Exploring Ancient Ireland

On one trip to Ireland, just before the New Year I arrived at the Green Door Hostel in Drogheda, a small city north of Dublin close to the sacred sites in the Boyne River Valley. In true Irish fashion, Norm the manager, made me warmly welcome. When I told him I was I interested in leading a writing journey to the area, he said “well let me call Richard and see if he’ll want to drop by for a cup of coffee, he knows a lot about the sites.”

Richard turned out to be Richard Moore painter and coauthor of Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers a book about the astronomically-aligned giant stone monuments, erected over 5,000 years ago that are older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Despite their apparent simplicity, these ancient structures were crafted by a community of farmers who were clearly skilled astronomers, engineers and surveyors who made these shrines to honor their beliefs in an afterlife. On my tour of Newgrange, the best preserved and excavated to the monuments I was intrigued to learn that there is no evidence of slavery so these structures were clearly a community effort.

Richard who lives a few doors down from the hostel arrived shortly after and as the kettle began to steam, he referred to a poster he has created call The High Man that hangs on the hostel kitchen wall. Having lived in the area all his life, he had begun studying a map of the ancient roads and noticed that they formed the shape of a figure of a warrior that seemed to mirror the pattern of the constellation Orion. The key sacred sites in the region are located at the knees, the head, the mouth and other key parts of the body. Richard said that in studying the rich history and mythology of this part of Ireland he found the stories corresponded to different aspects of the figure as well.

Knowing something of Irish history and mythology I was amazed by Richard’s depth of knowledge and insight into the region. I was also struck by the sense that this place where myth and history bleed into one another is really fertile ground for the human imagination. Later in exploring the sites on my own I could feel, as I stood in the icy cold, a deep sense of peace rising from the land and the pull these ancient people have on my own imagination. Back at the Green Door Hostel, I mention to Eamonn, the owner, that so little is known about who these ancients were and how they lived. He looks at me with a lively smile a keen sense of irony in his tone and says, “well, we know they knew the world was round.”

If you are interesting in visiting Ireland consider joining me for a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information click on the Ireland Journeys tab in the column on the left.

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