the Hill Of Tlachtga to re-light the fire there that is shared with the druids of Ireland.
It is also interesting to note that there is a river sourced from Carnbane East at Loughcrew, now called the Blackwater River, and it flows by the Arena Of Tailtiu, or Tailte, or misnamed as Telltown. The Blackwater River also flows into the Boyne like the Yellowford River. Cairn T on Carnbane East is known for its Equinox sunrises, but I feel there must have been and important structure on that hill that captured Beltaine and Lughnasa sunrises.
It is for the reasons of sourcing two rivers that flow into the Boyne, like two symmetric uterus’ plus being aligned to the confirmation of the four fire ceremonies of Ireland that I feel the Loughcrew complex has a much more important relationship to the heart, spirituality, fertility and unity of Ireland’s nature than Newgrange ever had. It is why it is now home of the “Hag’s Chair” that I and others feel is the true Lia Fail brought to Ireland by the Tuatha De Dannan and positioned by high king Ollamh Fodlah.
The story of Tlachtga I feel is a symbol of the transformation of the old year into a new year at Samhain. Each year the dying flame of the Samhain fire seems to be symbolic of the death of Tlachtga along with the wisdom and knowledge she carried. Then the birth of her trinity of sons rekindles the flame and passes the torch of wisdom and knowledge of their mother around the land.
As we stand by the fireplace of Samhain on Tlachtga, or Ward’s, Hill, there are many who still believe that we rekindle the fire of Samhain upon the burial site of a previously mortal Tlachtga and then share this fire of new fertility gifted by Tlachtga.
There are a few who believe that Tlachtga is really Macha, the goddess of Ulster. They believe that Macha comes to Tlachtga each Samhain and Imbolc and to Tailte each Beltaine and Lughnasa to share her flame with the triple goddesses of Leinster, Munster and Connaught. By doing so, she unites all four regions of Ireland in one fertility.