On Sunday morning, I visited Loughcrew (in Irish Loch Craobh) to greet the dawn of the autumn equinox. It was still pitch black when I left the house, and I was glad to see the stars shining bright and clear. It meant there would be a good chance of seeing the sun rise.

There was just enough tremulous starlight to guide my way up the hill. I couldn’t help feeling that by following in the footsteps of our distant ancestors I was enacting some kind of ancient ritual, winding my way through the still velvety darkness as they would have done, perhaps earning the right to be there by participating in that steep, breathless climb at such an early hour of the day.

Meanwhile, the faint stain of dawn was already caressing the horizon in the east, and I wondered at the mysticism of the event I was about to witness.

Although the tiny car park was full, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of people waiting in anticipation, as I rounded the stony bulk of cairn T. They were queuing all the way around it, and the hum of their chatter and laughter seemed loud in my ears after all that silence.

There were people everywhere; photographers with huge cameras on tripods, dogs on leads, children running, men climbing on top of the cairn, even people on horses. Above our heads, a remotely controlled device flew around buzzing noisily and flashing red and green lights; it probably contained a camera. I felt uncomfortable, restless. I’m not one for crowds at the best of times.

I watched a small group perform a pagan ritual. No doubt it was disconcerting for them that a small crowd had gathered to watch their ceremony, but when they dress in long robes and cloaks, and process around a public place carrying wooden staves, they have to expect they are going to draw curious onlookers, I suppose. They seemed somewhat lacking in confidence.

The sun rose, but hid her face behind a thin veil of cloud that refused to budge. Still, people waited. I suspected that if there was even a hint of a sunbeam, there would be a mad rush to try and get into the cairn chamber, and I did not want to be a part of that. The cairn was open, so I asked to go in.

It was dark and empty, except for one huge spider. I shone the light from my phone on the familiar symbols, and relaxed. It didn’t matter if the sun entered the chamber or not, or how many people there were waiting outside for something stupendous and glorious to happen; this was where the magic happened, and this was what it was all about, in the dark, on my own, with the symbols and the ancestors.

Others followed me in, but I didn’t stay long. I didn’t need to. I’d paid my respects, as I always did every time I visited, not just once or twice a year at the equinox. I realised how lucky I was; I could come here any time. If the cairn was closed, I could even get the key. This is Ireland, after all. We don’t fence our monuments off and forbid people to touch and experience them.

The ‘wrongness’ that I felt lifted as I walked back down. It came to me that the reason it all felt wrong, was that there was no peace on the hill. I had always felt comfortable there, but the crowd had unnerved me; I was used to having the place almost to myself. Was I being selfish, possessive, or just protective?

Because in ancient days, inevitably a crowd would have gathered to witness rituals and the dawning of the sun. But they would have had a common purpose, a shared goal and belief, and they no doubt understood their place in it all better than us, even if they couldn’t explain the mystery.

Today’s crowd didn’t have that. We were a gathering of individuals, some walking our dogs, some riding our horses, some celebrating our rituals, some curious, even part of a drunken wedding party straight from the reception, stinking of booze and out for a laugh.

We all came for the same thing, the dawning of the equinox, but we all wanted to experience it in our own way. That’s not a bad thing; we should be celebrating our diversity. I have probably been quick to say that no one cares any more about our ancient sites, but here I was proved wrong.

Whatever their motivations, whether it was honouring the ancestors, or mother earth, or just curiosity, people had got out of their beds before the dawn and climbed up a steep hill to be there. Nothing else matters but that. I don’t know if any of us got what we wanted, but I hope that at least some of us did.

It was a beautiful, perfect morning. At the foot of the hill, I got a fabulous coffee in the new Loughcrew Megalithic Centre, before driving home. You can read more about Loughcrew here.

109 thoughts on “Equinox at Loughcrew

  1. I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and reflections on this. I would also have wished for silence, but our world often seems afraid or wary of silence and stillness. Very nicely told. 😊

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  2. That sounds like a fantastic experience.
    I know what you mean. Some places are better experienced alone. But as you say, people gathering have ameaning, even if we don’t like it at first. I thought it was amazing that so many people went to see the dawning in a special palce.

    Beautiful pics too πŸ™‚

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  3. I enjoyed joining you on this Equinox journey, Ali. You are lucky for having this landmark close enough to visit, on significant sunrise days, and just whenever. I love your photos. Thank you for sharing. I’d never see this otherwise!

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  4. Great piece, Ali, it made me think that my own love of monuments is as much about anthropology, in that I’m always looking at other people’s reactions, as archaeology, or history, or whatever you’re having yourself. I like your new look. Don’t say you got it in Penneys πŸ˜‰

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    1. Lol! Penneys can be quite versatile and certainly follows trends… shame it never survives its first wash… For me, these monuments are a marvel on many different levels; their physicality, location, aesthetics, and of course purpose. But most importantly, the human factor; why, how, who… that most of all. There are buildings far more ancient and fantastic and grander in other parts of the world, and they fill me with wonder. But they dont make me FEEL the way our own monuments do.

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      1. I know what you mean. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing some renowned monuments on quiet days with very few people there. It freed up my imagination to get a better sense of the first inhabitants, but it also allowed me to observe the reactions and mutterings of my fellow gawkers much more keenly, which for me can be half the experience!

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    1. Thank you! You are the first person to notice the new theme. I am waiting on a proper banner for the header, that one is just temporary. Thank you for dropping by so quickly after Ed’s post! Loughcrew is quite spectacular any time of the day, and the funny thing was, although I knew there was a long line of people pressed up against the other side of the cairn wall, inside was all peaceful and calm. You would have thought you had the place to yourself! 😁 Actually, for a few moments, I did!

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  5. Nice Ali. I’ve never been tempted to join the crowds. Like you I’d sooner go places at quieter times. But I’m guessing even back in the day, thousands of years ago, not all of the crowd were respectful and there were a few drunks and other nuisances – probably not drones though πŸ™‚

    We have our own Neolithic tomb here in Jersey – La Hougue Bie – with the sun’s rays shining through to the back chamber at equinox.

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    1. Fantastic! I didn’t know that! Have you been inside? Were you lucky enough to witness the sun shining through? The closest I ever got to that was the simulation at Newgrange, but it was well done, and even that experience left me breathless!

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  6. Really interesting Ali. I’m not really into this dawn rising to see the sun hit a rock thing so I’d have waited in the cafe. Probably lost the urge at Uluru in Australia when I rose pre dawn to view the sun hitting the fabulous red rock and realised after thirty minutes driving that if it was raining I’d most likely not see anything! I was pretty dumb back then. As for access I think it’s great, i think I was lucky to have been alive when you could stroke Stonehenge but I don’t want people chipping off bits of the stones, so I see the need for compromise. Much like a painting that cannot have daylight on it for fear of fading, we make things we want to last for other generations and therefore have to curtail this one. Maybe we go ott in this protective urge, maybe we will learn other ways that permit greater access but for now I’m not greedy in my need to be up close and personal if t d so would wear away the glory.

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    1. Oops. I meant to say they only ‘protect’ the moneyspinners ie Stonehenge. Take Avebury, such a huge site there is no way they can control and limit access. Are the stones less ‘safe’ from us than the ones at Stonehenge? There is always a better way. These ancient stone places have lasted through the ages, and will last beyond us too. In Ireland access even when controlled, ie Newgrange, still allows entry to the mound, recreates the dawn experience, and allows people close contact with the stones and their carvings, all at a very small cost, unlike Stonehenge. Are they ‘preserving’ it for future generations? I wonder.

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      1. It’s not for me to defend them but the scale is different if the figures I’ve just pulled from the net for 2014 are accurate. Newgrange has 200,000 visitors, Stonehenge 1.34 million. One of your other correspondents mentioned Avebury – 360,000. It may have been open down the centuries but only today with international recognition and ease of access to it do you get those sorts of numbers. Maybe you’re right, maybe it’s money. Personally I’m not that cynical.

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        1. Those figures are pretty impressive, but thats what you get when you only promote your charged site with visitor centre shop and cafe. Most tourists who go to Stonehenge probably dont know about places like Avebury. I’d be surprised if it wasnt about money. But the good thing is that by focussing everyones attention on one particular site, like Stonehenge, the others remain undeveloped and free to visit for those who are interested. So of course there are positives and negatives.

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          1. I really would love them to be all open but I can see there needs to be control when the numbers are huge. And why am I not a cynic? It’s usually my default setting? I must have ingested some positivity! Sorry, Ali, my comment seems to have clogged up your lovely post and that wasn’t my aim.

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            1. I did wonder at the change in you! Haha! But I have enjoyed our conversation, I love it when a post I have written sparks off a debate! Thats what blogging is all about for me; observation, telling a story and interaction. Thanks for joining in. 😊

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    2. Ironic comparing protection of Stonehenge to Avebury … considering that Stonehenge has used a lot of modern concrete to keep those stones up while Avebury has not. How many people would chip off some late 50s concrete to take home as a souvenir? πŸ™‚

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      1. Lol! They used concrete? Fab! And that is preservation? But that is what I mean. No one has done anything with Avebury, because it is too big to be effectvely controlled. I think some of its stones were lifted back upright, but I think that was by local people. I think the authorities would show more interest if they could control it by limiting access and charging a fortune to look at it.

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      2. That’s an entirely fair point and the protection might be an extreme reaction. And it might well be that the conservative nature of the authorities didn’t like the Druids and travellers who descended for their celebrations that triggered the protection. But it is a fact that the more people who visit the more difficult it is to protect these venues. I wish I could climb Silbury Hill as I did as a kid but I can’t. I can go into the Long Barrow and Avebury and I hope that continues. But I do understand the need to both make accessible and protect. I don’t have an answer and English Heritage or whoever runs Stonehenge can answer for themselves I’m sure.

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  7. Well Ali, I have to admit I have pretty much been away from all blogs but couldn’t resist seeing if you’d posted anything new. And now I get to share it! Awesome. You’re picture was so vivid, I felt like I was there. Oddly I also imagined you walking a path that roughly resembled a spiral, is that just my imagination? Anyway I finished my round of revisions, woohoo!, which is how I had a moment to stop by. I didn’t get out for the equinox myself but I accomplished much else. Happy equinox to you, I have the feeling the ancestors were indeed very honored by your presence and I wouldn’t doubt some of them shared your exasperation with the scattered energy and noisy people. Oh and no offense to pagans, I mean, I am one, I haven’t been to a ritual that didn’t lack in confidence. I think I said before I like being up front and assertive and loud when hailing directions for instance–I mean how else do you hail anyone or anything? But I am always standing myself out by doing that. I say just make the commitment to your ritual and do it, unless shyness and uncertainty has a designated place in the ritual. πŸ™‚ Just my opinion.

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    1. Thanks Γ‰ilis! The path wasnt a spiral, but it was circular. I walked around and around the cairn a few times, so maybe thats the spiral you’re picking up. Lol! I cant imagine you not being confident and assertive in your rituals, Γ‰ilis! 😁 And I hope Ididnt offend pagans either, because I never intended to. I felt pleased and privelaged to witness their ceremony, maybe like me they never expected so many other people to be there.

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    2. Ha, ha, the comment of confidence in ritual seems to be quite a focus here, and I can relate to this in amusement. As I have done this since about 6 years old I have also seen this through all kinds of rural folk drama traditions that includes mummers, guisers, circle dancers, sword dancers,, wassailers, straw boys, sacred players, element callers, and lets play at being paganers.

      In all of these troupes there is one person that is some kind of leader, usually known as captain or chief if a men’s troupe or queen, priestess, guide or facilitator if a women’s group. The leader is usually quite rigid about how the ritual should be and often writes out script for each person to follow to the word. Today most of these players have not been part of the troupe for more than a couple of years so its not become part of local tradition to them yet. At Loughcrew it seems to be different troupe members each Equinox as that is what the leader of that likes.

      So the situation becomes that new members are conscious of trying to be exacting to please the ‘leader’, and the ‘leader’ is distracted due to seemingly being more concerned about what the others are saying and doing than what he or she is doing … so overall it can seem awfully full of no confidence.

      With me, I usually am West and Calling Water so I just go ahead and do my own thing with what I am familiar with. Last year Lora O’Brien was there who is similar to me but usually plays North Calling Earth, so I think we had at least two confident people, but I recall the others were on the ball too. The leader did say it was not what she had in mind, as we did not follow her script, but I think she was happy πŸ™‚

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      1. Lol! How rebellious of you! But I’m sure your confidence and conviction made it more real for anyone watching, and drew them in. Thats what I was hoping would happen to me, I think, that I would feel drawn in, included, a part of it.

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        1. I do the same thing in rituals, Ali. πŸ™‚ I’m always amazed how many scripts occur in ritual. I was part of a group who insisted on using scripts, it sucked the energy right out of it in my opinion. Interestingly I’m never seen as rebellious for never following the script, I guess I can get away with it by pointing out I can’t read the script anyway, lol. But the truth is, I’d improvise even if I could read it. To Woodland Bard, I’d love to attend a ritual with Lora OҀ™Brien. She came to our West coast PantheaCon last year and I attended her workshop on the sidhe. I now have her book on a practical guide to Irish Spirituality, which I am sure I will end up following, sort of, as the case always is. She’s a wonderful speaker and very knowledgeable and I had a very interesting experience in the meditation she led. πŸ™‚

          Incidentally I just wonder how much leading the leaders of these groups actually do? I was in a leaderless group for a while, it was pretty messy after a while. I guess I’ve noticed that a lot of groups dislike anything that looks like hierarchy, and I really don’t blame them, but they also confuse that with authority. In parenting styles people talk about being uthoritative versus authoritarian. In my opinion assertiveness is awesome. There’s no reason I think to top down decide how rituals go or anything like that, that would be disastrous in many ways, but when people don’t know what to do, what’s expected, where to go, whether they can follow their instincts and intuition in the moment mainly or adhere to something else, having one or two people take charge, who know how to monitor and hold space for the energy of the entire group, seems so needed. And I often find that lacking, at least in the groups and rituals I’ve encountered. But that all said the fact that people are going out there and celebrating the seasons and honoring their traditions and the land, and the ancestors, that is the heart of what matters, and we are so lucky to live in a time where we can be exactly who we are and believe what we want without fear, and have such a diversity of everything. Just my personal thoughts on things.

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        2. Hey I just realized I might have come across as judging people I don’t know in what I said earlier when really I’ve thought about the subject a lot and was in philosophical mode. When I’ve ventured to discuss the topic with pagan friends, I’ve found myself very much in the minority opinion. So if I offended anyone, sorry! πŸ™‚

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            1. I don’t think you have, Ali. πŸ™‚ But I know, I get so worried when I think I might have upset someone. I can be pretty blunt – I have no particular explanation for that, it just happens. And I often have poor social skills sometimes, especially like lately when I’ve spent so much time in my head with arguments and very little time with people.

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    1. Thank you so much Eli! It was amazing, even though I’m really not a morning person. I kept thinking that while most of us are still sleeping, all across Ireland, perhaps even the northern hemisphere, other groups of people were gathering to greet the equinox in all the high sacred places too. It was quite mind blowing… for me, anyway! 😊

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  8. “couldn’t help feeling that by following in the footsteps of our distant ancestors” – odd how this happens – There must be some collective memory we tap into when paying attention.
    Sounds like an experience worth doing. I love to watch the sun rise and the morning wake over the lake- often. It seems like it was meant to be – natural life.
    Enjoyable read, thanks

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    1. There is certainly immense peace and contentment in it. And something about the open space and the reflecton of light on the water, must be a wonderful experience. I am actually a sound sleeper, so I dont often see the dawn, but I adore sunsets, and we get spectacular ones here in the spring and autumn.

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  9. Thanks for your informative presentation, Ali, complete with visuals and interesting video footage. As relics of how humanity evolved through such trail markers and artistic formations, cairns are fascinating signposts of history, similar to stupas in India and Nepal, and pyramids of Egypt. Someday I like to visit Ireland and place a stone on a cairn. As I write this, I am still looking at the cairn, enchantingly silhouetted against rising sun, with two humans atop very much like honey bees drawing nectar from the heaving bosom of dharani (Mother Earth in Sanskrit)…best wishes… Raj.

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  10. Fabulous Ali and I get what you mean about places that have special meaning especially when you are there on your own. There is a small chapel plastered onto the walls of a ravine with a wild rushing river beneath it. Near to Chamonix it is popular with hikers but we were lucky to have visited when we were the only two people to cross the dodgy old wooden bridge. The atmosphere inside was electric with centuries of emotional desperation… made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Great photos and I am sure as you say everyone there including the wedding party will have taken something special away from the site.

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      1. All the walls had tiny cracks in them with prayers on folded up pieces of paper.Hundreds of them. It was a very tiny space and it was not a serene feeling and perhaps it was the roaring torrent of water so close by but I had to walk out after a few minutes it was so intense in there. Yet, I have walked into old abbeys and churches that have a completely different atmosphere of calm. probably just me.

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        1. I doubt it’s just you. I had a similar feeling with the Rosslyn Chapel. It took me at least 3 days for my headache to clear. I really didn’t like that place, to be honest.

          The only place that’s given me a worse headache was Holyrood Palace. After I walked into the room where poor Rizzio was murdered, I felt such a weight on my head that I had to get out as fast as possible (sadly, no one had told me that was the room before hand, or I would have avoided it). I spent the next 3 days in bed, unable to move. Yikes.

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          1. Glad to hear that I am not just being odd.. when we have been house hunting there have been a couple of places that I just could not stay in and I felt ill. And yet felt fine as soon as outside. They say that intense emotion seeps into the fabric of a building and I am sure that is why people believe certain places are haunted. Probably best not to visit the dungeons in the Tower of London, I hear they are very atmospheric!

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            1. I couldnt go in there, Sally! I wouldnt be able to get the two tragic little Princes out of my head. Its too distressing. I feel such an idiot about things, but I often have to force myself to block out suffering, because I cant cope otherwise.

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          2. I get these feeling from a lot of churches, and from within these ancient cairns too. ‘Emotional desperation’ comes over as a good description but that is only limited to what we personally feel. I could never blame the construction but as is pointed out elsewhere I believe we do pick up signatures, memories, well something unseen, that is part of that space left before.

            I do not get that form forests, beside waters and at spring wells, the holy wells, as I always feel there is unconditional forgiveness within and around those.

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            1. I know what you mean. Actually, Medieval masons and architects consciously used symbols. I wrote an article about while doing my PhD – it was published in the Edinburgh Architectural Research magazine.

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        2. No, its not just you. In fact, Ed Mooney was just describing a similar feeling he had recently when visiting a spring dedicated to Brigid. Some places do have a dark feeling about them, as you say, tainted by need and mabe events too. I remember as a teen writing a story about memories of something bad being trapped in the stone walls of a building. I believe that can happen. Something unpleasant could have happened there.

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  11. Only an hour or so earlier, I’d been reading this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34282849 about the man who gave Stonehenge to the nation. I’ve only visited twice, but on neither occasion did I feel I could roam freely around it, something he clearly intended. I’d never heard of Loughcrew, but maybe that’s what makes it so accessible in comparison to a site like Stonehenge. I should keep quiet about it if I were you, Ali…

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    1. I was very disappointed with my experience of Stonehenge… at no point we we able or allowed to get anywhere near the stones. There were guards there to ensure no one stepped off the path! For all I know they had pistols under their uniforms! Its not like that here. Whether Stonehenge has changed since the site was redeveloped, I dont know, but i suspect the price of admission has to pay for it all!

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      1. I’ve not been since the recent changes – they were still underway when I last visited – but I can’t imagine access has improved. I kind of understand the wish to preserve, but it also feels a bit like when you buy a nice dinner service and then only get it out once a year on special occasions. These things are for USING!

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    1. Thanks Ed, its a great place, but that whole experience unexpectedly aroused mixed feelings in me. You will love Loughcrew, its very scenic and atmospheric, and I would love to see your images and interpretation of it. Domed piles of stones do not make for exciting pictures like a stunninc castle does, but I’d love to see a really clear capture of the inner carvings, which are fairly intact.

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  12. I think you nailed it Ali. What we have lost is the naivety of ancient people. We don’t see things the way they did and we do see things they could never have imagined. Personally I think the people who try to reconstruct a lost innocence are trying to roll back the tide. How many of them drove their cars to get to Loughcrew before they put on their robes and got out the wooden staves? Like you, I think this spiritual/mystical experience is most fruitful if it’s a solitary one, just watching the dawn and listening to the voices in your head. Gorgeous photos btw. I’m pinching them.

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    1. Well, I saw two of them get into a car that was more ancient and knackered than mine, so either they’re broke, or non-materialistic. I guess these days one can have beliefs based on the distant past but still enjoy modern conveniences. I dont think we can reconstruct past ceremonies, we have no detailed accounts we can trust, so its all guesswork, and I just have a gut instinct that we mostly gt it wildly wrong. As for the pics, I just took them on my phone, feeling mighty inadequate surrounded by all those proffessional cameras on tripods hogging all the best spots. I unintentionally got in one photographers way while I took a pic, you should have seen the look of utter contempt on his face, even though I appologised when I realised. He didnt even bother with a reply. Lol!

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      1. Ha, ha, this stirs up my imagination and memories, again as one of the ritual people from last year. First, you are both spot on with the car descriptions. Yes, we all seem to have arrived in battered old falling apart cars last year, and probably no different to this year. I do not think anyone was local, well not living within 10km of Loughcrew. There again, how many with 10km were actually visiting there anyway?

        A louder ha, ha, for the photographers. Yes, the people with the pro gear are a touchy bunch, arn’t they? We had incidents with them last year.

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        1. I suspect not many of the visitors were locals. I live a 20 minute drive away in another county yet I consider myself local. It was funny to see people in robes and cloaks climbing into a car, it just didnt seem to fit, somehow! 😁

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        2. I find the rituals are a bit novel. To me its all drama. However, I first got into all this when I was 6 years old. My first experience was an unvisited cairn in Yorkshire that became my den and my father took me to Stonehenge in 1956, I think, before it was re-erected. You could drive up to it then, the fields had no fences. My question was “what on earth went on here”. After visiting and talking to a few farmers and foresters the only way I could make sense of it was to gather some friends together and create childhood games folks dramas out of what I had learned to see if we could learn something from the interaction. It was a lot of fun. It developed and my first job after school was putting these together based at Glastonbury in the late 60s.

          The people that joined me at Loughcrew have perhaps been exploring the megalithic world for 10 years or less, Lora O’Brien may well be longer, maybe up to 20 years, but for many of them the ritual activity I believe is like when I was a child there trying to figure out what this was all about.

          We may easily say its about silent and being there but now I question what for? As really I see a lot of this as human created installation art these days. Some say its all built on a ‘sacred site’, but then I ask who took on the ‘right’ to say they controlled what was built there. It is is truly sacred where are the trees, where are the water springs etc. The best sense I seem to make of it these days is that one in hunter gather times this may have been a place of marking out migration, as for some tribes they had to follow the migration of animals and birds to survive.

          Then came the farmers, and the question then seems to be how was this a toold for the farming people? Then came the iron age, the age of weapons, invasion and seizing, the age of creating heroes, and the heroes then placed in these places to become tombs. Several changes of uses over several thousand years. I believe these caped rituals are not of the ancient past but perhaps part of a modern change of use?

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          1. Yes, archaeology bears that out, these places were used and re-used by subsequent people, but no one ever answered why they were built in the first place. They werent really tombs, they werent really temples, so what were they for? There are lots of references in the old stories to pagans celebrating in the open spaces, under sacred trees and so on, but the mounds were always said to be the homes of the Sidhe, or rather, gateways to their homes. Whoever built them aligned them with sun and stars so that is key to me, but the why and who completely evades me.

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            1. I believe that question will always be a wonder to live with and the answer never important. Even so it seems to guide us on healthy thinking and feeling ways. When we imagine ourselves back to the times of these places it seems the people were mainly hunter gatherers that did a bit of farming and farmers who did a bit of hunter gathering. So it seems the first thought is of how these ancient constructions enhanced the lives they were living.

              There seems to be a lot of interpretation based on how we live today, assuming it was the same then, such as the way we regard rituals, temples, and especially the way people dress now to revere such things.

              A trending thought now seems to be that it was mainly hunter gatherers who built these stone structures, and a lot of these hunter gatherers were sea nomads. I like the stories of them coming ashore and building these structures to be symbols of their strength and to share their navigation and astronomy skills. To this they lured the famers. Pure speculation, of course, but I cannot help relate this to the Normans, once Norse sea hunter gatherers who also traded, who eventuall burned their ships, came ashore, built huge churches, and engaged the farming people to serve them.

              The stories of the Sidhe also seem to fit every story of farming, germination and human fertility that has been told of these places.

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        1. Actually, now you come to mention it, there were no cyclists there, which is surprising, because its hard not to get mown down by a yellow topped wannabe these days, wherever you are, isnt it???

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  13. Lovely passionate post Ali. Hmm, I see I cannot post a sample pic but last year I was one of those ‘somewhat lacking in confidence’ ritual people. I am often called in to be the ‘West’ and bringer of water at these things. We had a good sunny sunrise last year and a lot of people gathered around us. The 4 of us there were a very confident crew I think πŸ™‚

    I do have mixed feelings about Loughcrew Cairns though. Part of my following the stones for about 53 years the the remarkable out of body experience at near death that showed me these in a very different way. To keep that short is to realize these are man made structures that had to clear away a nature created environment to make the possible, a kind of nature genocide in the area.

    Even so, all of those stones of art in Cairn T, and at other cairns there are awesome and fill us with wonder.

    As for people being present there, it is incredible how the numbers attending Equinox have grown during the past 10 years. 10 years ago we thought it was crowded if more than 12 people turned up πŸ™‚ . 30 years ago I was usually the only one there, maybe one or two others. Key was available to pick up before sunrise outside a cottage in those days.

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    1. I read your experience on your website, and it really threw me into confusion for a while, reason being that to me these structures look so much a part of the landscape with their gently domed structures, hewn from rock, turfed over or piled with stones. And yet I am very aware also that neolithic man, in rejection of a hunter gatherer lifestyle, was a very destructive force on the land as he persued his new role as a farmer. His revolutionary new lifestyle completely changed the appearance of our landscape. Clearing a forrested hilltop and raising a series of cairns was probably about as destructive as building a block of flats in the greenbelt today lol! But they have grown to be part of our land, heritage whatever we want to call it. And they are still amazing feats of engineering and skill, and a legacy to the extraordinary spirit of our ancient ancestors. They do fill me with wonder. And as for the ritual I watched, well, I was disappointed I’ll admit. I expect that people who live a life closer to nature than most modern people and who choose to follow the old ways would do so with fervour, vigour, vitality and unshakeable conviction. I wanted to admire them but they left me feeling, well, nothing. The leader beating on her bodhran didnt seem to know how to play it, and they seemed to forget the words of their own song. I just thought that most onlookers would have come away thinking “Weirdos!” rather than there is something more to it, and that I felt was a shame.

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      1. Great reply, love your thinking through this Ali. As I have replied on a later post I can add to the confusion through the current trend of wondering if it was actually the people who were mainly hunter gatherers, and sea people, who built these structures to both display their strength and their wisdom of navigation and astronomy … and they lured the farming people to them in some ways? The way the Norse who became Normans came ashore, became the church builders and enslaved the farming people into a religion seems to be a later clue?

        And, oh dear for the ritual people. I know each one of them personally that attended this year. They were from 5 different local traditions who all had their own ways of doing things, no or little rehearsal or pattern of co-ordination but I love them all dearly for what they do back at their homes.

        The frame drum players, I thought there were two of them, are happy to just beat the drums as a noise filler, it seems. One of them is an outstanding speaker, so I am surprise she was not on the morning.

        It really does need a local tradition troupe, and maybe via the new Megalithic Centre there this could evolve over the years? It was my job to bring this back to Glastonbury from 1968 until 1972. I think we did a very good job back then πŸ™‚

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        1. Lol! Oh no, I hope I havent offended you or them! Perhaps if they dont normally work together, and had no rehearsal it would explain the lack of confidence. How judgemental that was of me without knowing the full story! Your idea of the people coming from the sea and luring the locals with their knowledge and skills is as viable as any. I used to feel a need to KNOW! Not so much now, I can enjoy the structures, the stories and the characters as they are, but I do want to learn more.

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  14. Oh, Ali, I love this! You are very lucky, as you say, to be able to visit the cairn whenever you wish. And to experience the equinox – how magical! Wish I could have been there with you πŸ™‚ It’s another thing on my list, to experience the season change at one of the ancient sites.

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  15. Thanks for the post. I didn’t realize you lived in Ireland. We have Equinox Wednesday. Do u have horses. I did until a few years ago. My last died from colic, she weighed 1500 hundred pounds and was a cross between draft and Thorobred. We used to dress in our cloaks and pretend we were in ancient times. Any how my mares name was Molly, she was huge and very solid. I enjoyed seeing what u folks in Ireland are up to. My bucket list is to go to Ireland and see. Prehistoric sights and visit my ancestors. None I know of. Just in general.

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    1. No I never had a horse, I was never that lucky, although I was obsessed with them in my teens. I used to hang around stables and help to groom and care for the horses in the hope I’d get an occasional ride. My parents split up when I was a child, and there was never money for riding lessons, so I never got good enough for people to trust me with their horses. I live in a very rural part of Ireland, there are horses everywhere here.

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