Newgrange in Ireland: Burial or Ceremonial Site?

Newgrange is the most famous prehistoric monument in Ireland, but its precise purpose is not certain. Some say it was a burial site, while others believe it was a ceremonial site used for initiation rites. In his book “Tommy Makem’s Secret Ireland,” the late Irish folksinger wrote:

According to some ancient manuscripts, the builders of Newgrange and their descendants used to communicate with the spirits of the dead in religious rites. They would enter the tumulus and fast for three days and three nights, lying or squatting on the stone troughs in complete darkness. After the fast, communication would be achieved and the initiates would emerge into the light.

What is known is that Newgrange was originally built about 3100 BC. In 1669 it was accidentally discovered, and between 1962 and 1975 it was extensively restored.

There is a window box above the entrance aligned perfectly to the sunrise on the Winter Solstice. On December 21st, the golden rays of the rising sun move inwards and shine on the back wall, remaining for about 17 minutes. Some say this penetration of Mother Earth by Father Sun is a fertility symbol, reminding us of the return of the light and the renewal of life that comes with it.

A tour of sacred sites in Ireland that includes a visit to Newgrange has recently been announced by Body Mind Spirit Journeys. The group tour, May 20 through June 2, 2013 features meditations and rituals in stone circles. In addition to Newgrange, the group will go to Loughcrew, the Hill of Tara and the Dromberg stone circle. For more information, please follow this link.

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Ireland Sacred Sites Tour Announced

The Ireland sacred sites tour recently announced by Body Mind Spirit Journeys¬† features some of the most enchanted places on the planet, and the one at the top of my list is Newgrange. Its name in the Irish language is Brugh Na Boinne, and I was lucky enough to have the late singer from the Clancy Brothers folk music group, Tommy Makem, tell me about it. Tommy was admittedly obsessive about Newgrange, and it features prominently in his book, Tommy Makem’s Secret Ireland.

Newgrange carvingsThe site dates from the fourth millennium B.C. It is estimated at 6,000 year old, and many believe it is the oldest man-made building in the world. It was carefully constructed to capture the first rays of morning sunlight during the shortest days of the year, the winter solstice. At sunrise between the 19th and 23rd of December, the light enters a precisely placed window box to illuminate the back wall of a chamber for a few magical minutes.

I have been told there is an impossibly long waiting list to visit Newgrange during the winter solstice, so it is a good thing this tour will be exploring the site on the 21st of May.

The photograph above shows carvings on a huge stone in front of the entrance, including the famous Newgrange Triple Spiral. If you click on the photograph, you will be able to see a larger sized image.

Of course there are at least a dozen more destinations on the itinerary, including the beehive huts where monks once lived on the Dingle Peninsula and a visit to Dublin’s Trinity College to see the world’s most famous ancient illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells.

If you have not yet visited the emerald isle, this spiritual tour will be a golden opportunity to learn at first hand whether or not it really is a long way to Tipperary.

To see the complete itinerary, please follow this link: Ireland sacred sites

 

 

 

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