(This is located in County Meath off the N2)
Also known as Bú na Bóinne. This is the largest passage tomb in the world and it was built around 3000 BC. It was discovered in 1699 and was left open to visitors and vandals until it was excavated and restored in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s believed to be where the great Kings and Queens were buried and it’s the largest cairn in the world. Not as many remains were found in Newgrange, which is why it was believed to be meant for royalty and leaders of society. Newgrange faces South-East. The rising sun on the morning of the Winter Solstice illuminates the chamber for about 17 minutes from 8:58 to 9:15 AM. Newgrange and other burial cairns were used as places of worship and a place for the dead. The dead are being returned to the earth for re-birth. The body would have been cremated and the bones ground up and the remains put in a vessel and placed inside the cairn. All cairns including Newgrange have a small opening in the entrance of the cairn and a long narrow passage way that leads to the center. Since Newgrange is aligned with the Winter Solstice, that morning as the sun rises, it shines through the entrance, travels down the long passage way and illuminates the chamber. Once the sun illuminates the chamber at Newgrange and other passage tombs, the belief is that the soul of the cremated remains that lay inside, are being reborn.
Nobody’s really sure why these structures were built in alignment with the sun because our Ancestors didn’t leave behind journals that said, “How we did it and why”. One can really only speculate. It is, however, apparent that our Ancestors honored the dead, believed in reincarnation and worshipped the sun and earth. So it’s quite possible that our Ancestors looked to the sun as an aspect of the God or male energy. The cairns, which were built of earth, were aspects of the Earth Goddess or female energy. As the sun or male energy entered the entrance of the chamber, which was symbolic of a woman’s womb, (the sun being symbolic of a penis), it would travel down the long passage way or what would be symbolic of a vagina, and illuminate the chamber inside. As the male and female aspects connect inside the earthen-womb, the two become one and life is re-born.
(Located not too far from Newgrange)
Knowth was probably built after the construction of Newgrange but it's actually larger than Newgrange, surrounded by 18 smaller mounds. The great mound has two passages with entrances on opposite sides; western passage and eastern passage. For many years it was believed that the passages were aligned with the sunrise and sunset of the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. But in recent years it was discovered that Knowth points towards a lunar function. Recent research claims that the builders of this monument had a good working knowledge of the complicated movements of the Moon. Such knowledge would have enabled the builders to predict eclipses and other astronomical events. Knowth also possesses some of the very best preserved megalithic artwork in the world. Carvings appear on the 127 kerbstones and could be representations of lunar counts and calculations.
(Photo courtesy of Brain Shea)
This site does not offer guided tours such as Knowth and Newgrange, but you can drive directly to the site. It was built around the same time as Newgrange and Knowth (over 5,000 years ago) and is aligned with the setting sun of the Winter Solstice. Unfortunately, the mound is not as well preserved as its sisters. On top of Dowth, Newgrange is clearly visible.