Winter Solstice at Newgrange

One gets to experience winter solstice from Newgrange through a lottery which I have not yet won, but I have had the good fortunate to experience the simulation that brings light through to the chamber during every tour, as described in Celtic Spirit. Imagine yourself in Ancient times, welcoming the sun: the source of light, heat, life itself. Imagine yourself inside the chamber.

Timothy, the Irish bus driver is speaking:

“Before we know it, we are standing in line to enter the chamber itself. I am wishing that folks could have taken in the wide view before we got into the line. Will I not need to remind them to walk around the big mound itself upon exiting?  ’Tis now re-sided with what is considered its original white quartz stone, but not too long ago, all caved-in like, it looked like a natural hill on the grassy plain. Only in realizing that, can you understand what Dorrie was saying about all the interpretations of the history of the place.

For now, we examine the doorway, the positioning of the lintel and the roof-box. Aloud, everyone speculates on how the Ancient Ones knew to do such work; advanced degrees in architecture, astronomy, and engineering would be needed today to construct such a thing. ’Tis hard to imagine how they arranged to build it so on the morning of the winter solstice the sun’s first rays would enter through that space and illuminate the interior. Truly mystifying. Jake adds to the wonderment by telling us that he read this was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge. I must remark that in the natural order of things, the Irish are always ahead of the English.

The guide warns folks it will be dark, and the walls get closer together in the passage way sloping upward into the chamber. He assures us that the inner chamber is large, artificially lit, and comfortable. But I was not prepared for the extraordinary feeling I get when we get to the Center. ’Tis both cave and cathedral. ’Tis the Womb of the Mother and an unimaginable edifice of ancient civilization. The longer we stand, the more the energy of the place builds. I didn’t feel this way on previous tours.

When we are all nicely situated, Dorrie signals the guide. He asks that we clear a path going straight from the passage way to the basin in the far recess. We do that. He turns off the lights and we hear Dorrie’s voice.

We come humbly to this place as did those who came before.

We stand humbly in the silence of the darkness as did those who came before.

We wait for the light and are grateful for its return.

At that moment, a beam of light comes through from the roof-box, down the chamber and rests in the basin, directly on the three-spiral design. We know it is a laser simulation, but it is still magical. Beyond understanding. Not a sound is made for what seems like minutes, but is probably only seconds, before Herself continues.

And as the light fades away again, we return to darkness.

We trust that darkness and trust that it will once again return to light.

As the day turns to night and back to day again, so turn the seasons. And so turn the seasons of our lives and the cycle of our birth, death, and rebirth.

May it ever be so.

Blessed be.


Gordie gives two drum beats from his bodhran. The slow, full-bodied sound penetrates the depth of the silent, eerie space and chills me bones.

After nigh on an eternity, Herself makes melodious music from deep within her soul. ’Tis an ancient chant which it appears a number of the women and Rob know. ’Tis simple enough and we all join in, as if compelled by a gentle force to be a part of it all:

The earth, the air, the fire, the water: Return, return, return, return

The earth, the air, the fire, the water: Return, return, return, return

Aye ay aye ay aye ay aye ay: Aye oh aye oh aye oh aye oh

Aye ay aye ay aye ay aye ay: Aye oh aye oh aye oh aye oh.

The guide turns the lights back on, saying his own flustered thanks to Dorrie, saying he has never experienced a ritual the likes of this one and that he will carry the experience with him from here on. Aye, he is not the only one stunned by it all. Finally, our man takes a deep breath and shoos us on out.

By all the saints, ’tis mighty and brilliant altogether.”

May the turning of the year bode well for you as we welcome back the Sun.


Jeanne CraneComment