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Holy Hills of Ireland

10 11 eNCasiNg time marking seasons The Irish megalithic builders effectively created sacred caves or portals to spirit realms, related them to seasonal events, and incised stones with designs inspired by the entoptic geometric shapes seen in shaman trances in all neolithic cultures. At midwinter dawn and sunset, Br na Binne and Dowth let sunlight into deep interior places, while Knowth opens to equinoxes and also the northern moonrises of its 18 year cycle, when moonlight touches representations of its phases and face. Others have equally well conceived alignments. The largest of Loughcrews thirty passage cairns has a highly decorated stone in its chamber which is bathed by the equinoctial sun, and Carrowkeels biggest cairn lets midsummer sunsets enter by a roof box, just as New Granges roof box brings in midwinter dawn. Myths describe the most elemental powers at work within these shrines the fathersun god, the Daghdha, enters Br na Binne to impregnate the skycowriver goddess, Binn, and Slieve Gullions passage cairn is Cailleach Bharras house, a harvest goddess who changes from aged hag to young girl and lures young men into her depths. This cairn points south to Cailleach Bharras other hill, Loughcrew. Many Irish festivals mark this magic calendar Lughnasa is remembered in late summer fairs, Samhain in Halloween, the winter solstice in Christmas, Beltaine in May Day festivities, the vernal equinox with St Patrick and Omelg with St Bridgets Day. Left The east recess at New Grange, Br na Binne. The eastern recesses are generally the largest and often highly decorated. Below Elaborately decorated stones at the back of the recess in the largest cairn at Loughcrew, aligned to receive the equinox sun.
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