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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Grange Stone Circle Highlights Spiritual Ireland Tours

I was recently reading through the itinerary details for the three tours of Ireland Body Mind Spirit Journeys is offering this year and one name stood out: the Grange Stone Circle near Lough Gur. It’s not a place I have been to, but I finally recalled who had told me about it. It was Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, the M.D., psychiatrist and author whose books include Crossing to Avalon and Goddesses in Everywoman. I had interviewed her about the pilgrimages she had made to sacred sites, and it was among her favorites.

Grange stone circle Lough Gur Ireland“It’s drawn me back to Ireland five or six times,” she told me. The Grange Stone Circle is only about 10 miles south of Limerick, and it’s very large — nearly one hundred feet across.

Dr. Bolen described being there: “You walk into the circle with the pillar stones and then you are in this timeless, beautiful place, aligned to the summer solstice. I was taken by…the energy, the beauty, the nature of it,” she said, adding that she felt it had “heart energy” and “invited a lot of intuitive imagery. Some element of the place lends itself to a kind of  mystical experience for me,” she concluded.

I suppose this is why tour host Amantha Murphy not only features this Irish stone circle in each of her tours, she even holds her opening ceremonies there. Amantha has been leading pilgrimages in her native Ireland for nearly 20 years, including both sacred journeys and spiritual group tours for women only.

This year’s tours for both men and women are being held May 27 to June 5, and September 16 through 25.

The women’s only Ireland tour dates are August 27 through September 4, 2011.

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