Today marks the Winter Solstice , nowhere here in Ireland will this moment be marks more than at Newgrange the perfect locations to gain a little understanding as to how our European ancestors both recorded and celebrated the movement of the sun and the objects of universe they lived in.
Today is the shortest day of the year, the day when at Newgrange the rising sun can be seen to travel all the way into the passage tomb at the center of the monument.
Newgrange – Winter Solstice
Sunrise at NewgrangeNewgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the Winter Solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metre passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.
Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery that takes place at the end of September each year. All are welcome to gather outside the entrance to the Newgrange mound on each of the mornings from December 18th to December 23rd inclusive, sunrise is at 8.58am. Access via the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre or directly to the actual Newgrange monument.
The images posted here were taken this time last year at New-grange ……
Newgrange a Gallery
Ardgroom Stone Circle, County Cork, Ireland
The Ardgroomon stone circle is located on the Beautiful Beara Peninsula, county cork. It has to be one of the most magical of all the Irish stone circle, it also has the best of locations and views, sitting about the Atlantic ocean. There is something so exciting and mysterious about visiting a stone circle. The Ardgroomon circle is located in an area were there is an abundance of these historic sites, as well as wedge tombs, ring forts, boulder burials and fulachta fiadhs.
As well as being used for the Solar Spring and summer Equinox’s along with the Summer and Winter Solstice, many of these stone circles would also log the Movement of the Moon, Planets and Stars as during the year they changed their positions along the horizon. The standing stones in a stone circle would have in combination with a feature on local hill sides, have been lined up with astronomical objects(Sun, moon, planets and Stars). This would have given an almost daily measurement for months of the year.
The reason that ancient peoples needed to log the movement of the heavens was mainly for practical reasons such as farming, they needed to know when to sow seeds, bring cattle down from the mountains and bring in the crops, also they needed to know how long their store of food had to last before the new growing season started, no imports in those days.
This week we will all experience the Winter Solstice, the moment that the amount of available Sun light has reached its lowest amount each day. From the 21st of December on the amount of day-light will start to slowly increase again, you could say that this moment marks the tree new year in the solar calendar !
The solstice may have been a special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures even during neolithic times. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland.
I want to mark this week by sharing some of the great Pagan monuments and sites I have visited both in the UK and here in Ireland, To the Pagan people of the past this week was a very special one, it marked the moment of new birth. It is for moments like these that Pagan people assembled their standing stones and stone circles.
Today I have posted and image of (Castlerigg stone circle,Keswick in Cumbria, North West England), this stone circle is one of the best preserved in Europe and located just north of the lake district, you can seen many of Cumbria’s great mountains in the background.
This stone circle would not only have been used to record the moments of the Winter Solstice but likely all the the events both in the (Sun’s the Moon’s and the stars) calendar of movements.
Here are some great facts about the Castlerigg stone circle :
The stones are of a local metamorphic slate, set in a flattened circle, measuring 32.6 m (107 ft) at its widest and 29.5 m (97 ft) at its narrowest. The heaviest stone has been estimated to weigh around 16 tons and the tallest stone measures approximately 2.3m high. There is a 3.3m wide gap in its northern edge, which may have been an entrance. Within the circle, abutting its eastern quadrant, is a roughly rectangular setting of a further 10 stones. The circle was probably constructed around 3200 BC (Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age), making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly in Europe. It is important to archaeoastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5 km to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.
There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. The ‘official’ number of stones, as represented on the National Trust information board at the monument, is 40.
In the early 20th century, a single outlying stone was erected by a farmer approximately 90m to the south west of Castlerigg. This stone has many linear ‘scars’ along its side from being repeatedly struck by a plough, suggesting that it was once buried below the surface and also why the farmer dug it up. It is not possible to say whether this stone was originally part of the circle, or just a naturally deposited boulder.
Yesterday NASA held a press conference where they announced that after many decades of exploring the planet of MARS, they have found not only evidence of a lot of water having existed on the planet in the far past but that during the current summer months, MARS has active flows of water.
This got me to wondering, just what MARS could have looked like before it lost its surface water due to climate change. Could it have been that it looked just like the wonderful landscapes we still have here on our own planet ?
Was Mars once like the earth ?
Sun Crosses Celestial Equator
The September equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s Equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year.
The Axial Tilt
The Earth’s axis is always tilted at an angle of about 23.5° in relation to the ecliptic, the imaginary plane created by the Earth’s path around the Sun. On any other day of the year, either the southern hemisphere or the Northern Hemisphere tilts a little towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the tilt of the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, like the illustration shows.
On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it’s called an “equinox”, derived from Latin, meaning “equal night”. However, even if this is widely accepted, it isn’t entirely true. In reality equinoxes don’t have exactly 12 hours of daylight
Customs around the September equinox
The September equinox coincides with many cultural events, observances and customs. It’s also called the “autumnal (fall) equinox” in the northern hemisphere and the “spring equinox” in the Southern Hemisphere.
September Equinox Customs
In many cultures, the September equinox is a sign of fall (autumn) in the northern hemisphere. In Greek mythology fall is associated with when the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to be with her husband Hades. It was supposedly a good time to enact rituals for protection and security as well as reflect on successes or failures from the previous months.
Aboriginal Australians have, for a long time, had a good knowledge of astronomy and the seasons. Events like the September equinox, which is during the spring in Australia, played a major role in oral traditions in Indigenous Australian culture.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated around the time of the September equinox. It celebrates the abundance of the summer’s harvest and one of the main foods is the mooncake filled with lotus, sesame seeds, a duck egg or dried fruit.
Higan, or Higan-e, is a week of Buddhist services observed in Japan during both the September and March equinoxes. Both equinoxes have been national holidays since the Meiji period (1868-1912). Higan means the “other shore” and refers to the spirits of the dead reaching Nirvana. It is a time to remember the dead by visiting, cleaning and decorating their graves.
Pagan celebration: Mabon
On the autumnal equinox, many pagans celebrate Mabon as one of the eight Sabbats (a celebration based on the cycles of the sun). Mabon celebrates the second harvest and the start of winter preparations. It is the time to respect the impending dark while giving thanks to the sunlight.
The Christian church replaced many early Pagan equinox celebrations with Christianized observances. For example, Michaelmas (also known as the Feast of Michael and All Angels), on September 29, fell near the September equinox.
The Spring equinox 2015 celebrating
Today marks the arrival of spring, the date of the vernal equinox, or spring equinox as it is known in the northern hemisphere. Spring equinox. During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the sun. (Ref :Wikipedia)
This means the sun will rise exactly in the east and travel through the sky for 12 hours before setting in the exactly west.An equinox happens twice a year around March 20 and September 22 when the Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the sun.
For those in the southern hemisphere, this time is the autumnal equinox that is taking people into their winter.
In English there is open access to Stonehenge tomorrow. Access will be from 05:45am until 08:30am.
Druids and Pagans like to gather at Stonehenge early in the morning to mark the Spring Equinox, to see the sunrise above the stones.
The Pagans consider this is the time of the ancient Saxon goddess, Eostre, who stands for new beginnings and fertility. This is why she is symbolized by eggs (new life) and rabbits/hares (fertility). Her name is also where we get the female hormone, oestrogen.
From Eostre also come the names “Easter” and “Esther” the Queen of the Jews, heroine of the annual celebration of Purim which was held on March 15. At Easter, Christians rejoice over the resurrection of Jesus after his death, mimicking the rebirth of nature in spring after the long death of winter.
It is also a time to cleanse your immune system with natural remedies. In Wiltshire and other parts of rural Britain it used to be tradition to drink dandelion and burdock cordials as the herbs help to cleanse the blood and are a good tonic for the body after a harsh winter.
The Equinox of the sun : Gallery
The Occultation of Orion
By : Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I saw, as in a dream sublime,
The balance in the hand of Time.
O’er East and West its beam impended;
And day, with all its hours of light,
Was slowly sinking out of sight,
While, opposite, the scale of night
Silently with the stars ascended.
Like the astrologers of eld,
In that bright vision I beheld
Greater and deeper mysteries.
I saw, with its celestial keys,
Its chords of air, its frets of fire,
The Samian’s great Aeolian lyre,
Rising through all its sevenfold bars,
From earth unto the fixed stars.
And through the dewy atmosphere,
Not only could I see, but hear,
Its wondrous and harmonious strings,
In sweet vibration, sphere by sphere,
From Dian’s circle light and near,
Onward to vaster and wider rings.
Where, chanting through his beard of snows,
Majestic, mournful, Saturn goes,
And down the sunless realms of space
Reverberates the thunder of his bass.
Beneath the sky’s triumphal arch
This music sounded like a march,
And with its chorus seemed to be
Preluding some great tragedy.
Sirius was rising in the east;
And, slow ascending one by one,
The kindling constellations shone.
Begirt with many a blazing star,
Stood the great giant Algebar,
Orion, hunter of the beast!
His sword hung gleaming by his side,
And, on his arm, the lion’s hide
Scattered across the midnight air
The golden radiance of its hair.
The moon was pallid, but not faint;
And beautiful as some fair saint,
Serenely moving on her way
In hours of trial and dismay.
As if she heard the voice of God,
Unharmed with naked feet she trod
Upon the hot and burning stars,
As on the glowing coals and bars,
That were to prove her strength, and try
Her holiness and her purity.
Thus moving on, with silent pace,
And triumph in her sweet, pale face,
She reached the station of Orion.
Aghast he stood in strange alarm!
And suddenly from his outstretched arm
Down fell the red skin of the lion
Into the river at his feet.
His mighty club no longer beat
The forehead of the bull; but he
Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
When, blinded by Oenopion,
He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
And, climbing up the mountain gorge,
Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.
Then, through the silence overhead,
An angel with a trumpet said,
The reign of violence is o’er!”
And, like an instrument that flings
Its music on another’s strings,
The trumpet of the angel cast
Upon the heavenly lyre its blast,
And on from sphere to sphere the words
Re-echoed down the burning chords,–
The reign of violence is o’er!”
Castlerigg stone circle, Keswick in Cumbria
Landscape photography, Nigel Borrington
September Equinox, 22nd of September
There are two equinoxes every year – in September and March – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator, so the equinox in September is also known as the “autumnal (fall) equinox” in the northern hemisphere. However, in the southern hemisphere, it’s known as the “spring (vernal) equinox”.
The Earth’s postion during the September equinox (ill. not to scale).
September Equinox in Kilkenny, Ireland is on the
Sunday, 22 September 2013, 21:44 IST
Castlerigg stone circle
The stone circle at Castlerigg (alt. Keswick Carles, Carles, Carsles or Castle-rig) is situated near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BCE, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
Various archaeologists have commented positively on the beauty and romance of the Castlerigg ring and its natural environment. In his study of the stone circles of Cumbria, archaeologist John Waterhouse commented that the site was “one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain.”
Every year, thousands of tourists travel to the site, making it the most visited stone circle in Cumbria. This plateau forms the raised centre of a natural amphitheatre created by the surrounding fells and from within the circle it is possible to see some of the highest peaks in Cumbria: Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra.