HISTORY & LEGEND ABOUT THE TAILTIU
& THE TAILTEANN GAMES
During your visit to Teltown you will see Teltown House and a field that leads to the Blackwater River. What the fields do not readily show are the marvels that happened here eons past.
The ring fort at Teltown was a prehistoric burial mound dating back to about 2000BC.
The hill of Tailtiu is one of the most celebrated spots in Ireland, for it was here that the celebrated Aonach Tailteann, the Lughnasa Festival was first held.
Tailtiu was the learned daughter of Mag Mor, a distinguished king of Spain, and married to the last great Fir Bolg king, Eochaid mac Eirc, who named his palace after her, and she was also the foster-mother of the great hero Lugh Lámfhota. Tailtiu lived in her palace on Ráth Dubh and she led her people in the clearing of the forest of County Meath, some of Ireland's best farmland. But the work of clearing proved so onerous as to break her heart, in the words of the text.
Queen Tailtiu took the trouble to select a particular spot in which she wished to be buried. It was located on the side of a hill, covered with dense forest; but because of its sunlit and beautiful situation she had chosen it, and her husband, in compliance with her wishes, had it cleared of the timber. It took a host of stalwart men nearly a year to accomplish the task.
In this spot Tailtiu desired her Leath, or tomb, should be made, her Cuba, or public lamentations, recited, and her Nosad, or funeral rites and games, duly celebrated, according to the recognised customs of the country.
On her deathbed Queen Tailte asked that funeral games be held annually on the cleared ground. King Lugh came from great palace at Nas (now Naas, in Co. Kildare), and had Tailtiu interred in her “green circle on the distant hills." Legend says she was buried in royal state, with impressive druidical rites, on the side of Caill Cuain (now called Sliabh Caillighe), in what is known now as “Cairn T”.
When summoned by the Ard Righ, or High King, such assemblies were of the greatest national importance, and as such were attended by all the minor kings, chiefs and nobles, as well as by vast multitudes of the people from all parts of the five provinces. Participants came from all parts of Ireland, Scotland, and further afield, making Tailtiu the equal of Tara, Tlachtga, and Uisnech.
As a national institution the Aonach fulfilled three important public functions in the lives of the people. Its first object was, to do honour to the illustrious dead; secondly, to promulgate laws; and, finally, to entertain the people. Presiding at the Tailtiu assembly or fair became the prerogative of the king of Tara.
Lugh lead the first funeral games at the time of Lughnasa (1 August; Lammastide, now Lammas), which consisted of hurling, athletic, gymnastic and equestrian contests of various kinds, and included running, long-jumping, high-jumping, hurling, quoit-throwing, spear-casting, sword and-shield contests, wrestling, boxing, handball, swimming, horse-racing, chariot-racing, spear or pole jumping, slinging contests, bow-and-arrow exhibitions, and, in fact, every sort of contest exhibiting physical endurance and skill. A universal truce was proclaimed in the High King’s name, and all feuds, fights, quarrels and such-like disturbances were strictly forbidden and severely dealt with; and all known criminals were rigorously excluded from both the games and the assembly.
In addition, there were literary, musical, oratorical, and story-telling competitions; singing and dancing competitions, and tournaments of all kinds. Also, competitions for goldsmiths, jewellers, and artificers in the precious metals; for spinners, weavers and dyers; and the makers of shields and weapons of war. The fair lasted for a fortnight.
(At the hill of Tailte is one of the most celebrated spots in Ireland, for it was here in 1420 BC the celebrated Aonach Tailteann the Lughnasa Festival was first held.)