There is not much in this world that I love more than ancient myths and legends. My obsession started in 7th grade, when my English teacher assigned us to read Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton, and to dress/act as our chosen Greek God/Goddess for a sort of Greek Pantheon Party (I chose Artemis, and spent all of the party shooting foam arrows from my bow, and sneering at the girl who’d chosen Hera–I’m not sure if it was just me playing true to my character, or the fact that I genuinely disliked this girl).
From Greek Mythology I moved swiftly towards the myths and legends of my own ancestry: Ireland.
Newgrange is one of the most famous ancient sites in Ireland. Nearly 200,000+ people visit the passage tomb every year–some of the highest number of visits happen around the Winter Solstice, when the sun aligns with the narrow passage way and illuminates the tomb.
Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It is one of three ancient tomb sites in the Boyne Valley of Ireland (A section of Ireland’s Ancient East).
I visited Newgrange on January 10, 2017. I’d been unable to visit Newgrange before then, because I did not have a reliable sort of transportation to take me out into the heart of the Boyne Valley. This time, my cousin Catherine was kind enough to drive my friend, Cat, and I to the ancient site. She sat in the cafe, sipping tea and reading a newspaper while Cat and I traveled back in time.
There are plenty of theories as to why Newgrange was built; one as a burial place for a chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Dagda Mór, and his three sons; another as an Ancient Temple for astrological, spiritual, and religious ceremonies; and my favorite, as the home of some mythical swans–linked to the Whooper Swans which migrate through Ireland every October and March.
Newgrange was built at the crest of one of the highest hills in the Boyne Valley. It overlooks the land in such a way that makes the green grass roll like waves with the trees. The drive to Newgrange is winding and nauseating in the way that most of the roadways in rural Ireland can be. Still, the upset stomach is worth it as you pull up the entrance of the park.
To enter the tomb, you must first climb past a small shack that houses the guides. Massive, carved stones mark the entrance to the tomb. Various other standing stones dot the landscape, and it is nearly impossible to resist the urge to throw your arms around those stones, and wish upon every swirl carved into them that you would be transported back to the days when this tomb was just being built.
Sadly, I did not physically travel back in time that day, but a sort of enlightenment did dawn on me as the guide herded our small group into the tomb. Now, to be honest, Newgrange is SHORT and NARROW. There is only one way in and out. If you do not like tight places, this is not the journey for you. But, if you have an intense love for old things, like I do, there is nothing like the excitement that pebbles your skin when you settle at the back of the tomb, into the largest chamber.
No pictures are allowed within the tomb. But, I can still remember the way each of the three alcoves glowed with the low light of our guide’s flashlight. My eyes devoured each inch that was revealed to us, the history behind each stone unknown, but the people who placed them there did so with care, and skill–to the point that everything still stood even though it is over 5000 years old.
Each breath I took within the chamber was pulled from me in shallow gasps. A strange feeling settled on my shoulders. The same sort of feeling that I encountered in the older castles, and forests of Ireland. The feeling of something else, the mystical, the unknown.
As it was not the Winter Solstice when we visited, the guide reenacted the illuminating of the main passage with the help of a flashlight and our imagination. It was then that the mystical feeling crescendo-ed into a symphony.
I don’t know if Newgrange was built by the Fae Folk of Ireland, or if the ghosts that are buried within the stones still linger there, but I do know that Newgrange is special. It’s the sort of place that reminded me to stop, and breathe in the past.
The mystery of its creation is not what drew me to Newgrange, but it is what keeps me aching to return.
What’s your favorite ancient site to visit in Ireland?
Who knows, I might just be writing about it next 😉
Long time no see–eh? I got wore down these past few months with the idea of blogging. It had become more of a chore, rather than something I enjoyed doing. Those feelings–thankfully– have passed, and I’m back. There’s no set schedule as to when I’ll post right now, but I will post and I am glad for each of you that have decided to follow me.
Thanks for Reading!