Ancient Ireland—Nature’s Rhythm

Step into my time machine and buckle up for a wild ride. Leave your cell phone behind–Stone age people will sacrifice your life to the goddess if they find technology. Our first stop is 3,200 B.C. Ireland to a settlement along the River Boyne, called Newgrange.

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later enclosure built downhill from Newgrange with stones from the temple

We’ve teleported to the far side of the river, allowing a walk through the village of thatched roof, wattle and timber dwellings. Metal smithing hasn’t been invented yet, but let me point out the men expertly flinting stone where they sit around the fire. Women work in the fields, tending crops and taking care of newly domesticated animals in penned enclosures. Leaving a nomad life behind, this community follows the rhythm of nature: warming of the earth, fertility of soil followed by harvest leading to preparation for winter darkness and death. They know the importance of the sun, measuring time and observing astronomy. With settlement, a religion honoring women has developed. The young girl rises to fertility. A new mother mysteriously births a child and then nourishes her young from her own body. If she lives long enough (doubtful) she will become a frail woman of forty years. Seasons of nature reflect seasons of life.

Let’s walk up the hill to the passage tomb and temple.img_0027 The entrance faces the rising sun. On the winter solstice, light enters the roof-box above the entrance, flashes down the narrow 60’ corridor and illuminates the back wall for seventeen minutes.img_0141 This engineering marvel measures 279’ wide, 39’ high, covering a little over an acre of land. Approximately 200,000 tons of rock, including a face of white quartz (collected from 25 miles to the south) and dark cobbled stone (collected from 25 miles to the north) outline the face of the temple.

547 huge inner slabs and outer kerbstones support the weighted structure.  It’s estimated that the monoliths were transported by river and then uphill to the site. Life is good and peace reigns, otherwise this marvel wouldn’t have been created.img_0029

There are many chamber and passage tombs all over Great Britain, but Newgrange is the grand cathedral because of extensive art work. The triple spiral represents the goddess, three female forms for eternity. Christianity stole the symbol, changing the threesome to the male Father, Son, and Holy Ghost after destroying matriarch religions and subjugating women as chattel.

Cupules carved into kerbstones appear in groups of 6 or 3. Is this a recording of events on a calendar or something else? Parallel lines lead to zigzags, or spirals. Unique triangles and diamond shapes might be a reminder to remain grounded to earth but keep focus on the spirit world. Or is the stylized shape a woman’s genitals, honoring where life begins?

Enter the passage, bending your head in submission. Notice the carvings inside, especially the outline of feminine hands. Think about them as we stand in the same spot. At the end, three side rooms face different directions: East, West, and North. Each chamber has a stone basin and two of them held cremated remains and bone remanents of at least 5 individuals. But the chamber on your right has a special carved basin made of granite. Human ash wasn’t found here. Maybe this was used as a birthing place with worshiped ancestors in the other chambers. Observing nature, would ancient people contemplate the complexity of reincarnation and renewal?

As decades progress, standing stones will be erected around the behemoth cairn. In our era there are 12 remaining but book the Bronze age time travel tour, to see a majestic 35 stone circle. You may also book the later Iron age journey, with the addition of pit circles and timber arches.  Six thousand years later, Newgrange remains a place of inspiration.

Hill of Tara

Let’s follow the light from burning bonfires atop the hill of Tara, the earthly portal to the ancient gods and the entrance of heaven. We are still in the stone age, but the later neolithic era. The 100 acre site is the coronation place for over 142 high Kings of Ireland and is the largest Celtic monument in Europe.  The ancient name was Liathdroim with dedication to the mother goddess Maeve. A text from around 600 A.D. states a contender for the throne from the chiefs of Ireland had to get drunk and marry the goddess in a ceremony. Women were treated as equals in this time, with all rights afforded men. In fact, a ring fort dedicated to a legendary warrior queen lies 1/2 mile from where we stand.

The oldest mound is a neolithic passage tomb that held hundreds of cremated remains as well as a rich burial of a young man. This is known as “the mound of hostages” and was constructed 5,000 years ago. The name implies the safety of this place where chieftains exchanged captive prisoners.

Moving to the north are ringforts, one with three banks known as the Rath of Synods and an Iron age earthwork with an internal ditch, thought to be the royal enclosure. This is the standing Stone of Destiny. If the would-be-king is righteous, the stone will roar three times. When I touched the phallic shaped stone, not even a whisper was heard. In myth, King Laoghaire is buried nearby in an upright position, dressed in full armor.

A grove of Hawthorn trees form a line. This is the tree of the goddess for seduction and fertility. To this day, women tie colored strings in the branches or leave notes and offerings.img_0095

Moving down the hill, there’s remains of a long ceremonial avenue or maybe a banquet hall. Debates continue over the function of the 656′ ruin. A 11th century text states a hall with over 140 entrances stood here.img_0164

If you visit in modern times, there’s a decommissioned Catholic church built above other ruins. Near an old wall there is an easily missed small standing stone. It’s believed that the figure of the fertility god, Cernunos is etched on the face.img_0160

Modern travelers can visit these sites as well as the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick defied the Celtic king in 433 AD, and 5th century Monasterboice, founded by St. Buite on a day trip from Dublin. We liked the small group size and reasonable rates with  https://www.daytoursunplugged.ie

 

 

The Perfect Pour

The Perfect Pour

To send a liquid or loose particles flowing or falling

From one container to another, or into, over, or on to something

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 My thoughts are loose and flowing while the airplane slowly circles down to the tarmac. Emotions bubble up and I fight tears. I’m headed to the home of ancestors who left Ireland under times of starvation and death, not able to practise faith, marry legally, buy land or vote.

In the United States, these rights are considered my birthright. But the way the world is going, I may have to stand and fight to retain these freedoms. Those before me chose to leave on ships facing the western sun with hope-filled hearts.  Four generations later, I return, a legacy fulfilled and a spine built of grit.

Left behind are tales and songs of beautiful grass and hills, high cliffs and roaring surf.

My families love for Ireland remained as they endured racial slurs and menial jobs in America. Their suffering will never be taken lightly—for they built a strong cornerstone upon which my life was allowed to soar. I am truly blessed.

Once on the ground, my feet will tread a venerable path—be it dirt or cobblestone– across the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, down to Dingle as we walk the Kerry Camino pilrimage. We trek across beautiful ballinskelligs with amazing beaches and visit the hermitage at Skelling Michael on a perfect day. Come along and explore rich stone age sites to Trinity College library and the Book of Kells (where my ancestors wouldn’t have been allowed).

I’ll wrap my hands around a mug of a perfectly poured Guinness at the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1198. Did those before me indulge in the feel of thick foam on the tongue? Sipping Irish whiskey, my feet tap to music. Singing creates a fairy enchantment not allowing a single wallflower as we dance with each other and strangers alike. No one is shy in Ireland. Life is too short and we must live with our glasses full.

My Celtic heart warms. Welcome back home! Come over here for a hug! Amid much laughter, invisible roots plunge deep into the green grass. And there is the greatest gift of all—those who remained and endured welcome me as long-lost kin. Those who return, fall into their arms, melting away generations of separation and leaving a wellspring of love.

Back in the U.S.A., I kneel graveside, and whisper to those who worked so hard to make my life easier, “I completed the circle, because you could not.” I ken they hear and approve. Peace bridges time, flowing across oceans and distant lands, filling one heart and connecting to others. The perfect pour.