A giant warrior in the landscape - the Irish Orion
The above image is copyright © Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore 2004, and must not be copied or reposted without the prior written permission of the authors.
This is the gigantic figure of a warrior-like man, etched into the landscape by a system of roads near the east coast of Ireland in an area called Ferrard, which means High Man. Measuring 12 miles from top to bottom, the incredibly human-like character looms large on a very sacred and historical landscape.
It may seem odd that such a life-like geoglyph should exist in the road network, and it may seem that only extraordinary chance could result in such an outstanding visual icon. But what if this gargantuan individual was not the result of quirk or chance, but rather the exceptional brilliance of an ancient design?
In the context of the Irish mythical and archaeological environment, this high hero finds himself in the most eminent area of the entire country. He has his legs planted in the Boyne, Irelands foremost sacred river in ancient times; he lies on an area rich in archaic myth and abundant in tales of giant mythical heroes; and within his boundaries lie Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth the foremost Irish monuments rich in astronomy, legend and art.
Another distinguished monument, the Millmount in Drogheda, marks the knee of this giant figure. Millmount in folklore is the burial place of Amergin, who was, according to ancient stories, Irelands first poet and law-giver. The mound marked the division of the kingdom of Ireland into two parts, each of which was ruled by Amergins brothers, Eremon and Eber.
Amergin described himself as a gigantic, sword-wielding champion. This warrior-bard was asked by Tea, wife of King Eremon, to choose the most beautiful hill in Ireland where she would be buried, and where all the kings of Ireland thereafter would rule. Amergin chose for her Druim Cain, The Beautiful Hill, which would later be named after Tea as Temhair, the Hill of Tara.
There is an astronomical link between the Millmount and Tara. At Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the sun as viewed from Millmount sets in the direction of Tara. Back in the Stone Age when Millmount was first erected, significant stars and constellations were setting in the direction of Tara also, namely Sirius, the brightest star in the entire sky, and the great warrior-like constellation Orion.
When Amergin arrived in Ireland with the invading Milesians, he was the first to land on the shores of Inver Colpa, the Boyne Estuary, a short distance downstream from Millmount. Stepping onto the shore, he famously announced, Who but I knows the place of the setting sun?; Who but I knows the ages of the Moon?
Amergins epithet was Glúngeal, which means fair/bright knee. The star which marks the knee of Orion is Rigel, which means giants leg. Not long after the construction of Millmount, this star the seventh brightest in the sky also marked the position of Tara as viewed from Millmount. Was this what Tea meant when she wanted Amergin to mark her burial spot?
Amergin landed on May 1st, the feast of Bealtaine, a day that has great astronomical significance, because the sun was located just above the constellation Orion, at a point where the path of the Sun, Moon and planets passes through the Milky Way galaxy. Another great mythical champion who often had his feet placed in the waters of a river was Cúchulainn, the principal character of the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge.
Cúchulainn was conceived at Newgrange, and was described in the Táin as a huge, high hero . . . vast as a Fomorian giant. Much of the action in this legendary saga is concentrated in an area known long ago as Muirthemhne, but which today is called County Louth, after Cúchulainns spiritual father, Lugh Lamhfada, Lugh of the Long Arm. Muirthemhne was the plain which Cúchulainn called his own. The Táin describes Cúchulainn as having a gold-hilted sword in a high clasp on his belt, its ivory guard decorated with gold, a description befitting of the constellation Orion.
Many of Cúchulainns battles took place at river fords crossing points so it is fitting when gazing upon Orion to see him stand beneath one of the two fords of the sky, the crossing point of the Moon and planets over the Milky Way. It is also fitting that Louth village, named after Cúchulainns father Lugh, marks this crossing point above the giant man.
The archetypal Orion-like figure was the Tuatha Dé Danann king called Nuadu Silver-Arm, who was also known as Nechtain. It was supposedly Nechtains well, at Carbury, Co. Kildare, which gave rise to the Boyne River after his wife Bóann (the Bright Cow /Moon) had approached it.
Nechtains arm was famously chopped off in battle and replaced by the healer Diancecht with a new silver arm. Orions upraised arm is shrouded by the Milky Way the heavenly Boyne which was described as the Great Silver Yolk.
It is fitting when gazing out upon the brilliance of Orion to think of these great mythical heroes and warriors, and to envisage the High Man who has reappeared out of the mists of time. If indeed this is an early representation of the stellar Orion, it may be the largest on the face of the planet.