As an extra excursion with the NUin Program, my peers and I were given the chance to go to Newgrange, a stone passageway in County Meath. Built in the Neolithic era, it is debated as to what the passageway was actually used for. The most popular theory is that it was a burial tomb with religious ties. Older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, it has been reassembled based on what they thought it originally looked like. As of right now, it is circular with a narrow passageway to the middle. The passageway is aligned with the sun on the twenty-first of December, the winter solstice. There is a raffle for people to go into the tomb to see the sun rise the morning of. Those who are lucky enough to experience it during a sunny winter solstice come out saying it was one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.
I had a great time seeing Newgrange. We had been talking about this passage tomb in our Irish Life and Cultures class since the first two weeks of class, and I was extremely excited to see it. Upon arrival, we walked around a museum of ancient artifacts and saw a lot of history within them. One of my favorites was the miniature scale of County Meath that showed how far Newgrange was from the entrance site and how far Knowth was as well. There was also a game that utilized some Neolithic art like the Celtic Knot and the Newgrange spirals. You had to trace the spirals without touching them using a hook – it was surprisingly difficult.
After our bus ride to the actual site, we were told to hold our backpacks so that they could not scratch the rocks. After going inside, it was much larger than I had expected. While not the real thing, the tour guide showed us a preview of what the winter solstice would look like coming through the passage tomb. It was quite a sight. Inside the tomb was absolutely black, but as the “sun” came up, it became a bit brighter and formed a sword shape on the ceiling.
I really enjoyed going to Newgrange and seeing what we were talking about in class. I can only imagine what it would actually look like on a good Winter Solstice.