The Most Powerful Druidess of Ancient Ireland
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Mythological Cycle
The mysteries and wisdom of Tlachtga the Druidess
It’s a not uncommon belief that the women of Ireland in the ancient days were quiet and kept to themselves, letting the men do all the great deeds and win all the fame – but nothing could be further from the truth! From that day to this Irish women were and remain wild and fearless, willing to go to lengths as great as any man for victory, or even greater in some cases.
And such a woman was Tlachtga of the fiery hair, pronounced in English clock-da, she who was born of the blind Druid prince Mogh Ruith and who became the mightiest of all Druidesses. She was born and grew up on Valentia island in County Kerry in the southern part of Ireland, learning from her father all that he knew, such as the arts of growing to enormous size, how to turn men to stone, and how to raise a thunderstorm with her breath.
But she was not satisfied with this knowledge, as eldritch and miraculous as it might seem to us today! For she knew there was much more to be learned in the wide world, more even than was known by those who dwelt beneath the hill, and more than the Druids of Ireland whispered into their beards for fear the unlearned might come to harm by overhearing their secrets.
She had looked into the shimmering moon-pools nestled in the hidden bones of the earth and witnessed there wonders which had been and wonders to come, and by watching them divined much of the art and science of their operation, as one might learn a language by listening, without ever being taught a word.
When the time came that Tlachtga of the pale skin unblemished grew wise beyond the bounds of Eriú, she took her father who had been ancient before one Roman stone was laid upon another, whose life had seen nineteen kings born and buried, and went travelling to many places.
To the purple mountains of the farthest east where the sun rose they went, among the masters of bronze deserts in their caskets of gold, into the neverlit worming nightmare tunnels twisting through the earth’s bowels, to seek the wisdom of the old serpents that dwelled and dwell yet within them, and across trackless oceans they wandered.
No easy journeys would these be even today, let alone in those wild and lawless times! So Tlachtga made the roth rámach for their travels, a wonder among wonders. This was the oared wheel, a fiery flying machine which travelled with great speed across the sky. However it had been created, to gaze upon it was to be blinded and it turned night into day, it deafened all who came too close, and slew all who touched it.
It was made from sacred rowan, driven by two oxen yoked with poles of electrum, and had sides of glass. Saint Columba is said to have prophecised that before the Last Judgement, the roth rámach would once again arc across the skies of Europe, laying waste to every nation that gave disciples to dark wizards.
At last they followed the footsteps of the Tuatha Dé Danann to find the Druids Mórfheasa who was in Fálias, Easras in Goirias, Uiscias in Fionnias, and Séimhias in Muirias, the four wisest and craftiest in those ancient lost cities, but they never reached their destination, instead arriving in Jerusalem where they had divined the mightiest of mysteries was to be revealed.
There Mogh Ruith met with Simon Magus, Simon the seven-splendoured, and great was his delight in the company. He settled down to his studies and they sent Tlachtga away to travel and learn more for herself, but to their dismay, when she returned, they found she had learned more and grown more powerful than either of them!
She returned with the wise words;
She brought the moving wheel,
The perfect stone of Forcarthu she brought,
And the pillar of Cnamchaill.
Whoever sees her will become blind,
Whoever hears it will become deaf,
And anyone who tries to take a piece
From the wheel with the sharp spokes will die
Simon magus, for whom is named the sin of Simony, had a fell reputation even then before the wicked blackness of his heart was recorded in the Scriptures, and he conspired in jealousy with his three sons, who burned for Tlachtga, to do her harm.
Some versions of the tale have it that she instead had a romantic relationship with them, being just as taken with them as they were with her, hence the use of the name “Trian” to describe their encounter.
However it happened, the three of them ravished her, and she travelled back to Ireland, where she came to the hill we today call Tlachtga's Hill or the Hill of Ward in County Meath, and there she died giving birth to three sons by three different fathers. These she named Cuma, Dorb, and Muach, and gave each of the nearby plains those names as well, these were Mag Cuma, Mag nDoirb, and Mag Muaich.
As she passed away, she made a prophecy – no foreign invader would ever do harm to Ireland so long as the names of these plains were remembered and celebrated, but of course those secrets were lost and ruin followed not long afterwards.
Where she lay became a place of mystery to the pagan Druids and soothsayers of ancient Ireland, and every Samhain, or Hallowe’en, “the Fire of Tlachtgha was instituted, at which it was their custom to assemble on the eve of Samhain to offer sacrifice to all the gods... it was of obligation under penalty of fine to quench the fires of Ireland on that night, and the men of Ireland were forbidden to kindle fires except from that fire... the priests, augurs and druids of Ireland [would] assemble upon the eve of All Saints, in order to consume the sacrifices that were offered to their pagan gods.”
From her sons sprang the line of the Kings of Mide, which means the Middle Kingdom, or Meath as it is known today.
Tlachtga, proud and princely hill, has seen the passing of many a stern king,
since long ago seemly Tlachtga possessed it, daughter of the famous slave of kingly Roth.
Mug Roith was son of Fergus Fáil, son of royal and worshipful Ross;
Cacht daughter of Cathmann skilled in feats was his own mother, fresh of hue.
Roth son of Rigoll fostered him, therefore was he Roth's chosen Slave:
his two sons were Buan and Corb, whose noble chant brought the people luck.
The mother of those goodly sons was Derdraigen, strong, fierce, and fell:
she was mother too of Cairpre, as my gentle bardic art certifies
Daughter of Mug, master of thousands, was choice Tlachtga—not chill was her bosom:
with her giant father dear went she to noble Simon sechtmisid.
Three sons had Simon, who dwelt at ease; gigantic was their league of hell:
Nero, Carpent, and Uetir, they were a mighty race, mortal in conflict.
All the sons together gave their love to Tlachtga secretly, and quickened her womb,
in truth, with offspring like in build and bulk.
Tlachtga—no weakling was she—was one of three, with the beloved giant Slave and with Simon sechtmisid, who made the red well-finished Wheel.
She carried with her the fragment, I wis, that the cunningly-made Wheel left behind it,
the perfect Stone at feeble Forcarthain and the Pillar at Cnamchaill.
Blind is each that once sees it, deaf is each that hears it:
dead is he that aught touches of the rough-jagged dreadful Wheel.
When the woman came westward she bore three sons of great beauty:
she died at their birth, the bright brisk lady: a strange tale—let us hear it and hide it not!
The names of her sons (no meagre utterance) were Muach and Cumma and darling Doirb:
'tis for the men of Torach, that claimed them for its own, to hear their names—and mark ye them!
As long as the names of her sons shall be held in honour throughout Banba
(this is a true saying to spread abroad) there comes no ruin to her men.
The hill where a grave was built for the lady of the chilly lands,
above every title given by lucky poet it bears the style of silent Tlachtga.
The Hill of Tlachtga can be found on the map below!
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