The 31st of October marks the celebration of the winter festival of ‘Samhain’, one of the four major pre-Christian Gaelic Pagan Festivals alongside Bealtaine, Lughnasadh and Imbolc.
As Rathcroghan/Crúachan Aí in Tulsk was traditionally a site for great Aénaige or Gatherings, it can be suggested that these festivals were very important occasions in Tulsk, however of the four ‘Samhain’ is notably linked with Rathcroghan.
As Samhain traditionally marks the end of the harvest and the coming of Winter, it would have been particularly relevant to a prehistoric, agrarian society whose survival and welfare was intimately linked to the landscape and the seasons. As a result of this, it would probably have been a last chance to celebrate the harvest before preparing for the challenge of the cold winter months ahead.
Samhain also marks a natural interval or liminal period between Summer and Winter, so it is perhaps no surprise that this festival provided ease of access across the borders from this World to the Otherworld, whose traditional entrance is the Cave of Oweynagat or Úaim Crúachain located at Rathcroghan. It is from this cave at Samhain that fearsome otherworldly beasts emerge to ravage the surrounding landscape and make it ready for Winter. It is also on this night that the Iron Age warrior Nera descended to this realm via the Cave after he had witnessed an Otherworldly host emerge from it and destroy Queen Medb’s palace at Rathcroghan. He was allowed to remain and even took a wife, but then learned that what he had witnessed had never really occurred but was rather a premonition of events to take place on the following Samhain. With this news, Nera returned from the Otherworld to warn Medb and Ailill, bringing with him the fruits of Summer, to prove the truth of his story. The following Samhain the Connacht warriors made ready for war and successfully invaded the Sídh, from which they carried away great treasures, however Nera remained behind in the Otherworld and it is said that he will remain there till the end of time!
For more on the Samahin story visit the Rathcroghan Visitor Website http://www.rathcroghan.ie, phone: (071)9639268 or email:[email protected]