Newgrange

 

 

Newgrange:
Brú na Bóinne, Ireland
One of Ireland’s most infamous monuments and archaeological sites, Newgrange is amongst the Bru na Boinne World Heritage sites next to Knowth and Dowth. It is popular like Stonehenge with its Solstice astronomical line-ups and viewing of the sun as it appears through its portal. The monument is a large mound complex shaped like a giant kidney covering an area of about an acre of land and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones most of which are decorated by megalithic rock art. Newgrange is one of the best examples in Ireland and Western Europe of a passage grave or tomb. Constructed around 3200 BCE, this site is older than the Egyptian pyramids and a 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. Located along a elongated ridge on the Boyne River, five miles west of Drogheda, and close to the location where the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690. Built entirely wih stone tools the Faerie Sidhe (folklore) or Passage Grave (Archaeology) is an impressive monument: The purpose of the monument is disputed greatly as there is no evidence that Newgrange was used as a repository for bodies, bones, burial artifacts or ash. Mythology tells us that the Tuatha Dé Danann, legendary first rulers of Ireland, built Newgrange as a burial place for their chief – the Dagda Mór with his three sons. The site is also believed to be where the hero Cúchulainn was conceived by his mother Dechtine. Also listed in mythology as a Faerie Mound, it was believed to have been the home of Oenghus, the God of Love. Other theories are that it was a place of worship for a “cult of he dead” or for astronomically-based faiths. Visitors can only access Newgrange via bus shuttle from the visitor center at Brú na Bóinne and those wishing to see the Winter Solstice sunrise light-up has to be awarded via lottery for the experience with a select few other lottery winners. A 19 meter long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off the larger central chamber. Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat ‘basin stone’ which is where it is believed the bones of the dead were originally deposited. During the Winter Solstice, lights of the rising sun enters the roofbox – lighting up the passage, and shining onto the floor of the inner chamber – illuminating the room for 17 minutes. Megalithic Rock Art surrounds the monument with some world notable pieces such as the triskel carved on the entrance stone, Kerbstone 1 and 52. Other rock art carvings fit into one of ten categories, five of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms, and dot-in-circles), and the other five are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines and offsets). Intriguing archaeological finds were found throughout the site, including Roman coins, an iron wedge, and a stone phallus. It is believed to have taken 20 years to build with a work force dedicated all of those years full time of 300 individuals. Under the burial tomb theory, it is believed to have been sealed and closed for several millenia after which the local folklore and mythology of the faeries were believed to be assigned to the mound. The site was used for ritual purposes well into the Iron Age. The Passage tomb was re-discovered in 1699 when material for road building was being harvested from the mound. A large excavation of the mound took place in 1962 as well as the rebuilding of the original facade of sparkling white quartz stones found at the site. Newgrange has been compared to the Gavrinis passage tomb in Brittany for which it is very similar to. The Gavrinis cairn is 5,500 years old; 60 meters in diameter, and covers a passage and chamber that is lined with elaborately engraved stone. Newgrange is built of alternating layers of earth and stone with grass growing atop, and the front reconstructed facade is of flattish white quartz stone studded at intervals with large rounded cobbles covering the circumference.

 

 

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Brú na Bóinne

 

 

Brú na Bóinne
* aka “Palace of the Boyne” or “Bend of the Boyne” * Knowth/Newgrange, Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland * UNESCO World Heritage Site *
 

“Bru na Boinne” is the name of a Boyne River Valley section that is home to the World Heritage sites consisting of the Tumulus Sidhe known as “Knowth”, “Dowth”, and “Newgrange”. These monuments are the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe that consist of a complex of neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges, and other prehistoric enclosures dating as early as 35th century B.C.E. (predating the Egyptian pyramids) The Palace is centrally the name for the visitor center that is home to a museum, cafe, interpretive displays, information center, and central shuttle bus location for visitors to get to Knowth and Newgrange. It is located in County Meath near the village of Donore along the south bank of the Boyne River. The large oval stones in the water feature are 330 million year old naturally occuring concretions that make the site a geological attraction as well. The Sidhe/Tumulus of Newgrange and Knowth are to the north of the Boyne. The site covers over 780 hectare acres with over 40 passage graves, prehistoric sites, hengestones, circles, and features as well as substantial Megalithic rock art. Each of the monuments  are on a ridge within the river bend, with Knowth and Newgrange containing stones re-used from earlier monuments at the site. The sites were visited repeatedly and re-used during various ages such as the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Medieval periods adding assortments of artifacts, features, and enclosures to the site throughout the years.   In addition to the famous tombs/tumulus of Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange are also the ceremonial complexes known as Cloghalea Henge, Townleyhall passage grave, Monknewtown henge and ritual pond, and the Newgrange cursus.  Newgrange stands as the central mound of the Boyne Valley passage grave cemetery. Each of these three main tumulus sites have archaeo-astronomical significance and alignments. Newgrange and Dowth have Winter Solstice solar alignments, and Knowth has an Equinox solar alignment. The complex areas are surrounded on the south, west, and east by the Boyne river, and to the north by the Mattock river.
The River Boyne
The Goddess Boann

A grandiose River in Leinster, Ireland that runs a course of over 112 kilometers (70 miles) passing by the Brú na Bóinne complex and World Heritage site, by the ancient city of Trim, Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara, Navan, the Hill of Slane, Mellifont Abbey, and the medieval city of Drogheda. It starts at Trinity Well in Kildare and flows towards the Northeast through County Meath where it empties into the Irish Sea. The river is abundant with Salmon and trout that hosts much Irish mythology on the passage of knowledge down the river. The river is notorious for its historical, archaeological, and mythological connotations. Ptolemy drew out the river in his mapping of Ireland and he called it ????????? (Bououinda). According to Irish mythology, the river was created by the Goddess Boann and the river is named after her as well as representative of her. It is also the river where Fionn mac Cumhail captured Fiontan, the Salmon of Knowledge. It is also home to the infamous “Battle of the Boyne” which took place near Drogheda in 1690. The archaeological remains of a Viking ship was found in 2006 in the river bed near Drogheda.

 

 

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The Otherworld, The Underworld, The Sidhe


Otherworld Map

 

The Otherworld

From the dawn of religious thought there has been belief in an Underworld and/or an Otherworld. A place were we are trapped when we die disturbed or without resolution that sits upon our world, sometimes referred to as Limbo, Hades, The Waiting Place, and the Inbetween. Many believe in a Hell and a Heaven. Others believe in a Summerland. Others do not. Some believe in Reincarnation. But just about everyone has an opinion about where we go when we die. The Otherworld is one such place that many deduce is where human spirits reside after death. But its not just a place for ghosts and poltergeists, but is also often labelled as a place of residence for all of the undead and supernatural from zombies to vampires, from faeries to trolls, from Gods to Goddesses, and the elemental spirits of nature. Celtic mythology calls “The Otherworld” (Orbis Alia) as the “Realm of the Dead, the Home of the Deities, or the stronghold of other spirits, and the Mighty Sídhe.” Folklore depicts the Otherworld as existing over the western sea or underground such as in the Sídhe mounds of Ireland and the British Isles, or as a realm layered like a transparency over the world of the living but invisible to our physical sight. I’m more of an advocate to the belief that the Elemental and Faerie Realm, Realm of Deities, and the Land of the Dead are all ‘separate’ realms … layered on top of each other as transparency-like layers of an onion in the worlds within worlds that make up the cosmology of universes in which we live. The Irish described their Otherwold as being underground and sometimes on islands in the Western sea. I believe that they actually saw it as a separate realm from the land of Faeries and the Sidhe and scholars or folklorists not being very well versed in the different dimensions just lumped these worlds into one solitary world separate from the land of the living. There are many different references by the Irish to the these realms including Tír na mBeo (“the Land of the Living”), Mag Mell (“Delightful Plain”), and Tír na nÓg (“Land of the Young”), among other names. This is one of the reasons I believe the Irish truly believed them to be different places. Irish mythology talk of these places to be a country where the inhabitants never grew old, got sick, died, where they were eternally at peace and happiness, and one year of occupation in that realm would equate to 100 human years. The Greeks spoke of a similar place called the “Elysium” (Greek mythology). Of course the Greeks and the Irish may have a shared origin in ancient Proto-Indo-European religion, so that might make sense. There are many folktales in both of these cultures where a beautiful young woman often approaches the hero and sings to him of these happy lands often offering him an apple or the promise of her love in exchange for his assistance in battle. The myths have him following her for a journey over the sea and are never seen again. Mythological and folklore elements involve boats of glass, chariots, horses, food, drink, and lures of love. Sometimes the mortal man returns to the human realm to find his previous family and friends deceased for ages and while believing to have been gone for a few years were actually gone for hundreds of years. (ex: Tale of Oisin, Thomas the Rymer, Rip Van Winkle, Tale of Bran and Branwen, etc.) There are quests in the tales and a magical mist always seem to descend upon them. They are always changed and affected with their contact to the Otherworld. The means by which many of these individuals cross over from the human realm to the land of spirits or the dead are abundant in all of Indo-European folklore and stories. These seem to occur in liminal places, gateways, or on special days of the year. The Gaelic festival of Samhain (November 1st) as well as Beltane (May 1st) are believed to be dates when the boundaries between the worlds become even more permeable than usual, and visitors from both realms can travel inbetween the realms, sometimes on purpose other times accidentally. Folklore is obsessed with the concern about preventing the intrusion of spirits into the human world and the loss of humans to the Otherworlds. Many spells, charms, superstitions, and rituals exist through history to prevent the crossing over of humans and entities between these dimensions. Some believe that Irish folklore is a heaven of sorts. Interpreters of Irish poetry and story telling, claim the Otherworld is simply a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. I am of the opposite view that the realms those stories tell about is quite yet a completely different world than the land of the Dead. I believe that there is a land of Faeries (Sidhe, Faerieland or Faerieworld), a land of the Dead (Otherworld), a land of Demons (Underworld / Hades / Hell), a land of Deities (Summerland or Heaven). Land of the Dead is what I refer to when I discuss the Otherworld. Brittany sees this as an island someplace west of Great Britain. When the souls of the dead leave the human body, they go to the homes of fishermen and knock desperately on their doors for ferry to these islands. The fishermen would leave their homes and ferry the dead to these lands in ghostly ships called “Bag an Noz”. There are Christian beliefs on the British Isles that talk about a Galicia northern coastal village called ‘San Andrés de Teixido’ where a little hermitage consecrated to Saint Andrew houses his bones. According to Tacitus this is where the ‘heavens, seas, and earth end’. It is believed by many that if you don’t visit this place when you are living, you must visit after you die in the form of a serpent or lizard, in order to take your journey to the land of the dead, according to words from Jesus to Andres. Many Spanish authors also claim that this is the starting place for the souls of the dead on their trip to the Other World. The Irish God of Gateways and of the Sea, Manannon Mac Lir, is often seen as a gatekeeper between these Isles of the Dead and the Lands of the Living. In modern fantasy, such as in the tales of the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the gateway to the realms of the dead or the world of demons are referred to as “The Hellmouth”. This serves as a magical portal between the worlds. Supposedly as a place of increased supernatural energy and is a gate that attracts as a hot spot demons and other supernatural creatures. While completely created by the filmmakers, the concept is based off the gateways to the realm of the dead found in mythologies. The “Otherworld” as the “Spirit World” or “Land of the Dead” is seen as a habitation realm of spirits. The belief in spirits come from the theory that the Earth itself and all living things on the Earth have spirit counterparts that existed before the physical creation, and a living soul consists of a spirit body united with a physical body. The spirit existence is composed of organized and refined spirit matter that extends to all life, including plants, animals, and humans. Even the Christian bible refers to plant spirits as being created as spirits before they were created with physical bodies (Moses 3:5, 9). Under these beliefs, there are premortal and postmortal spirit worlds. Premortal spirits exist originally in “heaven” where monotheistic faiths believe their God lives. There is belief by many that the spirit after leaving the body from death, yet before resurrection, is taken by an angel or a reaper, to the home of God who gave them life, they are then often judged and/or assigned to a place of paradise or a place of hell and ‘outer darkness’. Postmortal spirits inhabit a world where they reside and converse together the same as what occurs in the human world. There is belief that they conduct similar activities, labor, and life as they did when they were living; it is a place where they learn and prepare for the next life as an extension of mortality. Those at unrest or unfinished with their mortal existence, often haunt or are trapped inbetween the human realm and the Otherworld or the Underworld.
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Ragnarok


Ragnarok

 

Ragnarok

“Ragnarok”, “Gotterdammerung”, or a.k.a. “Doom of the Gods” or “Final Destiny of the Gods” is the apocalypse in Norse mythology. Its an important event in the Norse canon. This event will be followed by the Fimbulvetr, or the “Winter of Winters”. These three winters will follow each other with no summer. This will be a time of conflicts and feuds between all people and inhabitants on Earth, and all morality is believed will disappear. The mythos discusses that the “wolf Skoll will devour the sun and his brother Hati will eat the moon, plunging the Earth into Darkness. The stars will vanish from the sky. the Fjalar cock will crow to the giants and the Gullinkambi cock will crow to the Gods. A third cock will awaken the dead. The Earth will shudder with earthquakes and every bond and fetter will burst. The wolf Fenrir will be released. The sea will rear up because Jormungand the Midgard Serpent will write in fury making his way to the lands. With every breath, he’ll stain the soil and skly with poison. The Naglfar ship will be freed from waves caused by the serpent, and the Hymir giant will lead the giants to the battlefield. The Realm of the dead will send a second ship with Loki as the helmsmen, off to the battle. The fire giants led by Surt will leave Muspell in the south to join forces against the Gods and scorch the Earth. Heimdall will sound his horn, calling the sons of Odin and heroes to the battle. From all corners of the world – the Gods, the Giants, the Dwarves, the Demons, and the Elves will ride towards the huge plain of Vigrid to fight the last battle. Odin will engage Fenrir in battle, and Thor will attack Jormungand. Thor will be victorious, but the poison will eventually kill him. Surt will seek out the swordless Freyr, who will succomb to the giant. The one-handed Tyr will fight the Garm and they will kill each other. Loki and Heimdall, will meet a final time, and both will die. The fight between Odin and Fenrir will rage for a long period until Odin gets seized and swallowed. Odin’s son Vidar will leap to kill the wolf. Surt will fling fire in every direction and the nine worlds will burn, killing all friends and foes. The earth will sink into the sea. After the doomsday, a new and idyllic world will arise from the sea and abundant with supplies. Some of the Gods will survive will others will be reborn. Wickedness and misery will be non-existent and Gods with men will live happily together. Two humans, Lif and Lifhrasir will survive by hiding in the wood Hoddmimis holt and will repopulate the Earth. The personified sun, Sol will have a daughter at least as beautiful as she and this daughter will follow the same path as her mother. ” This cosmic event is attested in the 13th century “Poetic Edda” from early traditional sources, and the “Prose Edda” written also in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. There are several archaeological objects that depict events from Ragnarok. These are (1) Thorwald’s Cross: a partially surviving rune stone erected on the Isle of Man, depicting a bearded human holding a spear down at a wolf, his right foot in its mouth, while a large bird sits at his shoulder. This dates between 940-1000 C.E. Its believed to depict Odin, with a raven or eagle at his shoulder, being consumed by Fenrir at Ragnarok. There is also a depiction of a large cross and another image parallel to it that some state is Christ triumphing over Satan. (2) Gosforth Cross: mid 11th century, from Cumbria, England that parallel’s Thorwald’s Cross combining Norse Pagan and Christian symbolism in a similar manner apparently combining scenes from Christian Judgement Day and the Pagan Ragnarok. (3) The Ledberg Stone. 11th century C.E. from Sweden and is similar to Thorwald’s Cross featuring a figure with his foot at the mouth of a four-legged beast, perhaps of Odin being devoured by Fenrir at Ragnarok. (4) The Skarpaker Ston. 11th c. C.E. from Sweden – father grieving his dead son used the same verse as in the Poetic Edda in the engraving translating to “Earth shall be riven and the over-heaven”.



Some correlations have been made between Ragnarok and the 9th century Old High German epic poem Muspilli about the Christian Last Judgement that states the world is to be consumed in flames. Other comparisons between Ragnarok and other Indo-European peoples depict a later evolution of a Proto Indo-European belief about a cosmic winter motif between the Norse Fimbulwinter, the Iranian Bundahishn, and Yima. Vidarr’s stride compared to Vishnu’s with a special shoe to tear apart the beastly wolf. Larger patterns drawn between final battle events in Indo-European cultures including the occurrence of a blind or semi-blind figure in the themes. Other theories about the volcanic events after the death of the Gods – the sun turning black, steam rising, flames touching the heavens – may be inspired by the volcanic eruptions on Iceland. Records of eruptions on Iceland bear strong similarities to the sequence of events described in Voluspa, especially the eruption at Laki that occurred in 1783.

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