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Simon Magus, Mug Ruith, Tlachtga, a Flying Machine and the Earliest Samhain Bonfire?

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posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 01:42 PM
Yesterday, an interesting item about the Hill of Ward and Samhain popped up on my feed and I was inspired to do a bit of research. There's quite a large amount of material to cover so as I attempt to stitch these mythological people and events together with a single thread, please forgive me for glossing over so much in what will likely be a failed attempt at being concise.

Simon Magus

Relief on the Miègeville's gate of the basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse. Image credit: Pierre Selim (CC0 1.0)

We'll begin with the legendary Samaritan sorcerer, Simon Magus. The Latin word "magus," from the Greek "mágos" is perhaps most familiar to English speakers from the plural form "magi" and the Middle English variant "mage." In the interest of brevity, it suffices to say that magi were practitioners of mágos (magic). Unlike those other famous biblical magi, the Three Wise Men, Simon Magus is a notorious figure in Christian mythology where he is referred to as the first heretic, "the Father of Heresies." Simon Magus figures prominently in Gnosticism and in the 2nd-4th centuries AD, there existed a sect of Gnosticism, the Simonians, who claimed Simon Magus as their founder. Among his many powers, it was said he was able to levitate.

Acts 8:9-24 contains the account of Simon Magus converting to Christianity and being baptized by Saint Philip the Evangelist who he follows for some time before a meeting with the apostles Peter and John. In this meeting, he sees them lay hands on people and attempts to pay them to confer this ability onto him. The term simony, or buying/selling position in the church, comes from his name and this story. In the apocryphal Acts of Peter and similar texts, the confrontation is considerably different and involves the apostles confronting Simon Magus who is practicing magic in the Forum in an effort to prove divinity. He challenges Peter to a demonstration of power, levitating himself high into the air before being brought back down to Earth by God following the prayers of John and Peter. Upon landing, he breaks his leg in three places, is stoned by the crowd and later dies in the hands of Roman physicians.

Mug Ruith

Statue of Mug Ruith. Image credit: John Willmott (source)

The next mysterious character is one of Irish mythology. Mug Ruith (also Mog Ruith and Mogh Roith, "slave of the wheel") was said to be an extremely powerful druid, often portrayed as either blind or having only one eye (having either lost one or both in different exploits) and possessing some amazing abilities and a very peculiar mode of transportation. Among his powers, he's said to have been able to grow to an enormous height and to dry up lakes and raise storms with his breath. He's described as wearing a bird mask and having a black shield, rimmed in silver and adorned with stars.

Different sources throughout the ages place him in different points in history, but interestingly, many legends put him in the Holy Land around 40 AD and claim that he was a student of none other than Simon Magus. In these legends, Simon Magus taught him occult secrets and helped him to build roth rámach, the "oared wheel," a magical flying machine resembling a wheel and powered by lightning which in some stories becomes a flying weapon of mass destruction. Other mystical technologies said to be in his possession were a stone which turned into a poisonous eel when thrown into water and a magical ox-drawn chariot that made the night as bright as day.

In some medieval Irish poems, Mug Ruith is credited with the beheading of John the Baptist, at the behest of his mentor, Simon Magus. From the 14th century poem, The Beheading of John the Baptist by Mog Ruith:

A wage was given to Mog Ruith who chose it for beheading John; this then was the wage of Mog Ruith, [his] choice of the maidens. Then Mog Ruith the splended went to kill John, though it was shameful. So he took in the prison to Herod the head of John on a dish of white silver.

Though Mug Ruith is generally revered for his power, this act is viewed in the medieval writings as "shameful" and the cause of a curse upon the Irish people. He's usually portrayed as despising and being despised by early Christians and as a champion of the traditional Irish pagan religion.
edit on 2014-10-31 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 01:43 PM

Statue of Tlachtga. Image credit: John Willmott (source)

Tlachtga ("Earth spear," possibly a reference to lighting?) was a powerful druidess and the daughter of Mug Ruith. She is said to have fashioned a stone pillar, Cnamhcaill ("bone damage"), from a fragment of her father's flying machine, roth rámach. The story goes that anyone who touched the pillar would die, that those who gazed upon it would be blinded and that it emitted a noise that deafened those who heard it.

She was said to have often accompanied her father on his travels. During the last of these, they traveled to Italy. While there, Tlachtga was raped by the three sons of Simon Magus and now pregnant, returned to Ireland. It was on a hill that would later bear her name, that she is said to have died while giving birth to triplets — three sons named Doirb, Cumma and Muach. In one of the oldest versions of the story, these sons became the rulers of Munster, Leinster and Connaught. It was also said that as long as the Irish people remembered their names, the land would be safe from foreign invasion.

Tlachtga / The Hill of Ward

Did the earliest Samhain bonfires burn here? Image credit: BBC (linked below)

The Hill of Ward is the modern name of Tlachtga, the hill upon which legend holds, its namesake died during childbirth. From the UCD School of Archaeology:

Archaeologically, the hill is best known for the quadrivallate ringfort which lies at its summit which bears the name of Tlachtga, the sorceress for whom the hill is named. The site occupies the highest point towards the southern end of the ridge and even in its current state is a striking archaeological site. The remains of four substantial banks enclose a total area of approximately 140 m diameter. In the eastern section all but the innermost bank have been entirely destroyed, while the banks on the western side have also suffered some disruption, although their outline can still be traced. This is at least partly accredited to Oliver Cromwell, who is reputed to have encamped with his army at Tlachtga in 1649 en route to Athboy (Herity 1993, 150).

Dr. Steve Davies from the University College Dublin was a member of the team conducting the 2014 excavations at Tlachtga which uncovered evidence of intense burning as early as 500 AD. He is quoted extensively an article published yesterday by BBC News:

"Geoffrey Keating who wrote the History of Ireland, talks about this in the 17th Century. He said the druids lit a fire and had celebrations," he said.

Tradition has it that on Samhain Eve - celebrated on 31 October, Halloween - all fires were extinguished across Ireland.

A huge bonfire was lit on Tlachtga and all the people had to come and light their fires from this central fire.

"We have found evidence of intense burning there, whether you want to equate that with Samhain or not.

"This monument is associated with fire. The medieval texts would associate this very strongly with an annual fire festival," he said.

"It may also have been a place for crafting metal and glass and in those times, very few people knew how to do that, so it too would have been magical."

Significantly, archaeologists also found the skeleton of a small child who was less than a year old - a similar skeleton was found at Rath na Rí on the nearby hill of Tara, once the seat of the ancient high kings of Ireland.

"There has been a suggestion that one of the reasons the site is not better known is that it was written out of the Patrick story - that it was so infamous that the church did a very good job of trying to erase it from the mythology," Dr Davis said.

This year, hundreds of people are returning to Tlachtga to celebrate Samhain with a fire festival and a torch lit procession.

Was this hill the site of the earliest Samhain bonfire? It's certainly an intriguing thought but barring the invention of a time machine, one of the many things we'll likely never know. There does seem to be good reason to believe that ceremonial fires burned here at least as far back as 500 AD and the hill has a long been associated with two prominent figures in Irish mythology so it seems as likely a candidate as any.

A final note: This post strings together select legends/myths. I've excluded much of the stories about Mug Ruith and Tlachtga that were irrelevant to the topic. There are experts who detail the evolution of myths and legends and I'm not one of them! It does seem likely that Mug Ruith and his daughter were originally a god and goddess demoted by medieval Christian bards and that the stories involving Simon Magus were much more recent additions. Regardless, it's always fun to speculate!

Happy Halloween!
edit on 2014-10-31 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 03:07 PM
More tidbits pulling in Samhain! Thanks! Love it!

posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 03:18 PM
a reply to: chelsdh

No problem! I was quite familiar with Simon Magus and I'd heard of Mug Ruith but I had no idea about the legendary connection until I started reading about the Hill of Ward / Tlachtga and then when I read about Mug Ruith's magical flying wheel, I knew it was something that needed to be put together in a thread. It's a story that has a little something for everyone!

posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 04:09 PM
a reply to: theantediluvian

The only familiarity I have with the name Magus came from the kids cartoon Gargoyles, that I enjoyed as a kid. It wove so much mythology into it I haven't been able to look into it all. But I do love discovering these connections as well!

posted on Oct, 31 2014 @ 05:52 PM
Excellent piece, I shall look forward to reading up on this ... it really deserves more time ...Thanks for taking the time


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