Hunched up within the dimly lit, cramped chamber, I am conscious I am strolling over 1000’s of years of bones and skeletons crumbled to a superb mud. Buried beneath lifetimes of soil, the Neolithic passage tomb of Newgrange is swathed within the inexperienced grassy hills of the Boyne Valley, and I can see so far as the Wicklow Mountains within the distance.
An hour’s drive north of Dublin, the realm is packed to the brim with historical, mysterious websites. There’s the creepy and imposing Trim Fort, crumbling Gothic friaries and shadowy bell towers dotted alongside the banks of the Boyne River.
And with quite a few new festivals deliberate, it is set to be the brand new dwelling of Halloween.
The Spirits of Meath Halloween Pageant (October 6-November three) has a month-long programme of horror-tastic occasions, and the Ghosts of Drogheda heritage stroll (October 30; €three) options spooky characters from the city’s previous.
This yr, a brand-new pageant will be a part of them for the primary time: Púca.
A caste of characters pictured on the Hill of Ward, Co. Meath on the announcement of Fáilte Eire’s new pageant, Púca. Photograph: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic
Held within the Boyne Valley, the occasion will happen throughout three main websites within the space – Trim, Drogheda and Athboy – from October 31-November 2. It’ll see an assortment of interactive shows and performances loosely based mostly on 5 conventional Samhain characters, led by the shapeshifting spirit of Púca – the Irish phrase for ghost.
The official opening of the occasion is because of happen in Trim, with a Samhain procession on October 31, which can embrace a parade via the streets of Trim as much as the citadel and a efficiency by the 5 unique characters of Halloween: Finvarra, Boann, The Pink Males, The Morrigan and Puca.
There are such a lot of pure websites already within the Boyne Valley to legitimise its hyperlinks with Halloween. In 5,000 years of historical past, the realm has seen battles starting from Norman invasions to Catholic sieges – all bloody, brutal and with deadly outcomes.
The grassy hills of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, which make up the Unesco World Heritage Centre of Brú Na Bóinne, all include burial tombs. However the historical monuments additionally served as calendars, and have been constructed to align with both a solstice or an equinox.
A typical pagan observe was to carry celebrations to worship gods and ancestors, essentially the most enduring being the pageant of Samhain, dated precisely midway between the autumn equinox and winter solstice.
There are a number of Neolithic passage tombs dotted throughout the Boyne Valley – together with some situated on the Hill of Tara – aligned with the time of Samhain. The pageant was not solely celebrated to mark the top of harvest, but additionally as a result of it was thought to be the time the place spirits of the lifeless might cross via to the opposite world.
The Púca Pageant debuts this yr. PA Photograph/Meath County Council.
The Hill of Ward in Athboy is the traditional web site the place Samhain originated, dwelling to the good hearth pageant starting on the celebration’s eve. Contributors would arrive on the hill to worship the lifeless, sporting costumes and masks to disguise themselves as a approach of averting evil spirits, thus establishing Samhain because the precursor to Halloween.
Over time, Halloween has modified dramatically from its conventional Irish origins, to the Americanised model we all know in the present day: pumpkins, stripy tights and trick or treating.
Púca might assist evoke a number of the spirits of previous Samhain. Its occasions additionally embrace Trim Fort concert events going down nightly from Eight-11pm, and ticketed occasions at Drogheda embrace Candlelit Tales (candlelittales.ie), which kicks off the pageant with a retelling of the story The Shadows of the Táin, utilizing shadow puppetry and reside musical accompaniment.
These simply spooked ought to in all probability be afraid, however amongst the horrors, there’s some room for hilarity and good time, too.
So, ditch the cauldrons, broomsticks and witches’ hats, as a result of Halloween is falling beneath a brand new Irish spell.
See extra at discoverboynevalley.ie and pucafestival.com.