25 August, Ireland: Newgrange, Sacred Site
Summary: Visiting Newgrange 5000 years, astronomical, ET?, spiral/symbolic carvings, crystal walls, Celtic ritual, sacred spirituality and deities, precise building techniques, and mystery of moving solid granite stones (200,000 tonnes) and winter solstice sunrise.
I flew into Dublin around 4.30pm, I had no idea where I was staying. I had a feeling to find accommodation at Newgrange or a town nearby. I felt to travel today. I purchased an Irish sim card and was given tourist advice. I was told I could catch a bus to Drogheda for 9 euro, 60 kilometers north of Dublin. There were B&Bs so I booked one for the night. I caught a bus to Newgrange and bought a 6 euro ticket to visit this site. I joined a group and caught a bus to the site. I could see mounds in the distance and as I got closer a round structure white crystal stones and large stones forming the base. There were carvings on the base stones and i remember looking at them and wondering if the symbols had some sort of code on them. The doorway had a large stone out the front with spirals. I am aware that spirals can signify the basic design of the universe, think of spiral universes, swirling patterns that indicate life travelling in a flow and direction that expands. That is how I perceive it. I filmed some commentary which I will upload and walked through a long tunnel to reach the inner sanctum. Some further historical information as follows.
A Passage to the Afterworld
Newgrange is arguably one of the finest monuments of European pre-history. Dating to circa 3200 B.C., it was built during the Neolithic or New Stone Age by a wealthy farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley.
Archaeologists classify Newgrange as a passage tomb, but for its builders, Newgrange was much more than simply a place of burial. It housed the spirits of their ancestors, providing a link for the living community to the world of their deities and serving as a focal point for ritual and celebration.
Passage tombs, as the name implies, consist of a passage leading to a chamber where the remains of the dead (usually cremated) were placed. The passage and chamber are covered by a large mound of stones and earth, retained at the base by large kerbstones. The amount of time and labor invested in their construction tells us much about the well-organized societies and specialized groups responsible for different aspects of their construction.
Newgrange is part of a large complex of monuments built along a bend of the River Boyne known collectively as Brú na Bóinne. The other two principal monuments are Knowth (the largest) and Dowth, but throughout the region there are as many as 35 smaller passage-tombs and many other sites of great archaeological importance and interest.
Excavations conducted beginning in 1962 revealed Knowth to be a complicated multi-period site. There are 18 smaller tombs around the great mound, at least two of which are even older than it is. Knowth was a focal point for ritual activity until the early Bronze Age. After that there is a gap in the story until about the time of Christ, when the mound was transformed into a fortified dwelling. Settlement continued at Knowth, and by 800 A.D. it was the residence of the Kings of Northern Brega, one of whom became High King of Ireland. Though these settlements are significant, it is as a passage tomb cemetery that its fame and intrigue lie.
Dowth is the least well-known of the three great tombs of the Boyne Valley. It has not yet been excavated, but initial investigations reveal two passage tombs within the mound.
Of the three main passage tombs in the Boyne Valley, Newgrange has always attracted the most attention. For, although it may not be unique in Western Europe, its mound contained a secret that remained hidden for hundreds of years.
The Newgrange Passage
The passageway within Newgrange is just less than 60 feet long and leads into a chamber with three side recesses. This chamber is roofed by a corbelled vault, which has remained intact and watertight without any conservation or repair. The cairn (stone mound) that covers the chamber is estimated to weigh 200,000 tons and is retained at its base by 97 massive kerbstones.
As is typical of Irish passage tombs, the recess on the right as one enters is the largest and most ornate. On the floor of this recess lie two stone basins, one inside the other. The outer basin is a superb example of the skill of its Neolithic makers, having been shaped from solid granite, as opposed to the other two recesses, which were carved from sandstone. Archaeologists believe that these stone basins once held the remains of the dead.
Because the chamber was disturbed before proper excavation, it is not known how many people were originally interred at Newgrange. The remains of five bodies were recovered inside, though the original number was probably much higher. Most of the bones found had been cremated, with only small amounts left unburned. The artefacts remaining in the grave at the time of its excavation were beads made of bone as well as pendants and polished stone balls. Undoubtedly, these objects held a special significance in the burial ritual. It is possible that more spectacular objects were originally present but were removed without having been recorded.
The chamber at Newgrange has been accessible in modern times since 1699. Before then it appeared merely as a large, overgrown mound much as Dowth appears today. Curiously, even though it was recognized as a man-made feature, it lay undisturbed for centuries, most likely due to superstition and out of respect for the dead.
In Celtic mythology, Newgrange (or Si An Bhru as it was once known) was the home of the greatest of the Celtic gods, the Dagda Mor and his son Aongus. And throughout most of history, Newgrange was revered as a sacred place.
A circle of 12 menhirs (upright boulders) surrounds Newgrange. Originally, there may have been more, but if so, they were dislodged long ago. Following the excavation of the woodhenge, it became apparent that the stone circle was erected sometime after 2000 B.C. The purpose of the stone circle is unclear, but research indicates that it could have had an astronomical function. In any case, it was the final stage of building at Newgrange.
With the coming of the Celts, Newgrange was transformed into a house for their deities. Brú na Bóinne is featured in many of the great Celtic myths. As a dwelling place of the deities, it was revered even by visitors from Roman Britain as late as 400 A.D. Their votive offerings of coins and jewelry were recovered from the top of the mound during excavations.
The sunrise on the mornings around the Solstice (December 18th to December 23rd). The winter solstice sunbeam would have made its way to the back recess of the central chamber. Due to changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis the sunbeam now stops 2 metres from the back recess.
Solstice literally means ‘Sun Stands Still’, for a few days around the time of the winter solstice the sun appears to stand still in the sky in that its elevation at noon does not seem to change.