Tara: The Lia Fail

From Falias was brought Lia Fail which is in Temair,

and which is used to utter a cry under every king that should take Ireland.”

Lebor Gabala Erenn

 

The Lia Fail with the Mound of the Hostages in the background. (Photo credit: atriptoIreland.com)

The Lia Fail with the Mound of the Hostages in the background.
(Photo credit: www.atriptoIreland.com)

On top of the Hill of Tara, in the middle of the rath known as An Forradh, “The King’s Seat,” there stands a large carved stone. This is the Lia Fail, the stone of destiny, one of the powerful totems the Tuatha de Danaan, the god-like ancestors of Irish Myth, are said to have brought with them to Ireland. Legend has it that when the kings of Ireland assembled at Tara to choose a new Ard Ri, or High King, the stone would shout its approval when the candidate touched it. This was one of what appear to be several trials a would-be High King had to pass.

Two standing stones in the  churchyard of St. Patrick's Church on the Hill of Tara. (Photo credit: www.atriptoIreland.com

Two standing stones in the churchyard of St. Patrick’s Church on the Hill of Tara.
(Photo credit: www.atriptoIreland.com

 

Standing Stones

Another was driving his chariot through two nearby standing stones which would jump out of the way if he was worthy. There were traditionally a number of standing stones around the hill, but few now remain (at least overground). Two still stand side by side in the adjacent churchyard — one featuring a very-weathered sheela-na-gig carving. However, there does not appear to be space between them to drive a chariot through.

The Lia Fail originally stood near the Mound of the Hostages, but was moved to its present position in 1798, to mark the graves of 400 rebels who were buried on the hill after a battle.

 

Controversy

Whether this is the real Lia Fail or simply one of the other standing stones the annals tell us stood around the Hill of Tara is a matter of some conjecture. One theory holds that the original Lia Fail was stolen and brought to Scotland, where it became known as the Stone of Scone, and has been used to crown Scots and English monarchs ever since — Oh, we Irish never tire of bashing the English. Another story holds that the real Lia Fail was hidden away for safekeeping until Ireland is ready for a High King again — if so, it’ll have a long wait.

Note
This is the third part of a series looking at the Hill of Tara.

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