Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Finger of God

I made my third visit to Newgrange and Knowth, both which are near the Boyne River fifty miles north of Dublin, Ireland. The 5,000 year-old sites are two of 40 burial mounds in Ireland. The mounds were built 500 years before the pyramids and 1,000 years before Stonehenge. Newgrange is the most famous. Nearby is Knowth, the largest of the mounds, containing the most substantial collection of paleographic art. Visitors are led on guided tours around and inside the tombs where the ancients buried cremains, presumably of their chiefs and shamans.

Newgrange sits majestically on a hill like a three dimensional mandala. Forty feet high and approximately 250 feet in diameter, the mound can be seen for miles. The construction of the Stone Age monuments took hundreds of people decades to finish. The engineering was genius. The will and labor of the people is hard to fathom. Thousands of tons of dirt rests upon a circle of ten ton curb stones, which are etched with spirals and other archetypal art. The quartz facade reflects the eastern sun, almost blinding on a sun drenched day.

The focal point of Newgrange lies 96 feet deep within the mound. Fifteen visitors at a time are guided into the entry way, a sacred space, by crouching below a four foot guardian stone down a very narrow path. Not recommended for the clausterphobic There, deep within the dark tomb is a fifteen foot circular space with three niches in cruciform. Twenty feet above the floor is a stroke of engineering genius, the stone roof that has kept the structure intact and dry for milllinea. Within the niche crypts rest a bowl like stone that held the cremains. Each niche is complete with its own art etched in stone.

The uniqueness of Newgrange is the light box above the entrance. On the Winter Solstice the rising sunlight streams into the tomb's center like the finger of God. For sixteen minutes the solstice light pours down the light box onto the floor of the tomb's holy circle like molten lava, lighting the interior stones with an iridescent glow. Then, as the sun continues its arc, the finger of god moves slowly out of the tomb taking the souls of the departed. The tour guide's description and the simulation while in the tomb was better than the best liturgy in the finest sanctuary of any religion. For the Winter Solstice, 120 fortunate people are drawn by lottery to enter the tomb on one morning during the six days the light shines down the box. Along with my name, 30,000 other hopefuls placed their entry form at the Visitor's Center.

This is my fifth sojourn to Ireland. I'm already planning to lead another pilgrimage group in 2015. I know I will return to Newgrange because my soul is drawn to this place like a dry and thirsty body aches for cool fresh water. i doubt I will grow weary of feeling like I am home in this divine space.

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