Yesterday on Dec 22nd I made my annual pilgrimage to Newgrange (Bru an Boinne) to witness and celebrate the Winter Solstice 2016 with those gathered there. This year’s pilgrimage was very special for me because it was the 30th anniversary of my first visit to Newgrange on 22nd Dec 1986. That year, a friend who was unable to use 2 tickets he had won, sent them on to me. I had never been to Newgrange. I remember the extraordinary excitement I felt as myself and my friend Briege drove there on that clear frosty morning. We were ushered in to the monument up the very narrow passage to the central chamber which was completely dark. It was both exciting and terrifying. So we waited in this darkness and then gradually a line of orange light began to creep up the narrow passage way until it eventually entered the chamber. I felt my amazement growing as the light increased and the complex structure of the chamber was revealed and whatever ideas were in my head about this place were completely inadequate to describe the awe and wonder that my heart experienced in those moments. The light was warm and soft, very different to any other light I had seen. My head tried to make sense of it but my heart new its deeper meaning and when I came home I spent much of the day sitting quietly in my mediation space. Years later it occurred to me that this was an opening into the ancient mysteries of this ancient land. It opened a deep desire in me to know more about the ancient spiritual tradition of this country from which, I and most people, were completely disconnected. I spent much time over the following years visiting many of the sacred places in Ireland. In 2014 a friend Pamela phoned me to say that she had won 2 tickets for Newgrange on Dec 23rd and would like l to go with her. I was so amazed that I was given another opportunity to be in Newgrange at this profound time. We went and it was a stunningly bright morning and we had the blessing of being in the chamber when it was lit by that year’s Solstice sun. Afterwards, Pamela and I walked back over to the Interpretative centre filled with wonder and gratitude and deep respect for the ancient people of this land who had constructed this amazing monument and the spiritual vision that gathered those people together to undertake this work. This year I organised a ritual meditation on Dec 20th in the meditation space in my home. We, a group of 12 people, gathered in the dark to celebrate the longest night of the year. Our ceremony focused on celebrating the darkness and the power and potential that is held within this darkness when we embraced it. Soon in the morning of 22nd Dec 2016 I drove to Newgrange to again bear witness to the re-birth of the sun and the rebirth of all the new life that would follow. I was surprised that there were so few people there. We were very excited as the clouds parted allowing us to see the bright sun as it rose over the horizon such a miracle! I stood in the queue outside the monument and was delighted to be in the first group to be allowed into the chamber after the ticket holders emerged… What a treat… the remaining light and the energy from the earlier light that had lit the chamber created a wonderful and powerful vibration and so for the 3rd time in 30 years, I was privileged to experience the mysteries of Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) .
This 30 year journey is more than a personal one. In 1986 when I said to people that I was in Newgrange for the winter solstice there was very little public awareness of Newgrange or of the Solstices or any of that ancient wisdom. This year and for the past few years the Winter Solstice at Newgrange is covered by Ireland’s national television station and featured on the national news which reflects a growing awareness, interest and respect for these monuments and the importance and the wisdom of the ancient spiritual traditions of this land. As I reflect on this, I recall something that poet, Evan Boland said at a talk in the late 1980’s
“It is a foolish centre that ignores the margins and it is the role of the margins to influence the centre”
Surely this change in attitude to our ancient monuments is a powerful example of her wisdom.
While the central mystery of Newgrange is the celebration of the rebirth of the light after the longest night of the year it I believed that the soul can be reborn in this place.
As I drove home from Newgrange yesterday the prayer that arose in my heart was “May the ancient soul of this land be reborn this winter solstice in the awakening of the soul of each person to the mystery of Love which lies at the heart of all spiritual traditions. May the light radiate from that place of love transform the darkness that is present in our world at this time and may we be able to find that light within ourselves.
The Poet Hafiz says “I wish that I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own Being”
Nollaig Shona agus Athbhlian faoi mhaise
Happy Christmas and happy New year