Uisneach Inn, Killare, Co Westmeath – Bealtaine, May 4/5 2013

Why is Uisneach so special? Did you know…

Why is the Hill of Uisneach special?

1. Uisneach is the exact geographical centre of Ireland.


2. For many centuries, Uisneach was also regarded as the sacred centre of the island.


3. On Uisneach is a stone known as ‘Aill na Mireann’ or the ‘Catstone’.  According to tradition, the five provinces of Ireland met there and Ireland was first divided into five kingdoms at Uisneach.


4. Uisneach was said to be the home of the sovereignty goddess, Eriu, after whom Ireland is named.  Eriu is according to legend, buried under the Catstone.


5. At Uisneach, Eriu granted sovereignty of Ireland to the sons of Mil-Ancestors of the Gaels.


6. Uisneach is also linked with the harvest god Lugh.  It is said that Lugh, who commenced the harvest celebration Lunasa from Uisneach, was drowned in a lake on the hill and buried beneath a tumulus there.


7. Uisneach was the venue for the great Lunasa fair and assembly at which laws were passed and the High King received tribute from other kings.


8. Persian and other faraway traders were among those merchants who attended the Uisneach Lunasa fair. It was even mentioned in the writings of Caesar.


9. A coin minted in Herat, Afghanistan, around 900 BC, was found in a lake near Uisenach.


10. On Bealtaine, fires were lit on Uisneach to celebrate summer.  The lighting of the Uisneach fires was the signal for the lighting of fires on hills across the whole island.


11. The Uisneach fire festival connects Irish traditions with a wider Indo-European / Indo-Iranian culture spanning much of Eurasia.  Fire festivals remain a significant cultural event in Iran and Kurdistan.  The name ‘Erin’ has the same roots as ‘Iran’ and ‘Aryan’.


12. The ‘good god’ Dagda – the Irish equivalent of Zeus – is said to have lived at Uisneach and stabled his solar horses there.


13. Two souterrains have been located at Uisneach, inside a wheel shaped enclosure.  One of the souterrains is in the shape of a mare, pursued by a galloping stallion.  Horse deities appear to be associated with the hill.



14. Some texts claim that Ail na Mireann was ringed by a stone circle, and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ claims that the stones which make up the circle at Stonehenge come from Uisneach!
15 Saint Patrick visited and lived on Uisneach in the 5th Century.  His place of worship is now known as St. Patrick’s Bed.


16. Saint Brigid is believed to have visited the Uisneach area.  A holy well near the hill is dedicated to her. Saint Brigid was named after the great pan Celtic Triune Goddess Brigit – ‘The Bright One’.  She was probably worshipped at Uisneach in Pre-Christian times.
17. In the great Ulster tale, ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’, Deirdre falls in love with Naoise, on of the ‘Sons of Uisneach’.


18. In 1111 AD, a synod of bishops and clergy was held at Uisneach to begin the work of dividing Ireland into dioceses.


19. James Joyce visited Uisneach while he was working in Mullingar in 1900 and 1901.  He later described Uisneach as ‘the mountainy molehill’ and Uisneach is mentioned in ‘Finnegans Wake’.


20. Brian Boru came to Uisneach around 999 to lay claim to the sovereignty over Mide / Meath.


21. In the early 1900’s, leading figures in the Gaelic league visited Uisneach for a feis held each August on the hill.


22. In 1919, Eamon de Valera addressed a Sinn Fein rally on the hill.


23. According to one theory, the God Lugh, with his ‘long arm trailing behind him’ and his face too bright to look at, was actually a comet.  It has also been suggested that Lough Lugh on the hilltop is actually an impact crater from a meteor.


24. In the Irish annals, there is a story about the warriors fleeing the hill after the sky goes dark and massive hailstones start falling.  This event is dated to 538 or 540 AD.  At around this time, tree ring growth records and other evidence points to a major climatic disaster worldwide.


25. It is possible that the stories about Lugh and the above incident arose from observations of a comet very close to earth and actual events during the worldwide disaster of 538-40.


26. Archaeological work at Uisneach has uncovered evidence of enclosures, souterrains, houses, two roadways and some Romano-British coins and a key.


27. There was a real fifth province or kingdom in ancient Ireland-Mide.  But the ‘fifth province’ could also refer to the world of the imagination and the magical ‘otherworld’.  The Catstone at Uisneach was regarded as a gateway to this other world.


28. As late as the 1400’s, the descendants of the Clan Coleman Kings of Mide were described as ‘Kings of Meath and Uisneach’.


29. As late as the 1600’s, the people of Westmeath referred to themselves as ‘people of the old kingdom’ (of Mide / Uisneach)


30. In ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology’, the Hill of Uisneach is described as ‘a hill that has played a significant role in the Irish imagination’.


31. In ancient Ireland, Uisneach was a ceremonial site second only to Emain Macha (Ulster) in importance.


32. The festival at Uisneach was one of ‘the three great festivals of Ireland’.


33. In 1691, the army of William of Orange marched past the hill on their way to fight the armies of James II at Athlone.


34. Uisneach may be one of places shown on Ptolemy’s map of Ireland – the oldest Irish map (100 AD).


35. One of the great roads linking the royal sites of Ireland passed Uisneach – linking the hill with Rathcroghan and Tara.


36. Uisneach was also known as the Hill of Balor.  Balor was a solar (or Comet) deity.  The Festival of Bealtaine on May day was named after this God.




All text is copyright Ruth Illingworth. Ruth will be leading the historical tours on the Hill of Uisneach on Saturday April 30th from 12 noon until 7pm. Be sure not to miss out on what will be an incredible journey into the history of this amazing hill.


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  1. Why is the Hill of Uisneach special? | Eclectic Lens Photography Blog

    [...] source Festival of the fires [...]

    May 06, 2011 @ 6:59 pm