The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin features an exhibit about the Hill of Tara, located in County Meath. (Photo below.)

Today I saw the real thing. Tara–giving new meaning to the O’Hara residence in Gone With the Wind–was originally the capital of the country. In ancient Irish religion and mythology, it was regarded as a dwelling of the gods and an entrance to the Otherworld, a place of eternal joy, immortality, and prosperity. Here the Irish kings (142 are said to have reigned in the name of Tara) held their inaugural feasts and were approved by Earth Mother Goddess Maeve.

In the legends of St. Patrick’s mission to Ireland, it is said he came first to Tara in an effort to confront the pagan religion in its most powerful site. A statue of him stands near the entrance to the Hill close to the former church, now the Tara interpretive center.

The Mound of the Hostages is the oldest visible monument on the Hill, dating back to about 2,500 B.C. Its name derives from the custom of reigning kings “retaining” important people from other kingdoms to ensure their submission.

The King’s Seat is where the ancient coronation stone The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, stands, which some believe to be the Pillow of Jacob from the Old Testament. Sharing the site is a headstone erected in 1938 to mark the graves of 400 rebels who fell there during a fight in the United Irishmen revolution of 1798.

Next Stop: Brú na Bóinne

St. Pat at TaraChurch and Graveyard 2

MoI-A TaraApproach to The King's SeatThe Mound of HostagesThe King's Seat