I am the Sun – bringer of the warming light of day. I am Lightning – bringer of fire to Earth. I am Tlachtga who flew through the sky together with my father Mog Ruith in our glowing wheel. I am destruction and creation. I illuminate the darkness and point to the pathway of light that resides in each of you. Over time I made my final resting place at the Hill of Tlachtga, where the great fire ritual of Samhain is practiced, reminding the folk of the promise of Sun’s return at the end of the time of darkness and dreaming.
Like Tailtiu who was credited with clearing the land with her bare hands for crops, Tlachtga (tclak ta), was most likely an ancient goddess from the time of the Fir Bolgs, the bronze age inhabitants of Ireland from the East. Some equate the Fir Bolgs with the Fomorians, a supernatural race associated with the destructive forces of nature.
Like so much in Celtic mythology there are many versions of the story of Mog Ruith and Tlachtga.
In mythology Mog Ruith, a powerful, blind druid of Munster, could grow to gigantic size, cause storms with his breath and turn men to stone. He wore a bird mask and flew in a machine called Roth Ràmach (Oared Wheel). His name means either Devotee or Slave of the Wheel. He also had an ox-driven chariot which when ridden turned night into day, a star-studded shield of black with a silver rim and a stone which when thrown into water became a poisonous eel. Mog Ruith was most likely the last remnant of the Sun God Ruith, God of the Wheel.
The wheel in the Celtic worldview was symbolic of the sun with spokes denoting the warmth and light of life.
Tlachtga which means “earth spear” from Gaelic – tlacht “earth” and gae “spear” was associated with both sun and lightning. She is credited with creating three magical items – a rolling wheel for a man named Trian, the stone of Forcathu and the powerful pillar stone Cnamhcaill (bone damage) from a fragment of the flying machine, Roth Ràmach. Cnamhcail probably represents lightning and was believed to blind whoever gazes at it, deafen those who hear it and kill all who touch it.
Cnamhcaill is symbolic of Tlachgta’s power – the ability to kindle fire from the darkness. This power must have been great in the minds of the ancients who before learning to start fire on their own depended on lightning strikes on trees to provide the fire that humans could use.
We are told from the Medieval Irish manuscript Rawlinson B 502 157 Z36, created by Christian monks, that Tlachtga was the daughter of Mog Ruith. It was during this period that the story of Tlachtga and Mog Ruith took the form we know best today.
Stories about Mog Ruith place him in various time periods after the mythological period had ended. He was active during the reign of the first Milesian king, Conmael, 1239 -1209 BC. He was sited in Jerusalem during the time of Christ and was believed to have lived during the reign of the 3rd century High King Corlmac mac Airt.
But the legend that has endured most strongly is the one which links Mog Ruith and Tlachtga to the magician Simon Magus who lived during the time of Jesus. The legend begins with Tlachtga and her father, Mog Ruith, living in a cave on Valentia Island. The blind Mog Ruith taught his daughter all his skills. After a thorough search of the magical knowledge from the Celtic Lands. they traveled to other lands. They were believed to have spent time in Italy where they studied with Simon Magus.
Even though their association with the flying machine Roth Ramach was ancient, these tales told that Simon Magus helped them create Roth Ramach. Perhaps because Mog Ruith always stood strong for paganism – rejecting the new Christian religion – these tales accused Mog Ruith of being the one who beheaded John the Baptist.
Then another element enters the story – one we are familiar with in the usurping of power from the goddess by the patriarchal religions. While in Italy studying with her father, Tlachtga was raped by the three sons of Simon Magus. But powerful goddess that she is, she took this outrage and ultimate tragedy and turned it into a positive for her community. She returned to Ireland where she gave birth to triplet sons on the Hill of Tlachtga whereupon she died from the effort. She was buried there and her sons, Doirb, Cuma and Muach went on to become great chieftains or great druids or simply to give their names to three regions depending on the telling. It was said that while their names were remembered no harm could come to Ireland.
The Hill of Tlachtga where earthworks were created over Tlachtga’s grave is now know as the Hill of Ward. Here the tribes gathered on Samhain night to honor their ancestors, give thanks for another successful harvest and celebrate the New Year. The work of planting and harvesting were over and the people were facing the long dark time of winter. Only Tlachtga’s fires could burn on this night, promising the people safe passage through the time of darkness and mystery, leading to rebirth in the spring. Over time the ceremony became known as the Druid ceremony – the bruane Samhna – the ceremony of death and rebirth enacted every year at Samhain.
Like Macha and Tailtiu, Tlachtga’s death gave power to the land. In this act of birthing her sons and then dying, she becomes, in addition to Sun and Lightning Goddess, Goddess of Death and Rebirth. She remains a symbol, albeit forgotten by many, of the transformation of the old year into the new year at Samhain. Hers is the promise of light’s return when the dark of winter has passed. She speaks to us of the power of the natural world and reminds us to remember our dearly departed, honor our ancestors whose shoulders we stand on today and move forward into a new beginning for ourselves.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.