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Cave of the Cats (Rathcrogan/Roscommon, Ireland)

Oweynagat Cave – Cave of the Cats – Gateway to the Underworld and the Morrigan’s Palace.

Oweynagat Cave – Cave of the Cats
– Gateway to the Underworld and the Morrigan’s Palace. Rathcrohan / Rosscommon, Ireland
GPS: 53.79677, -8.31038
Article/Research by Thomas Baurley/Leaf McGowan/Technogypsie Productions, 10 October 2017

One of my most favorite sites in Ireland is the “Cave of the Cats” underneath the realm of “Rathcrohan“. It is officially called “Oweynagat” and pronounced “Owen-ne-gatt”.
The Cave is also labelled “Uaimh na gCat”, Irish translating to “Cave of the Cats”. When I first visited this site we had a tremendously hard time finding it. We found where it was supposed to be, but it lay behind fencing on a farmer’s field. We knocked on the farmer’s door, and there was no answer. A neighbor saw us, asked what we were doing and who we were, and he showed us the entrance, giving us permission to enter. It was a small hole under some Fairy thorn trees. The Site is actually a natural narrow limestone cave that hosts a man-made souterrain at its entrance. This is seen by all as the official entrance to the Otherworld and home to the Morrigan or Medh. In the Medieval Period of Ireland, it was labeled “Ireland’s Gate to Hell”. It is a particular sacred site for the Pagan holiday and festival of “Samhain” or Halloween.

It is said that during the Feast of Samhain, the dead, their God/desses, and Spirits, would rise from their graves and walk the Earth. This cave is one of the main places where Spirits and the dead associated with the Fae and/or the Morrigan, would re-surface including creatures, monsters, and the un-dead. There exists an Irish legend based off the “Adventures of Nera” where a warrior is challenged to tie a twig around the ankle of a condemned man on Samhain eve, after agreeing to get him some water would discover strange houses and wouldn’t find water until the third house. Upon returning him back to captivity would witness Rathcroghan’s royal buildings destroyed by the spirits. After this he must follow the fairy host to the Sidhe where he meets a woman who tells him the vision he saw will happen a year from now unless his mortal comrades are warned. He leaves the Sidhe and informs Ailill of his vision who destroys the Sidhe in response.

Some believe the “síd” or the Sidhe of this tale is either the Mound of Rathcroghan or Oweynagat, the Cave of the Cats. It makes the most sense that the Cave of the Cats is where the destructive creatures and fae emerged. There was a triple-headed monster called the Ellen Trechen that went on a rampage across the country before being killed by Amergin, father of Conal Cernach. There have been tales of small red birds emerging from the cave withering every plant they breathed on before being hunted to their death by the Red Branch. There is also legends of herds of pigs with similar powers of decay emerging from the cave until hunted and killed by Ailill and Medb.

The name itself, “Oweynagat” is believed to refer to the Magical wild cats featured in the tale of “Bricriu’s Feast” that emerge from this cave to attack the three Ulster warriors before being tamed by Cúchulainn. Some also claim that the cave was named after Irusan, the King of the Cats, who is featured in Irish fairy tales and hailed from a cave near Clonmacnoise (her home). Another tale from the 18th century CE tells of a woman trying to catch a runaway cow that fell into this cave (nevermind the entrance being too small) and followed it into this cave. It is said the cow and woman emerged miles away in County Sligo, near Keshcorran. There is also a legend of a woman that was told to have killed a monster cat in this cave, turning the woman into a great warrior, and this is why its called “Oweynagat”, Cave of the Cats.

The Birthplace of Medb

It is also believed that this cave is the actual physical birthplace for Queen Medb. The legend states that the Fairy Queen/Goddess Étain who was fleeing her human husband with her fairy lover Midir came here. Midir wanted to visit a relative named Sinech (the large breasted one) who lived in the cave. Within the cave was said to be a great otherworldly palace where a maid servant named Crochan Crogderg (“Blood Red Cup”) lived, and she had granted Midir and Etain entrance. It was here that Crochan was believed to have given birth to a daughter named “Medb“.

The Entrance

Nestled under a fairy tree in a farmer’s field (private property) is a small opening that really only looks large enough for a house cat to fit through. But if a human gets down on their hands and knees, can shimmy into this small hole, they will be presented with a small chamber that connects to a passageway that continually increases to a massive tunnel wider and higher than one could fathom. At the inner lintel of this entrance is an Ogham inscription that bears the words “VRAICCI…MAQI MEDVVI” translating to “FRAECH” and “SON OF MEDB”. Some also translate this to mean “The Pillar of Fraech son of Madb”. This is also seen as the birthplace of Medb. A second ogham inscription, barely visible, reads “QR G SMU” but has not been translated. This beginning chamber is actually a man-made souterrain at the entrance to a natural narrow limestone cave. The souterrain was originally contained within an earthen mound that was later damaged by a road construction project in the 1930’s. The souterrain is made of drystone walling, orthostats, lintels, and stones that measure approximately 10.5 meters from the entrance to the natural cave’s opening.

Oweynagat Cave – Cave of the Cats – entrance chamber

The Tunnel

After crawling on one’s hands and feet, the passage increases in width and height, eventually one can stand up, and eventually the tunnel becomes wide and tall enough that a small Giant could move through it. This is the passage of the Fae, and leads to the Morrigan’s Lair. As one continues down, they’ll find a caved in shamble that is behind a muddy pool of water. If one successfully climbs up and over it, the passage continues to another area that is caved in. Apparently workers on the surface planted a utility pole that collapsed this section of the tunnel. Beyond this is believed to be the Entrance to the Otherworld, and the Morrigan’s Lair. This is actually a natural limestone cave that has been mapped approximately 37 meters deep.

The Morrigan

The Queen of the Dark Fae, the Goddess of the Underworld, of Darkness, and Battle, rules the world of the Fae from this place. It is believed that every Samhain, she is pulled on a chariot out of the Cave of the Cats by a one-legged chestnut horse alongside various creatures such as those mentioned above. Some also say on occasion she leaves the cave with a cow, guided by a giant with a forked staff, to give to the Bull of Cúailgne. She is also known to take the bull of a woman named Odras who follows her into the cave before falling under an enchanted sleep upon awakening to see the Morrigan who repeatedly whispers a spell over her, turning her into a river, the same river that feeds the muddy pool at the shamble. Apparently the cave is seen as a portal through which the Morrigan would pass in order to work with Medb as Goddess of Battle. She drove her otherworldly cattle into the cave every sunset. The Morrigan was blamed to have stolen a herd of cattle who belonged to a woman named Odras, and upon following to Morrigan to retrieve them, was turned into a lake by the Goddess. As is the story of Nera, a servant of Medb who met a Fairy woman here in this cave. He married her, and she warned him of Medb’s palace being burnt to the ground next Samhain by the creatures of the otherworld. Upon hearing this, Medb stationed her forces in the cave each Samhain to protect Cruachan from destruction.

Rathcrohan is the legendary burial grounds of the Kings of Coannaught. The region covers approximately 518 hectares hosting more than 20 ring forts, burial mounds, megalithic tombs such as the Relig na Ri (burial ground of the Kings), Rath na dTarbh (For the Bulls), and the Rathbeg. The archaeological site is massive, with earthworks spread over the region with the Grave of King Dathi (Last Pagan King of Ireland) as a 2 meter high standing stone being one of the few physical landmarks left that can be seen. This is also the site of the mythical battle of the “Tain Bo Cuailgne” that remains in the hearts, minds, and folklore of the people of Tulsk and Rathcroghan recorded in the Ancient Irish Epic of the Tain Bo Cuiailgne, the “Cattle Raid of Cooley”. The Tain Bo tells the story of Queen Maeve of Connaught and her armies that pursued the Grat Brown Bull of Cooley, the mighty warrior Cuchulain who does battle with the armies here, and his foster brother Erdia as he defends the Brown Bull, and the province of Ulster. There is a “Tain Trail Cycling and Touring Route” that re-traces the journey that Queen Maeve and her armies traveled from her Royal Palace at Rathcroghan across Ireland to the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, the home of the Brown Bull. Rathcrohan hosts over 60 National Monuments here.

Bibliography/References:

  • Druid School: Oweynagat Cave of the Cats. Website referenced January 2012.
  • Fenwick, J. et al 1977 “Oweynagat”. Irish Speleology 16, 11-14.
  • Hannon, Ed 2012 “Visions of the Past: Oweynagat Cave”. Website referenced 10/10/17 at https://visionsofthepastblog.com/2012/10/01/oweynagat-cave-souterrain-co-roscommon/.
  • Mulranney, R. n.d “Caves of Ireland: Oweynagat Cave of the Cats”. Website referenced 10/10/17 at https://cavesofireland.wordpress.com/home/caves/oweynagat-cave-of-the-cats-co-roscommon/.
  • Waddell, J. 1983 “Rathcroghan – A Royal Site”. Journal of Irish Archaeology 1.
  • Wikipedia n.d. “Rathcroghan”. Website referenced 10/10/17 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rathcroghan.

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The Otherworld, The Underworld, The Sidhe


Otherworld Map

The Otherworld
From the dawn of religious thought there has been belief in an Underworld and/or an Otherworld. A place were we are trapped when we die disturbed or without resolution that sits upon our world, sometimes referred to as Limbo, Hades, The Waiting Place, and the Inbetween. Many believe in a Hell and a Heaven. Others believe in a Summerland. Others do not. Some believe in Reincarnation. But just about everyone has an opinion about where we go when we die. The Otherworld is one such place that many deduce is where human spirits reside after death. But its not just a place for ghosts and poltergeists, but is also often labelled as a place of residence for all of the undead and supernatural from zombies to vampires, from faeries to trolls, from Gods to Goddesses, and the elemental spirits of nature. Celtic mythology calls “The Otherworld” (Orbis Alia) as the “Realm of the Dead, the Home of the Deities, or the stronghold of other spirits, and the Mighty Sdhe.” Folklore depicts the Otherworld as existing over the western sea or underground such as in the Sdhe mounds of Ireland and the British Isles, or as a realm layered like a transparency over the world of the living but invisible to our physical sight. I’m more of an advocate to the belief that the Elemental and Faerie Realm, Realm of Deities, and the Land of the Dead are all ‘separate’ realms … layered on top of each other as transparency-like layers of an onion in the worlds within worlds that make up the cosmology of universes in which we live. The Irish described their Otherwold as being underground and sometimes on islands in the Western sea. I believe that they actually saw it as a separate realm from the land of Faeries and the Sidhe and scholars or folklorists not being very well versed in the different dimensions just lumped these worlds into one solitary world separate from the land of the living. There are many different references by the Irish to the these realms including Tr na mBeo (“the Land of the Living”), Mag Mell (“Delightful Plain”), and Tr na ng (“Land of the Young”), among other names. This is one of the reasons I believe the Irish truly believed them to be different places. Irish mythology talk of these places to be a country where the inhabitants never grew old, got sick, died, where they were eternally at peace and happiness, and one year of occupation in that realm would equate to 100 human years. The Greeks spoke of a similar place called the “Elysium” (Greek mythology). Of course the Greeks and the Irish may have a shared origin in ancient Proto-Indo-European religion, so that might make sense. There are many folktales in both of these cultures where a beautiful young woman often approaches the hero and sings to him of these happy lands often offering him an apple or the promise of her love in exchange for his assistance in battle. The myths have him following her for a journey over the sea and are never seen again. Mythological and folklore elements involve boats of glass, chariots, horses, food, drink, and lures of love. Sometimes the mortal man returns to the human realm to find his previous family and friends deceased for ages and while believing to have been gone for a few years were actually gone for hundreds of years. (ex: Tale of Oisin, Thomas the Rymer, Rip Van Winkle, Tale of Bran and Branwen, etc.) There are quests in the tales and a magical mist always seem to descend upon them. They are always changed and affected with their contact to the Otherworld. The means by which many of these individuals cross over from the human realm to the land of spirits or the dead are abundant in all of Indo-European folklore and stories. These seem to occur in liminal places, gateways, or on special days of the year. The Gaelic festival of Samhain (November 1st) as well as Beltane (May 1st) are believed to be dates when the boundaries between the worlds become even more permeable than usual, and visitors from both realms can travel inbetween the realms, sometimes on purpose other times accidentally. Folklore is obsessed with the concern about preventing the intrusion of spirits into the human world and the loss of humans to the Otherworlds. Many spells, charms, superstitions, and rituals exist through history to prevent the crossing over of humans and entities between these dimensions. Some believe that Irish folklore is a heaven of sorts. Interpreters of Irish poetry and story telling, claim the Otherworld is simply a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. I am of the opposite view that the realms those stories tell about is quite yet a completely different world than the land of the Dead. I believe that there is a land of Faeries (Sidhe, Faerieland or Faerieworld), a land of the Dead (Otherworld), a land of Demons (Underworld / Hades / Hell), a land of Deities (Summerland or Heaven). Land of the Dead is what I refer to when I discuss the Otherworld. Brittany sees this as an island someplace west of Great Britain. When the souls of the dead leave the human body, they go to the homes of fishermen and knock desperately on their doors for ferry to these islands. The fishermen would leave their homes and ferry the dead to these lands in ghostly ships called “Bag an Noz”. There are Christian beliefs on the British Isles that talk about a Galicia northern coastal village called ‘San Andrs de Teixido’ where a little hermitage consecrated to Saint Andrew houses his bones. According to Tacitus this is where the ‘heavens, seas, and earth end’. It is believed by many that if you don’t visit this place when you are living, you must visit after you die in the form of a serpent or lizard, in order to take your journey to the land of the dead, according to words from Jesus to Andres. Many Spanish authors also claim that this is the starting place for the souls of the dead on their trip to the Other World. The Irish God of Gateways and of the Sea, Manannon Mac Lir, is often seen as a gatekeeper between these Isles of the Dead and the Lands of the Living. In modern fantasy, such as in the tales of the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the gateway to the realms of the dead or the world of demons are referred to as “The Hellmouth”. This serves as a magical portal between the worlds. Supposedly as a place of increased supernatural energy and is a gate that attracts as a hot spot demons and other supernatural creatures. While completely created by the filmmakers, the concept is based off the gateways to the realm of the dead found in mythologies. The “Otherworld” as the “Spirit World” or “Land of the Dead” is seen as a habitation realm of spirits. The belief in spirits come from the theory that the Earth itself and all living things on the Earth have spirit counterparts that existed before the physical creation, and a living soul consists of a spirit body united with a physical body. The spirit existence is composed of organized and refined spirit matter that extends to all life, including plants, animals, and humans. Even the Christian bible refers to plant spirits as being created as spirits before they were created with physical bodies (Moses 3:5, 9). Under these beliefs, there are premortal and postmortal spirit worlds. Premortal spirits exist originally in “heaven” where monotheistic faiths believe their God lives. There is belief by many that the spirit after leaving the body from death, yet before resurrection, is taken by an angel or a reaper, to the home of God who gave them life, they are then often judged and/or assigned to a place of paradise or a place of hell and ‘outer darkness’. Postmortal spirits inhabit a world where they reside and converse together the same as what occurs in the human world. There is belief that they conduct similar activities, labor, and life as they did when they were living; it is a place where they learn and prepare for the next life as an extension of mortality. Those at unrest or unfinished with their mortal existence, often haunt or are trapped inbetween the human realm and the Otherworld or the Underworld.

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Faeries and the Fae …


The Tree Leaves’ Oracle icon flower fairy

The Victorian Flower Fairy or Nature Sprite
Flower Fairies are believed to be the fairy spirit essence of various flowers; they are portrayed as tiny creatures that rarely are larger than 20 cm. tall. Most of these depictions come from Victorian art and is a common ‘model’ for what most people think of what is a fairy. They live in tree tops, marshes, forests, gardens, fields, and waysides. It is believed by many that when a seed sprouts a flower fairy is born. Each flower fairy lives upon its host plant and not found too far from it. They sleep within the flower. As the flower grows so does the fairy. The flower fairy exists to tend and watch over the flower. If the flower dies, so too does the fairy. Disembodied spirits, elves, fairies or daemons; often the term used for the Air elemental known as sylphs, or as the name of the elementals of Spirit. Flower fairies are often also referred to as nature sprites or spirits. Some define sprites as a being who are beginning a course of evolutionary growth and in the elemental states of their growth. In some ways, this is the concept, in the life of a flower, what makes a flower fairy a sprite. Examples: http://www.flowerfaeries.com/flowerfairies.shtml; http://www.flowerfairies.com/US_version/home.html.

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7.22.09: Cronicles of STL: Chapter 12: ‘The Otherworld, Haunting in Connecticut, Contemplations about the Afterlife’


From the journal of Sir Thomas “Rymour Oisin” Leaf: The 22nd of Quintilis (Julius Caesar’s “July”) in the good year 2009 of the Common Era


“Awoke with many dreams of Faerieland and Faerieworlds. Of course that just feeds into my upcoming Adventure to Faerieworlds come the end of this month. I was up in a shake and off to the laboratory to work on some artifacts and maps. The restrictions on technology, portable drives, and network connectivity is really stressing me out at work. In an age where technology is at our fingertips, I come to wonder what the problem is. Why is it failing? and of all places within the government. So after work, decided nothing better to dispell the stress but renting a good movie … one I’ve been wanting to see, especially since I’m such a big Supernatural, ghost story, occult, and horror fan … none other than “The Haunting in Connecticut”. Pretty freaking good movie if you ask me. An early night, dreams of the Otherworld, and since I’m on a run with all the alternative community views of upcoming apocalypses and great transitions, why not start grasping concepts about ‘the Otherworld’ and beliefs some have in the veils between the worlds dissipating and the spirit and undead realms merging with our realm, even moreso than it has over the last several hundred years. Lets talk about the Otherworld and/or the Underworld.”

My review of “The Haunting in Connecticut”

The True Story about the Haunting in Connecticut

“As we left off with the theories about the ‘Faerie Great Awakening’ in the previous post of these chronicles, there is a belief by many individuals and alternative sub-communities that there will come a time when the realms between the worlds will fade away and disappear, thereby placing inhabitants of other realms, including the faerie realm, and to some the Otherworld and Underworld, to become residents of this world / realm in which we supposedly live. So to explore this concept that we’ve all come picture and fantasize about from the fantastical television series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, and “Supernatural”, lets discuss what exactly “is” the “Otherworld” and the “Underworld”. Interesting theories and prophecies out there. Many clearly claim these realms are already blended into our own. I might inquire … Do you believe in ghosts? spirits? demons? the undead? Vampires? zombies? and werewolves?”

Continue reading 7.22.09: Cronicles of STL: Chapter 12: ‘The Otherworld, Haunting in Connecticut, Contemplations about the Afterlife’

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