Every year on the Winter Solstice, Ireland’s 5,200 year-old passage temple Newgrange attracts attention from around the world due to a magnificent spectacle witnessed there.
At the first light of dawn on the Solstice, the inner passageway of this ancient structure in County Meath is illuminated by the rays of the sun. This marvel of ancient engineering holds a very specific purpose, it speaks of the universal story, the birth of the light within. For this reason we can see that Newgrange, although often described as a tomb, is in fact quite the opposite, it is a womb.
The connections between Newgrange and the figure of the Goddess are manifold in Celtic mythology, even manifesting into early Irish Christianity in the temple’s association with St Brigid, regarded in ancient Ireland as the handmaiden or foster-mother of the baby Jesus. In some traditions she was even called the mother of Jesus and given the name Mary of the Gaels. In this alone we can see a clear association between Newgrange and the birth of the Christ within on the Winter Solstice. But there are other far older connections than this, not least in the Celtic Goddess Brighid, who encompassed many aspects of the later Saint and who too was associated with the divine feminine principal.
Brighid was also closely associated with both the Milky Way and the swan, which we will see is another important aspect of this story.
The valley where Newgrange is situated is dedicated to the goddess of fertility Bóann, a Gaelic name that translates as ‘White Cow’. The Goddess gives her name to the River Boyne, which flows through the region and was viewed by the ancients as the mirror of the Milky Way. Just as the Nile was in Egypt. Newgrange is called Bru na Boinne, which translates as the place or womb of Boann. It is said that Boann conceived of and gave birth to her son Oengus at Newgrange in one day. Oengus’ father was the supreme Celtic Father-God the Dadga which, given the powerful symbolism entwined with the site, would indicate that this day was the Winter Solstice.
Also associated with Newgrange is the remarkable tale of Dechtine. The story goes that she conceived of Cúchulainn (known as Setanta in his youth) after she and her brother, the Irish King Conchubar, fled the nobles of Ulster in midwinter following a dispute, taking shelter from the snows in Newgrange.
In a dream whilst inside Newgrange, Dechtine is visited by Lugh, the Irish Sun deity, and becomes pregnant with Cúchulainn, the greatest hero of Irish mythology. A number of researchers have pointed out some (albeit loose) parralels between the Demi-God Cúchulainn and Jesus, and in this Solstice correlation we appear to have another.
Cygnus, Fourknocks and the Holy Grail
Authors Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore have unearthed significant evidence of the astrotheological beliefs of the settlers that lived here 5,000 years ago.
They discovered that Newgrange points to the nearby site of Fourknocks and that Fourknocks pointed directly to the constellation Cygnus, known as the swan, in 3000 BC, the approximate time of the construction of both.
There is an unerring number of Irish myths connecting swans to Newgrange and the area is also a renowned wintering ground for the Whooper Swans, which come to Ireland every Autumn from Iceland, leaving the following Spring. Murphy and Moore point out that the cruciform Newgrange passage and chamber is shaped exactly like Cygnus, which sits in the band of the Milky Way, as if gliding along waters.
Cygnus and the swan has often been associated with the figure of the Goddess, not least in Celtic mythology as the research of writers such as Andrew Collins makes apparent.
The constellation was also a key to the beliefs of the early German Rosicrucians, for whom it symbolised a dove descending into the Holy Grail.
This connection is of primary importance to Cygnus, Newgrange and the many myths surrounding the region.
The Holy Grail is no less than the perfected human soul, able to hold within itself the Christ energy after it is birthed by Spirit. It is the Moon Chalice holding the Sun, to paraphrase Rudolf Steiner. And this is what Newgrange represents.
Triskelion and the Triple Goddess
The triple spiral, or Triskelion, is a powerful symbol in Irish mythology, signifying the three layered nature of the soul. The symbol is often associated with Brighid, who was seen as a kind of Triple Goddess: a poetess, a Smith and a doctor.
One popular correspondence for the meaning of the Triskelion is that of Sky, Sea and Land which correspond with the Thinking, Feeling and Willing faculties of the self.
As the esoteric author Eleanor C Merry wrote in her work on Celtic and Druidic beliefs, ‘Flaming Door’: “It is a reminder to mankind that there are three higher members or parts of human nature, corresponding to the transcendental conception of the Trinity, that are to blossom in the future, to make the transfigured, the selfless, the truly living man; for our thinking, feeling and willing are destined to be transformed into higher and ever higher capacities.”
It is no surprise that Newgrange hosts two such Triskelions, one of which is inside the main chamber and is illuminated on the Winter Solstice each year. Newgrange has always been the womb of the Goddess, The Holy Grail.
It is no surprise either that another symbol of Brighid and other Celtic Goddesses was the cauldron, which later became the Grail of Arthurian legend, the symbol of the purified soul.
Time and again in the myths surrounding Newgrange we see the same associations: The divine conception and virgin birth, the Christ figure, both man and God, always born or conceived on the Winter Solstice, when the Sun deity and the Goddess meet.
The story is always the same because the story is always you. It is the story of the inner birth.
Based on the research and work of Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore at www.mysticalireland.com
Andrew Collins’ work can be found at www.andrewcollins.com
Image of Cygnus/Newgrange comparison taken from www.mysticalireland.com