Labbacallee Wedge Tomb, Cork, Ireland

Long ago, four men went digging one night for gold that lay hidden at Labbacallee. Soon after they began to dig, a strange cat, with fire erupting from its tail, appeared to the men. Dazzled by the light, they ran in terror through the darkness till they fell into the nearby River Funshion. Although one man died in the dark river, three of the would-be gold-diggers survived to tell their cautionary tale and neither the gold nor the cat were ever seen again. “

(Local legend quoted on the information board at the entrance to Labbacallee)

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb also known as ‘the Bed of the Witch’ is one of the largest wedge tombs in Ireland. Measuring 13metres long and 6 metres in width at the wedge end. The tomb is split into two chambers, when first constructed the tomb would have been covered by a cairn of stones, the entrance is aligned with the sun on the spring and autumn equinox. Three massive capstones enclose the tombs. Labbacallee wedge tomb has been linked with the Celtic hag-goddess ‘Caillech Bhearra’ and the excavation at the site in 1934 may give us the reason it was called the hag or witches bed. Sometime around 2200BC the semi decomposed and decapitated remains of a woman were entombed here in the smaller chamber, her head was placed separately in the large main chamber, standing upright and placed between two fragments of a teenage boys skull. One of the archaeologists involved noted how the woman’s skeleton appeared to have a deformed leg, perhaps this was the reason she was labelled as a ‘witch’. However the early Celtic belief in ‘the cult of the head’ may suggest that the woman was revered rather than feared.

In total the remains of five people were found buried in this tomb, also the remains of a young woman were found in a cist burial at the western end of the tomb. It wasn’t until the Iron Age that the site was acquired the name ‘Leaba Caillighe’ (Bed of the Witch/Hag) and was linked with the ‘Caillech Bhearra’ but perhaps this was due to knowledge of the unusual, possibly ritualistic burial that happened at this site in the Bronze Age. 

GPS: 52.1742, -8.33457

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