The Lia Fáil – The Stone of Destiny

The Lia Fáil

The Lia Fáil is a mythological stone found on the Hill of Tara – and is also known as the Stone of Destiny, although a more literal translation would be the under stone.

The Lia Fáil is first discussed in a book called The Book of the Taking of Ireland (Lebor Gabála Érenn) which is a historical document of note, believed to have been transcribed in the 11th century but contains the oral history of Ireland that predates this document by thousands of years.

The creator of this book attempted to explain all the invasions that had taken place in Ireland in previous centuries. There are many, but the most significant in Irish mythology relates to the Tuatha Dé Danann and much of this book feeds into what is known as The Mythological Cycle of Irish History.

The Book of the Taking of Ireland tells us that the Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland with magical objects; one of these being the Lia Fáil. The stone was said to roar when the true High King of Ireland stood upon it or drove his chariot next to it – hence the name the under stone.

The Mound of the Hostages

At the hill of Tara there is also a place called the Mound of the Hostages, which some legends say is the gateway to the otherworld, a land made by Manannán Mac Lir – where he and the other Tuatha Dé Dannan could live in peace after their defeat by the Mileseans (another group of invaders).

There was once a famous feasting hall at the Hill of Tara, although no physical evidence of a structure exists today. However, the layout of the hall is shown in another historical book known as the Book of Leinster

The translated layout shows where the kings and queens sat, as well as other members of Irish society, including chess-players, jugglers, champions, historians, and charioteers.

The Lia Fáil has remained important in Irish culture, even in modern times and throughout history has been used as a political tool.

In the early 11th century, King Brian Boru rode with his army to Tara to be crowned High King of Ireland, even though by this stage Ireland was a Christian country.

Daniel O’Connell, a famous 18th century Irish politician, held one of his famous monster rally’s there. Some reports say that over a million people attended to listen to his speech. At this time, Daniel O’Connell wanted to ‘Repeal the Union’ which essentially was a call to bring down the Acts of Union.

(The Act of Union was a piece of British legislation passed in 1800/1801 that closed the Irish parliament and moved all Irish decision making to Westminster – which was very unpopular in Ireland at the time.)

Portrait of Daniel O’Connell – Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

Is this the real Lia Fáil?

Some historians have linked the Scottish Stone of Scone to the Irish Lia Fáil and believe that these stones are the same, hence the Lia Fáil is actually no longer in Ireland.

These historians believe the Lia Fáil was taken to scotland in the 6th century and was used in the ceremony to crown King Fergus of Scotland. The Lia Fáil then changed names and became known as the Stone of Scone or the Coronation Stone.

This stone was captured by Edward I in 1296 and taken to England, where it was eventually taken to Westminster Abbey and fitted into a chair called King Edward’s Chair – on which most subsequent English monarchs have been crowned, including Queen Elizabeth II.

Due to growing national pressure, the Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 and currently is kept at Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle

New Discoveries?

A random and largely unknown fact is that in 1899 there was an archaeological dig at Tara to find the Arc of the Covenant.

A group of Israelites from Britain completed an excavation of the site in 1899, convinced they would find the blood of Christ. All they found were Roman coins – which some people were say were either planted by the Israelites themselves (so as to avoid the embarrassment of having found nothing) or by locals having a bit of fun.

Since this dig, there have been a few others. A lot has been learned about the site as a result, and it is hoped that as technology advances, soon more of the mysteries of Tara and the Lia Fáil will be discovered.

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