Newgrange: A Home for Magicians, Fairies, Gods, and Kings
The Newgrange (New Grange) tumulus is found in County Meath, Ireland. This ancient site is connected to stories about magic, fairies, and incredible excavations. Newgrange is a part of the impressive Neolithic Bru na Bóine complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traditionally, it was a burial site for Celtic Kings. But Irish myths and legends say it was also a place where magicians met and fairies united. Even today, stories say that when visitors are at the tumulus very early in the morning or late at night they may see the Queen of the Fairies and her subjects. Many researchers suggest that Newgrange has an astronomical importance as well. Although there have been many excavations over the years, this mysterious place still holds many secrets.
A Legendary Site Hidden Under the Green Grass
The earliest known writings about the tumulus come from a letter written by Edward Lhwyd dated December 15, 1699. But the site is obviously much older; does this mean that it was forgotten for centuries? That is a hard question to answer, but old books bring one more piece of precious information. In the Annals of the Four Masters , it is written that Danes plundered Newgrange in 861, however, there is no information about opening the tumulus.
When archaeologists first began work on the site, they found a large amount of precious treasures including ornaments and fictilia (earthenware objects) amongst other prehistoric artifacts. Some of the more interesting of their discoveries are a gold chain, two rings, a gold trocks, a bronze pin, and a small iron weapon. Many of the artifacts are exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland. However, several of the precious goods were also sold to private collections before a law was created protecting the site and its treasures.
Gold jewelry from Roman times deposited in the mound (British Museum). ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Apart from the excavated items and the tumulus itself, the site has some of the most spectacular rock art in western Europe. The triskele symbol is one of the most popular designs. This links the site to many myths and legends related to Celtic deities. The most popular belief is that it was a house for the most powerful of the Tuatha (an Irish race of gods founded by the goddess Danu).
In the 11th century Book of Lecan it is written that the Dagda lived there with his wife Boann and three sons. The Book of Leinster also contains the story of one of their sons, Oengus, who supposedly owned the Bru.
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The Tuatha Dé Danann as depicted in John Duncan's "Riders of the Sidhe" (1911). ( Public Domain )
The site is unique for many reasons. For example, the tumulus is dated back to 3200 BC but it was sealed for a few thousand years. Some researchers suggest that the Newgrange tumulus is very similar to the bee-hive shaped Mycenaean tomb known as the Treasury of Atreus. However, others don’t see any similarities between the two sites. Scholars are still looking for connections between prehistoric tombs, but this notion is full of more questions than answers.
View of Newgrange's elevation. ( CC BY 2.0 )
The tumulus has a remarkable appearance, and is one of the best-preserved constructions of its type. The gallery has an entrance to the south, but in front of it one can see one of the site’s greatest treasures– an impressive stone covered with amazing lozenges and spirals. Archaeologists have suggested that the symbols are more than just a decoration. However, there are few detailed theories about what the markings were made for. There are also two other stones carved with symbols that were discovered in the boundary circle to the north-west.
Entrance stone with rock art. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Numerous markings of rings, spirals, cups, and surprising figures like cartouches from ancient Egypt were discovered during the many seasons of excavations. Their appearance sheds new light on Celtic art and the relationship the Celts had with Egypt.
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Resurrecting the Ancient Site
The only people who visited the tumulus when it was closed were people who practiced magic and those who searched for help from the old gods. Local folklore says that it was a popular place for witches. But most people were afraid of visiting this area because they feared the spirits who supposedly lived there.