This is the story of Tlachtga. Her name means “earth spear.” Her story gives us the name for a famous place in Ireland where to this day, the rites of Samhain are held in her honor. This location is called the Hill of Ward and it is near Tara. At this gathering Druids would light the bonfire on Samhain, from which embers were carried far and wide and were used to light the new fires for the new year. The location of the celebration was critical because they believed it to the place where this world and the Otherworld were the closest together.
Tlachtga is mentioned in two pieces of Irish literature, the Banshenchas, “the Lore of Women” and in the Dindsenchas, “the Lore of Places.” In translations by Christian monks, her story has been confused with biblical characters and Tlachtga has been all but forgotten.
From all of these stories of Tlachtga the earliest we can find reveals her as a goddess (druid) who arrived with the Firbolgs, long before the Tuatha De Dannan and Milesians. She was the daughter of the Chief Druid, Mogh Ruith of Munster. His name means devotee of the wheel, which relates to the sun. Mogh Ruith, a blind man, taught his daughter Tlachtga all his skills. Together they worked with all the best masters of magical knowledge in Ireland and Scotland.
In one story Moug Ruith and Tlachtga constructed a fabulous flying wheel named Roath Ramach, a machine they used for sailing through the air. It was said to be made from two pillars of stone. She made the Rolling Wheel for Trian, the Stone in Forcathu and the Pillar in Cnamchaill (Cnamchaill means bone damage). These devices were feared by all and stories were told that any who touched them died, any who saw them were blinded, and any who heard them were deafened. The pillars themselves, represent lightning, which does tie in with the meaning of her name, Earth Spear. Lightning certainly could be seen as a spear thrown to the ground and it could also kill, deafen and blind those touched by it.
Tlachtga was most likely a goddess of death and rebirth as well as the sun and lightning. Hers is a tragic story, for as she gave birth to three boys, her subsequent death gave power to the land in the process. Her sons, Doirb, Cumma and Muach became the rulers of Munster, Leinster and Connaught. It was said that as long as they were remembered no one could claim the land. (spoken of in the poem below) However, as we know that did not last forever. And who knows, it may well be because they were all but forgotten. So, it is that Tlachtga is intimately linked with the symbolic death and rebirth of the land at Samhain.
For Trian – no honour -Tlachtga
Created the red mobile wheel,
With the great Mogh, and Simon she brought
Her wisdom, thus leaving the moving wheel.
Finished stone of Forcarthus she left and pillar of Cnamchaill.
Whoever sees it becomes blind.
Whoever hears it becomes deaf.
Anyone taking from the wheel will die.
[Missing lines in text…]
After the woman came from the east,
She gave birth to three sons in hard labour.
She died, the light & wise one.
This urgent unconceivable news was to be heard by all.
The son’s names were of great import…
Muach and Cumma and Doirb
Others [text missing again]
As long as Banba remembers the names of the
Three sons as the truthful story tells ………….
No catastrophe will befall its inhabitants.
The hill where Tlachtga is buried,
Surpasses all other women,
Remember the name it was given..
The Hill of Tlachtga.
Irish Manuscript Text
Translated by S. Geoghegan.
Tlachtga’s story is tragic. It is possible that she was once a Sun Goddess, highly revered for her fertility and the land. Tragically her story changed and it is her tragic death that is remembered. For this reason, as a goddess of birth and death, “The Hill of Ward” has been regarded by Druids for eons as the “Temple of Tlachtga.” It is here where the old fires of the Celtic Year are ritually smothered out and a new pure flame is lit for the year ahead.
May Tlachtga be remembered as brave, courageous, and wise, her brightness dimmed by the new patriarchal powers that invaded the land. May her light of the new year carry you bravely into the dark months ahead and may her light stay kindled until we great the rising sun at its new birth.