I was recently invited by an old friend Con Connor to attend the Dark Moon celebration on Samhain up on Tlachtga, Samhain is the equivalent of a New Year celebration and was held in high esteem by our Celtic ancestors. I first met Con way back whilst a member of HAG, (Heritage Awareness Group). Con is also an Ard Draoi or Arch Druid. Those of you whom have been following this blog for a while will be aware of the importance of Tlachtga, for anyone whom missed this you can read more about it at Tlachtga, Sacred Flame. Unlike many whom celebrate the Christian influenced Halloween. The Celtic Samhain took place this year starting on the night of November 2nd. I met up with Con and his wife Niamh near the Hill of Ward / Tlachtga were I was introduced to Red John and Douglas whom were joining us for the nights celebration, a while later Fran arrived. After spending a while chatting and catching up, we geared up for the weather, (which was typically Irish, i.e. raining). Across the road there is an ancient submersion well known as Tobar Tlachtga or The Druids well. Here a water ceremony was performed to bless this ancient well which is currently badly neglected and under threat, as Con explained to me, but I shall address this at a later stage. Next order of business was to mask our faces, just like the kids do each Halloween. This is a tradition as old as Samhain itself. Our ancestors would disguise their faces, to prevent malicious spirits from recognising them and causing harm. So in keeping with tradition we all had a go at painting our faces with our ‘Samhain Masks’.
Moving on, we proceeded up the Hill to Tlachtga, after spending so much time face painting and using car wing mirrors to see what we looked like, we had run out of daylight. So my plan to make full use of my visit and get some nice images of this important spiritual and heritage site did not go to plan. However and disappointment soon vanished. Here I was standing on an ancient site with some old and some new friends about to take part in an ancient ritual performed by our ancestors from an age gone by. Just to clarify, in order to show respect for the land we do no light a massive bonfire as many would believe. I wonder even if our predecessors would have lit such monstrosities on a sacred site. Instead we used what I can best describe as a small fire cauldron, which brought back some fond memories. This was in fact the very same cauldron which had been used over ten years ago when I attended Full moon ceremonies on Tara. Niamh did the honours and created the first spark which lit the fire. Once the flame had caught, we gathered around the heat of the fire and Con began the celebration. I won’t go into the full extent of the ritual which was conducted in Gaelic, for those with an interest you can find out more about the Celtic traditions on Con’s website Druidschool.
Following tradition, once finished, the sacred flame was then moved to a lantern for transporting to our next site, Tara, another sacred site, which was also the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. So once the flame was safely secured and the fire had gone out, we made our way back to the cars for some refreshment before continuing the nights journey to Tara some 7.5 miles away. Making good time we arrived at the car park and met with some others who were gathering to celebrate Samhain. It was a good turnout, but with the weather misbehaving the way it was, it was decided to hold the ceremony in the car park instead. Once the sacred flame had been transferred from the lantern a new fire was lit in our cauldron at Tara just as it was many years ago. A large circle was made around the fire and the ritual started, this time by Red John. It was a special time for me looking back, as it afforded me the chance to take stock of life and clear out a lot of the negative baggage I have been carrying. Half way through the ceremony the threat of rain disappeared as the skies cleared and the stars came out to play. Once the ceremony was completed, people stopped for a good chat, there was some great banter and a bottle of some foreign beverage was passed around, (strictly to combat the cold, I assure you). Then it was off to a nearby petrol station for some coffee before heading off to the final destination of the night, to perform the final fire ceremony at Hill of the Witches in Loughcrew. With the benefits of the warm drink taking effect, I was warned that our destination was a good hour’s drive north, which would have left me with a three hour drive to get home once we were finished, so I decided to call it a night. After saying my farewells, I set off home after a most excellent night of celebration. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end the year A big thanks to Con, Niamh, John, Douglas and Fran for their hospitality on the night. It was an experience that I shall not forget soon and I hope to return next year and do it all over again. 🙂