The site of Tlachtga (aka Tlachta) on the Hill of Ward, in County Meath, Ireland is believed to have been the first site of the celebration of Samhain, the precursor to our modern Halloween. The ringfort dates from around 200 AD but festivals and rituals at the site may have taken place as far back as 1000 BC. Priests, augurs and druids used to assemble there to light the winter fires of the Great Fire Festival on Samhain eve. Under penalty of law, all fires that were lit within the kingdom that night were to be kindled from the fire at Tlachtga. Samhain was a festival celebrating the dead and it also marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year. It was during this time that the Irish believed that the graves would open and their gods and spirits, who dwelt inside, would walk the earth again. The emerging of creatures from a cave, Oweynagat, (Ireland’s so-called ‘gate to hell’) is part of this belief.
The site takes its name from Tlachtga the daughter of the Druid Mug Ruith who died there giving birth to triplets. It was known in medieval Ireland as a place where Mug Ruith’s flying machine Roth Rámach had been seen, and where the Ard Rí (High King of Ireland) Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair had held a massive assemblage in 1168. He was the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. It’s one of only three similar sites in Ireland; the others being the nearby Hill of Tara and Rathcroghan in County Roscommon.