The megalithic chamber and cairn called Cailleach a Vera's House on a peak of Sliabh Da Ean in the Ox Mountains in County Sligo. The monument was said to be the home of Garavogue, the local landscape godess, a hag or witch who is said to have built many of the megaliths in the region. The cairn dating to about 3,200 BC, is part of an extensive network of sacred sites that stretches across Ireland from Knocknarea through Loughcrew, Tara and Howth.
Sliabh Da Ean is the name of a group of four distcintive peaks in the eastern extreme of the Ox Mountains in County Sligo. The hills, Sliabh Dargan, Sliabh Da Eán, Aghamore cairn and Caillí a Vera's House are each capped by a neolithic cairn. Sliabh Da Eán's cairn is about 15 meters in diameter, built from quarried local gneiss rock on the highest peak of the four hills, at 276 m above sea level.
These sites are rich in local folklore and mythology. A Caillieach (hag) was said to have lived in the chambered cairn on the lowest peak. She befrended the mad king, Sweeney, and after transforming themselves into geese, they dived to the bottom of the small mountain-top lake, Loch Da Gé, the Lake of the Two Geese (below).
The natural notch between Sliabh Da Eán and Sliabh Dargan was used as a foresight by the local neolithic builders. The winter solstice sun rises near the notch when viewed from Listoghil at the centre of Carrowmore. The sun rises in the valley between Aghamore and Sliabh Da Eán, and the recently discovered megalithic engraving at Listoghil may be a representation of the distcintive peaks of Sliabh Da Eán. From Moytura, the extreme setting lunar standstills, which only occur every 18.6 years, should set into the notch between Sliabh Da Eán and Sliabh Dargan. The Moytura sunsets and winter full moon sets drop behind Knocknarea in a similar arrangement to that found in Carrowkeel.
In his book, Pi in the Sky, Michael Poynder discusses a large ley or energy line crossing the country from Newgrange to Knocknarea. Many ancient sites are found on this line, incliding these four cairns.
Aghamore Cairn located on the next summit north of Slaibh Da Eán at 266 m above sea level.The two monuments are seperated by a sheer valley, some 40 meters deep. This cairn is the smallest of the four in these mountains, with a diameter of about 10 meters. Again, the stones are gneiss, and there is plenty of quartz in the local mountain rock.
The view is quite stunning, especially to the north, where you can look down on Lough Gill, and follow the river Garavogue as it flows past the big monuments on Cairns Hill. Knocknarea also looks beautiful from up here. To the south, Carrowkeel and Kesh Corran can be seen beyond Sliabh Da Eán, and to the west, Knocknashee, Muckelty Hill and Doomore are all visible. Croghaun peak is lost in the Ox Mountains. The cross on the cairn is from a recent burial in 1996.
The view of the hills from the south. The large mound may be a barrow or the remains of a Norman motte.
Slaibh Dargan is perhaps the most visually impressive of the peaks, as it has steep valleys, especially on the east, which are visible from a long way off. The cairn is again located on the highest point, some 263 m above sea level., with fine views on all sides.
The cairn on Slaibh Dargan was distured at some stage, and has two large holes dug into the top. The diameter is about 15 meters and the stones are local, probably from the cliff-face just to the east.
Slaibh Da Eán is to the east seperated by a 40 m deep valley. This valley is the notch visible from Moytura, which is probably an extreme midwinter moon setting position when viewed from the Moytura cairn, Shee Lugh. Slaibh Dargan also forms a deep notch valley with Aghamore cairn to the north. This notch marks the winter solstice sunrise when viewed from Listoghil at the centre of Carrowmore. Caillí a Vera's House is located on the hill below to the west.
Caillí a Vera's House
Caillí a Vera's House is a very interesting monument, on a lower summit, about 215 meters above sea level. A passage and chamber remain within a cairn of some 16 meters in diameter. Some of the chamber stones have fallen in, and the passage seems to have collapsed. The rectangular chamber can be entered from a hole on the east side. The cairn is made from local gneiss chunks, and there are a few lumps of quartz still mixed with the stones.
The passage seems to be oriented to the SSW, to the region west of Carrickbanagher where there may be another large cairn. It seems to have a bearing to the mid-summer extreme moonsets.
The name, Caillí a Vera is derived from the Hag of Beara who is ultimately derived from Buí, the wife of Lugh. Caillí or Hags are associated with several cairns and sites, and in some of the tales are said to have built the cairns by dropping stones from their aprons as they hopped across the hills. Loughcrew, Sliabh Gullion, Knowth, and possibly Corn Hill in Longford are associated with the Hag, as are the caves and cairn of Kesh Corran to the south. The local Hag in Sligo was Garavogue, after whom the Sligo river, which is the shortest in Ireland, is named. The local folklore has the Hag living on the mountain with the mad king Sweeney. The dark mountain lake, Lough Da Gé (above) got its name from a time when they both transformed themselves into geese and dived to the bottom of the lake.
Looking south to the distcintive peaks of Sliabh Da Ean from the flat summit of Cairns Hill West. From here the hills make the shape of a pregnant woman lying down: the face (right) at Cailli a Vera's House, followed by the breast at Sliabh Dargan, and the belly at Sliabh Da Ean.