Back in February of this year, at Imbolc, myself, Ken Williams and Lar Dooley witnessed the sunrise shining into the ancient passageway of Cairn U at Carnbane East, Loughcrew. That day, I noticed that when I was crouched in the chamber of Cairn U, the Hill of Tara was visible through the entrance of the passage. Based on that observation, I figured that a viewer on the Hill of Tara might see the sun setting over the hills of Loughcrew at Bealtaine (May) and Lughnasadh (August).
|The Loughcrew Hills viewed from Duma na nGiall, Hill of Tara, with labels.|
I was unable to get to Tara at Bealtaine, so I was determined to go there for Lughnasadh to see if I was right. This evening, standing on top of Duma na nGiall (Mound of the Hostages) at the Hill of Tara, I watched the sun get lower and lower in the western sky with my son, Finn. Above is a photo showing the hills as they appear from atop the Mound of the Hostages. It looked like it was heading for Loughcrew, but I couldn't be sure. So I watched and waited.And sure enough, as the sun set, it did so over Carnbane West and Carrigbrack, which appear almost as one hill as viewed from Tara. It was a beautiful sunset, and as the sun went down there was a lovely sun pillar (a vertical shaft of light extending upwards from the sun) reaching into the sky.
So it appears that Duma na nGiall, the oldest monument on the Hill of Tara which is thought to date to the late Neolithic, around 5,000 years ago, is aligned with Loughcrew for (a) sunrise on Samhain/Imbolc viewed from Cairn U Loughcrew towards Tara; and (b) Bealtine/Lughnasadh sunset viewed from Tara towards Loughcrew.The sun pillar visible in the sky as the sun sets behind the hills of Loughcrew viewed from Tara.
The actual date of Lughnasadh this year was (I believe) August 7th, so the sun has moved a little bit to the south (left) since then. And I'm not sure how much the sun's position has changed at Lughnasadh from where it was 5,000 years ago. But it's would certainly appear that there is an alignment. Whether it was intended is another question entirely. But this is just one of many examples of alignments of sites over long distances. Seeing Tara framed by the ancient stones of Cairn U at Loughcrew in the cold dawn of Imbolc six months ago certainly was very fascinating to me. "This is hardly all coincidental," I said to myself. Indeed it might not be, but we may never know whether it was intended by the builders. All we can do now is watch and wonder.
Enter the ‘Ancient Sites’ section of this blog for a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of the megalithic and sacred sites of Ireland. Find out all about the Stone Age and prehistoric ruins and learn more about the possible functions and alignments of these sites. Visit the great temples of Brú na Bóinne, the Hill of Tara, the ancient cairns of Loughcrew among many others.
Explore the ancient myths, legends and folklore of Ireland and their meaning. Read the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, or the place-name myths in the Dindshenchas. Learn about how the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians came to Ireland and how the early texts describe various invasions of prehistoric Éire. Hear about Fionn and the Fianna, and discover how some myths might contain information about astronomy and the stars.
There is no doubt that the ancient megalith builders had a substantial knowledge of the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars through the heavens. Learn more about just how complex and impressive this knowledge was. There is evidence that the people of the Neolithic knew about the 19-year Metonic cycle of the moon, as well as being able to predict eclipses.