Two Irish Army Officers dressed in traditional Celtic dress, accompanied by Irish wolfhounds at the Tailteann Games - a sporting and Gaelic revival festival and Ireland’s attempt to outdo the Olympic Games, 1924
It was a long time of studying before I came across this name. Tailtiu, despite her importance, is rarely mentioned in texts on Irish and Celtic mythology. I find this incredibly strange since there is an entire festival, celebrated by many different kind of pagans, surrounding her and her death and sacrifice: Lughnasadh.
Because of a lack of her story’s presence, I thought I would share what I know of her, and pass the torch on to others who wish to add their own knowledge and resources. So far, my knowledge of her is this:
Tailtiu was the daughter of a Spanish king. She was married to Eochaid mac Eirc, the Fir Bolg high king of Ireland. I assume this marriage took place in order to create peace and good will between these two kingdoms, as is often the case. This is where the story gets fuzzy for me. I haven’t found any sources that describe what her life was like, living in a new land with new culture and customs. She is also noted to be the foster mother of Lugh, but how did this come to be? Her main story tells of the sacrifice she made to create farmland for the people of Ireland, but again, I cannot find any text that goes into detail about what happened. We know that she work herself to exhaustion and died to clear the land so it could be farmed. The holiday we know as Lughnasadh was a festival Lugh put together to honor Tailtiu and her sacrifice to the people of Ireland.
As a separate tidbit, Ireland used to hold a sporting event called the Tailteann Games, like an Irish Olympics, just like the festival Lugh created to honor his foster mother. The games died out, but resurfaced in the 1920′s, after Ireland gained indepenence, in order to help create cultural pride and remembrance.
I would love to learn more about Tailtiu, so please if you have any information or resources to check out, please add them!