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Holy Hills of Ireland

54 55 assembLy pLaCes fairs These assemblies and fairs were essential for the ancient Irish kingdoms, as no towns existed until the Vikings built Irelands first urban centres at Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Dublin and Galway. Thus began Irelands first market towns, which have nobly continued many of the traditions and customs of the ancient fairs to the present day. Ard MAchA Armagh this and Emhain Macha Navan were the sacred assembly sites of the Ulaidh. Navan became a ritual site after an enormous round house was filled with boulders, burnt and covered with turves. The importance of the large round houses under it is indicated by the barbary apes skull found beneath one floor. The Oenach Macha was held nearby. BAllycAstle Lammas Fair, Antrim, a surviving Lughnasa fair a promontory fort here is called Dunaneny, the fort of the oenach. Probably the assembly fair of a local kingdom. Boyne River, Meath, early August Lughnasa customs at several locations had horses and cattle made to swim across the river as a charm against fairies and certain diseases. cArMAn, the unidentified Leinster assembly place. Its weeklong oenach had horse races, laments for the dead at royal burial mounds, recitation of lineages, and religious rites. The Leinster king presided, as lesser kings showed off their young mens skills. cAshel, Tipperary, capital of the Eghanacht clan, its name derived from the Latin castellum. This family ruled Munster until Brian Boru took over in the 10th century. Muirhertach O Brien later handed it over to the church and Patrick met Oisn here. crAchAn Roscommon, the sacred heart of Connacht, one of the great royal assembly sites along with Tara, Emhain Macha and Dn Ailinne. Games, judgements, sacred rituals, inauguration of kings and feasting were held here at Lughnasa. dn ilinne, Kildare, ritual royal site of Leinster associated with Findfile, whose mother was Binne and his father the suns rays. There were remarkable 13 ft high wooden pallisaded structures here a large oval leading to a circular enclosure. dunAMAse rock, Laois, a 150 ft high rock possibly mentioned by Ptolemy. Leinster kings held it until Strongbow got it in his wifes dowry. killorglin Puck Fair, Kerry, a surviving Lughnasa fair, held in August and presided over by a large buck goat set on a platform for the fairs duration. griAnn of AileAch, Donegal a 17 ft high cashel built by the Daghdha and named after Grinne the sun goddess. It was an inauguration site for the ONeills. lough gur, Limerick. At its oenach, a mile from Cnoc ine, the horses of the Fiana ran, and the race loving Munstermens horses they held three famous contests on the green of Muiridhs sons. loughkeerAn, Loch Ciarn, Mayo, at Garland Sundays gathering butter was thrown into the lake, cattle halters tied to a tree and horses swum in the lake. lough nAlArsAch, Loch Chill Eascrach, Galway, on Garland Sunday the Lughnasa customs included horse swimming races. lough owel, Westmeath, had a Lughnasa festival on the first August Sunday, with horse swimming races. tArA, Meath Irelands greatest royal hill. Its earliest structure, the Mound of the Hostages, is from about 3,000 BC goddess Binn is here, and each king married goddess Maedhbh in the Bn Fheis ritual, which brought salmon to the rivers, good calves to the cows, and much milk and wheat. teltown, Tailtiu Meath Irelands most famous oenach, assembly fair, was held here, presided over by highkings, and battles between rivals were frequent. The last high king presided in 1168, but the fair continued into the 18th century. There was horse swimming, wrestling, mock battles and Teltown Marriages when couples married for a year, before deciding whether or not to continue. uisneAch Westmeath, a 600 ft hill. Two huge ritual fires burnt here from Neolithic times. This is Mdh, the centre of Ireland, its well the source of twelve rivers, and riu, the countrys goddess, lies under the Ail na Mirenn, the Rock of the Portions, from which radiate the divisions of Ireland. According to Giraldus Cambrensis Stonehenge originally stood here. O ld B a a l s B r id g e , L im er ic k . Grianan of Aileach, Donegal. T h e R a th o f L a ra , A gh a b o e , C o . L a o is .
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