Here we are at another year’s end with Christmas 2011 behind us and 2012 so close we can almost get there holding our breath.
New Year’s Day — our planet’s only truly global holiday.
The Winter Solstice has been a major marker in human existence since the dawn of mankind – celebrated by every significant culture in recorded history – and it’s no wonder.
Imagine the joy in ancient days when – after months of every darkening diminution — the sun finally begins to return all over the world.
In Ireland, the village of Slane is forty-five miles northwest of Dublin. On its ancient castle grounds have played The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springstein, Bob Dylan and U-2. On the Hill of Slane, Saint Patrick proclaimed Ireland to be Christian in 433 A.D. by lighting a paschal fire. The burial chamber at Newgrange is on the banks of the River Boyne a few miles to the east. It is over five thousand years old.
The Newgrange chamber is a huge, circular, man-made mound of white and black boulders, largely covered with earth and grass. It measures two-hundred and forty feet across and is forty-four feet high, occupying over a full acre. Discovered and uncovered by accident in 1699, the entrance overlooks a broad bend in the river. A narrow tunnel leads seventy feet down into the earth. Visitors are only allowed in small groups after arrangements are made with the proper authorities. Passage is slow. A central chamber contains three rooms – a trinity – all openly facing into the single center. Water has never penetrated the surrounding rocks. Construction was by master architects. It was built for the ages. The spiral markings are everywhere. Their meaning is unclear.
Our Irish tour guide suggested to me with whispered reverence that recent archeological findings indicate the mysterious structure was the work of Tuatha de Danann — “The Children of the Light” — a magical tribe said to have arrived in Ireland on flying ships — hundreds of years later choosing to vanish into the ground upon the arrival of uninvited foreigners rather than defend themselves with horribly powerful instruments at their command– fearsome options abandoned by unanimous group consensus and never since known.
A small opening over the entrance is aligned so that the sun’s rays penetrate and illuminate the chamber with a fiery red glow only once each year at the exact point of the Winter Solstice. It is seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The effect lasts less than twenty minutes.
Newgrange is two thousand years older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
It is perspective.
And it is inspirational to consider that the utter abandonment of weapons of mass destruction has at least one mythological precedent, perhaps even offering a New Year’s Resolution of infinite promise and ultimate merit.
As the same sun shines upon us all.
Children of the Light.
“Whilst you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light. These things Jesus spoke; and he went away, and hid himself from them.”