Tlachtga (Hill of Ward), Athboy

Tlachtga (Hill of Ward), Athboy

This humble hill in Athboy is home to a feast known as Samhain celebrated on the 31st of October every year. In modern times it's known as Halloween. In the time of Tuatha Dé Danann, legend says the hill took its name from Tlachtgla. She was the daughter of the druid, Mogh Ruith. Tlachtga fled her father's house and gave birth to three sons; Dorb, Cuma and Muacth and then died. She was buried on the hill. In the Celtic period Tlachtga was a religious centre. Festivals such as Samhain, the first day of winter, and the day of the dead were celebrated here. The top of the hill was sacred ground and only open to the druids except on the Festival of Samhain when members of the public were permitted. Local folklore suggests that the druids may have practiced human sacrifice and it is thought that Tlachtga was a place of pilgrimage for women who were childless. The women would bring their slave's children to be sacrificed in the belief that the spirit of the child would enter their body and be reborn as their child.

Samhain and the birth of Halloween: Samhain marks the end of the old Celtic Year and the beginning of the New Year. The Celts believed that this was a time of transition, when the veil between our world and the next came down, and the spirits of all who had died since the last Oíche Shamhna (Night of Samhain) moved on to the next life. The druids felt that this world and the otherworld were closest at Tlachtga and it was here that the festival of Samhain, or Halloween, was started. The old year's fires were extinguished and, after sunset, the ceremonial New Year Samhain fire was lit on the hill. Torches were lit from this sacred fire and carried to seven other hills around the county including Tara and Loughcrew, and then on to light up the whole country.

Today, the old Celtic ceremony at Tlachtga has been revived. The ancient past meets the twenty-first century with a re-enactment of the Celtic celebration starting with a torch lit procession from the Fair Green in Athboy, Co. Meath to the top of the Hill of Tlachtga, at 7pm on October 31st each year.

Listen to some wonderful audio about the Hill of Tlachtga (Ward)

Torchlit Procession
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Tlachtga (Hill of Ward), Athboy