At this time of year, my mind and heart turn towards our forefathers and mothers – especially the ancient ones who have left behind a myriad of mysteries for their modern children to unravel. There are so many wonderful places in the world that speak to the people they were and the beliefs, talents, and skills they possessed.
This solstice, I would like to focus on one such place that was built, it seems, specifically to honour the winter solstice sun: Newgrange. Predating Stonehenge by about a thousand years, this monument in Ireland has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is older than the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece and the Great Pyramid of Giza of ancient Egypt.
On the night before the solstice, many people are drawn to this temple to wait for dawn. Those lucky enough to win a lottery to gain access to the interior may witness the 17 minute long illumination of the chamber by the light of the rising sun.
Credit: Photograph by Cyril Byrne – courtesy of The Irish Times
The Neolithic people who built Newgrange did so without metal; they used tools made out of wood, bone, antler, or stone. Not only did they build this entire temple with such tools, but they decorated it with carvings as well. One of the most famous examples of Neolithic stone art is the entrance stone. It is 10 feet long by 4 feet wide and has triskele – like carvings all over its front.
If you would like to learn more about Newgrange, or perhaps try your luck at the lottery to visit next year, the website http://www.newgrange.com/ is very informative.
Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!