I recently took a trip to Ireland and discovered not only does the Guinness really taste better in Dublin, but the fairy folk are alive and well on the Emerald Isle. I was continually told that though an Irishman might not say he believes in fairies, he sure as hell isn’t going near one of their circles. And it’s little wonder Irish folklore is filled with fairies and wee folk, it literally appears as if a fairy or leprechaun could be living inside every tree or rock.
I was constantly moving moss and parting leaves, always one step behind the fairy folk I knew were watching me. The landscape alone is enough for one to have a spiritual experience, but it is at the Neolithic site of Newgrange that a door is truly opened.
Throughout the Irish countryside there exist rings of trees and sacred mounds, believed to be the homes of fairies and doors between the worlds. Due to the folktales and superstitions of the Irish people, these mounds have remained largely untouched for hundreds of years, thus preserving the ancient sites they hide. The Neolithic peoples of Ireland built their homesteads in rings, and these fairy mounds and circles shelter what remains of these ancients. Arguably the most astounding of these mounds is Newgrange in County Meath, a hill that has existed in Irish folklore for hundreds of years but was only recently discovered to be a megalithic marvel.
Sí an Bhrú, as the Irish call it, is an ancient temple older than the Egyptian pyramids, lost for centuries, hidden under grass and legend. I could feel the temple’s pull immediately upon sight of its white washed walls: a stone remnant upon an emerald hill.
I had the uncontrollable urge to touch every stone, to run my finger over every design chiseled by hands 5,000 years dead. There was a movement in the rocks positioned around the mound, placed there in reverence by people who came long after the ancient temple’s builders. I could feel them through my blood and bones. They sang and called out and I touched them.
The meaning of the archaic spirals and patterns have been lost to us, but their power transcends generations. I was giddy and as a friend of mine would say, drunk on magic! Jet lag and exhaustion disappeared in this powerful place and was replaced by an ancient energy.
The stone passage leading to the temple’s only chamber is cramped and low, forcing visitors to bow their heads and crawl. The temple’s chamber is small, capable of fitting only about ten people, squished together and taking care to touch as little as possible so as not to disturb the stone. Inside the chamber are three alcoves containing large basin stones, where the bones of the dead may have once been laid. Above the narrow passage there is an opening and on the Winter Solstice a beam of light penetrates it, slowly filling the chamber with the the last rays of the summer.
We’ll never really know if the ancients came to this holy temple to worship the dead, or the sun, or perhaps both; they left behind no written record. It is amazing though that an archeological find of this magnitude existed beneath legends of Celts and fairies, buried beneath soil and earth for thousands of years. The strength of Sí an Bhrú has stretched across eons, surviving cultural and religious changes, and firmly establishing its sacred power. Just by being amongst those archaic stones, I could feel the primordial heart of the Earth herself reverberating through our earliest attempts to join in her song.