The festival of Lughnasa, marking the beginning of the harvest and the end of summer, might well be a prehistoric celebration. One of the most noticeable aspects of this time of year is the noticeable contraction of the days, and the lengthening of night.
Undoubtedly, you've heard the common Irish utterance, heard in late winter and spring, which goes "Grand stretch in the evenings"! This relates, of course, to the lengthening days and the noticeable extra daylight in the evening time.
However, there might have been a similar phrase uttered around Lughnasa (occurring now) in relation to the fact that the days are now noticeably contracting, and the nights are getting longer.
In her epic study 'The Festival of Lughnasa', Máire MacNeill makes reference to a tradition from Cape Clear Island off Cork (the most southerly place in Ireland) reported by Ciarán O Síocháin, in which the locals said of Lughnasa Day (the first day of the season of reaping the harvest), "Summer over: today is Lughna Day, the night stretches".
The photo shows the setting sun viewed from Rath na Seanad (Rath of the Synods) at the Hill of Tara, looking towards the distant hills of Slieve na Calliagh (Loughcrew), taken on Monday evening last.
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.