Meet the Past: Dolmens and Fairy Raths

fairy_rath

The past and the present in rural Ireland are balanced and closely tied up together. I want to share some photographs of ancient things taken in different years and seasons, and thank the thoughtful farmers who are the guardians and protectors of the balance.

There are about 190 dolmens in Ireland.  Dolmens have an entrance – the portal. Another name for dolmens is Portal tomb, because most of them are associated with graves.

The most visited dolmen is Poulnabrone portal dolmen  – a fine megalithic monument in the Burren, Co Clare .

dolmen

The site was excavated in 1980, and the bones of 21 people – 16 adults and 5 children –  were found. The bones were dated from 3800-3200 BC. There were also many other finds like stone tools, arrow heads, beads and even the head of a bone pin.

dolmen

The natural limestone formations in the Burren are called grykes and clints ( you see them in the image below) 

dolmen

The magnificent Proleek dolmen is also known as the Giant’s Load. It is situated in Co Louth near Dundalk, in the grounds of   Ballymascanlon Hotel.

dolmen

The dolmen  is about 3 m high and has a round capstone weighing approximately 35 tons. Legend says that a wish will be granted to anyone who can throw a pebble on its capstone so that it stays there.

dolmen

Another impressive megalithic structure is Knockeen  dolmen located near Tramore, Co Waterford.

dolmen

The dolmen is about 3 m high, and has two enormous capstones.

dolmen

Next to the dolmen is an old graveyard, quite overgrown. This is what it looks like in the end of December…

old_graveyard

A few minutes drive from Knockeen dolmen, there is another amazing megalith – Gaulstown dolmen. If you are interested, here is a Tramore area Dolmen map,  but you have to know that some of the dolmens cannot  be seen from the road.

dolmen

This is one of the dolmens that is accessible the whole year. Kilmogue dolmen, or Harristown dolmen, or Leac an Scail, is Ireland’s tallest dolmen at almost 5 meters or 15 feet from the ground to the tip of the capstone. It is situated near Templeorum, Co Kilkenny.

dolmen

dolmen

Another fascinating structure is a Fairy rath.

There are about 50.000 Fairy  raths, or Fairy forts in Ireland –  the remains of the Bronze Age – Iron Age circular dwellings. It is what the archeologists say. The ancient books say that the raths are the portals to the magical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann little people,  the fairies.

As you see, the trees grow only on the edges of the circular wall  and the central section. Why? No one knows.

fairy_rath

The ditch, or moat, is very deep, and there is no growth. Who can explain it?

fairy_rath

No one in their sound mind would cut a tree or even break a branch from a rath. Most of people believe that  if they do so, they would be followed by bad luck. Here you can read what happens if you don’t respect the fairies.   

fairy_rath

The Fairy raths were used as burial grounds for the  babies who died before they could be baptized, and had thus been denied  a burial in the Church grounds.  If the Catholic God would not accept the little ones, the ancient Gods would accept them. Babies buried in raths were thought to be protected by the fairies.

Thank you for taking a trip to the ancient places with me! Hope you enjoyed the reading.
IneseMjPhotographyHave a great week!

57 comments

  1. Wow, Inese. This is all so interesting. Though I’ve read of these things, I’ve never seen the photos or learned the history. How fascinating. Thank you. (and yes, I’m fond of the fairies.)

    1. Thank you Cynthia! Sorry for the late reply – I was down with flu 😦 Ireland is so rich with history. Some places are sinking into earth, but still visible from the airplane. Those are the most ancient, probably going back to the fairies’ times 🙂

  2. Recently, I started working on my ancestry only to discover that on both sides many of my ancestors originated in Ireland a couple of hundred years ago–1700s or late 1600s. In fact, my last name is not what I had thought most of my life but is originally Lytle from Ulster born there in 1680–currently it is spelled Lightle. Love these blog posts because they relate to something I am working on–researching and writing poems related to the ancient Cosmic Mother and the indigenous religions.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I am not going to Ulster often, otherwise I would take pictures for you 🙂 What area exactly are your ancestors from?

  3. Wow! Loved the post and the stories. The story of non-baptized babies being accepted by the old gods was amazing!

  4. Not sure how I missed this one last week. I had no idea things like this existed in Ireland! Fascinating and the images are wonderful!

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