ringfort

The Birthplace of Halloween

The site of Tlachtga (aka Tlachta) on the Hill of Ward, in County Meath, Ireland is believed to have been the first site of the celebration of Samhain, the precursor to our modern Halloween. The ringfort dates from around 200 AD but festivals and rituals at the site may have taken place as far back as 1000 BC. Priests, augurs and druids used to assemble there to light the winter fires of the Great Fire Festival on Samhain eve. Under penalty of law, all fires that were lit within the kingdom that night were to be kindled from the fire at Tlachtga. Samhain was a festival celebrating the dead and it also marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year. It was during this time that the Irish believed that the graves would open and their gods and spirits, who dwelt inside, would walk the earth again. The emerging of creatures from a cave, Oweynagat, (Ireland’s so-called ‘gate to hell’) is part of this belief.

The site takes its name from Tlachtga the daughter of the Druid Mug Ruith who died there giving birth to triplets. It was known in medieval Ireland as a place where Mug Ruith’s flying machine Roth Rámach had been seen, and where the Ard Rí (High King of Ireland) Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair had held a massive assemblage in 1168. He was the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. It’s one of only three similar sites in Ireland; the others being the nearby Hill of Tara and Rathcroghan in County Roscommon.

Grianán Ailigh (Grianan of Aileach) is stone ringfort, thought to have been built by the Uí Néill in the 6th or 7th century CE. The wall is about 4.5 metres (15 ft) thick and 5 metres (16 ft) high. #ireland #donegal #ringfort #fort #gaelic (at Grianan Ailligh)

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Grianan of Aileach on a foggy day

This 16ft tall stone ringfort is thought to have been built in the 6th Century as the royal seat of the northern O’Neill dynasty. Situated on a hill between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, on a clear day it offers panoramic views of County Donegal. 

A Clash of Kings: Chapter 34, Jon

"Once he’d put up the Lord Commander’s tent and seen to their horses, Jon Snow descended the hill in search of Ghost. The direwolf came at once, all in silence. One moment Jon was striding beneath the trees, whistling and shouting, alone in the green, pinecones and fallen leaves under his feet; the next, the great white direwolf was walking beside him, pale as morning mist.
But when they reached their ringfort, Ghost balked again. He padded forward warily to sniff at the gap in the stones, and then retreated, as if he did not like what he’s smelled. Jon tried to grab him by the scruff of his neck and haul him bodily inside the ring, no easy task; the wolf weighed as much as he did, and was stronger by far. ‘Ghost, what’s wrong with you?’ It was not like him to be so unsettled.”

Jon, don’t you know Fantasy Genre Rule #172, “Don’t go anywhere your mysterious and possibly magical animal-guide won’t go.”