Newgrange: A Prehistoric Wonder of Ireland

My husband and I were lucky enough to visit Newgrange when we were in Ireland last year. It’s a passage tomb that was “built during the Neolithic or New Stone Age by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley … Newgrange was constructed over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.”

newgrange

We almost fainted from geeky joy when we saw it.  It was located in a beautiful chunk of the countryside, and very near the River Boyne (pictured below). The river is, like many places in Ireland, both lovely to look upon and historically significant. My favorite thing about it is that it is where Celtic legend says that Fionn mac Cumhail caught Fiontán, the Salmon of Knowledge.

The boyne

As for Newgrange itself, it is hard to express the weight of time you feel looking at it. The rocks ‘guarding’ the tomb are covered with symbols that no one has deciphered with any certainty: newgrange tour guide front stone

Ireland 19s

Ireland 19t

I think they look like drawings of water, which would make sense considering the Celtic worship of water deities and reverence for bodies of water. It was also a medium by which one could reach the afterlife and the divine. Sacrifices and gifts to gods and goddesses were made by casting precious things into the water. This was a burial chamber for bodies to return to the womb of the earth; having the symbol of water there to mark it holy seems theologically  consistent, to me.

The best part of the experience was when  we came out of the passage tomb; there was a rainbow arcing right over Newgrange!

newgrange rainbow

If you look closely, you can see that it was a double rainbow.

newgrange double rainbow

Contrary to myth, there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Rather, there were cows. They peacefully grazed on the banks of the river, oblivious to the gasping wonder of the humans gawking at the rainbows.

rainbow cows

My husband and I were extremely happy.

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