Karin and I have been in the Boyne Valley of Ireland at a celebration of artist and archaeoastronomer Martin Brennan’s return to the Emerald Isle after twenty-seven years. When he left, archeoastronomy in Ireland was, to say the least, in the depths of a deep dark cloud. Martin had done magnificent work exposing the reality that the chambered cairns (so-called “passage graves”) were astronomically oriented - something that establishment archaeologists not only dismissed, but in some cases, actively opposed because their digs had not taken the Sun in to consideration when they were doing their work.
But a quarter of a century can bring great changes, and at this past weekend’s Boyne Valley Revision Conference, where in addition to Martin, Toby Hall and Jack Roberts, both of whom had helped Martin to do his ground-breaking astronomical work in the seventies spoke of their experiences and the work they were doing today.
Sig Lonegren, Toby Hall, Martin Brennan and Jack Roberts
There were two major shifts that occurred at this gathering from an archaeological and astronomical point of view. First, Newgrange and the other Neolithic mounds were not primarily graves. Yes, perhaps some did have bones of their ancestors in them, but this was not their major purpose: they were Ceremonial Temples that celebrated life and the cycles of the year as well as their ancestors. The second point was that it is no longer a question of whether astronomy was part of these sites. All of them have significant astronomical orientations - not only here in Ireland, but essentially all over the prehistoric world. (This is something I have felt for years, but it is now out on the floor of general acceptance - apparently, even amongst a growing number of establishment archaeologists.)
Sadly, acceptance of dowsing as a valid tool to use in sacred space is at about the same place as Martin’s astronomical work was in the seventies - even among those who were present at the Boyne Valley Revision. Yes, there were a number of participants who resonated with divining (as it is known over here in Ireland), still there were many comments like, “Oh, I was glad you didn’t wiggle sticks during your talk,” and there was a general lack of clear consensus that dowsing was equally as valid as archaeoastronomy in ancient sites. I think that the problem is that dowsing is just that much more “right brain;” just that more requiring of the experiential side of sacred space. If you are in Newgrange for the winter Solstice Sunrise, and the Sun actually comes up in a clear sky, anyone can experience the reality of archaeoastronomical alignments. On the other hand, you have to be willing to even hold a Y rod in your hands before you can experience the pull, and even then, the left brain can give you all kinds of reasons why that happened - undoubtely influenced by the totally left brain rational education most of us had in school. Oh well, our time will come.
For me, it was the experience of Newgrange at Sunrise on the Winter Solstice that was the most meaningful bit of the weekend.
Karin at Newgrange
at the Winter Solstice Sunrise
It should be clear to you from the picture of Karin that we were not one of the lucky ones to be inside the chamber at the moment of sunrise. The ones inside had won a place through a lottery, and thousands had applied (we hadn’t). Instead, we were with the multitude (?200 +/-) of other plebes outside in the freezing cold.
So, after a while, we went around to the back of the mound to Kerb Stone 52 - at the other end of the major axis of the site, and examined the symbols on it with Martin.
Sig and Martin discussing Kerb Stone 52 at Newgrange
When we went ‘round again to the front, we found that the crowd had greatly diminished, and the authorities were allowing the rest of the plebes to go in in groups of fifteen. We were among the last group, and there were just eight of us including Irish Shamans John Cantwell and Karen Ward who had a drum and we all chanted in the pitch black darkness under the vaulted dome in the chamber.
Now that’s Magic!
Happy Winter Solstice,
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