Tara A Pagan Sanctuary of Ancient Ireland

Author: R. A. S. Macalister

Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons

Published: 1931

Pages: 208 including notes, index and bibliography.



This book is made up of six chapter. Chapter one is a detailed study of the site of Tara. Macalister draws a picture using the Dindshenchas, mythology and archaeology. It was really fascinating the way the author weaves the information he has to make us understand what is meant when we say Tara. There is a map of Tara in the beginning of the book. I photocopied it and kept it in front of me while I read the description.

Chapter two was all about who built Tara. Macalister used the Dindshenchas again as his jump off point. I think the make take away from this chapter though is this sentence: “In other words, it was less a political than a religious centre: the king was a priest-king, nay, a god upon the earth. Tara was a temple before it became a palace.” (p.87)

Chapters three and four discuss the Gods and the kings of Tara, respectively. These two chapters complement each other even if one doesn’t agree with them 100%.

The reason for me buying this book was chapter five. The chapter discusses an assembly at Carman during Lunasadh. The author uses the Dindshenchas and Keating’s writings to give us a look at what these assemblies would have looked like and then extrapolating that to the assemblies at Tara.

The final chapter of the book was about the last years of Tara, from Cormac to the last battle that was fought there…I felt a bit sad reading this chapter. It was called The Ending of Tara.

I’m glad I found this book. I’m glad I came across another book that put me on to it. I’m glad I read it, and even after 84 years it is still very much relevant.