Teach Cormaic

Teach Cormaic (3)

In the middle of the Ráith Na Ríogh or Royal Enclosure is a rather unique twin earthwork. From above it looks like a figure 8. I have never seen anything quite like it before. It is basically two separate ring forts with interconnecting ramparts. The fort to the east is known as Teach Cormaic or Cormac’s House. It is said to have been the home of one of Irelands most famous High Kings, Cormac Mac Airt. There is a lot of discrepancies in relation to Cormac’s Reign. But he is said to have ruled from Tara for 40 years during the time of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fenian Cycle. At one time this mound would have contained an oblong structure most likely constructed from wattle and thatch surrounding a series of large wooden posts. Cormac’s reign was said to have been a golden age for Tara with Cormac being credited for composing many of our ancient Brehon laws.

Teach Cormaic (2)

Although the mound is not particularly large for a hill fort, its banks are an impressive two meters in height and the internal area is about Seventy meters across. Sadly like the many other sites at Tara, there are no visable traces of what Tara might once have looked like in its day, so we are left to use our imaginations for this. There is a nearby barrow named after one of his daughters, Grainne whom eventually married the by now older warrior Fionn MacCumhaill. The story of Grainne is really interesting and quite similar in ways to the tragic Deirdre an Bhróin, but I’ll save that one until we make it over to Rath Grainne.

Teach Cormaic (1)

Most of what we know about Cormac comes from the Annals of Clonmacnoise. Although Cormac came from humble beginnings, his father Art mac Cuinn had previously been a High King of Ireland. Art was killed during the Battle of Maigh Mucruimhe, but the night before he had met with the Druid Olc Acha, whom some say offered his daughter Achtan to sleep with as he had fortold that Art would die in the forthcoming battle but would give rise to a great bloodline. That night as Achtan slept beside Art she had a vision in which she saw herself with her head cut off. From her neck grew a magnificent tree, with branches that spread across the width and breadth of Ireland. Then a great wave came and washed it away. Out of the roots of the first another tree grew, but this was blown away by a great wind. When she awoke, Achtan told Art of her dream and he explained it to her like this.

Teach Cormaic (4)

Her decapitated head represented him as head of the family, and he was destined to die in the following battle. The first tree was to be their son Cormac and the sea was the salmon bone on which he would choke. (Not a very fitting way for a king to die). The second tree would be his Cormac’s son Cairbre Lifechair whom would fall to the great wind that was the Fianna at the battle of Gabhra. The very next day Art was defeated by his nephew Lugaid mac Con whom became the new High King. The story of Cormac is far too great to tell here and probably deserves a post of its own to do it proper justice. Perhaps a tale for the winter months, when my opportunity for Ruinhunting diminishes.  Suffice to say Cormac was stolen at birth by a she-wolf and raised in the caves of Kesh, Co. Sligo. After being found by a hunter, Cormac was eventually returned to his mother. He was raised with the help of Arts foster father Fiachrae Cassán. Then at the age of thirty, armed with his father’s sword, went to Tara and regained his father’s Crown from Lugaid mac Con. Today Teach Cormaic stands as a fitting reminder of one of Irelands best known High Kings.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, History, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Teach Cormaic

  1. oglach says:

    More great writing and photos! But it’s not so sad that we have to use our imaginations regarding what Tara looked like; I’d wager it looked exactly like what we all think it did, though our thoughts may differ. That’s what makes it magical.

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Great story and the black and white photos have such a moody feel! Very suited to the tale.

  3. beetleypete says:

    Great atmosphere in the sky photos there, Ed. Very suitable to the occasionally grim history of the place. The aerial shot was nice too, to put it all into perspective.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Ali Isaac says:

    Loved the post, Ed. I think Cormac is a really interesting character. I thought about writing a post on him once, but there was so much, I couldnt do it
    .. it would have turned into an epic series! Poor Nechtan though, being given to Art like a piece of meat by her father… and then having such a terrifying dream. I guess they thought quite differently than we do about what constitutes a relationship and family.

  5. I’ve read about Cormac in novels. Enjoyed seeing these sites. Must be amazing to stand there and feel the place and it’s history

  6. socialbridge says:

    Well done, Ed. I’m with Ali. ‘Never hide your light behind a bushel.’ Oh, and ‘don’t be too humble.’

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    Ah, Uncle Cormac. Surprisingly the genealogist guy couldn’t confirm I’m a descendant of his 🙂

  8. jazzfeathers says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Ed. I didn’t know that particular legend.
    I do think we understand personal relations in a very different way, today, but I also think we shouldn’t judge ancient relationships with today’s standards, but we should try to understands why anciet people though to interpersonal relatioships in a different way.

    • My pleasure Sarah, I agree completely, Society was much different back then and probably alot easier in some ways. The one thing I never do is judge. Things are the way they are for a reason.
      Unfortunatley when dealing with our ancient history and lore, we have huge problems, because the ancients were not so fond of writting things down, preffering the oral traditions. So much of what we now rely on was only recorded by the early christian monks, whom would have added their slant to these stories 🙂

  9. Pingback: The Royal Princess of Tara | Ed Mooney Photography

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