An equinox is an astronomical event in which the Earth's equator passes through the center of the Sun. When this happens, day and night are of equal length around the world. These were extremely important dates for the ancients who inhabited a region of Ireland still held sacred today.
Loch Craobh (Loughcrew) sits not far from Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland. It was erected approximately 3400 years ago and is older than Stonehenge and the pyramids in Egypt. It is a site of major importance and contains many megalithic burial mounds, passage tombs and cairns. Tombs on the site are aligned with the Equinox sunrise which occurs on March 20th this year.
Loughcrew is one of the four main passage tomb sites in Ireland (the others are Brú na Bóinne, Carrowkeel and Carrowmore). The site is spread across four hilltops: Carnbane East, Carnbane West, Carrickbrack and Patrickstown. These hills and the tombs themselves are together known as Slieve na Calliagh or Sliabh na Caillí, meaning "mountain of the Cailleach", the divine hag of Irish mythology. Legend has it that the monuments were created when a giant hag, striding across the land, dropped her cargo of large stones from her apron.
In more recent centuries Loughcrew became the seat of a branch of the Norman-Irish Plunkett family, whose most famous member became the martyred St Oliver Plunkett. The family church stands in the grounds of Loughcrew Gardens. With its barren isolated location, Sliabh na Caillí became a critical meeting point throughout the Penal Laws for Roman Catholics. Even though the woods are now gone an excellent example of a Mass Rock can still be seen on the top of Sliabh na Caillí today. The Plunketts were involved in running the Irish Confederacy of the 1640s and were dispossessed in the Cromwellian Settlement of 1652.
In 1980 Irish-American researcher Martin Brennan discovered that Cairn T in Carnbane East is directed to receive the beams of the rising sun on the spring and autumnal equinox - the light shining down the passage and illuminating the art on the backstone. Brennan also discovered alignments in Cairn L Knowth, and Dowth in the Boyne Valley. The Cairn T alignment is similar to the well-known illumination at the passage tomb at Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange), which is aligned to catch the rays of the winter solstice sunrise. There are about twenty-three tombs in the Loughcrew complex in addition to Cairn L and Cairn T, along with additional archeological sites.
From the stone of Fal on Tara high,
'cross the river that flows deep and slow,
the ancients all gather at this holy place
to catch the bright morning's warm glow.
In robes of pure white, they walk the ground
and wait for the rising sun.
In the heart of the mound, old souls can be found;
heaven bound, they now become one.
The Master appears, an unearthly sight,
and raises his arms to the sky.
The people bow down, and kneel on the ground,
then chant with a joyful cry.
The rays creep across the hills and the glen,
and strike the box over the door.
They follow along to the chamber, and then,
the love there enshrined, proudly soars.
It has always been done in this very way,
and for eons will last evermore.
Their spirits will rise and fly every day,
and watch over our true heart's core.
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© John A. Brennan 2022. All Rights Reserved.