Sunday, October 10, 2021
In the middle of a field in a lesser known part of Ireland is a large mound occupied by sheep. These livestock wander freely, chewing the grass beneath their feet. Yet, had they been in that same location 2,000 years ago, these animals probably would have been stiff with terror, held aloft by chanting, costumed pagans while being sacrificed to Celtic demons that inhabited nearby Oweynagat cave.
Considered by the ancient Celts to be a passage between Ireland and its devil-infested "otherworld," Oweynagat (pronounced "Oen-na-gat" and meaning "cave of the cats") was the birthplace of the Samhain festival, the ancient roots of Halloween, according to Irish archaeologist Daniel Curley. Far from the child-friendly event it has become, Halloween can trace its origins to a bloody and eerie ritual marked in Rathcroghan, a former Celtic center buried beneath the farmland of Ireland's County Roscommon.
Curley is an expert on Rathcroghan, which was the hub of the ancient Irish kingdom of Connaught. At the heart of Rathcroghan, on that monumental mound, animals were sacrificed at a mighty pagan temple during Samhain. Now Ireland is pushing for UNESCO World Heritage status for Rathcroghan ("Rath-craw-hin"), a 5,500-year-old mystery slowly being decoded by scientists and historians.
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