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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Queen Medb of Roscommon

Queen Medb (the Old Irish spelling), or if you'd prefer... Middle Irish: Meḋḃ, Meaḋḃ; early modern Irish: Meadhbh; reformed modern Irish Méabh, Medbh; sometimes Anglicised Maeve, Maev or Maive (pronounced May-v).  Warrior Queen of Gaelic or 'Celtic' Connacht (Connaught), the western province of Ireland.  Her home is Rathcroghan, County Roscommon, the ancient Royal capital of Connacht.

Wait a minute - Roscommon?  Isn't Queen Maeve associated with County Sligo?
Perhaps she is, now, but her historical home, the palace of Queen Medb, is ancient Cruachan - which is Rathcroghan, in County Roscommon.  Seriously, you can look it up, it's all available through Google.
It was from Cruachan that she began the Táin Bó Cuailnge, the epic Cattle Raid of Cooley, and the Tain Trail runs cross country from Rathcroghan, County Roscommon, right over to Cooley, Co. Louth.  And back again.
Queen Maeve of Cruachan, Co. Roscommon
Queen Maedhbh of Cruachan, bearing the head of a bull.  Bronze statue seen in Beresford Place, Dublin, created by artist Patrick O'Reilly.
But she was buried in Sligo, right?  'Maeve's Grave' is up that mountain, with all the stones...?
Well, not exactly.  Maybe.  'Maeve's Cairn' in Co. Sligo, is the best known burial site of Queen Maeve, but it is one of three possible sites.  According to some legends, she is indeed buried in the 40ft (12m) high stone cairn on the summit of Knocknarea (Cnoc na Rí in Irish, Hill of the King/Queen) in County Sligo.  The story goes that she is buried upright, facing her enemies in Ulster.

In Bronze or Iron Age burials though, it would be common enough to hack an important dead person apart and bury bits of them along different boundaries, for protection and guardianship.  Another story goes that she is buried in the hill of Knockma (Cnoc Medb in Irish, Hill of Maeve), near Belclare in Co. Galway, which is also where Fionnbharr, King of the Connacht Sidhe, holds court.  The Fairy connection is an interesting one, and maybe related to her later associations with Mab, the Fairy Queen?  The boundary theory holds here too though, as the views from the top of Knockma are spectacular.  Very convenient for a guardianship position, we'd say.

Her home in Cruachan, at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon is the third (and most likely) burial site, with a long low slab named Misgaun Medb being given as the probable location.  In the 'she got chopped up in bitty bits and buried' theory, this is where her soul (most likely to be contained in her head, according to thinking of the time) would be.  Or possibly her heart.  Whatever was deemed the most important part would have stayed at home, with other bits spreading out at lesser sites along the boundaries.

You can find out more on a dedicated website at:
There's also a Facebook Page and you can even follow Queen Meave on Twitter!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Goddess Gathering, Roscommon Event Nov 2013

Over at the far end of this year, we have an important spiritual event planned - the Goddess Gathering 2013.  Presenters already confirmed include world famous authors such as Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, Vivianne Crowley, Stephan Grundy and our own Lora O'Brien.  The event will run from Fri 22nd to Sun 24th November, in Tulsk, Co. Roscommon.  

The event website is a work in progress HERE, but you can register your interest at the Gathering Ireland events guide now.

January & February Events 2013

Tired of the same TV shows?  Want to meet new people with similar interests?  Have a chat and a cup of tea in relaxed, knowledgeable company?  Do you want something a little different to do with your evenings?

Monthly Lecture Series for 2013!
On the last Thursday of every month, the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre will be hosting an informative talk on scheduled topics of interest.
  • Thursday 31st January, 7pm, "Archaeology of Oweynagat, the Cave of the Cats", with Gary Dempsey (resident expert!).  Admission is just €5, which includes free tea/coffee on the night.

Next month, we'll try something a little different, with a FREE afternoon presentation by Lora O'Brien, author of A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality.
  • Thursday 28th February, 2pm, "Irish Springtime Traditions".  We'll even throw in the free tea/coffee as part of the deal for that one too.  Did we mention it's Free?!

TO BOOK YOUR PLACE - please Ring us on 071 9639268, or send an Email to  We'd love to hear about what day/time suit you best?

Imbolg 2013

The Gaelic/Celtic feast day, Imbolg, also known as Imbolc, or Lá Fheile Bríd, is the fire festival of springtime, a feast celebrating the end of the winter months, and to encourage the fertility, prosperity and security of the milder springtime.  From Neolithic man to post-Christian Celt this date has been marked in one form or another for over 5,000 years. 
The actual day on which the feast of Brigit, be it Goddess or Saint you honour, varies from the 31st of January to the 4th of February.  Those Romano Celtic nations such as Bretons, Gauls and Britons tended to celebrate this festival according to the Spring equinoctial dates; Celtic Ireland however has a long tradition of marking the date itself, with Brigit’s eve falling on January 31st and Brigit’s Day on February 1st. The difference in attitude between pagan Celt and Roman toward astrology accounts for this difference in tradition.  Whatever the day one chooses to mark, however, the feast of Brigit is celebrated with a common cause.  The Saint Brigit has many of the same characteristics and attributes as her predecessor goddess, (the early Celtic church having deliberately endowed her with them to replace the almost indefatigable worship of Brigit Goddess!).
So what is this festival about? As an Equinoctial date it marks the beginning of the end of winter, a fact of immense significance to Neolithic man who would have gathered at Rathcroghan (Cruachú), or Newgrange (associated with Boann), to light the bonfires with which every feast of moment in the Irish calendar is celebrated.  Those who had survived the harshest part of winter could relax a little – they were likely now to see the summer and plenty.  Livestock would begin to reproduce, and again if they had survived this far, they would probably make it through to summer also.  It was time to start considering repairs to the homesteads, look forward to the hunting and fishing activities of spring/summer, consider pairing off and marrying the tribes' young, look forward to the birth of children conceived during the long winter.

Later on, in the Iron Age as a Gaelic Festival, it is thought that at this time the people were predominantly occupied with issues of Fertility, Love, Marriage, Purity, Cleansing and Healing.  Surviving folk-customs underpin that this time of year was one for lovers, for arranging marriages, for rites of healing, for purifying with water and fire.  The “St. Valentine Day” rituals were originally part of the Brigit Celebrations.  Brigit was the patron of crafts, spinning, weaving, sewing, baking, grinding, mills, health, livestock, the Hearth, cooking.  As art of her “healing” role there are sacred wells and springs all over Ireland and Britain, dedicated to the healing powers of Brigit.  She is also associated with fire rituals: the bonfires lit on Brigit’s eve, plus the tradition of purifying livestock, woman and new born children by passing a burning rush brand over, under and around them.  Grown-ups leapt the bonfire for the same reason. Fire was brought around the house, and water from a sacred well sprinkled around the house, after it has been thoroughly cleaned.  Girdles of rushes, known as Bríd’s Girdle were made, for people and livestock, through which they were passed three times in order to protect against illness.
(See Roscommon Well Wishers on Facebook for local info on holy wells)
Spring Cleaning was a product of these ancient customs.  The house had to be cleaned from top to bottom, and aired, a sensible custom when communal living at close quarters during the winter was the norm; indeed the idea of spring-cleaning probably did help protect against - and get rid of - all manner of germs! Psychologically it symbolised a fresh new season, time to get out and about, move around the countryside again, to give and receive visits.

Article contributed by Geraldine Byrne, commissioned for The Mysteries teaching website, Copyright 2002.  Used with permission.