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HIST & MYTH: Cave of the Cats & Tlachtga

Tlachtga Festival on the Hill of the Ward - Samhain

Continuing from my last blog post of my recent trip to Ireland I also had the great experience of visiting the Rathcroghan archaeological complex in County Roscommon (4,000 B.C to 2,500 B.C). This site records and explains all the phases of mankind from the early farmers through to today. There are many monuments, none of which have been excavated that only add to the mystery of what lies beneath the earth fully intact with thousands of years. One of the main monuments on the site that is almost similar in size to the monument of Newgrange is the Rathcroghan Mound, the home of the warrior Queen Maeve and where the story of Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Brown Bull) begins and ends. The day was raining however it did not deter and standing on top of the large mound the view before me stretched for miles in all directions. Archaeologists believe that oak pathways were built connecting many of these monuments together within the landscape and lit fires could be seen from the Hill of Tara, highlighting a connection between these ancient structures.

Owenynagat (Cave of the Cats)

Moving on from there my next stop was at the entrance of cave like no other! Despite the ancient cave buried beneath the field, the only thing the cattle were interested in was the sight of me entering their domain on a wet day with my passionate tour guide kited out in oilers and carrying flash lamps.  She knew what lay ahead better than I did. 

Oweynagat or the “Cave of the Cats” is a complex for the little more adventurous situated in Co. Roscommon, Ireland.  The name in itself is intriguing.  So what is it? On first sighting it in the little field protected by its bovine friends, I must admit I questioned was I really going to enter?  This is a subterranean lair and in Irish mythology the cave is the home of the Morrígan, the Irish goddess of War, death and rebirth and the keeper of the “Other World”.  She watches over this world often pulling souls in to be cleansed or to be reborn in life.  However on one night of the year (31st of October) she exits the cave to select people for the coming year who are to “die” and leaves the entrance of the “Other World” open where strange creatures would exit and roam the surface of the earth in ancient times.  This is often referred to as Ireland’s “Gateway to Hell”.

Entering the cave you have the option of going head first on your hands and knees or sitting and sliding in.  As it was a rainy day one can imagine how muddy it was and this believe me only enhanced the experience.  Once past the entrance I descended deep into the base of the cave that is filled with an eerie quiet silence. Irish Mythology has great stories connected to this cave about how Queen Maeve selected the best champions of Ireland to see which of them could prove their might and be an overall winner.   

Do you have what it takes to enter the depths towards the “Other World”?  

Tlachtga from the air

From this mysterious cave I travelled to the Tlachtga or the “Hill of the Ward” located near Athboy in Co. Meath, twelve miles from hill of Tara. This is another ancient archaeological site that this past summer saw a big excavation dig. Like Tara the earthen works are most impressive by air however a good experience to be on the hill and this time by night in fire light. It was on this hill over two thousands years ago that saw the birth of Samhain that would later become known as Halloween. A collective energy was flowing on the night that I visited as an estimated one thousand people were gathered to witness a ritual dedicated to the goddess Tlachtga. In Irish Mythology Tlachtga was the daughter of Mud Ruith a powerful druid and she learned many secrets of magic from her father. Mud Ruith had a flying machine that would often be seen flying over the hill. Tlachtga was raped by the three sons of Simon Magus, her father’s mentor and she died giving birth to triplets on the hill. Fires have been lit in her honour ever since. 

The local grove of druids on the night I was there performed a very meaningful ritual to her name as they do each Samhain night mixed with music, song and stories. 

I encourage you to explore more about this ancient goddess and the wonderful stories associated with her and of the sites I have mentioned. The ancient beliefs of our ancestors are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago, even though we may have lost our way a little. Until next time, take care. 


As the day was raining I did not have the opportunity for photos. Photos are taken form Trip Advisor, Meath Chronicle and Tlachtga WordPress Blog.

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