Newgrange is about one hour north, and 5,500 years away, from Dublin. The massive, ancient complex is 1,000 years older than Stonehenge and at least 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza. The River Boyne pauses in this gentle valley to wrap its arms around Newgrange. That’s quite appropriate because this was the home of the goddess Boyne.
Boyne was one very busy woman. It was here that she had a notorious affair with the Sun God. In just one day, she conceived and gave birth to Aengus Og, the god of youth and beauty. The same day, while nursing her child, she created the Milky Way. (A woman’s work is never done…) Some of Ireland’s earliest stories come from the Boyne Valley where her son, Aengus, held court.
Newgrange is a concentric mound of clay with chambers. Near the entrance, 17 hearths were used to set fires. What happened around these fires? What dreams and thoughts took shape? The Milky Way had already been created, but there was still a lot of work to do in Ireland, and apparently, that work required space.
The Newgrange mound is 250 feet across, 40 feet high, and covers one acre. Inside the mound, a passage 60 feet long leads to a chamber shaped like a cross. The center burial chamber’s roof rises steeply upward to a height of 20 feet. A tribute to its builders, the roof has remained intact and waterproof for over 5,000 years. (And to think—all without building inspectors and permits!)
The spirals engraved on the amazing entrance slab, one of the most famous stones in all of megalithic art, include a triple-spiral motif. That triple spiral is found only at Newgrange, but its placement is similar to mounds at the Isle of Man, in ancient Sicily, and in North Wales. (We believe that ancient people loved to travel as much as we do.) The function of the mound is astronomical, and many believe that its art offers a key to reading the glyphs inside the mounds. Mystery abounds…
The Winter Solstice is the shining moment. Once a year, the rising sun shines directly along the Newgrange passage into the chamber for 17 minutes. It illuminates the floor of the inner chamber, and it is breath-taking. This alignment is too precise to be mere chance. Today, the first light enters about four minutes after sunrise. But, 5,000 years ago, the first light would have entered exactly at sunrise.
Visitors to Newgrange are treated to a re-enactment of this event, with the use of special lighting, all year around.
This winter solstice, you can watch the light stream into Newgrange on the internet. Better yet…go to Newgrange, the place where an Irish queen built the Milky Way. Authentic Ireland would be happy to make your arrangements!