Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Sarah and I agreed that this is our favorite photo from the entire trip, and it was snapped atop the Hill of Tara during a brief stop on the bus tour we took out of Dublin to Newgrange. While we really enjoyed Dublin, we are both more comfortable in the country than the city and this scene has it all—lush, green rolling hills, dotted with sheep and farmhouses, and the odd church or folly gracing the horizon.
According to the pamphlet we picked up, Tara is a royal place where 142 kings reigned in the Name of Tara, a sacred place known as a dwelling place of the gods where St. Patrick is said to have converted the ancient rulers of Ireland to Christianity, and a Celtic place with settlements and burial mounds dating back to more than 4000 years ago.
After Tara, we boarded the bus and continued on to Newgrange in the Brú na Bóinne, which is Gaelic for Palace of the Boyne, in the Boyne Valley.
There we got to go inside the burial mound at Newgrange.
You enter through the bottom of the two openings, and the passageway slopes upward so that when you are in the center of the mound, your feet are even with the bottom of the top opening. At dawn during the winter solstice, sunlight penetrates the top opening, illuminating the entire chamber, which energizes the souls of the people whose ashes are stored within, thereby blessing their descendents.
There is a lottery into which anyone can enter their name to win the privilege to enter the tomb at Newgrange to witness dawn during the winter solstice. We didn’t enter.
One of my favorite tidbits that our guide shared is that the Boyne meanders in such a way that it makes almost a complete circle and within this circle are the huge burial mounds of Newgrange, Dowth, and Knowth. Emanating from these are smaller satellite mounds, and radiating from these smaller mounds are even smaller satellite mounds. Truly a sacred area.
The other cool thing I thought about was how the designs on the stones that surround the mound remind me of classic Celtic scrollwork. A coincidence? I like to think not.