Rathcroghan is a complex of archaeological sites in Ireland that were the historical center of many ritual gatherings as well as being an important cemetery location. It’s a very significant site in Irish mythology and has major associations with the feast of Samhain. It was believed that on the last night of October graves would open to allow all manner of both good and destructive spirits to walk the earth. There was much ritual revolving around both the honoring of dead ancestors and protection against malicious spirits.
One of the most unique sites of Rathcroghan is Owenynagat, ‘Cave of cats’, known traditionally as a place of power and a portal to the underworld When Christianity took hold in Ireland it became known as ‘a gateway to hell ‘which had the most pronounced power near Samhain, when the veil between worlds is said to be thin. Legends told that the goddess of the underworld, Morrigan would emerge from the cave every Samhain in a chariot pulled by a one legged chestnut horse along with various other creatures. The name “Cave of Cats’ is thought to come from either the story of magical wildcats that emerged from the cave to attack three Ulster warriors before being tamed by the mythical Irish hero, Chuchulainn; Or from Iruson a Cat king that lived in a cave (possibly Owenynagat) and featured in many Irish fairy tales. Many modern practices and beliefs from folk tradition in Celtic countries still revolve around the significance of the dead or ancestors; and the vast subject of fairy realms and second sight cannot be separated from the worship of the dead.