Well …….. madame is not destined for a career in archaeology. She got about five steps inside Newgrange and then bolted for the sunshine like a cat on the end of a hose. Two people behind had to turn and go back because the passage wasn’t wide enough for two-way traffic, and I was most sliding over their shoulders in my hurry; coz they were mere humans and couldn’t move fast enough to get me out of there. Had a mammoth dose of the heeby-jeebies. Involved combination of going underground away from sunlight (even rain doesn’t seep through apparently…), tight enclosed space, people blocking escape routes, and an abandoned burial site that took a tribe lifetimes to build.
So double dose of claustrophobia, plus a real sense that we were really not supposed to be there. They reckon that the people who started building it never saw it finished, because it took so many generations to complete. There are apparently only five people buried there. So that is a huge investment of time and labour, and painstaking engineering to line it up with the rising solstice sun etc, plus transporting huge amounts of stone before the invention of the wheel. Then when finished, they buried five people, then abandoned it.
A forest grew over it and it was only rediscovered something like 4000 years later when quarrying to build a road. Why did they do all that and then abandon it? Why??????? It’s just weird. Noone knows. Other important sites of the time weren’t abandoned like that. I suddenly started thinking of the pharaoh tombs and how you’re not supposed to go in there. I just had this sense of trespassing and that it should have been left sleeping under the forest, instead of being resurrected and now having so many people filing through there. Plus I had a sudden sense that something not-nice happened, maybe not when first built but maybe later – could explain the abandonment. So hence, the heeby-jeebies, and it physically affected me. Took ages to settle down. One of the ladies on the tour invested lots in calming me down and bringing me back to my senses – dear soul that she is.
So afterwards happy things happened because we went to the Hill of Tara. Quite sure bad things didn’t happen there. So beautiful. Rolling landscape with allround view – lush green green green cushioney thick lovely lovely grass that I walked on barefoot and wide open sky and fresh air. My sort of place. Very happy to go there again. Now that site wasn’t abandoned and it is just down the road from Newgrange ………
Anyway – shall put that out of my memory.
Incidentally, they serve pavlova in the coffee shop there (and I have seen it in a traditional Irish cookbook as well). This is called culinary-copycat-ting I’m sure. Everyone knows pavlova is Australian – but I forgave them and had some. I needed to be fixed after the morning and I now sincerely endorse the medicinal qualities of pavlova.
Speaking of plagiarism – here’s something funny. This morning in the Dublin Museum I overheard a fellow conducting a small tour saying ‘… and as we all know St Patrick invented the celtic cross, but what is very peculiar is that the people here beforehand also used an identical cross …….‘ My vague understanding of the life and times of that marvellous saint is that he had a brilliant knack for re-inventing the old and making it new. There is a supersize marble statue of him in full bishop’s regalia at the entrance to the Hill of Tara, just poking out of the paddock there; all by himself. Further along there is a gate and fence behind which is nestled an old little church and cemetary and some truly magnificent old trees. Why St Patrick stands a way outside the gate, alone in the paddock, and is such an inconguously large, flamboyant and meticulously carved statue is no doubt explained somewhere in history – but it looks like someone thought it a good idea to plonk him there. I don’t think it was the farmer as it would have cost a pretty penny to build – and it if was the old church then why isn’t he placed inside the gates near the church???
Actually the most beautiful integration of new and old that I have experienced on the trip was at the Brigidine Centre in Kildare.
At some stage in Irish history the celtic goddess Brigid became an abbess called St Brigid. Not much to say on that because it was too beautiful for words – but it was all gentleness and light and healing – and the wisdom from the lady – sister mary – (who received us) was pure inspiration and deep joy and transformed us all. We were all really affected by her talk about the life and example of Brigid, and the ceremony we did there. It was unanimous that it was the highlight of the trip. Naturally I have gone and forgotten most of it now, but I hope it has all gone into my subconscious and will resurface one day when needed. One thing I remember seeing a sign stuck on the wall ‘true strength lies in gentleness, and only the gentle can be truly strong’.
We all have Brigid candles to take home with us now.
24 September 2011 – Ireland
postscript – some photos below
on the way to the Hill of Tara via a small cemetary beside a little church
view from the Hill of Tara including a celtic cross
monument on the Hill of Tara
I don’t have any photos of the pavlova I ate, but here are the gumboots I acquired in Dingle which saved me from having to wear wet suede boots everywhere – the gumboots are lying on the Hill of Tara because I had to take them off so I could walk barefoot on the lush green cushioney grass