Tuesday 20 August 2019

Winter sun fails to light chamber but spirits bright at Newgrange

Rebecca Smyth with an Irish Wolfhound at Newgrange in Co Meath in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
Rebecca Smyth with an Irish Wolfhound at Newgrange in Co Meath in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The sun failed to illuminate the inner chamber of the 5,000-year-old monument at Newgrange during the winter solstice yesterday.

But despite the biting cold wind and the squally showers, there was a warm atmosphere, with hundreds braving the elements to welcome the sun when it eventually broke through the clouds at around 9am.

People gather at the entrance to the Newgrange Passage Tomb in Co Meath for the winter solstice in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
People gather at the entrance to the Newgrange Passage Tomb in Co Meath for the winter solstice in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren

People set off early, and walked for miles searching for the light. As the darkness faded to light, hundreds more people gathered.

Then drums could be heard in the valley below, growing louder as group Soul Medicine formed two circles, one of men and the other of women, on the ground in front of the monument.

"We are celebrating nature's cycle. We honoured the darkness at Dowth on the eve of the solstice, and today we welcome the light at Newgrange," said drummer Declan Hammond. "I come here to get my energy from the light. It's great to be part of it, and to stand on this great ground," he added.

A lucky group of 10 people, whose names had been drawn in a lottery, were allowed stand inside the chamber in the hope that the sun would work its magic.

The view in the inner chambers Photo: Mark Condren
The view in the inner chambers Photo: Mark Condren

Illuminate

The sun failed to light up the entire chamber at daybreak. However, it did briefly illuminate the stone passageway leading into the chamber later on in the morning.

Eddie Mendez (37), from Mexico, attended with his Irish wife Krystle Malone and wider Irish family.

But it was his father-in-law Noel Malone who he brought into the chamber.

Another view of the crowds gathering at the entrance of the monument Photo: Mark Condren
Another view of the crowds gathering at the entrance of the monument Photo: Mark Condren

"I've already won Krystle over, but I'm still working on the father-in-law," he said, laughing.

"It was an incredible experience, and even though we didn't see the sun we could see the light and how it shines into the chamber. Amazing.

"We've been to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico and it is incredible to think that in different parts of the world there were celebrations of light.

"They mention Newgrange there too."

Making a very visible and striking presence at Newgrange this year was the Irish Wolfhound, with many dogs brought by the Irish Wolfhound Club.

"These fine animals are the living heartbeat of ancient Ireland. It is part of our myth and legend that the Wolfhounds lived here with their masters and mistresses," said Mary Potter.

One lady fortunate enough to see the sun shining down the ancient passageway was Catherine Alexander (37) from Stepaside in Dublin.

"I was part of the second group that went in after the sun had risen, and it did shine in for a short while. I saw it beaming. I saw it happen," she said with excitement.

"I played my singing bowl in the chamber too and I could feel its energy resonating around me. It was incredible."

From this point on, the sun will rise earlier and set later each day. January will see an extra one-and-a-half to two minutes of daylight each day, and by the end of it there will be a noticeable 'stretch' in the evenings.

Irish Independent

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