When the Winter Solstice sun shines through the roof-box over the entrance door. It lights up the passage inside it. Runs along its 19 meters into the chamber. Then the beam widens as the sun rises to its full hight and lights up all of the chamber.
Every mid-winter we celebrate this great work of architecture. The brain power used to conceive it. Design it. Source and haul the huge stones to the site. And then build this awesome structure.
Mid winter miracle
If the sun shines at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December. The miracle happens. The roof box lights up. And sunlight streams into the passage. To the great joy of the sun worshipers.
We Irish are a sun-worshiping people. We can never get enough of it. That is why you will find Irish people in every sun blessed country of the world. Even those who live at home head off on sunshine holidays as often as they can. And you should see the joy on the faces of those who stay at home when the sun shines in Ireland.
But the sun doesn’t always shine at dawn between the 19th and 23rd of December. And this uncertainty adds to the celebration when it does. Which it did in the winter of 2001 and again and again in the last decade. You can see the wonder of it for yourself at http://www.knowth.eu/winter-solstice.htm These images will help you to imagine how it stirred the hearts and minds of those gathered to witness it 50,000 years ago.
Mid winter omen
Built 500 years before the great pyramids. And more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge. Newgrange is an accurate time teller. That works as well today as it did when it was built. Originally made to mark the return of the sun. And the beginning of the new year. It was a great omen of good fortune when the sun shone through the roof-box in mid winter. And a great event to celebrate though-out our fair land.
It now stands as a symbol of a great nation stretching right back to the new stone age. Capturing our deep religious beliefs. Our inventiveness. And our ability to celebrate all that is good about life.
Mid winter enlightenment
Newgrange is a great source of inspiration. It is holy ground. The first time I entered the doorway and walked along the passage to the chamber. I was carrying my baby daughter in my arms. And I sensed I was walking in a holy place.
Three-year-old Siobhan was not impressed. “Stones nothing but stones”, she whispered in my ear. Suppressing a laugh. I thought instead of how privileged I was to be able to sense the history of the place. And identify with the awe and reverence of my stone-age forefathers. Who had built this place. And waited year after year for the mid winter sun to shine through the roof box and light up the passage. To mark the return of the sun god to their midst.
The place still inspires me. And we all need inspiration in our lives. It makes us feel good. It helps us to dig deep and find the courage to achieve things that matter to us. It puts the problems and difficulties that hold us back into a true perspective.
As inspiring as the structure itself is. I am even more inspired by those people who built it. Stone-age man never struck me as having this great level of ability. The ability to calculate the angle of the early morning mid-winter sun. The ability to plan the building. The ability to identify and transport the huge stones from County Wicklow. The ability to build with such precision. The ability to organise a work team of craftsmen. And to build a structure that still does what they designed it to do 50,000 years later.
These are the founders of our great nation. They are our roots. Who not only built a structure that endures to this day. But laid down the values, the spiritualism, the camaraderie, the sense of adventure and achievement that marks us as a people. An enlightened people.