Site of the first Halloween Bonfire? Hill of Ward aka Tlachtga

Tlachtga, tulach ordain liais, forbaid mor rig co rochriiais.
Tlachtga, proud and princely hill, has seen the passing of many a stern king.

– The Metrical Dindshenchas

Tlachtga, aka Earth Spear, ( tlacht "earth" and gae "spear"). Daughter of Mug Ruith, the archdruid of Ireland, from whom she learned secret wisdom. They travelled to the world's seats of learning and brought home magical stones from Italy. It is said they journeyed on the Rath Ramach, a fabulous spinning wheel of fire.

During a three year archaeological dig at the Hill - ending 2016 - they found evidence of intense burning, likely to have been caused by a huge bonfire dating to around AD 500. This may or may not be part of a Samhain / 'Halloween' celebration but confirms that this was a place of fire.

Traditions suggest that it's flames were brought across the country to other sacred sites such as Tara, and to local homes. Bon(e) fires were used for bringing heat and light into the cold and dark, for burning up the dead matter that we carry around.

Dr Steve Davis of University College Dublin, part of the team of archaeologists working on the Hill of Ward, said: “This is a massive ceremonial enclosure. The location of it is striking with nearly 360 degree views around it, right in the heart of a major monumental landscape.” The Hill of Ward Project UCD

It is very similar in appearance to the great ditch of Rath na Ríg on the Hill of Tara. Dug into the bedrock but quite shallow it contained burnt charcoal and animal bones.

A local family and the local community usually organised a Samhain Festival at the site for no financial gain and open to all.

This became popular, with several thousand attending, and thus the possibility for a larger, more commercial and theatrical event arose, and the organisation was taken over by Meath Council and other interested parties.

Duchas Schools Collection - Fairies at the Hill of Ward

Situated near Athboy is the hill of Ward and inside this hill are fairy men guarding a crock of gold. At one time a man by the name of Mr Collins, Freffans, Trim, dug for the gold and as he was digging a little fairy caught hold of him and asked him what was he looking for. The man said that if the fairy would not get him the pot of gold he would drown him.

As the fairy was getting afraid he leaped from the man's arms. The man kept on did not find the gold. Again the fairy man appeared and told him to go home and bring back a small bucket and he told him also that he would leave a mark where the gold was then he told him also that the mark was to be a privet stick. The fairy man stuck down the privet and as well as sticking down one he stuck down a great number so that he covered the moat with sticks.

When the man who was digging for the gold came back he found to his surprise that the hill was covered with privet sticks so that he did not know which one to dig under.

Venue: Hill of Ward - aka Tlachtga

Tlachtga, nr Athboy, in Co. Meath is about 12 miles from the Hill of Tara, which is easily picked out near the horizon and vice versa.

Named after a legendary goddess, this is the location of the birth of Tlachtga's three sons (Dorb, Cuma and Muacth) and where she died and is buried.

It was a time of remembrance for the ancestors and those recently passed. It is said that the renewal fire for the year would be lit at Tlachtga, and being visible for miles around, especially Tara, and would herald the start of the celebrations.

A general article by the BBC can be read here - Hill of Ward: Did Halloween begin on 'magical' ancient site?