Sunday, May 15, 2016
Our planned outing with the TnCIS group was today and we headed out early to get to the Newgrange site. (http://www.newgrange.com/)
Older than even the Egyptian pyramids at Giza and Stonehenge, the Irish passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth are some of the most impressive buildings of ancient times. These three sites are located along the River Boyne in an area that is perfect for the agricultural communities that settled there.
Ancient Irish peoples cremated their dead and placed them in great passage tombs. Unlike today, ancient people did not forget their dead and would commune with them at special times of the year.
Newgrange us one such site and has a roof box which allows the mid-winter sun to penetrate into the innermost chambers of the tomb.
One of the reasons Newgrange and its sister sites are so impressive is that much of the building materials were gathered from far away areas and floated upstream to the building site. Huge stones were dragged up from the river, had incredibly intricate designs carved into them, and were placed in their final resting spot. Many of these stones are still intact and in place today! Perhaps we should take lessons from the ancient people on how to build things that will last through the ages.
Although we cannot ask these ancient Irish people their thoughts, much can be learned from what they left behind. It is highly likely that only respected elders were allowed to enter the innermost chambers, with public rituals held outside the tombs.
Feminine symbolism is found in the egg-shaped stones and the passages within the structures while masculine symbols are seen in the various phallic objects and the stone balls.
This is especially interesting because of the connection that ancient peoples saw between death and rebirth.
As an aside to the wealth of history in the area, I found it really cool that the areas around these tombs had once again become agricultural. Farmers keep cows and sheep on the land and crow crops in the same soil of old.
On the drive from Newgrange to our surprise, the town of Bettystown, a beachfront community, I noticed something... The major roads in Ireland are called "Motorways" instead of "Interstates." Once I'd considered it for a moment, I realize that it makes sense. In the United States we have a system of roadways that connect the states, an interstate system. However, Ireland has counties and would not need an interstate system. Instead, they have a motorway to travel across the country.
Personally, I think "Motorway" sounds quite hip, but I am definitely still attached to my "Interstates." I've traveled all my life. :-)
At the beach, many of my classmates and I removed our shoes and played in the chilly waters of the sea. Water is the element I most identify with and whenever I get the chance to experience the nature of it, life is good.
Brianna and I stopped in a small cafe for a snack of french toast and we talked with the waitress about the trip we were on and what we had seen so far. She was quite sweet and said that most tourists passed right by the cafe, but that it was nice to hear we were having fun.