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Photographer's Note

Pictured here is a group of people standing around the Lia Fáil, a legendary Irish stone which was believed to let out a scream that would be heard across the country when the true king of Ireland touched it. It is positioned on the tip of the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.

The stone can be spotted in the scene as its the slightly shorter silhouette to the left that does not have a head.

The site itself dates back over 5000 years to the Neolithic period with numerous monuments and buildings from this era being excavated. Much of the area still remains unexplored, which helps add to the mystery of this place. I have on occasion come across modern pagans performing ceremonies at this place.

The hilltop that we see here in this shot is an iron age hilltop enclosure 646 feet high. It measures 1043 feet north to south and 866 feet east to west. It is enclosed by a ditch and a large external bank. This hilltop is known as the Forradh (meaning Royal Seat).

Close to this hilltop, there is also a mound known as the Mound of the Hostages. This is a Neolithic passage tomb dating back to approx. 3400 BC. It is known by its current name as hostages would often be taken by the High King of Ireland, normally family members of competing chieftains, and they would be imprisoned in this mound. The imprisonment of family like this meant respect from those who might compete for the title.

In addition to these mounds, the site is also known for several other ringforts such as the Ráith na Seanadh which has on excavation given forth Roman artifacts dating back to the 1st century, as well as Ráith Laoghaire, Rath Maeve, and Grainne's Fort.

The importance and level of usage of the Hill of Tara is something that is much discussed and debated. While it is known that the site has been used by people for over 5000 years, it is not known if it was continuously in use between the Neolithic and the 12th century.

An 11th century manuscript known as the Book of Invasions speaks of the hill as the seat of high kings from times in deepest darkest history, when Ireland was home to the mythological Fir Bolg as well as the Tuatha De Danaan, people who occupied the island before the Celts.

It is believed that the exposed elevated site could not have been a place of continuous year round occupation, and was more likely a symbolic meeting place. Even the name The High King of Ireland is somewhat romantic, as the king here at Tara himself would never have ruled the entire country. It is possible his rule extended only to the center of the country, or at most the northern half. A true high kingship of all Ireland was not properly established until the rule of Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid in the 9th century.

Whatever the actual permanent ruling or living conditions here, it is obvious that this place has always had significant royal and religious functions, but the religious side has faded since St Patrick brought Christianity to the country.

The mound of the hostages has a short passage which is aligned with sunrise on the solar cross-quarter-days, which fall at the midpoints between the solstices and equinoxes. Its light effects on these days somewhat resemble those of its far more well known neighbor at Newgrange, but unlike Newgrange whose amazing displays fall on the winter Solstice, this mound displays its Neolithic magic on the ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc which mark the beginning of Autumn and Spring.

Even though the importance of this place is debated, it is without doubt a place of great importance to the ancients of Ireland, and a place which would have at least born witness to ceremony and celebration by the most powerful people in the country. It is somewhat strange to walk up and touch the same Lia Fáil stone today as those ancient people would have done, just as the people in this shot are doing here.

Thanks for looking.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 2222 W: 8 N: 4942] (17253)
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