The story of Tailtiu
Tailtiu dedicated her life to the land and to her foster son Lugh. She worked tirelessly to clear and prepare the land for farming and in the end it claimed her life.
“When the fair wood was cut down by her, roots and all, out of the ground, before the year’s end it became Bregmag, it became a plain blossoming with clover. Her heart burst in her body from the strain beneath her royal vest; not wholesome, truly, is a face like the coal, for the sake of woods or pride of timber.
Long was the sorrow, long the weariness of Tailtiu, in sickness after heavy toil; the men of the island of Erin to whom she was in bondage came to receive her last behest. She told them in her sickness (feeble she was but not speechless) that they should hold funeral games to lament her – zealous the deed.”
Lugh was so devoted to Tailtiu that when she died he was devastated and worked hard to carry out her wishes. Before her death, Tailtiu had already chosen her place of burial at Teltown and this is where the funeral rites and celebrations took place. As mentioned previously, Lughnasadh roughly translates to Lugh’s Assembly and was the funeral rites and celebrations that he set up in honour of his foster Mother. This went on to be called Áenach Tailteann and was a festival that took place each year on August 1st (which was the day she died) and lasted for many weeks. These festivals were mostly famous for their sporting and art competitions – the sporting part of this event became so famous throughout Europe it is thought to have inspired the Greek Olympic games.
The festivals also comprised of chants and laments sung by the druids to honour the dead, handfastings and arranged marriages, and fairs selling food and wears. This also became a time when laws were decided and disputes settled. Áenach Tailteann was also to be a time of peace as declared by Tailtiu herself:
- A fair with gold, with silver, with games, with music of chariots, with adornment of body and of soul by means of knowledge and eloquence.
- A fair without wounding or robbing of any man, without trouble, without dispute, without reaving, without challenge of property, without suing, without law-sessions, without evasion, without arrest.
- A fair without sin, without fraud, without reproach, without insult, without contention, without seizure, without theft, without redemption:
- No man going into the seats of the women, nor woman into the seats of the men, shining fair, but each in due order by rank in his place in the high Fair. – https://celt.ucc.ie/published/T106500D/text033.html
In terms of the wheel of the year, Tailtiu’s death signifies the death of the growing season and the start of harvest. Hers is a story of motherly love, sacrifice for the greater good and dignified and loving rulership. Tailtiu teaches us the importance of grace in the face of adversity and the importance of leaving a legacy of peace. Tailtiu’s name is thought to mean ‘Great one of the earth’; she is Queen, Mother, Protectress, Druidess, Teacher, and Goddess of the arts.
I really hope you enjoy connecting to Tailtiu this Lughnasadh and that she blesses you with her wisdom, grace and abundance!