Ráith Lóegaire (Laoghaire’s Fort) is a hilltop fort which can be found to the south of the Royal enclosure on Tara. This is where the legendary king Lóegaire is said to have been buried in the upright position, facing his enemies to the east, the men of Leinster. Lóegaire was another of the Uí Néill dynasty and believed to have been the son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Both the annals and Kings list of Ireland name him as Ard Rí or High King of Ireland. By many accounts he was an adversary of the Christian known as St. Patrick. His descendant’s lack of importance in Gaelic history is attributed to his dealings with Patrick.
The Ráth is an oval shaped enclosure surrounded by an earthen bank with an internal fosse and an approx. diameter of 118meters. Parts of the eastern bank and ditch have been destroyed over the centuries due to cultivation. A recent geophysical survey has identified an entrance facing east. Lóegaire is most famous for two conflicts during his time as High King, firstly there was a major clash with Patrick over his disrespectful Pascal fire. Then there was the ongoing contention regarding the Bóroma Laigen which you can read all about in my previous post, Teampall Na Bó.
So as with much of our ancient history not recorded until the arrival of Christianity, which is written by various monks whom would obviously add their own beliefs, it can be quite hard to tell fact from fiction as there are a number of alternate events for almost everything. So here I will do my best to share the events between Lóegaire and Patrick. Samhain was an important part of our ancient past. As part of the customs associated with Samhain, all fires across Ireland were extinguished and relit by the druids with a sacred flame taken from Tlachtga (spiritual center of Ireland) which would be taken to light the main fire on Tara (home of the High Kings of Ireland). It was from the fire at Tara that all other fires across the country would be lit. The flame was part of a purification ritual, one which I was privileged to participate in back in 2013. If you missed it, you can read about it HERE.
And so it would seem that Patrick is said to have lit a paschal fire on the nearby Slane Hill in direct defiance off Gaelic Law and Tradition. As you could imagine, when Lóegaire saw this fire, he must have been rightly pissed and so he sent some of his warriors to bring the culprit before him. This is where the accounts vary. When Patrick and his followers were brought to Tara to stand in front of the King, some say that Patrick battled with Lóegaire’s Druids and was able to defeat their magic. Impressed by this Lóegaire converted to the new religion. The other side of the story is that Lóegaire remained true to his culture, by saying that his father Niall would not have allowed him to convert. “Instead I am to be buried in the earthworks of Tara, I the son of Niall, face to face with the son of Dúnlaing in Mullaghmast“. Despite this it is believed that Lóegaire granted Patrick permission to continue his mission in Ireland and allowed him to convert two of his daughters, Eithne the fair and Fedelm the red.
As mentioned in the Teampall Na Bó, the Bóroma tribute dated back to the time of Túathal Techtmar, who imposed a tribute of 5000 cattle on the kings of Leinster as the honour price, known as éraic in early Irish law codes for the death of his two daughters at the hand of the King of Leinster. From this time on the Ard Rí would continue to collect the tribute until finally Coirpre Lifechair’s attempt is defeated by the Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna. According to records Lóegaire had a number of unsuccessful attempts to impose the Bórama. He was eventually defeated by Crimthann mac Énnai, near the River Barrow. Lóegaire was captured and made to swear never again to invade Leinster. One account of his death tells that he died as a result of breaking this oath.
Oh and dont forget, submissions for next weeks Capturing History Challenge need to be in by 00:00hrs GMT this Sunday