ANCIENT SITES IN THE IRISH LANDSCAPE

Holy Well, Cuilleann, County Tipperary, formerly dedicated to "Our Lady" as were most of the holy wells of Ireland.

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

The largest stone circle in Ireland "Lios na Grainsi" ("Stones of the Sun), Loch Gur, County Limerick

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

HOLY WELLS abound in the Irish Countryside. This one was formerly attributed to Our Lady and therefore sacred in ancient times to the Goddess Brid, but was re-named in the Twentieth Century and is now known as Saint Patrick's Well. The majority of Irish Holy Wells are now atttributed to Saint Patrick.

A LIOS or Grange is the name given in Ireland to a ring-fort or stone circle. The word "Grange" is an English rendering of the Irish word "Grian", which means "Sun". This lends credence to the theory that stone circles in Ireland were connected with sun worship, as at the larger stone circle of Stonehenge in England.

A Crannog in Loch Ramor, County Cavan

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

Former Royal Rath of the Kings of Munster, County Tipperary

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

A CRANNOG is an artificial island, created in ancient times upon piles of alder logs and brushwood in the shallow margins of a lake. Earth was added to the enclosed area and then a settlement of huts was built inside a strong wooden palisade fence of tall, sharp stakes. Such settlements gave security to people and animals, and were usually accessed in round skin-covered boats called curraghs. In later, safer times, causeways were built with gates at each end, or sometimes long wooden bridges.

A RATH or (Fairy) Fort is the name given to a round banked enclosure. The circular bank was formerly the base for a high palisade fence of sharpened logs.Inside the circular enclosure, round wooden thatched dwelling huts were built for security. Domesticated animals were herded into the gated enclosure in bad weather and as a protection against cattle and horse raiding - common pastimes for the ancient Celts! This Rath is believed to have been at one time the main stronghold of the King of Munster.

The "Lia Fial" (Stone of Destiny) Hill of Tara, County Meath.

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

Carved Kerbstone K52 at Newgrange, County Meath

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

The Hill of TARA in the Royal County of Meath was for centuries in ancient times the seat of the High King of Ireland, the Ard Ri. This monolith is called the Lia Fial, The Stone of Fal or the Stone of Destiny. The tradition is that the High Kings of Ireland would be crowned here, and that the Stone would roar or cry out loudly if touched by the true High King. Some believe that the original Stone of Fal was taken to England and placed under the Coronation Throne inWestminster Abbey, then in the current Century stolen, taken into safe keeping in Scotland. Who now knows which is the true Lia Fial or where it lies!

This CARVED MONOLITH is one of the massive carved kerbstones surrounding the huge passage-grave of Newgrange, County Meath. This construction is the largest passage-grave in the world. The single passage at Newgrange (which name comes from the Irish "An Uamh Greine", meaning "The Cave of of the Sun") is aligned towards the Midwinter Sunrise. The central line on this carved stone is exactly in line with this sunrise alignment, but at the back of the mound, on the opposite side to the entranceway. A mid-Winter Solstice sunbeam passes at dawn into this ancient Sun Temple.

Shanballyedmond Court Cairn, Silvermines Mountains.

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

Tumulus at Laitean, CountyTipperary

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

A COURT CAIRN is a pre-historic burial mound which has several chambers leading off from a central corridor. It would at one time have been covered over with large slabs, with stones, rubble and earth on top of the slabs. In this cairn, which has lost its earth covering, the chambers can clearly be seen. Above the entrance arch was a large stone lintel. In front of the arch was a small courtyard with a floor of rough flagstones and two or more sheltering monoliths. The outer courtyards of such Court Cairns are believed to have been used for funerary ceremonies.

This TUMULUS is a covered, chambered burial mound. It is similar in structure to Newgrange, but on a smaller scale. Many such tumuli are found in the Irish countryside, some in groups and others singly. They are believed to be the burial places of important chieftains and kings. Note that this one has planted upon the top of it the significant number of thirteen pine trees, and beside it a lone hawthorn tree. Lone hawthorns are thought to be the homes of The Sidhe or Fairy Folk, who are believed to still live within the hills, tumuli and raths of Ireland. Thousands of these pre-historic mounds can be found in the Irish countryside.

Court Cairn on Slieve na Caillighe,County Meath

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

Passage Mound 'Cairn T', Loughcrew, County Meath

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1996

This COURT CAIRN at Slieve na Caillighe "The Hill of the Witches" in County Meath, is still surrounded by an earthern bank. There are seven chambers inside, which take the form of small "alcoves" around the walls. Several of the large upright dividing stones between the chambers have carved spirals and waveforms upon them, as do the two upright stones flanking the entrance to the cairn. Here, an experiment in sound resonance is being carried out, using human voices and 'bodrahns' - Irish goatskin hand-drums, the oldest type of musical instruments known to humankind. This PASSAGE MOUND is also on one of the hills of the Loughcrew complex in County Meath. The mound still has its surrounding earthen banks and roof, covered with many small stones. At the far end of the East-facing passage of this mound, the back slab of the central chamber is richly carved with variety of shapes and designs. A very prominent design is a 'sun' symbol (a circle with a central dot) surrounded by eight petal-like segments which is lit by the rays of the rising sun ONLY on the 2 days of the Equinoxes each year. Like the Newgrange Passage Mound, this one is an effective and accurate dating device.

"The Calendar Stone" Kells Churchyard

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1997

Serpentine carving on upright stone,Loughcrew County, Meath

Photograph Copyright J. M ABBOTT 1997

In the churchyard at Kells, County Meath, this CARVED STONE leans against the church wall. It has a double circle on it, divided into quadrants and subdivided into octants which are themselves divided into three sectors each. On the centre of the circle is a hole, which at some time past may have contained a gnomon rod of metal which cast a sun-shadow to indicate a date. (The stone is known as "The Calendar Stone"). The central hole could also have served as an anchor point for a centrally-pivoted lever which was rotated to indicate the time of year and the current religious festival. The age of this stone is unknown. The initial letter "R" carved on it shows that it may originally have been placed lengthwise, (and possibly also horizontally) when in use as a calendar. This CARVED STONE is one of the large uprights of a chambered cairn which in ancient times would have been covered over by a large mound of earth and stones. This particular cairn has seven internal alcoves partitioned by large upright stones, and this stone with its 'serpent carving' is placed near the entrance court. Wavy serpentine lines are a feature of many ancient carved monoliths in the Celtic lands of Europe and are believed to indicate the passage of time, with each change of direction indicating a new time phase. Similar curved lines appear on carved stones bordering the passage mound of Knowth in County Meath, and there they appear to indicate the lunar months in a year. This enigmatic stone still guards it secret, as no theory has yet explained its snake-like markings.

The Celtic God,"The Cernunnos Stone", Tara Churchyard, County Meath

Photograph Copyright J. MABBOTT 1997

The Celtic Goddess, Fragmented ancient statue of "The Lady", The Great Circle.

Photograph Copyright J. MABBOTT 1997

This heavily weathered MONOLITH stands in an Irish churchyard upon the Hillof Tara, seat of the ancient High Kings of Ireland. On this hill, they had a fortified enclosure containing a large banqueting hall, kitchens, living quarters, trademens huts,domesticated animals and food stores. The Stone of Destiny (Lia Fial) was also on this hill, and still stands there today (see above) as does The Mound of the Hostages, a small chambered mound with carved inner stones. Although this monolith stands today within a walled churchyard, it obviously pre-dates the church and the surrounding tombstones by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years. The yews behind it are of a tree-species which can grow for up to 5000 years. The carving at the baseof this upright stone has been weathered over time, even though it is of a very resistant type of rock. Lichens growing on its surface also serve to obscure the pattern of the carving, but (as well as being able to discern a woman's face in the lower part of the oval framed depression!) it is just possible to make out the traces of what looks like a small horned figure of a man - thought to be the pagan Celtic horned god Herne (whose Latin name was Cernunnos). This pile of sedimentary sandstone shaped boulders is believed to be a possible ANCIENT STATUE. The geological fault lines in it are horizontal, and, during the past ten years, one part of it has certainly been fractured into two parts, probably by vandalism. A smaller stone which could have been the head of the 'statue' has been removed or stolen. As this type of sedimentary sandstone fractures so easily along its horizontal strata or bedding planes, and because this type of soft rock weathers so easily; it is possible to conjecture that 3500 years ago, when the stone circle it forms a part of was built, the statue was intact and was of a female form. If the ancient oral tradition of the Irish Celtic Druids can be believed to be a valid form by which history can be handed down over hundreds or thousands of years, then some weight can be given to the fact that the grandfather of the farmer upon whose land this stone feature stands always referred to it as "The Lady". The name "Our Lady", would be the name given to a Christian statue, but the words "The Lady" are still used today to represent the pagan Earth Goddess throughout Europe. Modern-day pagans honour "The Lady" and "The Lord" as the female and male aspects of "The Creator" in their religion, which reveres Nature and all the Earth.

Text Copyright J.Rufus, 1998/1999

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ANCIENT STONE MONUMENTS OF IRELAND, PRESS ON THIS SUN CARVING TO READ ABOUT SUN/MOON CALENDARS BASED ON DRUID LORE, AVAILABLE BY MAIL ORDER FROM THIS WEBSITE.
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